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Prepare to perform: The last lap to CAT


As far as the CAT is concerned, there are no secrets to success. Cracking the CAT is the result of preparation, perseverance and persistence. And of course, avoid the glaring last-moment mistakes! Here's what you need to do in the last few weeks till the CAT.


Considered to be one of the toughest management entrance exams in the world, the CAT tests not only how prepared you are, but also what your attitude has been in the last lap. By now, you know where you stand in your preparation, and we’re sure you’ve given it your best. But it is also just as important to develop the right attitude to give your best on D-Day, November 25, 2018!
Let’s look at the following three-pronged strategy to optimise your CAT preparation in this last lap, and form a strategic improvement plan:

Know yourself better
To know yourself is the beginning of wisdom. And a wise man is he who recognises his strengths and works on his weaknesses. As a manager, both are important attributes, and this applies to the CAT too, where you must identify your strong and weak points. Obviously, you must maintain your proficiency in your strong areas. So keep practising questions from these areas. But what about your weaknesses?
This brings us to the SMART action plan to deal with your weaknesses: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Reasonable and Timely.
Tackle the weak areas one by one. Don’t try to master all of them together, you won’t even cover half of them. 
Make a schedule for each topic. Dedicate hours, days and weeks to these topics depending upon how vast they are and the effort you need to put in.
Start from scratch: Fundamental theory first, then examples, then attempt basic questions followed by previous years’ questions from the topics. After covering the fundamentals, solve a few sectional questions to fortify the learnt concepts. 
Meet a mentor. Often, a mentor can help you deal with this situation by providing constructive and honest feedback. Try looking for an experienced mentor; he can be your sibling, senior or a professional institute which can hold your hand till you gain enough confidence.
Last but not the least, don’t forget to reward yourself for every weakness that you turn into strength! Indulge in your favourite recreational activity! 
Don’t completely ignore any topic. In a test like the CAT, there will be questions that will demand knowledge of multiple concepts and topics. So you need to have at least a working knowledge of all topics. Remember, risk diversification is important for an exam like CAT, which is known for its unpredictability.
One of the most important things is to develop a familiarity with the test interface. Apart from the various mock tests that you’re taking, a practice test will also be available on the CAT website: www.iimcat.ac.in, sometime at the end of the October 2018. Familiarise yourself with the functionality and navigation of the actual exam.

Managing time
One of the most important ingredients to crack CAT is time management. Time management includes a whole host of things: handling the exam pressure, taking the right decision in your strategy while attempting the paper, finding the right balance between speed and accuracy. With proper time management you can deliver a balanced and good performance across all three sections. For example, if you get stuck on any question in a section, it is better to move ahead and re-attempt that particular question if you are left with time at the end.

Handling the paper
The CAT is a test of knowledge, confidence and time management, which are the key attributes of any good manager. Therefore, handling every question in CAT can broadly be segregated into a three step process:
Reading and comprehending the question properly: Reading the question carefully is very important so to understand which concept must be applied. Give more time to understanding the question and you will be closer to solving it correctly and quickly.
Taking a call: Have the confidence to select the right set of questions and say ‘NO’ to the dampeners. So after reading and comprehending the question properly, you should be able to sense whether to attempt the question then and there, or mark it for review later. Here, your management skills are tested as to which questions should be attempted and which avoided.  
Solving the question: Naturally, in this last step, you knowledge is actually tested, right till solving the question to the last step. Solve the questions correctly and click/type the answer carefully.

The Ten Commandments of CAT:
Revision is very important. Revisit all the formulae and shortcuts that you have gone through during your entire preparation. This will help reinforce all the learnt concepts, and increase the chances of your recalling them on D-Day spontaneously.
The best way to prepare for a test like the CAT is to keep evaluating yourself every 10-15 days, which is done through taking mock tests.
Do not repeat the mistakes of the mocks in the real exam. If you have given all (or most) of the SimCATs, glance at the different kinds of new concepts that you have learnt and note them separately for last minute revision. 
Rather than focusing on all the topics, try and select those topics which you are more comfortable with. Spend 2-5 minutes in scanning the paper and selecting the questions from your area of expertise. Once done with the questions from your strong area, attempt the remaining questions, while, of course, avoiding making any blind guesses.
A few days prior to your actual exam, study/revise/take mocks in the same time slot in which your CAT window is scheduled so that your body clock is accustomed to the time table. Also, ensure that you are focused and away from distractions during this period.
Follow a proper diet plan and have a routine life in the remaining days to avoid any last minute unforeseen circumstances.
Practising calculating mentally is a must while preparing for CAT. Fast and smart calculations save a lot of time, so practise quick mental calculations rigorously on a daily basis.
Don’t go into the exam with a fixed target of attempting a certain number of questions. If the question paper is easy, more questions can be attempted, and if the paper seems difficult, accuracy should be maintained.
Avoid social media, as they can reduce your productivity and increase your distraction and therefore your stress. Don’t switch off altogether either. Use strategies like scheduling email /notification checks three times a day, turning off notifications for apps except for certain times.
CAT prep should be the core of your life in the remaining days, which means you need to prioritise things accordingly. Let your relatives, friends, marriages and parties (all of which are important in life) take a back seat for at least a few days till you are done with your exams.

What to do in the last week
The most important step in the last week is to relax your mind. Keep practising mocks till the last week of the exam, but don’t get demoralised if you’ve not done well in a couple of mocks. Don’t get complacent if you’re doing well, either. Revisit the mistakes you made in your mock tests, and ensure that you don’t repeat them in the exam. If you’ve missed a topic, leave it and forget it, don’t agonise over it. Don’t start anything new.
Adjust your clock depending on the time of your exam. Know the location of your centre at least a day before to avoid the last day’s hassle.


Read the instructions displayed on the screen before the test
You will get some time to read and comprehend this page. This page will also tell you about the test structure. You have to now use your knowledge and plan your test.
Carefully read the directions before you answer a question
Make sure you are answering the question that is being asked! Often, students know how to solve a problem, but they misread or misinterpret the question itself.
Read through the sections first
By spending the first couple of minutes reading through the entire
section you can learn what is expected of you. Prioritise items on the test, and pace yourself.
Intelligent guessing
You can attempt certain questions when you test the alternatives
one by one for correctness. This way, you are able to eliminate wrong alternatives. You may be first-time lucky or you may be required to test all but one of the alternatives. Here are a few tips on how you can guess intelligently:

  • Wrong choices usually don’t answer the question; that is, they may sound good, but they’re answering a different question.
  • Sometimes, two answers are very close. Consider both of these for future consideration, because they both can’t be right, but both can be wrong. Answers that are very close are sometimes given to test your comprehension.
  • Some wrong choices may just strike you as wrong when you first read them. Trust your instincts. If you have spent time preparing for these exams, you have probably learned more than you think.

Don’t dilly-dally
If you get stuck on a problem move on and come back to it later. When you are finished, recheck all your work.
Watching the clock
When the test begins, check your watch and write down the time you start and the time that you will finish. Knowing how much time is left helps you to pace yourself during the test and in turn helps you to attempt more questions in the given time.
Keep a good attitude. Think positive!
The bottom line is that you have to be alert for the entire time while taking the test. In the end, it’s not just about Mathematics or English, attempts and accuracy levels. It is also about whether you followed these basic steps to ensure that you have taken the test in the most appropriate manner.