How to crack CAT

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.

Implement

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.

Mocks

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.

English

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.

Math

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.

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Can Cost of Education be Reduced???

Caution: This article is written with the focus on MBA in India but I am sure some of the points will apply to other disciplines as well.

The average cost of studying Masters in Business Administration in India is approximately Rs. 10 Lac. A large majority of the students who actually take up the program take up an education loan to fund their education. I am one of those students. Having been in the system for almost 2 years now, I have come to realize that if the Institutes come to think of it, they can take up a few measures and reduce the cost which is already so huge and is ever increasing.

Books:

Strategic Brand Marketing. I did not open my book. I scored an A+. Sometimes, some subjects are not about the books. Sometimes for some subjects the best way to prepare is by referring to content online. Sometimes for some subjects, the notes of the faculty’s lecture alone are good enough. Then why burden students to purchase books, even if they don’t wish to refer to it. Most B-Schools have tie-ups with book providers and the cost of books are charged as part of stationery at the beginning of the year itself. This is a compulsory cost that one has to pay…why?
What I wish to suggest is that B-Schools should provide students with the references and let the students decide if they wish to purchase the books, or share them, or just photocopy the important parts, or refer to content online or buy an older edition at lower cost…! This way, the cost of MBA can be reduced by somewhere in the vicinity of Rs. 15,000. It may not sound a lot against Rs. 10 Lac but money saved is money saved!

Assignments/Submissions:

The world is going digital and we are still sticking to taking print outs for every assignment we submit! When CAT is being conducted online and B-Schools are expecting students to do essays and comprehensions online, then why can’t the preachers practice the same and make sure that assignments are submitted in soft copy only and no print outs are seeked?
This would largely reduce cost of paper and more importantly the cost of printing on it. Considering the amount and size of the assignments that MBA grads submit, this could be a substantial reduction in cost. Also, it would reduce wastage of paper which would help us preserve more trees. We will, then, actually be practicing what we teach in Business Ethics!

These were the two major suggestions I wanted to put across. Other suggestions and opinions are welcome.

Next Post: Will probably write about Sachin Tendulkar

 

 

Why NOT Study Retail???

Caution: This article is an opinion and not a research or a paper. It is not backed by any research but by experience and logic. You are most welcome to agree or disagree with the opinion presented in the article and put forward your arguments and suggestions!

Choosing electives in B-Schools sometimes becomes really taxing as students are generally not aware as to what to expect out of a certain course. Since, students generally have only a limited numbers of credits to accommodate their portfolio of subjects, it is very important to chose the electives wisely.

I decided to write this article because of an opinion that I have about the Retail Industry & how it will change in the near future.

Students select electives based on criteria like Interest, how well it suits the portfolio of the student, based on senior’s/faculty recommendation, with an aim to learn something new & important, based on the current potential of the subject, etc…However all student don’t use all criteria, which they should do. Using a criterion individually will lead to disastrous results. All the above mentioned & more, criteria should be taken into consideration when choosing a particular elective.

Now let us look at Retail. As we can all see that Retail is going through a major change world over. Group buying & online shopping are eating into Retail at an amazing speed. Some may argue that online shopping is online retailing, in that case this article talks about the extinction of traditional retail.

Will Retail be able to hold its own amidst such heavy competition?

Well, I have my doubts. More and more people these days are turning to Group Buying & Online Shopping due to the massive discount that these channels provide. The only thing that was preventing people from turning to online mediums which offer huge discounts was the idea that: ‘Availing discounts was cheap’. But this opinion too, has now changed to ‘I am smart, I got the best price’. People these days take pride in managing to get the best deals even on the high end products. So the ‘People who purchase discounted products are cheap’ mentality is, now out of the window. A major reason for this change could be due to recession where people where struggling to keep up with their lifestyle and had to shift to discounts in the online space to maintain their standard of living. Another reason can be the aspiration amongst the consumers which, at this point, is at its highest ever. The middle class is in a hurry to upgrade to upper class and the upper class is in a hurry to upgrade to the affluent class and so on.

So what happens to Retail in the future?

According to what I believe, in the near future, say about in 8-10 years, most of the shops in the malls will be out of business because people will shift to shopping online as it provides much better value for money. However, people will still have issues with trusting the quality of the products as they do even today, so what do people do? They go to the store, check out the product there to satisfy their need of touch & feel. They then come home and purchase online because most products that we are talking about are branded products and therefore standardized. So this changes the role of the store in the mall from being a point of purchase to a point of reference turning it into a catalogue store. In the future, when more and more people will take up to online buying and use the stores just to satisfy their need of touch & feel, they will end up converting the stores into catalogue stores, where one only comes to check out the goods but makes the purchases via some other channel.

Pedagogy

Now the problem with Retail as a subject in B-Schools is that, they are still teaching Retail in the traditional format where people go to the malls to purchase but my argument is that these stores will not be selling anything at all in a couple of years time…so what exactly are we studying, is it going to be worth anything in the near future once this change starts taking place? Hardcore Retail students will find themselves out of jobs. The blame goes to the B-School curriculums which are not trying to predict the future and prepare students for what’s coming next, they are only studying what is there, at present…that is not good enough. The pedagogy is so backdates that a few professors are not even well versed with what ‘Group Buying’ really means, they are not aware of a concept which is poised to change the entire industry in which they have made a career.

Portfolio

A lot of students end up taking Retail because it suits their Marketing Portfolio. All I want to tell these students is that Retail is a reasonably specialized subject and I am sure the Retail Professors world over would agree with me on this one. It therefore does not add to your portfolio in anyway unless someone is actually interested in Retail, it does not enhance one’s general marketing acumen in anyway. However, for the ones who are genuinely interested in Retail, I suggest they take a close look at the course structure before taking up the subject, demand an updated and well worked out pedagogy to be prepared for the future not just for the present.

Learning

As far as learning is concerned, yes, Retail teaches you a few things that other marketing subjects don’t. No other subject teaches you the difference between a secondary business district (SBD) & a central business district (CBD), but hey, unless you wish to make a career in Retail, is that even significant? If yes, they just pick a few publications which explain to you the Retail jargons, it will not be more than 4 A4 Sheets and read it to know it all, why waste and credit over it?

Placements

If placements are your reasons, just make sure that Retail makes a significant addition to you in context of the company coming to recruit from your B-School. A Bank, an insurance company or a media house will not be interested in whether you studied retail or not. The retail chains, however, will. So make sure retail chains are a part of your B-School’s placement procedure before you chose Retail with placements in mind.

Conclusion

Don’t take up a subject just because everyone is taking it or because all your seniors took it, think before you leap, you may miss out on ‘Perceptual Mapping’ or ‘Conjoint Analysis’, which trust me are far more important concepts of Marketing than Retail. Retail is a specialized subject, the course outline for which in most B-Schools needs a major upgrade. With this article I am trying to address the students who are soon going to chose their specializations and I do not want them to make the same mistake as I did by choosing Retail.

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