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What To Study For CAT

Common Admission Test, the entrance test for graduate management programs and MBA is the first stage in the admission process for the management institutes, that the applicants aim and strive for.

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CAT scores are accepted by the majority of business schools in the country. The aspirants aiming for these institutes should start their preparation by


  • deciding their goal institute, and also a few alternate ones
  • determine the cut-off or the acceptable range of CAT scores for these institutes and follow up by
  • thus, discerning the score, they need to focus to achieve.


The range may vary as per the institutes and the applicants should fix their scope accordingly. This is an important step as it would help the applicants to determine the number of questions, sets, or problems they need to attempt.


This is because given the time, that is, three hours split into an hour for each of the three sections does not exactly give scope for attempting all hundred questions, considering the extant negative marking for wrong answers.


The applicants, after deciding, for example, to scope in the range ninety to ninety-five percent would have to accurately answer twenty-two to twenty-five questions, same for verbal reasoning and eight to ten sets for data interpretation and similar for logical reasoning.


The study for CAT would, therefore, start with the research into each of the sections, patterns, notifications about changes and updates for the examination, and of course, the syllabus and the purview of the three sections.


Appearing for CAT is a hefty commitment and requires steadfast adherence to the preparation plan and persevering to attain the coveted score. There are times where the preparation, the pressure, and stress for the examination itself and the results might become profuse.


The applicants to keep motivated and to persist, should certainly have a hobby, something that interests them and helps to take the mind off the test for a bit. Taking these things into consideration, the following are certain points that the applicants can keep in mind for their CAT study:


The study plan for CAT can approach the preparation in a section-wise approach, focusing on each section, not in turn, but a systematic manner, devoting energy to all three.


The examination tests applicants inferential, analytical, logical skills along with vocabulary, each of which shape and influence their ability to be future managers and business persons. Moreover, being a widely accepted entrance evaluation, the number of participants each year is significant, and thereby, the competition is tough.


Keeping in mind all these matters, the applicants are required to be consistent in their approach towards preparing for this severe examination.


The aspirants should be cognizant of all the necessary details and affairs, such as that the registration for the test usually opens in August and remains open for around a month, the exam itself usually takes place in November, whether a second or third week, and results are declared sometime around January.


A point to be kept in mind is that registration for a lot of colleges and universities starts before the results are declared and hence, the candidates should take note of the time when these portals open.


The applicants are recommended to fill up the required details and comply with the fee requirements at the right time, neither leaving the task for the last nor doing it in haste.


Find a list of the Best CAT Coaching Institutes in Mumbai 


The study for CAT should begin with applicants becoming aware of other’s experience in preparing for and appearing for CAT.


They may approach a senior, or watch videos where past applicants talk about their experience and also read books by entrepreneurs and managers discussing their participation. This would help them to understand


  • The atmosphere or environment, in an actual CAT exam
  • The changes and updates among incidents of different applicants
  • What type of questions have been asked over the years
  • What the test aims to evaluate
  • What to expect when attempting the exam
  • The way to go about the preparation, studying, attempting the test


The admission to the b-schools and management institutes depends on the CAT score, and further parameters like Academics and work experience, and the institutes also reveal the weightage of each of these parameters in considering an applicant for the further stages, the Personal Interview (PI), Group Discussion (GD) and the Written Ability Test (WAT).


Some of the institutes also conduct extempore as part of their admission process. PI comprises an interview session of the applicant with a panel comprising current managers, alumni of the respective institutes or the professors, with the applicants answering questions as regards their fields of academics and specialization, if any, or recent goings-on.


  • The GD, inculcates discourse on the given topic, among a group of shortlisted candidates.
  • The WAT comprises the applicants being given a topic, case or otherwise and required to express their views, write an essay discussing the positive and negative impacts or both.
  • The extempore is in the form of a declamation, wherein the aspirants are given a subject with some time to gather their thoughts following which the applicants are required to speak on the subject for the given period, say for a minute.


All these stages evaluate the applicant’s skills such as communication skills, their ability to express their ideas in the given time frame, their acquaintance with and awareness of general knowledge, especially in the WAT, as the applicants would then have to write on the given matter and the area of the matter may be from current affairs, philosophy, economics, and so forth.


Those who wish to pursue an MBA, need to prepare not only for the three sections of the examination but also for the subsequent stages and work on the fluency and articulation.


The preparation should include, regular reading of the newspapers, also the editorials. Newspapers and editorials particularly go a long way for the preparation as the passages in Verbal Ability have a similar language, and these would also help in building vocabulary and grammar usage, plus assist it the WAT.


The passages in the VARC section are based on subjects such as philosophy, economy, literature, history, current affairs and so forth.


The applicants with a habit of reading the newspaper, and also the editorials may have a better grasp and faster comprehension of the setting, tone, and language of the passages and would also enable them to perform well in the GD, PI as well as WAT sections.


The passages are meant to scrutinize the applicant’s ability to analyze, interpret and sometimes extrapolate from the given passages. The questions which follow the passage, consequently include


  • some contextual, that is based on the passage,
  • some based on the candidate’s understanding of the author’s tone, main purpose, and intent for writing the passage,
  • selecting the most probable conclusion
  • selecting the option which best sums up the passage and
  • questions on vocabulary and grammar usage specific to the passage


The aspirants have, therefore, to develop a reading habit and reading speed to be able to answer the twenty to twenty-six questions of the reading comprehension or RCs, comprised of three to four passages, in the required time.


The RCs may be from five hundred words and may stretch to seven hundred words, thus, making answering the sets within the time constraint onerous.


The applicants are recommended to read, read and read as diverse material as possible to prepare themselves and make it part of their study for CAT.


Also, the other questions in the VARC section test vocabulary, word usage, and grammar. The first one, vocabulary and word usage, can be brushed upon by being familiar with varied writings, as for the latter, that is, grammar, they need to get back to basics of the language to be able to attempt the questions.


Another section for VARC is jumbled paragraphs wherein sentences forming part of prose are given out of order and applicants have to pick the option which results in the right sequence of the sentences.


A tip here is that in such cases wherever the sentences start with articles ‘A’ or ‘An’, are meant to be introductory, or these should be the first sentences.


The study for CAT should involve the aspirants starting with studying the pattern of the section in minute detail, being aware of the expected model to at least be a little familiar with the same during the examination, followed by studying upon each of the various sub-topics or subjects, as mentioned, Reading Comprehension, Vocabulary and Word Usage, grammar and Verbal Reasoning, going over the previous CAT questions and practice sets and also attempting mock papers, always keeping track of the time limit.


Learn more about our Online CAT Coaching


Studying for CAT comprises studying each topic from the entire scope of the examination at least once, be it at home by signing up for online classes or joining coaching classes, or applicants attempting to do the preparation themselves.


  • In the first instance, that is, online classes, the applicants should carefully go through the concept videos part of the course, followed by solving the practice questions and assignments for a better approach.
  • The coaching centers, would, of course, conduct classes for each topic and also provide their study materials for the students, which is composed of questions ranging from basics, and to medium and high difficulty and also past CAT questions. The applicants for studying for CAT, should follow the class schedules as well as be up to date on their practice materials, also the candidates should focus on one practice material at a time, and not go for multiples, as it would only lead to confusion, with the different materials addressing the subject matter differently.
  • As for the latter approach, the candidates attempting preparation by themselves, should look for the best books and online mock tests available, also look up concept videos, thus, seeing to it that they do not leave any topic uncovered. The CAT books for self-preparation are framed from past set patterns for CAT, keeping in mind the scope and syllabus and also comprise questions of all types of difficulty. These cover the entire topics in detail, starting from the fundamentals, and are great sources to introduce applicants to the various CAT sections and the type of questions.


The study for CAT should also comprise the candidates attempting to enhance their pace of attempting the questions. This can be done by the aspirants being cognizant of their approach and performance by attempting practice sets.


They should analyze the same and determine if the method of prep and study is working for them. They should also look for tips, tricks and short cuts, ones which work, of course, to quicken their pace.


Some examples for the VARC section here would be skimming, vertical reading, avoiding reading passages while tracing the words or trying to underline the words, and also avoiding trying to ‘read aloud’ or repeating the passage as this would lengthen the process of reading the passage. Another aspect is the applicants learning to read the passage just once.


  • Skimming refers to giving a quick read to the passage to see if the applicants find it hard or that requires more consideration such as philosophy questions requiring suggestive answers, and to consider these passage for later, and move on to one considered easier, that is, the passages having direct answers from the passages not requiring much deliberation, thereby saving time
  • Vertical reading involves reading from left to right in a straight line without changing the pattern of reading. This ensures an increase in efficiency and accuracy and, with practice quicker reading. This method is more effective as compared to the haphazard manner of trying to jump from one chunk to another. Vertical reading also helps in improving the eye span or the number of words a person sees at a glance, thereby expediting the reading of the passage.
  • Moving a pen or pencil along the sentences while reading is a habit a lot us are wont to follow, the test being computer-oriented, this would be a lot harder to do on the screen than as on a paper, and only reduces the pace of reading and thus should be avoided.
  • Reading aloud or trying to spell the words while reading, again reduces the speed for comprehension as there are many times words in the passages which the applicants might not be familiar with, which thereby result in them racking for its pronunciation instead of the remaining passage.
  • Some applicants might be of the view that multiple readings of the passage lead to better understanding, the passage being long and representing diverse ideas, thereby one might lose the connection between the different parts of the passage going from one to the other, wherein the multiple reading sets in. The applicants in their study for CAT here should attempt to go through the passage just once and solve the sets, it might be exacting initially but would be beneficial with toil and time.


Examples for the mode of solving Logical Reasoning involving matrix related questions, that is, problems, where a situation followed by several conditions, are given and, the applicants are required to answer with the option that would best fit the scenario in the light of all the constraints.


In such a case, the applicants would have to represent the various conditions in a way they can quickly understand instead of going through the conditions over and over, for instance, say if A and B sit together, it can be shown as AB.


The applicants then should form a table taking the criteria as the column head, such as profession, gender, university and so forth and the rows as related to each instance. This is would be easier than, say creating a flow chart which would be more time consuming and may lead to confusion.


This forming of the table would help to answer all the questions. The applicants are usually recommended to focus on questions with criteria two to three in number instead of more, as these questions require more consideration, and a lot of times the questions do not have a certain answer, that is each of sets would have multiple possibilities depending upon the constraints.


The applicants should, therefore, opt for those sets first which have a smaller number of conditions, and those which have clear cut answers.


For Data Interpretation questions, a lot of the sets require comparisons in figures of different situations. These comparisons may be a director in the form of ratios or percentages.


The aspirants in their study for CAT should aim for learning quick approximations, not exact calculations, as the comparison-based questions can then be solved quicker as compared to when done with the actual figures.


For example, in a setting where a table represents sales of five companies for five years and the question requires the applicant to choose the option which represents the company having a more than fifty percent surge in sales as compared to the previous period along with the period.


Now, if one solves this question it would require not less than twenty-five calculations and would take a large chunk of time.


The applicants should therefore first consider only those figures where a rise as compared to the previous period can be observed, and then the figures where the figure for the previous year is less than twice the figure for the next. There would still be approximations but it would reduce the time spent on this question to a certain extent.


Another point to be considered here is that the CAT is a computer-based examination and not the traditional paper and pen one, though the applicants are provided with paper for working notes.


It is certainly harder to concentrate and understand the questions let alone the long passages from a computer screen than from a paper, the applicants should take note of this fact.


The test being for three hours, the applicants should also be able to sit for that frame and not lose their focus. The candidates pursuing their study for CAT, are recommended to sign up for online portals, or in case they joined a coaching center log on to their websites for practicing for the examination through a computer.


These portals and websites provide series of tests, practice, mock and sample papers as well as past CAT exam papers, which would be a great way for the applicants to get a notion as to how to go about the exam in real-time.


Also, these provide tests not only for the entire scope but also for following each sub-topic or subject, thus ensuring the detailed absorption of the various concepts.


Moreover, the tests from these portals are prepared as such to give the applicant being in a scenario exactly like the CAT, with the way the questions, sets, and problems are framed, and the similar rules for attempting the test, that is the same time constraints and the sequence of the sections.


The candidates would understand the significance of deciding which of the questions do first, which later and which to leave.


This means, the questions which they are completely certain of, should claim efforts first, followed by the ones which are a little doubtful, and then the ones which shouldn’t be considered as first, it is not worth to put efforts in solving a question when they might get the wrong answer and the second point relates to the negative making for each wrong attempt, the applicants would lose four marks in such a case when they would have lost three by not attempting.


These tests also give periodic analyses of the applicant’s performance and thereby, enabling them to evaluate if their preparation strategy is working, as specified above.


Studying for CAT may seem tedious as the applicants start their preparation, but persistence is the key here and they should focus on achieving their goal of admission to their intended college or university.


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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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