Tips and Tricks for CAT Preparation, Ft Prof. Amogh Kumbargeri

CAT preparation is as much about training your mind for the test as it is about focusing on conceptual knowledge. There are umpteen books and instructors available for conceptual understanding, but unfortunately, the mental training aspect is often overlooked. In this article, I suggest an approach that will train your mind to take the test in the manner that suits you the best.

Our mind and body are creatures of habit. They like to conserve energy and work as much as possible in an ‘auto-pilot’ mode. Our goal here is to train our body and mind so that answering the CAT paper eventually becomes more and more effortless, and the energy is conserved to tackle the trickiest questions. The basic principle of mental or physical training is ‘repetition’. Any mental or physical action that is repeated multiple times slowly and gradually becomes automatic. It is like learning to drive a vehicle. When you are just learning to drive, it requires a lot of concentration and effort; you can hardly do anything else while you are driving. However, after a few months of driving, you can quickly eat, talk, drink, or text (you should never do any of these!) while driving. This shows that a mental or physical task becomes almost automatic and effortless after enough repetition. Apologies for such a long primer; the approach I am suggesting for the CAT 2022 is to religiously attempt one mock CAT (or a previous year’s CAT paper) every day in the exact timed conditions as the actual exam. Do not wait till you complete the entire syllabus. I urge you to complete the syllabus parallel to solving complete CAT papers. Most importantly, your marks in these practice CAT papers are not an indicator of what you would score eventually. So don’t let the fear of scoring low hold you back from attempting one full paper daily.

There are many benefits of attempting one full paper every day. As much as CAT is about the skill to solve the problem, it is also about the skill to manage your time across the paper. You need to be able to decide which question to skip and which questions to spend more time on. Repeated practice will train your mind to understand your strengths and weaknesses and accordingly optimize the time. While writing the actual exams, the stress levels will be pretty high, and you will not be able to actively stop and think about which questions to skip or to focus on. A rigorous, repeated practice will train your mind to make these decisions in auto mode without needing your focused attention.

The second benefit of solving one complete test every day is your mind and body will develop the strength to sit and focus for that time, and you will feel relaxed and stress-free on the day of the exam. Being stress-free will increase your processing capacity, and you will be able to solve problems more effectively. So, the advice is to start solving one complete paper every day irrespective of your level of preparation and parallelly complete the chapter-wise preparation for the entire syllabus.

Next, modify the order of your chapter-wise preparation based on your performance in the everyday mock CATs. Prioritize the chapters which you find the most difficult and check if there is any improvement in attempting those questions after the chapter preparation. If you see no improvement even after preparation, move on to preparing the next topic and do not waste your time on that topic. 

Last but not least, allocate more time to the section in which you are the weakest till only about a month is left for the exam. In the last month of preparation, start devoting an increasing amount of time to the section in which you are best. This approach will fortify your defences against your weakness and enable you to take advantage of your strengths. For example, if you are weak in quant and relatively better at verbal, in the initial prep, consistently allocate more time to quant and somewhat lesser for verbal. But in the last month, increase the time allotted to verbal and relatively reduced the quant prep time. I am confident this approach will enable you to train your mind and maximize your performance effectively! Best of luck.

About the Author:

Prof. Amogh Kumbargeri is an Assistant Professor in Marketing at IIM Udaipur.  Prof. Kumbargeri holds a PhD from IIM Ahmedabad, India. His research focuses on consumer information processing relating to anthropomorphism and branding. His teaching interests include branding and digital marketing.

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