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After CAT, what?

Most management exams across the country test the same skill sets. Here is how you can ace those exams Sanchita Guha reports

education Updated: Dec 09, 2009 09:19 IST
Sanchita Guha

The CAT is one of the most important exams in the country, opening doors to the IIMs, but it is not the be-all and end-all of MBA entrance tests. A bunch of other management institutes, including XLRI, Jamshedpur, and FMS, Delhi, conduct admissions through exams that have CAT-like formats. When you strengthen the skills tested in these exams, you can fare well in all or most of them. If you are a management aspirant, you know a lot of the tips and tricks already. Here are some that can help you along:

Quantitative ability
To solve these problems quickly — the recommended time for multiple choice questions is one minute per question — practise mental maths. Run through sample tests without once touching pen and paper, allowing just 30 seconds per answer. Even if you are not sure of the answers, do not stop to think too hard. Once you have answered, say, 100 questions, stop right there. Go through the whole lot again slowly, calculating on paper this time, and see how many you got right. The more you get right, the more confident you will feel. This will also help you identify which areas of mathematics you have a natural talent for and which areas need more work. Keep repeating with sample sets of 100 and see if it gets better.

Even outside preparation hours, make any situation a mock-test situation, e.g. when you are at dinner with four people, and three different dishes have been ordered, think about how many diner-dish combinations are possible. Do this mentally, then calculate on paper to see if you got it right.

Reading comprehension
In sample tests, while reading the passage, do not waste time trying to understand each and every sentence, and do not read one long sentence three times if you do not grasp it at one go. Concentrate hard, but read through the passage just once, ideally in half the time that you would get in the exam. Just be sure that you have absorbed the general flow of ideas.

Now look at each question and go back to the passage, skimming through it to find the portion you need to answer that particular question. You will find the right option much faster this way.

Data interpretation
This is perhaps the most difficult part of CAT-type exams, as it requires a complex combination of quantitative aptitude and analytical reasoning. The problems offered tend to have layers — simply knowing mathematical formulae like the back of your hand will not help; you also need to know which formulae to apply and where. The question can be based on anything — a pie chart, a graph, a problem about profit and loss.

Algebra is a big help in solving this paper, and so is permutation-combination, so make sure you are the master of these. Practise absorbing information in graphs and charts by reading those in newspapers and magazines.

Verbal ability
If you have done well in reading comprehension, rest assured that you would do well in verbal ability. One shortcut is elimination. Let us say, the problem is a set of randomly arranged sentences (each marked with one letter of the alphabet) and you have to identify the right order of letters, i.e. the right sequence of sentences. To get this quickly, try elimination by identifying the first sentence and the one that must follow it.
So, if the first correct sentence is ‘D’ and the second correct sentence is ‘C’, you can ignore any combination of letters that does not begin with ‘DC’. This narrows your choice down. The first sentence is easy to identify as it never begins with words like ‘then’, ‘so’, ‘next’.

Also, ask for a friend’s help to do a ‘dictionary test’. Ask him/her to randomly pick words from a dictionary and ask you the meaning. You, obviously, are not allowed to look up a dictionary. The friend will check how many correct answers you give. The more words you get right, the faster you can get through word combination problems — sentences where there are two blanks and you have to choose one pair of words from several.

Visual reasoning
This is deducing a pattern in a series of images and identifying the next figure in the series. About three-fourths of these problems will be easy, but it is the rest that could make the difference, because what is easy for you is easy for others, too.

Rather than going through hundreds of these problems and hoping that a hit-and-miss method will save the day, get your hands on IQ test books that do not just give the right answer but explain why that is the right answer. Once you understand the ‘why’, it will be easier to pinpoint the ‘which’.