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Best CAT Preparation Strategies For Every CAT Aspirants

CAT, that is the Common Admission Test, is a computer-based conducted by the Indian Institutes of Management for admission to graduate management programs. Preparing for CAT requires an aspirant to unequivocally commit to pursuing the test and giving it his/her best.


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The complete devotion required during the preparatory stages, followed by the stress during the exam and post the exam, waiting for the results is obviously nerve-wracking. But the consequences are definitely rewarding and if an applicant is able to tackle the test, it opens a whole lot of new opportunities, enables him/her to upgrade their career, have a fresh start, and have the potential to have a more satisfying job. Therefore, if an applicant wants to sign up for this experience, then he/she should know exactly what the program is and what the examination entails.


  • What exactly MBA entails?


Management in Business Administration is a course to develop the skills required in business and its management. The program comprises in its curriculum, subjects such as Accounting, Human Resources, Economics, Marketing, Finance, Business Strategy, and many electives, enabling the participant to seek his/her areas of interest.


MBA programs also insist on concentration in specific areas, Marketing, Finance or Accounting, and so forth. In addition, there are also integrated MBA programs, which are for a period of five years, for students right after their 12th class. The MBA program also varies with time period and mode of instruction:


  • Full-time MBA– It is usually eighteen months to two-year course, conducted in a regular university format.
  • Part-time MBA– For working students, to enable them to pursue the study along with their jobs.
  • Distance learning/Online Course– Classes are conducted off-campus through various online modes.
  • Executive MBA– For allowing students to undertake the study while working full time, usually for managers and executives, with a work experience of five to ten years.


Before preparing for the examination, the applicant should be aware of the category of the course he/she wants to be part of.


MBA in the country is provided for both freshers with little to no work experience, employees working part-time, and managers and executives, to equip them to update their skills and boost their career.


CAT is accepted by the majority of top business schools in the country, in addition to the IIMs, for instance, FMS Delhi, MDI Gurgaon, SPJIMR Mumbai, School of Management at IIT Mumbai and IIT Delhi, IMI New Delhi, IMT Ghaziabad, JBIMS Mumbai among others.


It is for admission into the former category that the candidates are required to appear for the CAT, it tests their logic, deduction, understanding, and decision-making skills.


Based on the CAT score, the applicants are shortlisted for the further stages of admission. The usual pattern involves Group Discussion(GD)/Written Ability Test(WAT) followed by Personal Interview(PI).


Some colleges also conduct Extempore after the PI. The GD and WAT are based on topics of general interest or current affairs. GD involves discourse on the given heading and tests the ability of each participant to interact with the others, their ability to articulate their ideas, and that of their initiative.


WAT requires the applicant to communicate their ideas on the topic provided in the given frame of time. PI is conducted by the alumni and professors, scrutinize the applicant’s presence of mind, verbal communication skill, and caliber in presenting their views. In extempore, an applicant is given a topic, some time for deliberation, and is required to speak for a specified period.


Find the list of the top CAT Coaching Institute in Gurgaon


The applicant, therefore, to qualify for the final stages, must have a steady focus from the onset.


CAT comprises three sections, a time of one-eighty minutes is allocated for the test and the marking scheme involves a negative mark awarded for every wrong attempt.


The results are accorded in terms of percentile, by comparing and equating marks across the sections and the applicants. Considering these points, the applicants need to be very careful in weighing their strategy for preparing for CAT.


The questions in the examination vary from medium to high difficulty. A summary of the section division is as follows –


  • Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC)– This section has 34 questions and tests the candidate’s ability to comprehend and assimilate the context of the given passages and their grammar and verbal reasoning. The questions are in the form of Reading Comprehension, which is passages, testing the candidate’s understanding of the passage through questions such as a central idea, the primary purpose of giving a suitable title to the passage, and other questions based on the content of the passage. The further parts of this section test vocabulary and grammar through questions such as synonyms, antonyms, spellings, parts of speech, articles, and so forth. Verbal reasoning is evaluated through questions such as jumbled sentences, and syllogisms. The strategy for preparing for CAT depends on the applicant being properly acquainted with the pattern, syllabus, and scope of the sections. The candidate, in order to crack VARC, requires, reading speed of three hundred words per minute, that is reading with understanding; vocabulary; acquaintance with spellings, idioms, rules of grammar and the ability to deduce the tone, intent of the author for writing the passage and theme of the passage.


The strategy for preparing for CAT, in particular for VARC, thus inculcates the applicant being aware of the type of passages, their usual sources, the number of sets the applicant needs to attempt accurately for achieving their aspired score. The applicant needs to develop a reading habit by looking up the new words from the dictionary, get back to the basics of grammar and be familiar with the various types of questions mentioned.


The strategies would be discussed further, a brief mention, here is the candidate attempting the preparation at home and signing up at an online portal for the preparation, and the traditional approach of enrolling in an institute. Each strategy has its own pros and cons and a candidate should weigh them both before honing in on any one of them.


A tip here is the aspirant should try to read the passage only once, as he/she might get accustomed to reading the same passage a couple of times, for an apparent better understanding. This method actually interferes with their time management and thus, the applicants should progressively develop the trait to go through the content one time, he/she would come about better comprehension through a single read with practice.


  • Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation (LIDR)– This section has 32 questions and tests the applicant’s skill in analyzing the given data, deducing conclusions, and selecting the right course of action. The LR section comprises questions ranging from arrangements, direction sense, puzzles, to DI questions representing data in the form of graphs, charts, tables. This section scrutinizes the applicant’s observations, deduction, and calculation skills.


The strategy for preparing for CAT, for LRDI in particular, requires the candidate to able to read and interpret the data presented in the various forms accurately and drawing correct conclusions, and making quick calculations or approximations, as required. This section is considered the most challenging and therefore, the aspirant needs to be prudent in picking the strategy for the preparation.


A tip here is that no matter the strategy adopted, the applicant should begin by solving three sets of problems every day during their preparation period with allotted time for each section and successively reduce the time for every question and try to attempt more questions in the original time frame.


  • Quantitative Ability (QA):- This section has 34 questions and is the most detailed and vast, covering questions based on eighth to tenth-grade topics in maths. The topics span from algebra, geometry to modern maths. The aspirants need to have a quick pace for efficient calculations, or approximations, as required and a strong focus on the basics. The questions are based on a number of topics, the applicants should be aware of the scope of the syllabus, and the pattern of previous questions. An applicant has to be very cautious in planning for the strategy in preparing this section as it has the widest purview and a lot of material to cover. Since QA is based on maths, a lot of math fearers tend to focus most on this section. The applicants should, therefore, be aware of their weak and strong areas, and decide which areas to focus on more.


The strategy for preparing for CAT, for QA in particular, requires that the candidate is able to understand, solve and answer the questions expeditiously and accurately. This ability largely depends on the candidates being well acquainted with the subject matter, have a rapid speed for computations, and a grip of the expected question patterns.


A tip here is for the strategy is that, before preparing for the examination, the aspirants should start with solving speed maths and mental maths problems, puzzles such as the Sudoku, as it helps in enhancing the speed for comprehension and computing.


  • In addition to these sections, the candidate should not be oblivious to the subject of General Knowledge(GK), as this might enable the applicant to be familiar with RCs and is greatly beneficial during the GD, WAT, and PI stages. An example here might be, in a WAT during 2019, the topic was, Development in metro cities is resulting in broken cities and making people insensitive towards one another, the candidates are required to provide points arguing both in favor and against the statement and conclude, within the word limit.


The various Strategies for CAT Preparation


The decision of the strategy is a significant one, henceforth the candidates should be mindful and consider all the details of a strategy and choose the one right for him/her. The planning should begin with the candidate aiming at a particular score depending on the college they aspire, maybe 80-85 percentile or 90 and more, and decide accordingly the number of sets he/she needs to attempt accurately to achieve the score.


The basic principle followed is that only the questions that the aspirant has complete confidence in should be attempted. It is better to attempt a decided number of questions precisely, rather than trying for all the questions inaccurately. The next step would be to get in touch with the basics.


The candidates should start at the beginning, being aware of the current events as then he/she might have an idea if the passage in VARC is based on any recent phenomenon and it would help in further stages of the admission process too, as mentioned.


The applicant should be familiar with the tips and tricks for the various types of questions in LIDR, the formulae for the graphs and charts, the rules for games and tournaments, principles of directions, arrangements, and relations.


Also, the QA section covers a lot of concepts, and awareness of the basic principles is essential, such as formulae for mean, median, mode, simple and compound interest, rules for various shapes and figures, and theorems.


This step should be followed by comparing the various strategies and picking the one most comfortable.


The strategy should involve the following –


The applicant can begin by going through as much information as available to him/her on CAT, its pattern, expected questions, changes over the years, and the parameters evaluated. Then he/she can follow up by preparing a timeline keeping in mind the important days, that is, for registration, exam, results, and interview.


The candidate should be up to date on all the announcements and notifications related to CAT and the admission process. Proceeding further, he/she should be familiar with the entire subject matter in detail, each topic and sub-topic, a number of questions, and the usual marking scheme.


The aspirant should also understand the significance of the test as it is used as a tool to scrutinize the applicants for admission to the management programs. The examination is meant to probe the candidate’s ability to think in a stressed environment, their proficiency in drawing the correct conclusions in a time-bound situation, and their skill in decision making.


The preparation should cover all the sections since the most important factor is speed, the applicants should work on increasing their speed in solving and answering the various sets.


They should study the concepts in detail, practice questions asked in previous CATs, and as specified, be aware of the current affairs and recent goings-on. Also, sample papers and mock tests are a must for the aspirants, these acquaint them with the content, and its style of problems asked, and enable them to self-introspect on their performance and preparation.


The following link specifies the various books which be referred more gearing up for CAT




Revision for the exam is also an important consideration, and as specified in the timeline, the applicants should create it in such a manner so as to leave sufficient time for going through the entire scope, practicing previous samples and mock papers, and brushing up the matter later.


A list of alternatives available to the applicant are as follows-


  • Candidates preparing by themselves- The candidate preparing for the test at home accords many benefits such as the opportunity of complete focus, the possibility of detailed study without distractions or interruptions, and preparing at their own pace.

A candidate following the strategy of preparing at his/her own pace goes a long way to help in infusing the required skills and knowledge to ace CAT.

With the advancement in technology and CAT is a computer-based exam, there are a lot of online platforms from which the applicant may choose for guiding them through the preparation.


These platforms have a database containing content videos explaining the concepts, followed by tests for each topic covered, sectional tests, and sample as well as mock exams.


These portals also act as a channel for experts and past applicants to discuss various points, answer queries and share their own experience.


These online portals are a great tool for the aspirants for being able to prepare at their convenience, and these are simple and easy to understand and navigate. Moreover, these have blogs updated regularly, sometimes daily, informing the aspirants about the latest developments, pitching in tricks and tips, and suggesting techniques to be followed.


The online portals also offer the services as provided by councilors and one on one mentors, thus, the applicants are assured of the proper guidance.


These also offer the facility to clear doubts, as and when required. The applicants can also check where they stand, as the portals provide a performance analysis, facilitating them to identify strengths and weaknesses and tweak their CAT prep plan.


  • Candidates enrolling in a preparation Institute– This is a tried and tested formula and has been a go-to strategy for candidates. But it is popular because the institutes aid the aspirants in their prep. The institutes offer a variety of courses, such as long period courses, ranging from twelve months to two years, short term or crash courses, that is, courses expediting the preparation within four to six months, and also offer a host of class schedules, be it weekday, weekend or early morning or evening classes, as per the specifications of the applicants. The institutes begin from instructing in basics, provide material curated based on past patterns and expected questions, and a dedicated faculty. These also provide mentors to discuss CAT with the applicants, guiding them in the required areas, time management, how to prepare, how to attempt the exam, reviewing the right b-schools for the applicants, and supporting them through all the stages of admission.


These Online CAT Institutes provide performance appraisal of the applicants by conducting tests, be it section-wise, or the entire scope. Many also have days scheduled for tests after covering certain topics, thereby increasing the applicant’s exposure. Many also have their own blogs, covering all the sections for self-testing of the applicants, other options such as current events or general knowledge, and CAT-related updates.


Choosing the preparation strategy right for you


The onus is on the applicant to decide which strategy is the most becoming for his/her situation, the time period, commute, and financial considerations.


  • For an applicant preparing by him/her own self, the biggest advantage is that he/she can prepare without distractions, at a rate most suited to them irrespective of the time spent and place and also, applicants preparing online, thereby also have an additional benefit as they can get in touch with others aiming for CAT, discuss their strategies, and get a medium for communicating with those in the same mindset. For applicants enrolled in an institute, they have the opportunity to study in association with their peers, which creates a healthy sense of competition among them and pushes them to improve.


Depending on the conditions which suit them best, the applicants should decide the relevant strategy.


  • Commuting to and fro the institute may act as an impediment for those for whom the distance from is quite long, but at the same time, it may also act as a respite from a period of continuous studying. Applicants preparing online can, by all means, study from anywhere.
  • The online portals are of course a direct consequence of advancement in technology, but at the same time may be a lot cheaper than an institute, which is one of the most important considerations for the applicants. Also seeing this as a one-time investment, if the applicants believe that the institute would be really beneficial for them, they should focus on the same.
  • The applicants in the case of an online portal have the opportunity to revisit the same topic over and over, in case of difficulty incomprehension. The institutes also provide this option but in the form of backup classes.
  • As specified, applicants preparing online get a medium for queries, doubts, and grievances, which is available to them 24/7. In institutes, the applicants can resolve these from the faculty, though either after classes or during the specific doubts sessions.
  • The institutes have a tendency to conduct seminars and workshops for their students, on subjects not only important for CAT but also having significance for the further admission stages, namely GD, PI, and WAT, for example, there may be a seminar on the Budget released discussing its features and details, for the GD and PI. Similar seminars may also be available online, though they lack interaction with the experts.
  • The tenure of admission to an institute goes from the preparation period before CAT, to the interview process, and till the session of the b-school starts, thus, ensuring complete guidance for all stages. The applicants are given detailed guidelines on how the interview and group discussion process works, they are instructed on how to appropriately conduct themselves during the interview and GD and train them for the written ability test, by providing them material to be acquainted with topics followed in the past and the general criteria which are usually evaluated.
  • The institutes conduct mock interviews, GD and WAT, thereby enabling the applicant to be acquainted with a like environment for these stages, evaluate themselves and focus on improving. The online portals also provide these instructions, but the lack of practical application might make it difficult for the applicants.


These are some of the points which should be considered by an aspirant deciding on a preparation strategy. The cusp of the situation is on the applicant, if he has been a classroom student, institutes might be a better option, as adjusting to online classes would take a while. On the other hand for an applicant reasonably comfortable with online instruction, he/she can pick the portal coinciding with his/her requirements.


This decision, as specified is monumental, as the amount of time, effort, and money involved in following one strategy cannot be reversed if it’s not suitable. The candidates, therefore, are recommended to do ample research before selecting either of the options. They should find out about the quality of instruction, comparative fee structure, class schedules, and all areas having a bearing on their choice.


The applicants should however remember that it is them who are amenable for their aim of joining the top management schools, the preparation for the same, and the result, it is them who have to ultimately follow the plan and strategy for achieving their goals.


Prerequisites for preparing and acing CAT are persistence, consistency, and an undeviating focus. Here is a quote to boost your start


“Your focus determines your reality”- George Lucas

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Shreya is currently a student at St. Francis College for Women, she is passionate about Content Writing & Marketing. Shreya is an alumna at IIM SKILLS for Content Writing Master Program.

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