How To Do CAT Preparation At Home
Before discussing preparing for CAT at home, knowing exactly what CAT is and what it inculcates is important. Scrutinizing the Common Admission Test is an examination conducted by the Indian Institutes of Management for entrance to graduate management programs.
Being a computer-based test, it tests Quantitative Ability, Verbal Ability, and Reading Comprehension, Data Interpretation, and Logical Reasoning, and is accepted by the top MBA institutes in the country.
These colleges include IIMs, FMS Delhi, MDI Gurgaon, SPJIMR Mumbai, School of Management at IIT Mumbai and IIT Delhi, IMI New Delhi, IMT Ghaziabad, JBIMS Mumbai among others. The test has a total of 100 questions divided into three sections,
- Verbal and Reading Comprehension(VARC) with 34 questions,
- Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning(DI&LR) with 32 questions and
- Quantitative Ability(QA) with 34 questions.
The total marks are 300, with the total duration of the test being 180 minutes and the marking scheme comprises -1 awarded for every incorrect attempt. The results are declared in percentiles, by equalizing marks, allotting ranks, and identifying candidate’s scores across multiple forms.
The VARC section has questions ranging from sentence completion to synonyms, antonyms, words often confused, spellings, idioms, and odd words. This section requires vocabulary knowledge, reasoning, and reading skills. The questions entail the ability to internalize and assimilate the context of words as well as the passages.
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For CAT preparation at home, an applicant should focus on improving vocabulary, inculcating reading habits, and developing speed and accuracy.
The DI&LR section, considered to be the most challenging section of the test, has questions ranging from data charts, graphs, tables to puzzles, questions on series, arrangements, directions among others. The questions test the ability to analyze the data and deduce conclusions. For CAT preparation at home, an applicant should aim at developing quick comprehension and inferential techniques.
The QA section consists of questions based on 8-10th grade Maths, topics such as algebra, number systems, percentages, and so forth. The questions here are based on logic and modern mathematics. For CAT preparation at home, the applicant should build by starting from basic principles, following theory, and practicing questions covering from medium to high difficulty.
An aspirant preparing for CAT should always be aware of the important dates for the examination, such as when to register, when to appear for the test, the date when the results would be out.
The applicants should be informed of all the updates and notifications made for CAT. The following link describes the procedure to register for the test, including what documents to be submitted and the fees required :
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Having discussed what comprises of a CAT exam, the significance of the same deserves a mention. Preparation for CAT should also entail what B-schools look for in the entrance test.
The test presents a yardstick for the candidate’s general aptitude, problem-solving skills, and mathematical abilities, skills necessary for a successful manager. Any candidate preparing for CAT should take note that the preparation requires utmost determination, resolve, and perseverance.
The training requires a complete dedication for a minimum period of nine months to a year. The candidates are always advised to lay the groundwork by starting to read the newspaper, The Hindu or Businessline, follow management journals, and brush up on basics. Following a section-wise approach is recommended. The candidate should conduct a SWOT analysis, be aware of areas requiring more practice and focus accordingly.
The admission process to a management institute though does not end at acing the CAT, the candidates need to appear for a personal interview and group discussion/written ability test(WAT). These require the candidates to be abreast of all the recent goings-on and be ready to be grilled about themselves, their hobbies, achievements, everything specified in the resume.
Also, the interviews are well known for the trick questions to put the applicant through the wringer, determine how he/she performs under pressure, the decision-making skills, and spontaneity as needed by an enterprising manager.
The WAT is an essay writing test where candidates have to compose an essay on the given topic within the time specified. The topics vary from general philosophy to current events, testing the applicant’s perception and familiarity with the surroundings.
As mentioned above for CAT preparation at home, a sectional approach may be adopted.
- VARC- The applicant can begin by being aware of the scope of the exam, the topics favored and the questions and question types usually asked. The aspects of verbal aptitude evaluated are as specified above, Reading Comprehension, Grammar, usage, and Vocabulary and Verbal reasoning. One of the important considerations for performing well in this section is the glossary, the applicant need not necessarily have a great vocabulary but the ability to grasp the sense of the words in the context used would go a long way. Reading Comprehension comprises passages in standard English followed by a set of four to five questions. These are taken from newspapers, journals, or magazines and cover a wide range of topics as well as writing styles. The passages may be of varying lengths and difficulty levels and test an applicant’s ability to grasp and understand ideas from diverse topics.
Reading Comprehension comprises passages centered around diverse topics such as current affairs, literature, philosophy, history, and so forth. These are critical parts of the VARC section and thus, the applicant needs to be able to perform effectively in this part, in order to score well.
The section intends to test the applicant’s understanding of the passage as a whole through questions on a central idea, the primary purpose of writing or tone of writing, a suitable title to the passage, his/her impression, and inferences from the ideas presented in the passage.
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In order to tackle this section, the applicants need to develop Comprehension Ability and Reading speed. The required reading speed for a CAT applicant is 300+ words a minute.
They also need to be able to understand different ideas, as presented in different writing styles. The key to this can be by starting to read varied material. This can be done by progressively increasing the reading pace with time and looking up the meaning of complex words from the dictionary. The various sources recommended are as follows-
- As aforesaid, newspapers and magazines such as Business Standard, Frontline, also international newspapers and magazines, such as The Economist, Time Magazine and the like.
- Developing the habit to read, books recommended such as Alice in Wonderland (by Lewis Carrol), The Wizard of the OZ, Harry Potter Series (by J.K. Rowling), The Jungle Book by (Rudyard Kipling), Black Beauty (by Anna Sewell) and there can be many more.
- Classics are also a great way to acquaint oneself with the diverse writing styles and topics, a few to mention may include, Anna Karenina (by Leo Tolstoy), Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Bronte), Pride and Prejudice (by Jane Austen), 1984 (by George Orwell) and books by Agatha Christie.
- Contemporary Literature, as based on assorted themes also helps in building reading speed and of course, comprehension, a few to mention include, The Outline Trilogy (by Robert Cusk), Origin (by Dan Brown), The Neapolitan Novels (by Elena Ferrante) and so on.
The entrance test tests vocabulary and grammar through different question types, which emerge new every year. These questions focus on usage, familiarity with idioms and phrases. Developing their word stock is thereby important for the aspirants not only for cracking CAT but also for the further stages of admission to graduate management programs.
The various types of questions in this part of the VARC section may include some of the following: synonyms and antonyms, sentence completion, analogies, spellings, usage of the words. Synonyms are words with similar meaning, antonyms those which mean the opposite, sentence completion, as the names suggest require the applicant to finish the sentence with words most becoming, analogical questions require him/her to identify the similar relationship, spelling questions probe how a word might be spelled and questions on usage require the candidate to determine which phrase should be used based on the given situation.
Also, this part inculcates questions on grammar from articles to parts of speech, direct and indirect, active-passive, conjunctions, pronouns, and so forth. These questions serve as a tool for assessment.
Preparing for CAT at home for grammar and vocabulary requires acquaintance with the usage of applied grammar, this can be built by familiarising oneself with rules of grammar and adding to one’s scope of the glossary.
Verbal Reasoning has been tested over the years from diverse questions, though a common feature has been Jumbled Paragraphs. Syllogisms and Critical Reasoning questions though favored earlier, their weightage has fluctuated with time.
The questions in this part such as Jumbled paragraphs and odd sentences focus on the applicant’s ability to organize these logically, as this depends on his/her being able to absorb it first.
The preparation for this part of VARC depends mainly on the applicant’s logic, reasoning, and decision-making.
(Reference – IMS Courseware)
- LRDI- The basic objective of this section is to establish the applicant’s ability to make decisions, select the right course of action in a given situation. To score well in this section, the applicant should read all the figures carefully, work on arithmetic, and should work on improving calculation speed. In addition to conventional techniques, the applicant needs to apply an intelligent mixture of logic, deduction, and speed maths.
The questions in DI usually scrutinize Observation Skills, Calculation Skills, and Deduction Skills.
- The observation-based questions entail the evaluation of the given data and facts and draw conclusions.
- The Calculation based questions entail computing averages, ratios, percentages, comparisons, and so on. These evaluate the applicant on them being able to deal with numbers effectively and make efficient calculations.
- The Deduction based questions entail establishing a relationship between the data and deducing hidden data.
Statistical Data is usually represented in the form of a table, graph, bar chart, pie chart, and matrix forms. The table comprises data collated in the form of rows and columns, graphs, varying from line graph to bars put forth data as variation in figures with respect to one another or value of a variable as related to the given specification, pie charts present the facts as a percentage of the whole in form of a circular chart and matrix forms may range from data arranged in the form of dice to a pyramid and scrutinize applicant’s ability to assess the provided data and draw hasty inferences.
For an applicant preparing for CAT at home, scoring in this section requires understanding the basic idea behind the presentation of data in various forms to be able to draw appropriate conclusions and being able to read the data from the given representation effectively.
This section has 8 sections with three to four questions each, to score more than 90-95 percentile, the applicant needs to attempt 3-4sets accurately. Moreover, the applicant should be able to make computations quick and correct, as specified in the question.
The preparation for this section requires going through the pattern of the CAT exams, knowing the topics under DI, and practicing mathematical topics which come in handy for this section.
The applicant should follow up by improving the timing of the questions, work towards determining the sets which can be done with complete accuracy, as these can be devoted more time.
This can be done by solving mocks and previous CAT papers, by allotting a specific period for each set. Revision of topics with as much practice as possible is important. This section requires pace more than anything else, applicants should aim to improve the speed with accuracy.
LR comprises analytical questions probing the applicant’s acumen in assessing the given situation, reach the correct conclusions and thus choose the correct answer.
The questions are in the form of situations providing certain clues, such as names of some of the participants, their favorite colors, some of their ages, and such other conditions and the applicant is to solve the puzzle, identify everyone, and possibly their colors or who might the oldest or youngest.
The pattern includes the following sets for questions
- Arrangements – These questions may be related to linear arrangements or circular arrangements. The arrangement may have a basis such as rank and other conditions might be imposed such as position or color-related. The applicant is required to determine the correct arrangement.
- Coding-Decoding-These questions provide statements comprising symbols representing inequalities and equalities, based on which the applicant is to draw conclusions and point out whether given situations are true or false. To prepare for this section, what needs to be done is to assess the given points correctly, by making an analysis table for convenience, and then to determine the applicability of the relationships and draw correct inferences. For example, In a square layout of size 5m × 5m, 25 equal-sized square platforms of different heights are built, the statement would be followed by a list of situations and questions.
- Numbers/Letters/Symbols Series– These questions require the applicant to determine either the option which is not a part of the given series, or the option which is not a series or to complete a given series. For preparing for CAT at home, for such questions, the applicant should be able to determine the various patterns by applying sum, product, square, difference, or cubes, and so on.
- Direction Sense– These require determining the final direction from a set of given situations, or the total distance covered, the distance between two entities, and such. Gearing up for such problems involves being aware of the directions, their concepts, and rules, for example, a person facing north when moves left then faces west, the shadow of a person facing north would be on his right; moreover knowledge of Pythagoras theorem for computing distance is also handy.
- Blood Relations and Family Tree– These questions usually follow conversation among persons, and the applicants are to find out the relationship between the given participants or the accuracy of a statement mentioned. The applicant can use various techniques for solving such word puzzles, but recommended is to draw a flow chart progressively representing the relations by following the statements.
- Data Sufficiency– These usually quiz on whether a set of given statements are relevant for determining a solution, either together or individually or not relevant at all. The candidate can either attempt to solve the statements or take examples for reaching the answer.
Other questions may be word puzzles, games-based questions, and dice/coin picking problems. These should be solved by analyzing the puzzle from either the bottom or top based on the information given and keeping in mind the rules of the game, followed by applying the general principles such as in a knockout tournament, the number of matches would one less than the total players.
This section is usually the most grueling for those appearing for the test and thus preparation at home requires a steady focus, lots of practice, and learning to follow the rule that attempting all the sets is neither necessary nor recommended.
- QA- This section is usually the most detailed and voluminous, and because of the fear of maths among a lot of us, this section is the one most of the applicants spend the majority of their time preparing for. QA as mentioned, quizzes applicants on topics covered in 8/10th class mathematics and thereby follow basic principles. Thus, for preparing this section the applicants need to keep in mind the fundamentals, and have a rapid pace for calculations or approximations, as may be required, as the questions are tricky but the best of them usually require the applicant to make use of the generalities. Following are some of the broad topics that should be covered by an applicant while preparing for CAT at home-
- Number System– This topic begins with the fundamentals of mathematics, numbers and extends the purview of these principles to applications in vast domains. The applicant needs to be aware of the basics of numbers, their properties, divisibility and factors, factorials, and theorems such as Binomial theorem, remainder theorem, and so forth.
- Algebra– Algebra uses letters and symbols representing numbers and performs operations on these. These include basic equations, quadratic and linear, or higher degree of equations, inequalities, logs, and functions.
- Geometry– These questions contemplate concepts such as coordinate geometry, triangles, circles, lines and angles, three-dimensional figures, and trigonometry. The aspirant should be aware of the basic shapes and formulae related to geometry, such as those related to the perimeter, surface area, volume, and theorems like mid-point theorem, proportionality theorem, and angle-bisector theorem, the difference between median, height, altitude, tangent, and so on.
- Modern Maths– These comprise topics such as sequences and series, probability, set theory including Venn diagrams, and permutations and combinations.
- Arithmetic– It is one of the most diverse subject matters and consists of topics of high utility. The questions in this topic range from averages; mean, median, and mode, to profit and loss, mixtures, and alligations, simple and compound interests, installments and time, speed, and distance.
The applicants preparing for CAT at home are recommended to practice each concept. They should begin from basic formulae and solve examples starting from simple ones and progressively moving towards the difficult.
The applicants should be conscious of the time required for preparing each topic and should ensure that none of the topics remain uncovered. They should take mock tests, as mock tests acquaint them with not only the pattern of the exams but also enables them to assess their performance.
Also, an important point to remember is that each section is allotted a period of sixty minutes and thus, the applicants prepping for CAT at home should aim at being able to finish it well in time.
Another important point is that every incorrect attempt is awarded a negative mark, on that account the applicants should not seek to answer questions they are not sure of. It’s better to answer fewer questions accurately than answering all ineffectively.
A strategy that can be adopted is of first, doing questions which the applicant is absolutely certain of, leaving the unsure ones for the last and second, coming back to those doubtful, and third leaving those which are indeterminate.
Following are some books which can be followed for preparing for CAT at home-
- How to Prepare for CAT for each section VARC, LR and QA by Arun Sharma: One of the most popular books for CAT preparation, it is said to be a great source for concept building and fount for practice questions. It includes questions from past exams as well and thereby is a great tool to introduce the readers to the pattern of the questions.
- Quantitative Aptitude for Competitive Exams, A Quantitative Approach to Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning by R.S. Agarwal: The books include a vast amount of questions, thereby exposing the applicant to problems of all levels of difficulty.
- Verbal Ability, Quantitative Aptitude and Number System for CAT by Nishit Sinha: The books are cogent, detailed, provide simple explanations, and are recommended by readers to all CAT aspirants.
The candidates are also recommended to sign up on an online portal for mock tests, as these portals provide mocks for each topic. CAT aspirants can attempt these for brushing up on the matter.
Also, these portals, give a report on their attempts and they can know where they went wrong, their weak areas and strong ones. They need to lay more emphasis on the weak sections and continue to go over the ones the aspirants are fairly comfortable with.
Another benefit of these tests is that they enable one to know if the strategy for preparation they’ve been following is working for them. If not, the applicants can tweak their strategy until they find the right one. Some of these portals are as follows:
It provides a detailed description of how to solve the tests and a variety of problems.
As it is said to practice makes perfect, the same holds true for CAT preparation of course, the more you practice, the better chance you have at acing the test.
The applicants preparing for CAT at home, should thus, look up each topic, attempt as many questions as possible, and keep track of the time taken. Here’s a quote to strengthen your resolve: “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”―Beverly Sills. The key to scoring well is steadfast commitment and relentless execution.