It is difficult to find a pattern as to how one should prepare for an exam like CAT which basically tests your aptitude, however, at the same time, required one to be extremely polished with their basics so as to be able to perform well.
I feel the ideal time to start preparing for CAT is approximately 6-8 months before the exam. One should ideally join a CAT tutorial so as to learn how to prepare for CAT as the approach to the exam is very different from other exams. Apart from accuracy, one has to make sure that maximum number of questions are answered within the stipulated time and the only way one can do that is, if one knows the correct approach.
Unlearn – Learn
The first three months of the preparation are the most important because that is the learning phase. This is the phase where the unlearning and the re-learning happens. This is the phase where one learns all the short cuts and all the approaches to an exam like CAT. I suggest one should put in a lot of hours in these three months and try and grasp as much as possible.
Then comes the implement phase where one needs to put all the learning to practice. We have learnt how to solve math a certain way and have done it over and over for almost a decade. Now when we try a new way of doing it, we need to practice it enough so as to make sure that the new method becomes the default. It should become part of your instinct. If you come across a multiple, you should instantly know the roundabout answer instead of calculating it. This is also the time when the Mock exams start, helping you practice. At this point the stress has to be on getting the approach right.
Now that the learning is done, one needs to now keep the focus on practice intact at the same time try and maximize scores. Do not concentrate on sectionals yet, concentrate on the overall score. Once you reach an overall score of your liking, then try and get the sectional score in place. This is important because unless you have a 95+ percentile score, the sectionals don’t even come into play because the institutes that look for sectionals do not take overall scores less than 95 percentile anyway.
The stress needs to keep reducing as time passes. Since CAT is not the kind of exam where you need to mug up and more like an exam where your instinct guides you at the same time the answers appear to you as you spot clues, your mind needs to be sharp and relaxed. One day before the exam, you can’t prepare for CAT, the preparation happens 6 months before the exam.
Now let us get to a few specifics and look at how students should look at CAT section wise.
In English, my expertise lies with Reading Comprehension. With RC, all one needs to do is to find out the answers to a few basic questions being: What is the theme of the RC? What is intention of the author behind writing the article? What is the Authors Opinion about the various issues mentioned in the article? Differentiate between the author’s opinions and your opinions?
In order to do this, I suggest one should go for two readings of the comprehension. The first time, read it really quick, you will not be able to retain much and will probably not remember 2 or 3 entire sentences but that is fine, all you need to do in this read is to understand the theme of the article. This is important because it is difficult to understand the theme of the article by reading the first two paragraphs the articles that are presented in CAT. For example, the first two paragraphs may talk about cricket but the article may actually be about capitalism. Now in the second read, go relatively slow. The advantage is that if you read an article after knowing the actual topic, you will understand the real meaning of what the author intends to put across. That way it will be easier for you to understand the intention of the author. Also do not look at the questions before the first read. You may or may not take a look at the questions after the first read. My advice: Look at the questions after the second read.
With math, there is a simple rule. There are shortcuts to all the questions asked. All one needs to be able to do is that when one looks at the questions the shortcut should occur to them at once. Attempt only the questions that you know the shortcuts to. To be able to make sure that shortcuts occur to you, you need to practice a lot before the exam. In case you don’t manage to do that during the exam, do not panic. All CAT papers have a few very simple questions, just scout for them and attempt those in the traditional way. If you can find around 5-6 and solve them with 100% accuracy in say 40 minutes time, your job is done. You will probably be very close to clearing the sectional cut off but you need to make up in the overall score in other sections. The same thing applies in LR/DI as well. Just that in LR/DI, be calm and solve the case lets. It is very important to be calm here is because it will take you about 15 minutes to solve one case let and you will not know if you are right until the 14th minute. Therefore, being calm will help you prevent making silly mistakes.
Another simple thing that one needs to keep in mind is that CAT is an MCQ exam, so you do not need to find the exact answers to the questions. All you need to do is be smart, sharp, use approximations and eliminate the wrong options to find the right ones.
Also as mentioned above, make sure you reduce the stress on your brain as and when you come close to you CAT exam. You may start with appearing for up to 3 mocks a week and keep reducing. Your last mock before CAT should be a week before you exam. And from that mock to your final exam, you should chill.
I hope this will help students who are appearing for CAT and trying to crack it. This article is based on whatever learning I had while I was preparing for CAT. They include expertise from form all the faculties who had helped me prepare for my CAT. And I am sure they did a great job because I achieved a 100% accuracy when I took CAT.