If we are to rate the importance of having a strategy to tackle any examination on a scale of 10, I would give 10! Yes, a strategy is so important that not having one is detrimental to your own prospects. A good strategy is like a cricket coach. A coach makes your life easy on the pitch while a strategy makes it easy to write your examination. Indian cricket team survived the England series without a coach but the seniors chipped in. So, bottom line - strategies work!
So, what makes a strategy?
Well, anything and everything that shows you a direction is a strategy. If you decide to tackle your favourite section first, that's a strategy. If you decide to leave the nightmarish section to the end, it also is one. Anything that suits you is a strategy. And one important point to note before you read further is, something that works for you might not work for someone else and vice versa.
If there is one event that hooks up the entire student community (after cricket, of course!), it is CAT. When you start is very important. Some students start as early as December and some start as late as September. It is not at all important as to when you have started. Agreed that sooner the start better is the momentum.
I started my preparation around April end and abandoned it almost immediately, due to work pressure. My serious preparation started just one and a half month before the examination. Not taking away any credit away from the early birds, it is the preparation and confidence level that carries you through.
Strategy 1: Better if you can start early. Even if you can't, there's nothing to worry. Have at least a couple of months and be confident that you can be the chosen one.
People come to me and ask, "Is it really important to join an institute?" Certainly not! It is not at all compulsory to be enrolled in an institute; if you think you can tackle it alone. Coaching institutes help you in structuring your preparation. They help you iron out your chinks and make you better in tackling different situations.
All this will help you if you attend the classes and take the help of the faculty. For someone like me, who did not attend 75% of the classes (thanks to work, again!) it was more of a 'pay-for-the-material'. However, the weekend examinations form a critical part of your preparation. It is very important to gauge yourself against the opposition and warm up for the occasion. Even the mighty Australian cricket team plays a couple of practice matches to warm up. The weekend tests help you identify the areas of improvement.
Strategy 2: Joining an institute is good but unable to do so is not detrimental. Make sure that you are able to give a shot at the weekend examinations.
When I was preparing for my CAT examination, I had this dilemma every weekend. Right after the examination, I used to diligently work out the paper again. More often than not, I would falter at the cut-offs. It was only once or twice that I could clear all the three cut-offs simultaneously.
I used to wonder, will this have an impact?
Is it indicative of the real CAT? With due credit to the preparation exams, they are not THE REAL CAT EXAMINATION! End of matter! What you do here is not at all an indication of what you are going to do there. Losing a practice match to the Mumbai side would never hamper the chances of the Aussies in the test matches.
Strategy 3: Weekend exams are important for your preparation but are not the real indicators. Try to get confidence but do not let the results undermine your capabilities.
In one of the weekend exams, I was so fascinated by the Analytical section that I spent unnecessarily long in that. Needless to say, I missed the cut-offs in the rest of the sections. No matter how much it is stressed, time management is THE important factor in your examination. You may be exceptionally brilliant in all the sections but not knowing how to manage the limited time at your disposal makes you look pathetic.
Michael Hussey is an exceptional cricketer because he knows how to pace his innings; starts slowly, builds the innings and knows when to cut loose. A better student knows when to stop at a question, when to switch sections etc.
Strategy 4: Remember that the time at your disposal is limited and meagre. Sounds clichéd but time management is paramount to your success.
CAT is known to throw surprises. Be it with the difficulty of the sections, the number of sections, and the number of questions…it never ceases to surprise you. Trust me; a CAT paper which is remarkably easy is a surprise in itself! It is very important to be prepared for everything that the examination throws at you.
Ricky Ponting, as a one-down batsman, must be prepared psychologically to face the second ball of the innings or the last ball of the innings; for that matter any time of the innings. It is very important to keep you calm and strike it rich with your abilities.
Strategy 5: CAT exam is a surprise in itself. Expect the best and be prepared for the worst. Remember that it's the same paper for everyone!
I will not blame you if you are confused and worried. Strategy is something that is unique to you; something which only you can formulate for yourself. Remember that what clicks for me might not click for you. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and weave your strategy around that. Australian team makes sure that Michael Clarke comes before Michael Hussey because Hussey is more adapted to give an impetus at the end. BEST OF LUCK!
The author, Sridhar Bhamidi, is a second year MBA student of Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikodeand writes actively for www.tenaday.co.in. A Computer engineer by profession, he worked for 2 years before taking a break for his MBA. An avid blogger, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org