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Prepare, practice and prevail

  There is a scientific way to go about readying for the all important CAT. Here's a brief snapshot of how you can prepare yourself and achieve your target score.  
 

We all know the importance of the CAT, and your reading this means that you must be preparing for the forthcoming test in earnest. This article will give a few key points that you need to keep in mind during your preparation, and if you do, you will be able to achieve your goal in the next few months.

Test structure
The CAT consists of three sections, with a fixed duration of 180 minutes, with 60 minutes per section. The sections are Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension, Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning, and Quantitative Ability, and test takers cannot switch between sections. Questions are of the multiple choice format, and from 2015, the test has featured non-MCQ questions as well, which at IMS, have been named Type In The Answer questions, or TITA. The test also provides an on-screen calculator for basic calculation. And of course, incorrectly marked answers (aside from TITA) carry a penalty.
The most important thing to do is to concentrate on both accuracy and speed, and simultaneously showcase equal competence in all sections.
Based on the data collected from past CATs and Simulated CATs (SimCATs) that are conducted by IMS, we have an analysis of the number of questions students must attempt and get correct to achieve certain percentiles:


VA-RC

DI-LR

%ile

Qs

Attempts

Correct

Time/Q

Qs

Attempts

Correct

Time/Q

75

34

18

15

3.33

32

7

5

8.57

85

34

23

18

2.61

32

9

7

6.67

95

34

28

23

2.14

32

12

9

5.00

99

34

34

27

1.76

32

18

13

3.33

QA

TOTAL

%ile

Qs

Attempts

Correct

Time/Q

Qs

Attempts

Correct

Time/Q

75

34

12

10

5.00

100

37

30

4.86

85

34

16

13

3.75

100

48

38

3.75

95

34

28

23

2.14

100

64

51

2.81

99

34

32

26

1.88

100

80

64

2.25

At this stage, if you have only just started preparing for your CAT, you might realise that you are at one of the above stages or below the 75 percentile benchmark. However, there is no reason to be anxious.
If you follow an effective and efficient study plan from here on, it is quite possible to meet your target CAT percentile.
 
Creating an effective and efficient study plan
The objective is to reach your target percentiles in a stepwise manner by achieving the benchmark attempts and number of correct answers at each stage as per the above table. Ideally, the remaining months from now until your actual test must be equally divided to improve your performance from one stage to the next.  So, if you are at Stage 1 (i.e. at 75 %ile) then the remaining time you have should be divided into three periods of equal time duration each to ensure that you reach Stage 4 before actually taking your test.
Within each period, target to achieve the stated benchmarks of the next stage by:
1.  Working on your conceptual and application skills, and
2.  Fine-tuning your test-taking skills.

To achieve your TARGET requires practice and more practice. To that end, you should take one test per week (or a maximum of two tests per week), especially if you are a working professional. For every test you take, as per the above table, you will attempt only the specified number of questions to ascertain your performance. For the post test analysis and the process of improvement, work on the questions that you got wrong. This is very important, since you had more time per question and still got them wrong. It means either an error of comprehension or a conceptual issue. Next pick the questions you did not attempt and solve these questions without a time limit; once again this exercise will point out your areas of improvement. Doing this process for each test will definitely improve your performance in the next.
At the end of each period, take a SimCAT and check your sectional performance. If your attempt and accuracy is greater than or equal to the benchmarked percentile, you are ready to move to the next stage. If on the other hand, your attempts and accuracy are less than the benchmarked percentile, analyse the test to find out where you need improvement. Use the explanatory answers provided to you with each test to aid this improvement.
We wish you the very best!