To excel in the country’s premier professional aptitude test CAT and come out with flying colors, a student must have conceptual knowledge in each area of the test and must develop a strategy before the exam. So, here are some tips to crack CAT exam.
It is the right combination of knowledge, approach and skills that can help a candidate prepare for the exam.
Quantitative Aptitude (QA): QA is the most difficult section to crack in CAT, which is a common apprehension among most of the candidates. The reasons why Quant can be the toughest section to crack are varied. Most students have a good grasp of the basics, but when an application-based question comes, they are all at sea. Most students also have problems with time management. Some do not have the speed of formulation and calculation. Whatever your tale of woe is, remember that your percentile score is entirely dependent on your ability to break down doable questions to your strengths and optimize your speed and accuracy.
CAT test makers are quite experienced. They have mastered the art of mixing easy and difficult questions. If you take CAT, you will find that there are some absolutely easy questions that even 8th or 9th standard students can solve. You will also find questions that are very challenging in a time limited scenario. This is not done to identify and select math majors!! The reason there is a mix of questions of varying levels of difficulty is because it reflects real life situations. But given that you have a deadline, you should pick and target the lowest hanging fruit (easy questions).
CAT does not focus on theoretical knowledge but on application of basic concepts. Essentially, this means that your knowledge of basic arithmetic skills, proportionality tools, numbers, elementary combinatorics, algebra and geometry is more than enough to help you crack the test. Most problems are equal for everyone, so “mathematicians” do not have a special advantage. Most students get carried away and focus on the “glamorous” concepts, neglecting the simpler ones.
Basic math skills are only one aspect of the quality control section, other aspects are more important. These are the ability to work in difficult situations, observation, decision making, adaptability/flexibility and finally the ability to understand issues. The questions are usually framed in a reasonable fashion to test conceptual clarity and soundness of approach. Solving a quantitative CAT problem is a step-by-step process, and the basic algorithm is Step I: Understanding the question, Step II: Interpretation, ie. what is given and what is required, etc. Step III: Problem solving (if necessary). Before proceeding to step -III, one should explore all possibilities of eliminating response options using various approaches such as observation or finding out the range of estimated estimates after extreme case analysis. In order to inculcate the aforementioned skill set, one must practice diligently.
Timed practices help students understand which concepts they need to review. Prepare a collection of formulas and a concept map by topic so that you can review them regularly.
Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR) Section: The DILR section is less knowledge-oriented and more skill-oriented, so this section is an equalizer in the truest sense. The latter model shows that most question sets are a combination of DI and LR. There are no sub-sections in the DILR section named DI and LR. These areas involve fewer concepts and require regular practice. It is important to practice in conditions of shortage of time. Finding the right strategy to navigate the LRDI section is key to success, and test takers are encouraged to solve as many quality sets as possible in a given time.
DILR ability correlates closely with general intelligence. However, familiarity with the question types and practices of the latest mock mock tests and some question-solving strategies will surely help you perform better.
DILR sets are usually difficult and time consuming, but a step-by-step approach can help a candidate crack it in less time. Step I: Carefully and patiently consider each statement. Step II: Correct interpretation of all statements and limitations. Step III: Analyzing the case and trying to argue against the maximum possibilities to arrive at the final conclusions. Some of them can be quite difficult to understand because of the depth of reasoning. Students who maintain balance and know the methods of separating the doable will certainly excel. Remember, the puzzles test your endurance and thinking ability within the time limit.
Look at one rule at a time. The question may contain extraneous information designed to mislead you. Focusing on one aspect of “what is given” and “what is required” can help you understand what is important and what is not.
The recommended strategy for attempting a DI/LR section is two rounds of equal time remaining after the time taken to scan the full section. We must first scan the section and identify the sets that appear to be the first picks for inclusion in the first round. All relatively easy and doable sets should be targeted in the first round, followed by moderately difficult sets in the second round. The time limit for the scan followed by the time allotted for each round may vary from one layout to another depending on the difficulty level of the sets and thus the learner should be flexible about this, although it is essential that the learner keeps an approximate time limit for each set once he/she has finished scanning the section.
Speaking Ability and Reading Comprehension: For the English part, RC and VA questions should be practiced regularly. The preparation should be based on the passage, jumble paragraph, conclusion paragraph, summary, critical reflection, fill in the blanks. Basic grammar and Vocab building with a little emphasis on idioms and phrases can help you increase your reading speed and comprehension.
There is no fixed distribution of RC topics, so no topic/area can be neglected during preparation. Passages and paragraphs can be from fields such as philosophy, politics, psychology, history, biology, economics, literature, etc. A significant number of questions may come from a neglected topic/area in your CAT slot. So selective training strategy is very risky.
As you read the passages, develop the habit of writing a short summary, title, important points, etc. Understand the different genres of the passages and try to work on your comfort level and reading speed. Collect the words picked up during shared reading and write them down with meaning and usage. A good vocabulary is definitely the key to better reading. Although the focus for the next two months should be more RC practice than just reading articles and novels.
Note that RC requires accuracy more than speed. If you reach that reading speed but don’t understand the passage, it’s no use. Even the best performers don’t try to answer all the questions. If you’re still struggling, try to do some in-depth analysis and figure out how to choose the easier passages and avoid the difficult ones during the exam.
Taking Mocks regularly can definitely take the pressure off your mind and help you get used to the time pressure and stress that aspirants experience during the exam itself. To increase your score and percentile, you need to work hard to increase your number of attempts and accuracy. Regular practice will also help you avoid silly mistakes, which are usually the result of being under pressure while taking the test.
Posted by Pradeep Pandey, Academic Director, TIME
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