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Prepare smart to bell the CAT

A realistic assessment of your weak areas and focus on improving these can increase your chances of success

education Updated: Aug 29, 2012 16:09 IST
Ramnath S Kanakadandi

With CAT 2012 less than two months away it is natural to wonder if you have it in you to crack the test. Instead of fretting, however, you should concentrate on improving your ability in each individual section.

Verbal ability
Reading comprehension:
CAT has traditionally been a reading comprehension-centric paper. Usually there are three to four passages with three to four questions per passage. A few critical factors in RC preparation that help:

* Reading on diverse topics: Increasing familiarity with the kind of topics that appear in CAT will help students save on reading time and improve comprehension
* Target all direct questions before tackling inferential questions.
* During the Test: Ideally not more than 10 minutes are to be spent per passage and it is to be ensured that all passages are looked at.

Verbal ability: This includes grammar and word- based questions. For grammar, ensure you practice the rules using your study material or any book like Wren & Martin.

For word-based questions, spend 30 minutes every day going through a list of most commonly misused words such as ‘homophones’ etc. The root-prefix-suffix method for word learning can help solve fill in the blanks questions in CAT.

Verbal reasoning: This includes para jumbles and para completion questions. Following are a few approaches to answer these questions:
* Identify the introductory statement (this statement would tell us what the paragraph is all about)
* Then identify links that would connect the two sentences. These are called connectives. These connectives can be conjunctions (but, and) or can be content connectives like cause-effect, generic to specific etc.

Remember that there are no shortcuts to improving upon your verbal reasoning skills. Practice is the key to success in this section. Spend at least an hour on regular reading every day and another 30 minutes reading passages (similar to the ones appearing in the CAT tests) from various online sources.

Quantitative ability
List the areas/topics to focus on: Since you don’t have much time left till the tests, choose only those topics give you the maximum returns in terms of time invested. A two pronged approach needs to be adopted for this

Mock-CAT performance Analysis: Students should have a clear understanding of their comfort levels in all quant topics. Mock-CAT performances should be analyzed at a topic level. Focus on areas where you have been scoring below par consistently and the areas where the scores have been fluctuating.

Previous CAT paper analysis: The areas which have been consistently contributing to the CAT exam over the years should be identified.

Follow these simple steps while preparing
* Understand the basic concepts of the selected topic thoroughly
* Write down all the formulae and concepts related to the topic on a chart to use as a ready reckoner
* Ensure that you know when a particular formula is to be used
* Solve at least 30-40 questions (CAT level) from the concept

Logical ability
The questions in logic can be broadly said to come from three areas viz puzzles, venndiagrams and cubes, deductions and logical connectives.

Of these the questions on puzzles have been most common followed by deductions and venndiagrams. Working out problems from the study material booklets is often the best way to prepare for the different varieties of questions that appear in CAT. Puzzle books like those by Shakuntala Devi, George Summers etc. provide exposure to high level logic puzzles and the approaches to tackle them.

The oft repeated word “Practice” is the key to crack the questions based on logic and reasoning. The students should put in as much time as possible in practicing questions of different types, both online and on paper.

Data interpretation
The skills required to crack questions in DI are

Ability to analyse and understand difficult/complicated data
This is a skill which one can acquire through regular practice. The practice needs to involve questions of various difficulty levels and types. One approach would be to start solving all the DI sets from your study material. Once this is done, it is time to move online using ‘online practice tests’.

Ability to do calculations quickly
Speed of calculations is what you should focus on, along with practicing different sets. Acquiring this skill is often easier said than done as it is difficult to get over the old habit of scribbling numbers on a paper even for simple additions.

The point to be kept in mind while practicing sets is that students should not just focus on the learning approach. Instead, they should also concentrate on working out the answers themselves. This should be done in a timed manner. The advantage of solving questions under time constraints would be improvement in terms of speed. All the steps discussed above will help in increasing the level of preparation. These, combined with the appropriate test taking strategy, will go a long way in belling the CAT.

The author is course director - CAT, Triumphant Institute of Management Education Pvt. Ltd. (T.I.M.E.)