What is the best time to prepare for CAT?

CAT Exam Prep 2020: I have been training students for CAT for the last five years and I always find that one question crops up time and again: Do I have sufficient time to crack CAT? Can I do it in 7 months by studying 4-5 hours every day?

My answer to this question has always been “YES and NO”.

To elaborate, let us take a g at this fact: A vast majority of students of IIMs crack CAT in about 6 months time or less!

This fact, in no way means that it is extremely easy to crack CAT in 6-7 months. It only means that some of the most systematic planners of the country crack this exam in 6 months or less time. Brings me to the next point: Very few test takers give any real thought to prepare systematically for CAT!

4-5 hours won’t be enough if you treat it like any other exam of your life. It won’t be enough if you study as per your convenience and mood. It won’t be enough if you don’t have a fixed structure or schedule for studies. In short, random solving of some Maths questions, attending few classes and appearing for few mocks here and there is not going to be sufficient to crack CAT, even if you keep on doing it for 2 years!

4-5 hours for 6 months is enough thought, if you have a systematic plan to follow, and enough motivation to keep on following it for each and every day for the next 6-7 months. Here are few bits that may help:

  1. Identify the time of the day when you are at your best: When are you most productive in your studies? Is it late nights? Early mornings? Post lunch? Identify those 2 hours that may matter the most for your career.
  2. Get your basics running: CAT has never been an exam to search for Maths genius. It just looks for smart managers who can use their time efficiently. As such, the basics of CAT come from your high school syllabus. So, there are no excuses for getting the basics wrong. Work from level zero on basics of high-school Maths if you are struggling to solve questions.
  3. Get your daily targets right: 20 questions of Maths, 2 sets of DI/LR and 2 passages of RC is the least you need to do everyday. Anything more than this will be bonus. On any single day, if this minimum target has not been achieved, you should not be able to sleep properly!
  4. Newspapers, newspapers and newspapers: If you don’t find half an hour to read and think about the newspaper editorials daily, you are doing severe damage to your intellectual discourse in the long run. MBA is a professional course and it needs you to be well aware of the issues of social, political and economic interest around the world. This parameter can’t be compromised on.
  5. Basics of calculations: Square of numbers, fraction to decimal values, tables should be there on your fingertips. This does not take too much of effort and if you don’t take the pains of being thorough with these things, you may find it difficult to solve DI questions in CAT.
  6. Set your weekly targets: 140- 150 quant questions, 7 LR sets, 7 DI sets and 15 RC passages is the least you should accomplish every week from now on. You must note down the number of questions done everyday on a routine sheet, and do a weekly follow-up on every Sunday.
  7. Set up a testing mechanism: About 20 mocks from any coaching centre are more than enough, if you use them properly. Starting from first week of June, make sure you appear a mock every alternate week. Besides, it is equally important to thoroughly analyze the mock within 5 days of appearing for it. Identify your mistakes, weak and strong areas, and formulate new strategies for the next mock. Every mock should me a stepping stone for the final exam.
  8. Avoid over-thinking: Think less and act more. Over analyzing, working on different permutations and combinations is not going to help unless you pick up that book on your desk and start solving questions. Just take charge of your preparation: 4-5 hours a day. This is the only thing that is in your control.

These habits are essential not just to crack CAT, but also to be a successful manager in the long run. Proper time management skills, proper planning for an upcoming event, setting targets and following-up on them, measuring your performance through continuous monitoring and guidance.. all these skills, if developed properly during preparation for CAT will help you immensely in your professional life in the coming years!

Brings me to the initial point: 4-5 hours for 6 months is enough, only if you believe that it is enough to crack CAT. Go with your gut feeling, and don’t look back once you throw yourself in the arena. Make these 7 months the most fulfilling time of your life: the time you will cherish all your life, the result of the hard work you put in these months will make you what you will be in the coming years!

Remember, hours don’t count. Your daily targets do.

Enjoy your CAT preparation.

Aditya Mishra

Director, IBT Institute Ranchi

(99.2 percentile in CAT 2015).


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