How to prepare for CAT 2016 – 10 tips to crack CAT exam

CAT 2016 Preparation TipsHow to Crack CAT 2016 – CAT or the Common Admission Test, conducted by IIMs is held in November every year. The window of the test has undergone massive change, from 20 day window to 2 days followed by single day window in 2009-2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively. Experts suggest that if you are serious about cracking the most competitive management entrance exam with around 2 lakh test takers, you must have at least 6 months in hand for CAT 2016 preparation. The last minute preparation is equally important as it can make or mar your performance on the day of the CAT 2016 exam.

1. Take mock tests in online environment:  In last few days to your CAT 2016 exam, you must take computer-based mock CAT 2016 so that you are familiar with the actual test environment. Taking the mock CAT in real environment will make you completely prepare to take the computer based test on your CAT day and save any wastage of time on understanding the mode of test. You can also join CAT test series to take a few mock CAT online. Also, you must re-visit previous year CAT paper and solve it to have an actual feel of the test. Putting yourself to the actual testing environment will help you to take CAT on the test centre on your D-day. Sandeep Manudhane, PT Education Chairman states, “Taking mocks is one of the most important factor behind your success. Attempt at least 2 to 3 mocks in a week and analyze them thoroughly. Regular mock tests will prepare you for the 3 hour test.”

2. Analysis is must: After every CAT mock test, you must analyse your performance and evaluate your scoring areas based on CAT question pattern. The analysis of your mock CAT 2016 paper will bring clarity on your strengths and weaknesses. “I focused on taking mocks and especially on analysis and improving my weaknesses,” says Mridul Rajput, an IIM Udaipur student and CAT 2014 98.4 percentiler.

You also must go through the explanation of answers and see whether you already knew the core concept for solving each question. You should list down the questions which you could not solve despite having the conceptual clarity on the same. Once you know these areas according to CAT test pattern, you must go back to the textbook or your CAT preparation material and revise the concepts along with practicing a few questions on the particular areas. This exercise will help you reap the hard work that you have been putting for CAT preparation for last few months.

Sharing his CAT preparation tips, Kamlesh Sajnani, Managing Director, IMS Learning Resources in an interview to, says that more important than taking the mock CAT test is its analysis. “If you don’t learn from each test before proceeding to the next, there is no point in taking a large number of them,” he says, adding, “Try out various strategies for each test such as dividing your time equally in each section or spending more time on the weaker sections by working quickly in the stronger sections. It is also important to attempt a variety of tests because you may score well in a test that is more suited to your strengths while the CAT may carry more questions of the kind you are uncomfortable with. An exposure to range of problems and the rationale behind them will ensure that you are better prepared.” 

3. Focus on strength:  Going by your own evaluation, you must focus on your strong areas and build on the same. As most of the questions in CAT 2016 syllabus are based on the application of basic concepts, learning both concepts and application at this stage is not advisable. Instead, you should put all your efforts towards the areas which you have nearly been able to control and solve questions on the same. “My strategy was to spend most of my time practicing questions from my areas of strength. Given the lack of time to solve all questions in the exam and the equal weightage to all questions, this strategy worked really well for me,” says Sanket Ramesh Bhamwari, SPJIMR student who obtained 99.21 percentile in CAT 2014.

4. Practice a lot: CAT Experts suggest that you must practice a lot in last few days so that you can make an instant connect with the question during your CAT 2016. Regular practice with a scheduled stretch will not only help increase you question solving speed but also make you habitual to sit for about 3 hours during your CAT 2016. “Regularly practice and revise the formula, vocabulary and grammar rules, so that you don’t have to think hard on the exam day,” shares Arks Srinivas, CEO, VistaMind.

5. Set target but be open on number of attempts: As you already know the CAT 2016 pattern, you should have targeted minimum and maximum number of questions that you will be attempting during CAT 2016. But experts suggest that you should be open on this number during your actual test. Though around 20 questions in each the sections can take you to around 98 or 99 percentile in CAT 2016, you should not relax despite reaching your target as last few attempts can bring you much advantageous edge over competitors.
6. Time management: As you begin your paper on your D-day, you should begin with the soft target. With 60 minutes allotted for each section during your CAT test duration, you should first attempt the questions which you can solve quickly. If you are doubtful on a question in the first glance, you leave it in the first round and come back to it in sequence after you have completed the first round of attempts. As you quickly solve a few questions, it will instill a higher level of confidence to attempt the difficult questions during the second round of attempts. Vivek S, IIM Trichy student shares, “Since my focus was on attempting as many questions as possible, I made it a point that I would not take more than 2 minutes per question. That turned out to be useful as I was able to maximize my attempts. With Quantitative Aptitude, I identified if the question was quickly solvable within the 30 seconds. If not, I skipped the question even though I knew how to solve. I came back to such questions once I was done with the other questions.”

Sharing his test taking strategy, IIM Kashipur student Harshil Patel says, “I started with verbal and decided to give it 40 minutes. I glanced through every question and only if I knew how to solve it I would try that question. Else, I would move on to next question. I gave 40 minutes to each of QA & VA, and 20 minutes each to DI and LR. This ensured that I solved all the easy questions in the paper. Rest 70 minutes I dedicated to maximizing the no. of questions solved.”

7. Don’t compromise with accuracy: Time management is one of most important part of the CAT 2016 testing with prioritization of questions becoming one of the key areas to success. As you go on attempting questions during your CAT paper, make sure that you compromise very little on accuracy. “My focus was to prepare while aiming for higher marks with more accuracy which I achieved over a gradual span of nearly 25 online mock tests,” says Abhishek Srivastava, IIM Raipur PGP 2015-17 batch student.

While speed is important to increase your number of attempts, maintaining a higher level of accuracy is even more important to convert your attempts into your score. Also, achieving a higher level of speed without a high level of accuracy result in negative marking also, making it a double loss proposition with your time spent on the question reducing your overall score by 1 marks. CAT 2016 has negative marking pattern with 3 marks awarded for every right answer and 1 mark reduced for every wrong answer.
8. Reverse action: In case you find questions a little difficult during the second round of your attempt, you must go reverse while solving the questions and scan the answer options first. Sometimes, answer options hold crucial clues towards solving the questions. You can also go by eliminating wrong options first, which reduces the number of answer options making it a little easier to find the right answer.

9. Relax well before your D-day: You should prepare well before your date with CAT 2016. Spend a day before the test in a stress-free environment. You should meet your friends and relax the way you like. After your hectic preparations for CAT in last few months, take a day-long break to reorganize your thoughts and D-day strategy. Forget about your weaknesses and have confidence in what you know as Sourav Santikari, SPJIMR Mumbai student and CAT 2014 99.39 percentiler says, “Just keep calm. Try to take as many mock tests as possible so as to build your strategy for the exam day. Before the exam day it is extremely important to keep your cool and rest properly.”

10. Be focused and keep calm during CAT 2016: Once you enter the test centre keep yourself focused on the test and maintain calm. Pranit Arora, who secured 100 percentile in CAT 2015 says, “It is important to stay relaxed and not get nervous for the test. Stress leads to failure which must be avoided. So do not overthink, stay calm and confident.”

The CAT exam only measures your intellect and the kind of effort that you have put. As you have already made the best efforts, now you need not to worry about results and selections. Focus on maximizing number of attempts with high accuracy. Leave the rest on to your honest effort.

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