Conquering the CAT

The cover image perfectly captures my topsy-turvy journey with CAT. In the course of this article, I would like to share my experiences, thereby illustrating why I failed miserably during my second attempt and how I bounced back in my third attempt.

When I took CAT for the first time during my final year of Engineering, I attempted it just for the fun of solving challenging quant problems. I totally ignored the VA and DI sections (CAT had 3 sections in 2010). That year I got a call from IIM-K, but, I couldn’t convert it. Then I secured a job in the IT sector and a year later, I set my sights on CAT’12. The pattern had changed as the LR section was merged with VA (It was a blessing in my case) and the DI section was merged with QA. After CAT’12 results were out, I was utterly disappointed with my overall score of 79.99%ile and a VA/LR score of 59%ile. I couldn’t face my friends, family and colleagues. It was a terrible experience last year.

I was still not done with CAT and decided to take it one more time (I didn’t know it would be the last). Even before I started off with my preparation, I wanted to analyze where I went wrong last time. Not taking enough mock tests was a big mistake and not analyzing the mocks which I gave was an even bigger mistake. For example, during the CAT’12 exam, I spent around 10 minutes solving a 4 variable Venn diagram and even worse I couldn’t arrive at the final answer. This totally disturbed the momentum. If I had skipped that question, I could have attempted a few more. I realized the importance of choosing the right questions and managing time effectively. I also got stuck with the LR puzzles and it took 40 minutes for me to answer the 9 LR questions. As time was running out and my number of attempts being very low, I just randomly chose option 3 for 5-6 questions on the trot in the final 2 minutes. That was the biggest blunder I had made in my life.

I had gone through the references provided by Prometric in their website on the evaluation standards. All the references had one thing in common. They insisted on a heavy penalty for random guessing. The standards emphasized on accuracy. I let go the score maximization approach and slowly adopted the 100% accuracy approach. This time around, I diligently analyzed all my mocks and was spot on in terms of strategy. I understood that years of preparation can go waste owing to ten minutes of madness.

Last year I wasted a lot of time cramming flash cards for vocabulary only to realize later that there was no need to do so. CAT doesn’t test one on synonyms and antonyms. So, this year I spent a lot of time understanding the contextual usage of words. The best way to do this was to read newspaper and magazines as most of the CAT RC’s are taken from articles around the world covering various genres such as philosophy, economics, literature etc. It also makes you aware of what is going around in the world, increases your reading speed and improves your reading stamina. I was extremely lucky to have come across Mr. Norman Lewis’s Book “How to read better and faster”. It is a culmination of the best methods to improve one’s reading and comprehending skills. It is a must have for every aspirant and gives a totally different perspective on reading.

Then came the D-Day and I was the first person to reach the exam centre. I reached there by 6:45 AM for the 10:00 AM exam. I understood the meaning of the phrase “Butterflies in the stomach”. This time I didn’t get stuck in any question, didn’t guess and attempted 20-21 questions in both the sections. The results for CAT 2013 were out on the day of Pongal, a harvest festival in TamilNadu. I offered my prayers to God and logged on to my system to see the result. I was expecting a 98+ percentile and just realized that I had got 99.81. Hard work and perseverance has paid off and I have finally conquered CAT.

If I can do it, you can also make it happen. All the Best for CAT 2014 aspirants.

Please click here for my CAT’13 scorecard.

Please click here for my IIM Ahmedabad Interview experience.