CAT Preparation Guide – How to maximise your score in CAT – Part 7

The one and only thing which determines the success or failure of a candidate in any exam is the score obtained. This holds good for CAT, the first step towards securing a seat in the prestigious IIMs, as well. 2 factors determine the score obtained – Number of attempts & Accuracy. These two are not independent of each other – focusing solely on one will result in a drop of the other. Therefore, the target of the students should be to improve on both at the same time. And this needs a well thought out plan for preparation and practice – before the exam and during the exam.

How to increase the number of attempts?

Question selection: The students need to ensure that they attempt and answer all the easy questions in each section within the time allotted for the section. Once they are done with the easy questions, they can proceed to answering the more difficult ones, if time permits. To be able to do this, one has to attempt questions selectively, judging their difficulty level while reading them. The cardinal rule is to not miss on any easy question in the CAT paper, which means that no question in the paper should be left unread.

The question which students have is – to attempt the questions based on the difficulty level, should we scan the paper first, or answer them on the go based on the difficulty level.

The answer would depend on the test area that one is working out. For questions on Verbal Ability, it doesn’t make sense to come back to the questions after scanning them as most of them can either be answered or left out in the first reading. But for a Quantitative Ability questions, the constraints are different. The questions can be, in the first reading, left to be solved later when one identifies all the easy questions in the paper. But, the disadvantage in doing this will be that there would be duplication of efforts in terms of reading the same question(s) multiple times. This is because by the time the scan is over and one comes back to the first question, the information on the question may not stay in ones mind and the question has to be read again. To avoid this, the students can divide the allotted time for the section into different chunks (for example – divide 40 min into 4 chunks of 10 min each) and in each time chunk, focus on a set of questions to be scanned for difficulty level and attempted.

This way, one can ensure that no question goes unread and also that all the easy to medium questions are attempted. For Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation, the questions are already in sets, there by making our task easy. The answer would also depend on how good one is in judging difficulty level. If one is not so good in judging the level, then it is very likely that he/she will get stuck in questions, there by wasting a lot of time. In this case, answering on the go will not be a good idea, as time will run out well before one reaches the end of the paper, there by leaving some questions unread. This violates the cardinal rule discussed above, of not leaving questions unread.

The students should therefore assess how good they are on judging the difficulty level. They should look at their previous Mock CAT results to understand this. More number of easy questions left out or difficult questions attempted is an indication that there is scope for improvement here.

How to improve accuracy in CAT exam?

Accuracy, the bug bear of many, is easy to talk about but hard to improve on. Practice, as any body will say, is the key to improve on accuracy, preceded with a thorough understanding of basics. With 2 months to go for the exam, it is very important for the students to invest their time on only what matters the most and not carpet bomb their preparation on all areas. To know where to invest their time, Mock Cat analysis will play a huge role. Check the performance by topic in the Mock Cats taken so far, to understand which areas need improvement. Don't I know where I need improvement? – you may ask. You may, but the performance analysis will help support your awareness or, in most cases, unearth additional areas which need focus.

Finally, all the preparation you put in should be checked in the subsequent Mock CATs you take. Similarly, your question selection plan should also be reviewed regularly, based on the Mock CATs you take.

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