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Top 10 Common Mistakes In CAT People Commit

Are you making one of these common mistakes in CAT 90% of the candidates make while preparing? Find out what they are and how you can avoid them. By IIM Skills- online CAT coaching




CAT or the Common Admission Test in the entry gate to the best management colleges in India. Some of the most popular colleges include the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management or simply IIMs. More than 2.5 lac candidates are estimated to complete the CAT 2020, and many of them are fighting for a seat in IIM. But most of them commit at least one of these common mistakes in CAT preparation.


CAT is an important exam. It is one of the most competitive exams in the world. This is because a good percentile in CAT ensures a good management education in some of the best management schools.


A seat in the top business school basically guarantees a great start to anyone’s management career. But this will only happen when you do not commit one of these common mistakes in CAT.


But CAT preparation is not easy. It takes the right attitude, right guidance, right preparation material, and time. It takes months of dedication and taking so many right steps.


That too at the right moment. And many students end up making mistakes knowingly or unknowingly. These mistakes sometimes cost them anywhere between a few percentile points to a whole seat in the best college.


So, what are these mistakes? Here we are going to look at some of the common mistakes in CAT exam preparation many candidates commit. And this costs them a seat, or sometimes a whole year.


Common CAT Mistake #1: Ignoring the CAT syllabus


This is one of the most common mistakes in CAT many candidates do. They look at the syllabus much later in their preparation for the CAT exam.


This is a careless attitude because if you are giving an exam that requires months of focused effort and where the competition is so cut-throat, you can not be so complacent as to not even take a glance at the syllabus.


Before starting your preparation, you should go through the whole CAT exam syllabus thoroughly. It is not enough to be vague. Go through it properly.


You will find many facts you did not know. For example, you will find how important reading comprehension is for the VARC section in CAT. You should ideally, make a list of sub-topics inside every topic so when you are studying that topic, you know what to study and what not to study.


Understand all the sub-topics in the CAT sections of Quantitative Aptitude, Data Interpretation, and Logical Reasoning, and Verbal Ability and Reading comprehension.


While you are going through the syllabus, also look at the pattern of CAT by going through some sample papers or the previous year’s papers of CAT.  This is of great importance because looking at the previous years’ papers will give you an idea of what kind of questions are asked and what is the pattern of the CAT exam.


Just like any sport, you need to know the aim before you make your shot, in CAT too, you need to know as much information about your goal before starting the preparation. In fact, you must frequently check with the syllabus and the sample papers to ensure that you stay on track of preparation and do not divert a lot. This visualization will help a lot.


Common CAT Mistake #2: No study plan


“If I have 6 hours to cut down a tree, I’d spend 4 hours sharpening the axe.”

– Abraham Lincoln


We have seen many students, who just start their preparation by just buying any of the best books for CAT, and starting right from chapter 1. These are some of those common mistakes arising from doing things this way:


  • They keep studying and solving questions without any plan or strategy.
  • They study whenever they feel like it
  • They study for irregular hours and at irregular times
  • They have no idea about their strengths or weakness. They skipped the SWOT analysis.
  • They do not know the weightage of each topic in CAT
  • They have no direction whatsoever


Preparation like this will lead them nowhere. Studying 1-2 hours a day and dreaming of a seat in the IIM is not acceptable. Studying for CAT without a strategy is like shooting arrows in the dark. If you are serious about CAT and getting a seat in one of the best management colleges, you need a proper study plan for CAT.


You need to think long-term, not just about the CAT exam. If you do not perform well in the GD, PI, and WAT, your CAT percentile as of no good.


Your study plan for CAT should include these points:

  • How many hours to study for CAT every day?
  • Analyzing strong and weak areas. Then devoting time to them accordingly.
  • How many days to give to each topic depending on its weightage in CAT?
  • When to solve mock papers for CAT?
  • How to revise?
  • How much reading newspapers and magazines?
  • How much reading novels?
  • How much time to devote to current affairs?


A good study plan is half of the preparation done. Do not make the above common mistakes in CAT many candidates do and reduce their scores.


CAT Mistake #3: Skipping topics


This is also one of the common mistakes students do while preparing for the management entrance exam. Ideally, your time allotted to each topic must be on the basis of your SWOT analysis ie. your analysis of your strong and weak areas in the CAT syllabus.


You should aim to make your weak areas strong enough up to the level of CAT. Just because you do not like a topic or subject, does not mean you will skip it. CAT does not care about your preferences.


Besides, if CAT asks a really easy question from a topic you skipped, it will be quite unfortunate. As previous CAT candidates would tell you, every mark is significant.


This will require giving proper time to build concepts, by reading theory and solving many easy questions. By solving tough questions, you will build skills while easy questions build speed.


All parts of a topic are necessary, and before completing them, you should not move on to the next chapter.


For example, most CAT candidates from engineering do not like the Verbal Aptitude and Reading comprehension section in CAT because they sometimes do not understand it. Unlike Quant and DILR, where solutions can be reached through calculation and logic, In VARC, students just need to remember and know the rules of the English language.


For this reason, many engineering candidates, out of irritation, do not give enough emphasis to the VARC section during preparation for CAT.


Similarly, candidates from non-technical backgrounds think that engineers have an advantage in maths in CAT Quantitative ability or DILR, because they have learned mathematics in engineering. This is a myth because the level of mathematics in CAT is high school level. CAT does not test the candidate’s intelligence, CAT tests aptitude.


There are other assumptions that many candidates keep in mind and end up skipping topics during preparation.


But the other similar mistake is giving more than the required time to some topics. Many candidates get emotionally attached to one topic and they like to solve problems only from that topic because they like it and they become really good at it.


But like, we said, CAT is not an exam of intelligence but aptitude. The skills CAT tests are time management, speed, perseverance, and such.


The extra time you are devoting to some topics is of no use in CAT. Because even if you find a tough question you can solve in CAT, you most likely will have to skip it for easier questions, because every question has equal marks.


Keeping the requirements of the CAT exam is important. This helps in focusing on where and how much effort to put in and avoiding common mistakes in CAT.


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CAT Mistake #4: No mock-tests


The reason there is so much stress given to mock tests by teachers and the CAT coaching institute is that mock tests are the ultimate test of your preparation level before CAT. And the reason why this is one of the common mistakes in CAT is that students do not know how often to solve mock tests.


We at IIM Skills have always said that intelligence and knowledge in CAT is one thing, but scoring more marks in CAT is the second step in CAT preparation, that many candidates miss.


They are completely unaware of how to use their skills to score more in the CAT exam.


Many candidates assume that just by mastering a chapter, they will be able to get a great percentile in CAT and get the college of their dreams. Sadly, this is not true. Mock tests are the second step to your CAT preparation.


Why are mock tests important? Here is why mock tests are important:


  • They help you develop the temperament of the actual CAT exam
  • They let you develop a strategy to attempt the CAT exam
  • They let you know your strengths and weakness
  • They let you track your progress
  • Mock tests also tell you where you stand in the competition
  • If you solve mock tests at the same time duration as your CAT slot, this will tune your biological clock to the exam. This is especially important if it’s an afternoon session.
  • Mock tests keep you on the right path to CAT
  • You will understand what kinds of questions come from each topic
  • You will clear many misconceptions regarding the exam.
  • Your speed will increase


To get these benefits, however, you need to analyze your mock test performance.


Likewise, the opposite of solving no mock tests is solving too many. This could also hamper your progress. This will waste your time as checking your preparation more than spending time on actual preparation is ridiculous.


Too much of anything is bad. You can better spend that time on revising or reading newspapers or magazines or improving your vocabulary. Reading is a great habit that will benefit in every section of the CAT exam and ultimately help you a lot in increasing your overall percentile.


The ideal frequency of mock tests during the preparation stages is 1 mock per week. When you have finished your chapters and the time for revision has come(usually last month before CAT) the frequency of mock tests can be increased to 2-3 mock per week.


Common CAT Mistake #5: Not analyzing mock test performance


If you are giving CAT mock tests without analyzing your score, you are wasting most of your effort. This is another one of the common mistakes in CAT preparation many students do.


We have already seen the benefits of giving mock tests in the previous section. But most of the benefits are only received when you analyze your mock test performance. Analyzing your mock performance has these benefits:


  • You can find your strong and weak sections
  • You can score better in the next mock test
  • You can find shortcomings in your preparation
  • You may find that you have missed some important part during the preparation
  • You can find reasons why your score is low. Some of these could be speed, negative marking, wrong selection of questions, spending too much time on one question, and so on.
  • You can find that your approach to any chapter is/was wrong
  • You can fine-tune your strategy for the CAT exam


With the analysis of mock tests you can find many areas of improvement:


  • How many questions are you attempting?
  • How many questions or percentage of questions attempted correctly?
  • How much negative marking?
  • Expected score vs. Score calculated
  • Speed
  • Selecting the right question
  • A better strategy to attempt the paper
  • Topics you are avoiding


As you can see, if you do not take the time to analyze your mock tests, you will miss out on the most benefits of solving them. By analyzing, you can improve your CAT score, which is the ultimate purpose of all the preparation. Do not make this common mistake in CAT preparation.


CAT Mistake #6: No revision


CAT preparation takes months. It is most likely, that what you read months before, may not stay in your memory long enough till the CAT exam. One of the most common mistakes in CAT preparation is when students complete a chapter and then move on to the next chapter without ever revising the previous chapters they have prepared.


Most students do not have the super memory required to remember a thing that was studied once, a long time ago. What happens is when they start giving mock tests a few weeks before CAT, they realize that they do not remember anything.


They do not remember the formulae, they do not remember solution techniques or concepts. This can be even worse if they start mock tests just days before the exam.


All their hard work and efforts go to waste. This frustrates them and demotivates them. The result is an even worse performance in the exam despite working so hard.


Ideally, you should have separate time taken out for the revision of past chapters in your study plan. You can do this on weekends or on the days you solve the mock tests.


In a revision, you can just go through the theory and solutions to questions. You do not need to solve questions again. Only remember or revise how you solved the questions when you were studying the chapter.


CAT Mistake #7: Not maintaining good notes


It is important to maintain good notes. Even your rough work must be done in a way where you can revisit and revise questions. The advantage of maintaining an organized notebook is that you can go back to any time of your preparation and remember the solutions or tricks you used. You should revisit this notebook periodically throughout your preparation.


This way, you can steer clear of the common mistake of not being able to revise through notes.


Common CAT Mistake #8: No strategy for CAT exam


As already said, preparing the topics is one step, but developing a strategy to score is another step in CAT preparation, that students often miss.


This is our sixth mistake in common mistake in CAT. Without a strategy to attempt the paper, a candidate cannot reach their potential score. This is because many candidates think that just studying the chapters is enough to get a good percentile.


In the game of cricket, the rules of T-20, One day match, and the test match are mostly the same. But the strategy to win a test match would be very different to win a T-20.


The batsmen will have a different attitude and approach in both types of matches. Even though his batting skills are still the same.


Similarly, all exams may require you to have knowledge of the topics or sections like quant, reading comprehension, and logical reasoning, but the approaches in all the exams are different. And you need to find out how you need to approach the CAT exam.


An example of a good strategy for CAT is something like this:


  • Spend the first 3-4 minutes scanning the whole paper
  • While scanning, mark the questions which are easy and can be solved inside 20-25 seconds
  • Also, mark the questions that can be solved but will take about 2 to 2.5 minutes.
  • Do not mark the questions you think are too long or too difficult
  • Start solving the paper by starting with the first category of marked questions
  • when easy questions have been solved, go for the next category of marked questions
  • When you have completed both types of questions and there is some time left, it’s better to check the solutions rather than going for new questions.


You have to remember that you are not required to solve every single question. Your aim must be around 50-60% questions but this is something you should decide yourself based on your goals and preparation level.


A good strategy will help you get the maximum out of your preparation level. Do not commit this very common mistake for CAT preparation that no candidate who gets a great percentile in CAT ever does.


You can find the list of Top CAT Coaching Institutes In India here


CAT Mistake #9: Not starting early


Again a very common mistake in CAT many candidates do is they keep procrastinating and delaying starting the preparation. Taking the CAT exam lightly is not advised.


This is one of the most competitive exams in the world. CAt demands some level of seriousness and professionalism. You should start preparing as soon as you decide to go for an MBA.


If you find yourself procrastinating, join coaching. You can also join the best online coaching for CAT if you are a working professional or a student in the final year of college.


This way, you will be accountable and more serious. The advantage of coaching is not only in clearing concepts. Coaching helps in many other facets of exam preparation like discipline, maintaining a regular speed, proper guidance, and competition from other students.


CAT mistake #10: Not managing emotions


This is one common mistake in CAT that not only students but even many coaching institutes are guilty of.


Ignoring emotions like stress, lack of motivation, lack of responsibility, and frustration can be dangerous not only to your CAT preparation but also to your mental well-being. You have to be very careful about not developing destructive behavior that candidates sometimes fall into.


Business managers are well-rounded people with great control over their emotions. They are great at managing stress that comes from big responsibilities. There are also frustrations because it is impossible to be successful every single time.


CAT exam requires you to be good at dealing with your emotions.


As the journey of CAT preparation is long, usually months or for some, even a year or two. At this time, many things happen in your professional as well as personal life. These changes affect your preparation. It is necessary to keep the impact to a minimum.


Most of the time, the negative attitude is related to the preparation itself. There are some reasons for that:


  • Not being able to score better
  • Not being able to focus
  • Getting behind others in competition
  • Frustration at losing out on the fun your friends are having
  • Other personal reasons


If you find yourself in this state, it’s better to take help. You can always talk to your teacher or a counselor. There is a lot of stress, undoubtedly, while preparing for competitive exams in India.


It is important that you deal with those problems properly and in a healthy way. This is an essential trait of a business manager. But this is also one of the most common mistakes in CAT.



These were some of the most common mistakes in CAT that candidates do. There is much advice on how to prepare for CAT, what are the do’s for CAT preparation, but it is also important to know what not to do in CAT. This way, students can steer clear of the common mistakes many other candidates commit and end up scoring much less than their potential.


Make sure you do not commit these common mistakes in CAT.


If you like this article, visit our CAT exam blog.

Gaurav is a Content Writer at IIM Skills. He has a B.Tech. degree but then he switched to the creative side by doing his master's in advertising and public relations. Gaurav is also a part-time blogger and graphic designer currently living in Mumbai

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