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The last chance to prep up before CAT 2018

 

The tension is heating up, as we enter the last leg of the race to CAT 2018! Time is of essence here, as there is just enough time for you to give your preparation that shot in the arm. So, plan efficiently, and execute that plan methodically, and we guarantee it’ll help you perform better.

 

How do I plan my studies?
Your studies till the actual exam should be broken up into 3 parts:

WEAKLINGS:
Focus on areas that you are weak in. Bring them up to a decent level. Complete all questions pertaining to these topics from BRM, Class Sheets, Concept Builder and Application Builder. Familiarity leads to faster and accurate solving.

STRENGTHS:
The areas that you are very comfortable in also require regular revisits. Don’t ignore them completely else your sheen in them will reduce. So keep practising the questions from the Application Builder that relate to these areas.

TESTING:
Keep ample time for strategising, taking and analysing the performance in SimCATs. Preferably book the SimCAT slots matching the actual CAT slots. Alternate between Morning slot and Afternoon slot so that you are physically and mentally aligned to taking CAT in either slot.
Make a daily routine till 15th November. Your daily routine should have at least 3 hours for your CAT prep. And plan out all other activities around that routine.

How do I analyse a SimCAT?
The first step is to know your weaknesses. After you are done with your SimCAT, and you’ve got your results, solve each section of the test separately once again. Compare your new performance with your earlier performance. This will help you to figure out the following:

  • The mistakes that you could have avoided
  • The questions that you should have avoided
  • The questions you should have solved but left as you couldn’t identify them
  • The questions you solved, but could have solved faster

From the aforementioned points you will get a list of improvements that you will need to make in the next SimCAT.

How many SimCATs should I attempt?
Before answering this question, I want you to understand the true purpose of SimCATs. The SimCATs are meant for the following purposes:
To give you the actual feel of the CAT before actual CAT.
To make you aware about the various uncertainities and pressures that you will be facing on that day
To acquaint you with the various types and difficulty level of questions that can be asked in the test.

In short, the primary objective of the SimCATs is to prepare you fully for the physical, mental and emotional challenge that you will face on that day. So, you should be taking as many SimCATs as you possibly can before the actual CAT or any other exam that you have signed up for.
However, indiscriminately taking SimCATs is not the solution as well. Hence, the answer to this question becomes more dependent on your current state of preparation.
First Case: If you are done with all your concepts and application practise then you should be taking 1 SimCAT every week. If you want to up your ante, then along with a SimCAT a week schedule, attempt 2 SimCATs every alternate week. But spare enough and more time to analyse each SimCAT. And this schedule should be till the first week of November only. Thereafter, take 1 SimCAT a week only.
Second Case: If you are still grappling with your basic concepts or started late and yet haven’t been able to complete your ‘syllabus’, then take a SimCAT every fortnight to know where you are with respect to others and your own state of preparation. In the month of October and November, you have to ramp up your efforts and move to 1 SimCAT a week schedule. Understand one thing very clearly – irrespective of when you started and at what level you are currently at, CAT will have the same set of questions for everyone.

After the 2 rounds of solving, there would still be a few questions that you couldn’t attempt. Try solving all these unsolved questions without a time limit. Use these unsolved questions to learn concepts from topics that you have not covered yet or are not very comfortable with. So if there is a circular arrangement problem, and you had left it because you hate P&C, then here’s a chance for you to at least learn the formula for it by learning to solve that problem.
Do this after each and every SimCAT that you take - It can be a take-home or a proctored one. And every week you should be taking at least 1 SimCAT. If you keep at it for the next couple of months, then you will surely start seeing improvements.

How many hours should I study?
Most mentors recommend a general 3-4 hours. My prescription though depends on what level of preparation you are in. So, if you are just beginning the prep, then you need to hit the 6 hours mark because there’s a lot of ground for you to cover. On the other hand, if you are towards the end of your preparation, then even an efficient 3 hour stint will do.
But what if I don’t have time to prepare?
Well, if you don’t have time for your own future then what do you have time for? You need to wake up and smell the coffee. If you are not smart enough to prioritise what is important for you in life, then you need to rethink your plan to do an MBA. After all, an MBA prioritising tasks is the biggest success factor for a future Manager.
Having said that, let me share with you a few things that I did in my own life when I was preparing for my MBA entrance tests (And I was working in an IT company for 14 hours a day, on development projects):

  • I hated coding and never wanted to make a career in that. So, I intentionally moved out of the development project into a boring maintenance project that no one wanted. What I missed out in terms of praise, awards, onsite assignments and better prospects of promotion, I made up for with the extra time that I got every day to prepare for my exams.
  • During my time, the only online distractions were the well-established Orkut and the starting phases of Facebook. I ensured a distraction free 3 months by exiting Orkut and Facebook. In the current times the list will be much longer for a social hibernation – Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and so on. But as I said earlier, it’s your life; you need to prioritise what’s important.
  • I created a daily schedule where I first put my work timings and my travel time. Then I put my study schedule. And then whatever time was left, I put in the filler activities like watching tv, playing soccer with friends, birthday parties, etc. In fact, quite a few times I turned down my relatives’ and friends’ invitations for birthday parties and night outs as they clashed with my study schedule. I knew I wasn’t the most brilliant in my cohort, but what made me better than 99% of the others who took the test that day was my self-discipline for the last 3 months.
  • I did not give up on my friends. It’s just that I chose them well. Friends who supported me in my endeavour were my true friends and I kept them close. I had setup a few rules for them. Coffee breaks in office were times when they would test my vocabulary, and I’d pay for a samosa for every 10 words that they knew, but I didn’t. Similarly, for the GK questions, I didn’t smoke but I’d pay for a cigarette for 10 unknown GK questions. A financial gain or loss is a very big motivator.
  • I moved from a bike to a public bus. My travel time increased from half an hour to 1 hour. But it allowed me time to catch up on my reading. In the last 3 months, this simple change allowed me to not only skim through The Hindu and the Economic Times, but also finish most of the works of Guy deMaupassant, O. Henry, Amartya Sen, G. K. Chesterton and P. G. Wodehouse. A feat that helped me enormously in Reading Comprehension as well as my PI rounds for the B-schools I received calls from.
  • I had learnt from my seniors that B-school life is hectic. A 6 hour sleep is a luxury that you get once in a blue moon. So, I moved from a lethargic 8-hour sleep schedule to a 6-hour sleep schedule thereby freeing up 2 more hours.
  • Finally, I utilised my leaves pretty well. Taking 15 days of leave before CAT did not work out well for my colleague in the previous year, as he was stressed out for the entire period feeling there’s so much to do and so little time to do it. So, when it was time for me to crack the CAT, I planned it differently. I took leaves around weekends and public holidays thereby increasing a 2-day holiday to a 4-day holiday. I kept only 5 days of leaves before CAT and took that week off to mentally get into the groove. Rest of the holidays I utilised in September and October and ensured that I complete everything in this period. So for every leave, I would keep a target and attain that at all costs. I never took more than 4 leaves at a time because I knew that longer vacations will reduce my productivity.

How do I know which B-Schools should I target and which tests to take?
Ideally, you should have already created your target list of 15 colleges and programmes. The list would be of 3 buckets – The aspirational schools, the comfortable school and the backup schools.
This list of schools should have been chosen based on the following factors:
•   Your objective for doing MBA
•   Your preferred specialisation (or what do you want to work on post-MBA)
•   Your current profile and how much value the b-school will add to your profile
Any particular target companies or profiles (where you would like to work post-MBA)
If you still have questions and want to speak to a mentor to clarify your doubts regarding selection of b-schools, you can book a slot for a one-to-one call with our Career Mentors at
https://www.imsindia.com/ims-mentorship-program.html

For all you lion-cubs, who haven’t tasted the blood of corporate life, you have an even better chance of utilising your time. Follow the same set of advice that I have shared and plan your life. For you, the only difference is that you don’t have the luxury of not studying for your exams as your Graduation scores are going to play a vital role. But, these very same studies can keep your mind on the cutting edge thereby making absorption of new knowledge easier. And, do not forget that you do have time, just that you don’t realise you have it. This is a vital time in your life and you shouldn’t let it slip by.