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Preparing for CAT

The one dreaded word that keeps you awake for months; the one dreaded word that makes your read so much stuff in so little time; but one sweet word that opens world of opportunities for you - CAT.

india Updated: Oct 24, 2008 15:38 IST
Sridhar Bhamidi

The one dreaded word that keeps you awake for months; the one dreaded word that makes your read so much stuff in so little time; but one sweet word that opens world of opportunities for you - CAT.

Ask any student and you get almost the same answer - CAT is tough! There are several factors that set in - relative grading, time management, section management etc. It's like the situation for the players on the fringes of selection for Indian cricket team.

Badrinath hopes to score well in every game and simultaneously wishes that he does better than the competitors - Yuvraj Singh, Kaif and all. But can Badrinath control what Yuvi and Kaif can or can not do? What he can do is score lots of runs and leave the rest to the selectors. Bottom line - improve your performance in each of the sections.

What should one do to maximise his performance in all the sections?
As the saying goes, well begun is half done. So, start well and prepare in the right earnest. Before any Australian tour, Sachin Tendulkar practices on a cement pitch with plastic ball.

This would help him cope with the bouncy Aussie pitches. The preparation he puts into his batting holds him in good condition once the tour starts.

So preparation is an important thing that would go a long way in deciding your performance. Being one of the most comprehensive papers, CAT tests your ability in more areas than one which means that the preparation for each of these areas would be different.

It's hard to pin point how many sections a CAT paper would have. However, a generic classification would leave us with three sections:
· Quantitative Analysis
· Data Interpretation
· Verbal Ability
Any new sub-section would come from one or more of the above sections which means that a thorough preparation in the above sections would suffice. Though it is not wise to generalise how to prepare for the aforementioned areas, I would like to pinpoint certain methods.

Verbal Ability
There is a misconception among most of the students that you need to great pedigree of English to master this section. Wrong…wrong…wrong. CAT has moved from testing your knowledge of words to testing your usage of words. It's no longer the meaning of a word that is important but the usage and the context. This is more so since the last couple of CAT papers where verbal section is testing the student in the RC area.

Does that mean you do not need to know your meanings and words?
It is always nice to know as many synonyms and roots as you can which would help you in RCs as well. It's just that not knowing many wouldn't hamper your chances. Remember that students who read a passage would remember the words and the contextual meanings more than those who read the words with their meanings alone.

This leaves us with the question. How to master the Verbal section?
Very simple - read as much as you can! At least one news paper in full every day, 2-3 editorials, one weekly and some good journals. Add to this quota the usual number of novels you read and you have a mix to master the verbal section.

Did I scare you? Okay, take things slowly. Start with a daily paper and add a weekly and a journal as you go ahead. To be frank, this is not something out of the blue. This is what most of you guys do, ain't it?
Novels, news papers, weeklies form a part of your life. I'm just asking you to read it for purpose. Understand the usage of words and the implied meanings. Don't stop after completing your favourite sections. Read through the paper; sports, medicine, politics, finance…anything and everything. You never know which article might pop up in your CAT paper.

Why did I club these two sections?
For me, both of them are so closely related that preparation for these should go hand-in-hand. Both these sections require you to be very good at your basic maths and quick maths. You need to know the ratios, tables, multiplications all those little tricks that make your life easy with numbers. In short, number crunching ability helps you see through.

I employed a simple but effective way to improve my speed with numbers. I used to observe the number plates and make all possible combinations with the four numbers - ratio of first two and the last two, total of the four digits, inverted ratio etc. Over time I became comfortable with numbers. This is in no way a fool proof method to gain ground or time; in fact, far away from that.

It just helped me lose some of my worst fears at number crunching. A couple of Speed maths tests every day and it's just the start you need. Basic arithmetic, algebra, and geometry form a broad classification of the topics that may appear in your paper. Number theory, ratios, speed and distance, time are important for both the sections.

One important thing that is to be noted in these two sections is the importance of accuracy. Speed is important but so is accuracy. So, make sure that you practice accordingly. The sample exercises you prepare after every chapter of the quant section should give a fair idea as to how your preparation is heading. People over-emphasize on speed and lose track of their accuracy which sometimes jeopardises their chances. It is important for Dhoni to hit the ball hard; it is equally important to hit it in the gaps!

Any one can go lengths at discussing strategies for CAT. It must, however, be noted that the student has to decide what suits for him. Something which works for student X might not work for student Y. Dravid might practice leaving the balls while Dhoni might practice smashing! One size doesn't fit all! Choose your strategy and rock on…ALL THE BEST!

The author, Sridhar Bhamidi, is a second year MBA student of Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode and writes actively for 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

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