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CAT is here, and here are some last-minute tips from experts

With barely a week left for the Common Aptitude Test, the qualifying examination for admission to the Indian Institutes of Management, to commence, candidates are in the last lap of preparations. With the chinks in the computer-based format more or less ironed out – CAT 2010 was a fairly smooth affair – now it is time for students to focus, get used to the new format and give it their best shot.

The Hindu spoke to experts from coaching centres and teachers to find out what they thought were the most important things that students must focus on, or bear in the mind, in the days to come.

Among the general last-minute tips are focussing on the weak areas, sharpening your skills as far as your core strengths go and practising using timers to make sure you are able to get through the examination with ease.

Trainers suggest that those who have not been practising on the computer must start getting used to using the digital interface, and watch videos on YouTube that have been uploaded by the testing agency Prometric. “Students in cities are used to the computer, but those who are in rural areas and may not have gotten used to working on a computer must spend a few days getting used to the interface. There are practice tests available online,” says a Pre-University teacher, who coaches commerce students for CAT.

Time to re-focus

Those who have had the privilege of formal training in any of the chain coaching centres have of course been exposed to the computer-based format. However, as experts point out, the final days must be dedicated to re-focussing on core strengths, drawing up strategies and getting comfortable with the format.

Says Ajay Arora, regional director of the Triumphant Institute of Management Education, “The key is to now sharpen your skills, focus on the new sections and time formats and start attempting every test like it is D-Day.”

Candidates must bear in mind the new format and the fact that they are expected to stick to the time limit for both sections. So the game boils down to this: 30 questions and 70 minutes in each section. Both sections come with countdown timers, and trainers advice students to keep their eyes set on the timers so that they know how much time they are spending on each question.

Though each student may evolve his or her personal strategy, Mr. Arora feels that the maximum time a student must spend on a question is 4.5 minutes. “On the toughest question, that is. Candidates must always keep the time in mind, and be wholly conscious of how much time they are spending on each question.” For instance, he says, a simple vocabulary test question should take less than a minute. It is important to breeze through the simple ones, he adds. “Spend a couple of minutes scanning the section and become familiar with the type of questions appearing in the question paper,” he advices, suggesting that bookmarking the familiar ones after running through the entire question set may be a good strategy to follow.

More attention needed

Experts also offered specific advice on how to tackle each section. Mr. Arora says that the Data Interpretation and Quantitative Ability section needs more attention particularly because both topics are challenging.

Among the DI questions, answer the caselets with which you have some familiarity first, he says, adding that if you do not make progress in understanding a caselet in the first four minutes it is better to let go. “Students must bear in mind that 16-19 attempts with 90 per cent accuracy is enough to secure 97 percentile and above in this section.”

For the Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning section, experts advice reading the instructions carefully. Mr. Arora says that this can be tricky, and that at least five minutes should be spent on reading each reading comprehension passage/ logical reasoning caselet and trying to understand the same.

“If even after spending five minutes the comprehension level is poor, do not attempt the passage/caselet.” To make up for this lost time, of course, candidates can breeze through the vocabulary section. “Many students tend to read the questions and then go to the passage. This never works and students must read the passage first,” he says.

Most importantly, all experts caution students against wild guesses, what with the one-third negative marking rule firmly in place.

'The maximum time a student must spend on a question is 4.5 minutes'


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