CAT 2013: Why You Should Avoid a Minimalist Approach to your Prep

(Photo: Florin Gorgan)

A minimalistic approach towards any goal is dangerous – it signals pessimism and a defeatist attitude. And I have seen dozens of CAT aspirants falling prey to it without realising.

Very often, candidates ask me about the minimum questions to attempt to secure a percentile over 95. In my opinion, people who ask such questions have unknowingly already given up their quest to clear the CAT exam or are very close to doing so. Understand that your percentile is based on your performance relative to that of other candidates. So an absolute metric for it in terms of number of attempts is actually absurd. Let me assure you that no one can tell you with complete surety that ‘x’ attempts will give you a percentile of ‘y’, least of all your peers on PaGaLGuY forums and elsewhere. Those who predict, advise or estimate your percentile based on number of attempts are either bluffing to show how smart they are or they are experts in statistics and have the entire database of CAT questions – because only then can they accurately predict percentile-attempt correlation. Setting such minimalistic targets that would be just enough to get you over the finish line would only lead to underperformance. Instead, focus on your conceptual clarity and maximising your attempts or accuracy.

If I were to tell you that attempting ‘x’ questions will get you 99 percentile, will you stop answering the exam at ‘x’ attempts? Certainly not, right?

Another instance of this ‘minimalistic target setting’ attitude is when people fixate on the number of study hours they need to put in to clear the cut-offs. This is even worse – an example of under-confidence. Even if you are preparing for CAT for the first time, I am sure you are not studying or giving an exam for the first time in your academic life.

If you actually question your peers or mentors on the study time required to clear CAT cut-offs, it means you do not know your own study patterns or habits, nor do you know your strengths, weaknesses and capabilities. Ideally you should be able to ascertain the effort you can put in towards your preparation. No mentor (especially someone on an online forum) can tell you the minimum study time ‘you’ need to clear an exam. Focus on doing your best, put in as much study time as possible. Least of all, do not ask people how many hours ‘you’ should be studying to clear an exam that would determine the course of ‘your’ career.

Deepak Nanwani is the co-founder of, an online adaptive solution for GMAT, MBA and UG exams. An alumnus of IIT Guwahati and IIM Bangalore, he is a master strategist for all competitive exams. The views expressed here are his own.