What you should do in the final month to CAT

The typical situation for most such people is as follows. They have done well in at least one of the mock CATs that they appeared for and many wonder whether it was a fluke. Unfortunately itas the stage when many give up hope, thinking simply that they are just not good enough and many lose their way, because they donat know what needs to be done to make the final cut.

In the final stages one has to study smart and not hard. It requires a lot of analysis, patience and the will to believe. I shall break the problem down to smaller elements…

1. The approach you should take
2. The techniques you should have mastered
3. The analysis you REALLY need to do

1. The approach you should take

The best strategy is to take one mock test a day followed by a detailed analysis of the test. In the remaining time, you could clear the concepts you find lacking in various sections and improve on preparation holes surface from the mock test analysis.

The idea of taking as many tests as possible is to get you battle ready, with barely a month remaining, most people have already done a lot of practice and are sufficiently aware of various concepts for all sections. However taking a test itself is an art and requires a lot of stamina and patience.

You must also keep in mind your stage of preparation; if your concepts still need improvement then you could take lesser number tests. You should also not end up in a situation that at the time of the D-Day you become totally fatigued. Itas always good to relax once in a while. So one should take as many tests possible keeping these aspects in mind.

The best way to approach every mock test is to try and do it better than your best. If you could do that for every test, then you are on the path to beat the rest.

Ideally people should spend their day according to how it would be on the D-day. That is, take all your mock tests at 10 am. That gets the entire body clock to function accordingly. I have often seen that people who are used to practicing in the night, are not able to perform with the same efficiency in the morning. However for those who cannot practice in the morning, they should find opportunities to test themselves in the morning. It is admissible to go late to office once in a while.

To get your body clock to work for you when the CAT clock is working against you, one should get up every day like it were the d-day. Do what you would do before the actual exam, eat light and do whatever makes you feel good. Under any circumstances donat fall for a gastronomical meal before the exam.

Wear the most comfortable clothes you have because the last thing you want to worry about is the jeans being too tight for you to fit in. Accept that you are not going to a fashion show after all.

For the first five minutes before you take the mock test, do some mental calculations to get your head running and stimulated, quite like an athlete warms up his body.

How the CAT is solved has led to a more than a billion dollar industry, hence I would not delve on the point. But one needs to have evolved to certain levels in their approach, technique and strategy in order to crack the CAT. Itas not necessary that you would have developed each one of these. But some techniques could be…

2. The techniques you should have mastered


Give 2 minutes to browse through the sections and glance over the type of questions, to understand which section you should take up first. Following a strategy of solving only English or Mathas first could lead to your doom, especially if thatas the tough section.

One easy technique in the Math section is to look out for short questions, of the nature you easily able to recognize.
In order to develop a sense of selecting a section you need to develop the ability of glancing through.
Glancing involves spotting the key elements of the question to understand what it is about. It is something we all do when the time is precious, but one needas to put a lot of thought about how to select a question after glancing it. It is a sin to read the entire question in order to decide whether you would solve it. Time is extremely precious. Hence glancing questions and sections through can give you the start you need.

Reading a question twice is could also lead to trouble; one must develop the ability to assimilate all information while reading in a precise manner at once. One technique could be to jot down the values beside the question as you read it.


While it is good to know the formulae behind different types of questions, your approach should not be to look for formulae to solve a question. In fact a lot of questions could be solved through simple logic. When doing the problem focus on what the problem is rather than which formula to apply. Try to reduce your dependence on knowing multiple formulae with short cuts, for different types of questions.
This said, there are obviously situations when you just canat do without the formulae, again the idea is one should not be worried about whether he or she remembers them, be confident about what you know and not worry about what you donat know. Once a week you go through the formulae that you feel are important, an interesting way to decipher the same is to play around and combine formulae and think what twists you could bring in them.

You need to be able to spot the easy questions irrespective of your ability to solve certain type of questions, which perhaps is one of the greatest tricks to crack the CAT.

You definitely need to let your ego die. Just because you have solved 500 questions in Probability and have developed a comfort level in it, does not mean you would be able to solve the 501st question. It also could lead to a trap, where you would end up wasting time on a long drawn out question.

Continued on the next page…


Working out a question backwards from the answer, is an underutilized form of answering. Try practicing it even for those questions which seem impossible to be solved by the approach. Most questions are solved through multiple steps, at each step try and use the given answers to your advantage. Developing ability to do so can save you precious time.

You should definitely have developed a comfort if not a mastery towards all forms of questions, you never know which questions might come easy.

Data Interpretation

You should be able to solve DI questions without using a pen. DI questions are normally ones in which calculations are required. Hence if you begin to write things down for each and every question, then DI can consume a lot of time.

You should focus on solving problems without using a pen as far as possible. This is to challenge you to think of innovative ways to solve questions. In DI, itas important to understand that calculating the correct answer is not the challenge; the challenge lies in spotting the right answer. If there are questions where you need to calculate then probably the question is not worth answering.

The above words are more of an approach to follow. Some people find it very difficult to solve DI as it requires a lot of calculation and they think they are just not that fast with numbers. If something however is working well for you, then perhaps you can continue with your strategy.

You should have developed your own tricks for addition, subtraction, percentages etc. Simple calculations, for instance adding of (36+78+93+41+76+89+53=466) should not hassle you too much. One technique is to round them off (35+80+95+40+75+90+55=470). Generally, that is enough to indicate the right answer.

Similar percentage calculations of 348/812 should not be a problem. A convenient way is to take 10% of the denominator (which in this case is 81.2), 4 times of 10% or 40% is ~324 which leaves a remainder of (348-324) of 24. Then take 1% of denominator (which is 8.12), ~3% therefore would be 24, so you get an answer as ~43%.

Though at first this may seem tedious it actually is a technique you could use to calculate percentages real fast within your mind. You should have developed your ways of identifying which graph would be easy to read; for instance, pie-chart questions are usually the easy ones. However, do not put too much weightage on pre-conceived notions.

You should have developed a way of jotting down markings on each graph to help you simplify the problem. For instance line graphs with more than 3-4 lines can often confuse you, you could make marks on the line to differentiate easily.


Reading Comprehension is normally a cause of concern for many people. You should have by now been able to develop multiple ways of reading a comprehension passage. For example, some test-takers read questions first to get a hang on whether the questions are factual or philosophical. Some people read the first paragraph, the last paragraph and the first lines of each paragraph and then try to attempt questions directly.

Some people develop very fast reading abilities and hence comprehension becomes a cakewalk for them. For each type of comprehension passage, you should have a ready strategy. If majority of the questions seem too factual, then perhaps reading the first lines of each paragraph, should give you sufficient idea about where the answer lies. Some people only look to solve factual questions across all passages.

Reading the first paragraph slowly is often key to understanding the rest of the passage, hence it’s always advisable to read the first paragraph slowly.

A common time consuming problem in comprehension and other english questions is that more than one answer seems right, and we often end up wasting crucial minutes trying to argue over the ambiguity between possibly correct options. More often than not, we get half of our intelligent answers wrong. One needs to have the trick to break away from this mental loop. A technique I personally adopted was to mark the longer answer as correct. You could always keep a mark of the question and return if you have time.

3. The analysis you REALLY need to do

People are often happy just taking the test and then seeing what was their score is at the end of it. I think itas the worst approach you could have. You need to do a detailed analysis for every test you take. It could be the difference between you doing good and doing your best. One must carefully do the following…

How many and which easy questions did you miss and why did you miss them? Did you leave them because they were long? Did you leave them because you were not confident in their concepts? Did initial wastage of time lead to missing easy section?

Which questions did you answer wrong and where did you go wrong, made careless mistakes or suffer from ignorance of concepts etc?

For every mock test, you could track the number of questions you could not solve due to lack of concepts, the number of easy questions you missed and how many questions were answered incorrectly due to careless mistakes. This could help you identify crucial improvement areas

The most important point being – which questions could have been solved faster, and how could they have saved precious minutes?

For example, which questions could have been solved using the answer directly, or which questions could one have solved using a simpler approach rather than the complicated approaches we often adopt? This insight is extremely important, because it often leads to you being able to identify easy questions and considerably reduces your dependence on formulae.

In English, you should carefully see which passages you ought to have have attempted, and what could have been the reading style. Hence you need to spend time on thinking multiple ways to solve a problem.

The importance of analysis cannot stressed upon more. Itas a simple process however it should be thorough, often taking more than 3-4 hours.

I hope these simple thoughts will help you make the cut. May the force be with you!!

Sarang Gupta is a Consultant with SAP Labs India, Gurgaon and an alumnus of XIM, Bhubhaneswar. The article is based on his experiences with the XAT exam, in which he scored 99.7 percentile.

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and PaGaLGuY does not necessarily subscribe to them.

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