No fancy shortcuts will help in CAT prep


What are the key things to keep in mind while forming a preparation plan for CAT? Should I quit my job and prepare for CAT

One of the most common questions I get is about how to draft a preparation plan for CAT preparation. This is often followed by the lament that managing CAT prep and job simultaneously is incredibly tough and that the boss was put on planet earth only to test human beings’ levels of tolerance.

Have an unambitious daily plan, but stick to it
When I say unambitious, I do not mean lackadaisical. I mean do not have a plan that demands 8 hours out of you 7 days a week. If you are balancing work and CAT preparation, there is no way you can manage that much over a 3-month period. And to let you in on a secret related to CAT preparation, you do not need that much,

2-3 hours per day done with very high intensity will easily do the trick. Prepare in three phases – 1) Get the basics right, 2) Do the drill and 3) Fine tune and focus on the overall paper. Very often, students get blinkered and chase arbitrary short-cuts without getting the basics right. I do not have any level of expertise over any list of short-cuts. I have taken CAT a number of times and I can vouch for the fact that one can crack CAT without any fancy short-cuts. Get a lot of practice so that your mind can do some parts automatically.This saves a lot of energy, which is very vital in a 170 minute exam. But this apart, do not waste time in learning mind-numbing shortcuts.

Most importantly, build the discipline to stick to a plan. This exam preparation is a marathon, not a sprint. It is very easy to get carried away, do lots of stuff for 4 days and then faff around for the next 10. Create some simple schedule, but stick to it. 

Remember that any time spent on knowing about MBA, learning about different colleges on various forums are all not equivalent of CAT preparation. Catch a break at fun websites if you must, but do not kid yourself and account this as CAT preparation.

DO NOT QUIT YOUR JOB.

This one is very simple, do not quit your job. More than anything else, this very often increases anxiety level in preparation. Having a credible plan B is very vital for retaining sanity. Don’t invest everything on that one process that is fraught with volatility and randomness,  

Very often, the burning desire you have to be liberated from the constraints imposed by your job have NOTHING to do with CAT. Do not use CAT prep as an excuse to run away from an irritating boss or less-than-ideal working conditions. You need all the practice you can get for working in unpleasant places prior to MBA. Post MBA, you will be entrusted with the job of creating such places.:)

Do not revisit strategies with every new input
You might score 96th percentile in one mock and 88th in the next. You might suddenly start outperforming in your weak area. Take all these inputs, tweak your preparation plan mildly. But do not interpret every new input as something that demands a complete overhaul of your plan. You need to have the conviction to stick to the original plan, and wait for the results to come. The temptation to go for an overhaul is higher if you do not have a job and are twiddling your thumbs pretending to prepare for CAT. So, think a lot before quitting your job.

Do not use your job as an excuse to lament. 

When CAT is over, you can take 3 days off and whine about the villain who pretended to be your boss. But till then, bin all this talk of how a tough schedule, late-night calls, and heavy travel are killing your preparation. You are taking this exam because you have a certain level of ambition. Now is the time to back up that ambition with effort. There is no joy in being this talented and ambitious guy who did not throw everything into the exam. Almost everyone who gets through to an IIM has struggled hard to get there. So, put your head down, forget about the excuses and give it a full-fledged go. 

Read. A lot.
Read novels, magazines, newspaper, fiction, non-fiction, science, philosophy, Economics. Anything and everything. There is no single input that is as useful for CAT preparation as a neatly-honed reading habit. 

For those who are more at ease listening than reading, the above questions are addressed in the video here.


The article was contributed by Rajesh Balasubramanian. Rajesh is an alumnus from IIM Bangalore, class of 2003 and runs 2IIM, an online coaching institute for CAT. Rajesh has the distinction of having scored 100 percentile in CAT in 2011, 2012 and 2014.  

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