MBA Prep articles

With about a month or so to go, the question that junta is asking at this point is not “Do I have it in me to crack CAT?” as much as “Do I have it in me to crack me in crack CAT in a month?” Now let us presume that you present your problem t…

With about a month or so to go, the question that junta is asking at this point is not "Do I have it in me to crack CAT?" as much as "Do I have it in me to crack me in crack CAT in a month?"

Now let us presume that you present your problem to a management consultant like say McKinsey, what would they come up with? Remember they would give you only strategic advice, no actual implementation level micromanagement. Here are a few pointers that could actually turn up in their analysis report:

(1) Don't boil the ocean

Simply put, don't try to do something unimaginably huge (boil the ocean) to bring results that are not proportionate (get salt). This ways you will just cause more anguish when you realize half way through that the latent point of boiling for the ocean is pretty huge. Another way to put it is: Work smart, not hard.

Try to come up with a list of possible tasks for CAT and try figuring out what the amount of effort required to do it is. At the end of it, you can either lessen the effort or cross it out completely. Here is an example. A lot of you may be wondering if it is really wise to "do" the word-list. Go through a realistic run of where you are. This is a good time to go through the kind of words given over the last 4 years (over which CAT has kind of streamlined the questions) and figure if you really need to go through those huge word-lists. Amazingly at the end of the exercise, you might want to do away with it all together, or go through a selective portion just to ramp up your rusted skills. (For example, you might decide to do only the "High Frequency" words from Barron's GRE.)

(2) Pluck the low-hanging fruits first

An important point that many students don't realize at this juncture, due to immense pressure, is that it makes more sense for one to consolidate what he/she knows, rather than make an immature attempt to try learning everything. Do not attempt anything that is difficult. I have seen many students coming to me at the nth moment asking if they should be attempting "Permutation Combination". My simple answer is - If you have not done it in your schooling, if you have not done it in college, if you have not done it through out your CAT prep so far, then the chances that on November 21st the neurons in your brain actually go into a synaptical surge and the answer will plop in front of you are .........well, to be frank - quite bleak! Rather I would strengthen topics I know well - percentages, profit-loss, mensuration etc.

On the flip side, is it wise to be completely ignorant about these topics? The answer is a resounding NO!!!! I strongly suggest you take out some time (a few hours perhaps from an otherwise eventful study schedule) for each of these dreaded topics and figure out which are the formulae and basic types of problem. The test-setters of the more diabolic variety are known to sneak in a few deceptively. Most test-takers are blissfully unaware of this till the coaching institutes print a bold "SITTER" next to that question a day after the CAT and the cutoff seems all the more further away. Better safe than sorry!

(3) Think out of the box

Edward De Bono once famously remarked "An expert is someone who has succeeded in making decisions and judgments simpler through knowing what to pay attention to and what to ignore."

Try to ensure that whatever you do from now on is not something that is mechanical or by rote, but something that involves you actively in the process. So take up each problem and try figuring out stuff like - can it work with some variation? How can anyone twist this problem? Is there a simpler way of doing this? How I can design a problem for someone along these lines? etc. etc. In short - try to "internalize" the problem you are solving.

A classic example is the mock CATs you have taken so far. Even for those questions which have helped you inch towards the elusive cut-offs - try to figure which were ill-considered attempts. I have seen many instances in the past when my reason for choosing a correct answer was preposterous to say the least (I have, in good humor and on occasions, picked up answers because, from among others, it "sounded" correct!) and yet managed to get them right. Try to sit and figure if the same problem has a better way of doing it.

(4) Peel the onion

Layer by thing at a time

Let us presume you have a problem with reading large data in DI. In short, number crunching is not exactly one of your virtues, (normally these are areas you would not touch with a ten-foot pole!), yet is a necessary evil which cannot be avoided (like say P&C;). We need to figure out how best to deal with this.

Take a couple of the mocks you have taken and try figuring out how you have done in it. See what is it that actually stopped you from getting in the top percentile. "I suck at numbers" is an answer which will neither aid your morale nor help you analyze yourself better. Be more objective and tough. Speed? Bad at approximation? The questions were too ambiguous? Whatever the reasons - try making a list of those things. Now instead of racking your brain alone over what can be done for that, speak to someone at your institute. Better still, catch a friend/mentor who has "been there and done that" for his/her insights on what can be done to help bridge this gap. Remember that you may also use the "boiling the ocean" principle here and remove any ideas of indulging in frivolous activities like learning Vedic mathematics at this point.

(5) Pareto's principle

The 80/20 rule. Some of the variations are :

20% of the time goes in doing 80% of the tasks, 20% of the business brings 80% of the revenue,20% of the world controls 80% of the money etc. The point here is: Try to figure which is the 80% that is bringing you the marks and focus on that. I read somewhere what one of the CAT 2003 100%iler had written - he had wanted to maximize on Verbal and tried to get cutoff in quant. And sure he maximized in Verbal with a score of 45 (and just around 17.5 in QA)!! There is no use spending all 1hour in quant and getting 2 marks more than the cutoff and spending 20mins in verbal and get barely get the cutoff.

(6) Parkinson's Law

The law states - "Work expands to fill the time available to do it" I think the scourge of every self-respecting graduate is doing a "night-out" to write that college journal a day before the submission. And we carry this habit with us to the work place too. Just look around you it keeps happening all the time - software project, advertising campaigns, government decisions - you name it! So is it with CAT.

Set yourself challenging schedules and stick to it. Tell yourself you are going to analyze those dreaded mock cats which have been piling on a corner for the last few months. Sounds impossible right? But as the Nike ad says "Just do it!" Even if you are not able to complete it, so be it, at the least you started and finished in a go. Keep challenging yourself; try sneaking out every last minute you have to get something done. Do those distasteful tables when you are having your smoke after lunch. Do those obnoxious RC practices when you are reading the morning newspaper.

And remember you cannot really challenge yourself unless you have a hard target to achieve.

(7) The fish cannot bat and I cannot swim

Words from Boycott could not be truer in the CAT perspective. Realize what your areas of strength and areas of weaknesses are. But still at the end of the day there will be the odd ball "stud" who licks the field clean. So in your approach you would be wise if you remember to steer clear of any ego-issues. Don't try tackling that extra toughie DI problem set which goes into 3rd decimals of approximation or the arcane RC passage on Madhubani paintings just because you are out there trying to prove you too are one. The point in case is that if you were one, you would not have been struggling.

Last year there was this guy in IIT Chennai. He was a math and physics Olympiad with an IIT-JEE AIR of 12. He ended up with a 100%ile (and a score of 103 in CAT 2003!). He went on to join IIM-B. Realize that there are always going to be guys like this. Instead of worrying about them, realize that at the most there are going to be around 100 odd guys like this. Forget about them. Think about the 1100 others who are vying for the same seat as you. And if you are really bothered about such guys, then stock your fridge with some cold beer!

(How Fail to plan then you plan to fail

Put in excruciating detail into the planning/scoping work before you start out. Make sure every waking hour is accounted for. Doesn't mean you have to go overboard and start planning to account for each minute. Rather, a detailed account of how you are going to spend time over the next month. A caveat to the fore-mentioned point. At times we do things just because it was in the original plan. Make sure your plan is flexible. If a week before CAT you figure that doing more practice in RC is going to pay off, so be it!! But make sure you constantly check your plan and ask "Is it the right thing to do?" rather than "Am I doing it correctly?"

(9) Life is what happens when you are busy making plans - John Lennon (1940-1980)

Some words of wisdom that I keep telling myself everyday, CAT or no CAT. "The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. "

At the end of the day it is a just an exam. Nothing more. Nothing less. No reason why you should treat it differently. No reason why you should worry more. No reason why you should not think about other things in life. No reason why you should not keep your cool. If you were expecting a list of dos and don'ts I am afraid I might have disappointed you. But this is not meant to serve as one in the first place - the institutes are already doing a pretty good job of that. What I have done is tried summarizing a few points (which I believe are neither mutually exclusive nor collectively exhaustive) to give you a checklist against which you can verify the usefulness of everything that you would be doing from now on.

Arun 'Psychodementia' Jagannathan

(The author himself is a consultant working as an Associate - Technology for Sapient Corporation, who gave up any notions of cracking CAT after having failed for the third time last year)

InterviewPaGaLGuY catches up with Prof Himanshu Rai, the man responsible for the Common Admissions Test (CAT) 2010 for a quick interview. Edited excerpts:

CAT 2010 being a month away, how do you personally feel about the preparations by Prometric?

I'm extremely happy. Nothing untoward has happened until now during the testing of the infrastructure and we have put in place the right precautionary measures to ensure a smooth conduct of the test. So I'm perfectly upbeat about everything. We are working with three mantras. First, we want a good testing experience for the candidates. Second, we want to put forth a good reliable test that measures the abilities of the candidates. Third, we are strengthening all backend processes involved in the test conduct.

Last year's CAT Convenor Prof Satish Deodhar spent harrowing days and nights during the 10 days of the CAT 2009. Do you feel tense about the 20 days starting October 27?

I don't feel tense at all. It is because he had such a tense time that I don't have to worry about many things this year. There were technical problems that his team faced which were initially beyond his control but when the second phase of the test happened he handled it really well. Also I should tell you that my style of working is a very detached one. I am very passionate about what I do during the day but I don't take it with me when I go to bed. I don't come from an academic background. I have spent nine years working in operations roles with Tata Steel and I know that for projects such as these I have to give it my best shot during the day and then go to sleep peacefully at night.

What would your message be to candidates who are taking CAT 2010 with a very skeptical mindset due to last year's experiences?

I would like to clear the skepticism among the candidates and ask them to take the test without any fears. These are young and smart people who have the ability to understand what really happened last year. From our perspective, even if one person out of the entire set of test takers is affected then without doubt we owe him an apology. Now last year, a total of 6,000 people were affected due to the so called technical glitches. In the 6,000 I am also counting the ones sitting next to those who were affected and got distracted in the process. Now 6,000 out of 2.4 lakhs is an acceptable number anywhere. But the thing with the CAT is that it is an event that catches so many eyeballs and is scrutinized by the public or in the media so much, and that also includes the work you do, that things end up looking bigger than they actually are.

Now one has to understand that the format change in CAT last year was simply unprecedented in terms of the sheer numbers. We had a huge task in front of us. I'll give you an example. At several testing centers, we were given computers that had it written on their outside that they had a certain configuration which was acceptable to us. But after switching them on one realized that their configurations were entirely different. Similarly, while counting the terminals we were shown that the installed antivirus was a registered version. But later, we realized that it was a pirated version (implying that it could be cracked software). It is not humanly possible to switch on and check each and every terminal to verify such kind of things. I'm not saying that we don't take responsibility for the technical faults of last year but I am suggesting everyone to look at last year from a larger perspective and move on.

To come back to your original question, I feel that the candidates should concentrate on taking the exam and not get distracted by all the negative talk. Their job is to prepare for the exam and our job is to ensure a smooth test and we will make sure it happens.

What kind of a question paper can the candidates expect in CAT 2010?

Like that in every year. We have prepared a good test this year which is rich, reliable and tough.

How do you suggest candidates should react when they are passed on questions from earlier slots by their coaching institutes or on blogs?

I would ask them to take those questions with not a pinch, but a ton of salt. Every slot has unique questions so knowing earlier questions means nothing.

MBA entrance exams across the board are seeing reduced registrations. Do you foresee a similar trend in the CAT too?

I am not the kind of person who speculates and I cannot comment until the CAT registrations are closed. But I can try to reason why the numbers are going down in general on other exams. One, I think that this year the economy is doing pretty okay so people want to hold on to the jobs they already have. Two, an exam such as CAT caters to hundreds of institutes many of whom are in the B and C category. I won't name all these institutes but during the economic recession, these institutes were not able to provide jobs to the expectations of students. People who are considering these institutes take feedback from other people and rely on word of mouth. They would come to know from these channels that these institutes are not able to provide jobs. So if numbers in the CAT at all go down, I think it would be because of the falling interest in those b-schools. But the number of good candidates who are serious about getting into premier institutes such as the IIMs is not falling.

Prometric says that they have given you a list of proxy test-takers from CAT 2009. Are you taking any action against them?

For last year, the action would be taken by last year's CAT committee. Prometric would have sent them a list but I wouldn't know what they have done with it. But I can talk about this year and any person who violates the confidentiality clause in CAT is going to be dealt with very seriously. This also includes those who do fraud such as appearing for the test in someone else's name. We will deal with such people very seriously, for the the sake of the honest people.

Can you comment on reports that the IIMs are planning to set up their own testing company?

Not at all, why would we start a testing company? We wouldn't have asked Prometric to step in if we were going to start something on our own account. As of now the IIMs deal directly with Prometric. Possibly, the speculation could have been that the IIMs could create some kind of a company which has representatives from IIM. Right now we function as a committee comprising the Directors of IIM lucknow and IIM Calcutta and I happen to be the Convener. But so far I am doing this as a part of IIM Lucknow itself because I am also a professor here. So maybe there could be the possibility of an arrangement where I could have taken off for a year and managed CAT completely independently. Possibly that kind of a thing could be looked at in the future but we wouldn't start a testing agency ourselves.

IIM Raipur is already admitting students on the basis of CAT 2009 scores but it doesn't feature on the CAT 2010 website. Is it part of the CAT 2010 admissions?

Definitely, it has to be. The only thing is that all backend processes (of creating the CAT website) got frozen because we had to start the registration process. The website was frozen before IIM Raipur came up with their admissions notification. So its name does not appear on the CAT website but we'll take out a special ad for it saying hey, come and apply to IIM Raipur.

I have no idea about whether IIM Trichy, Kashipur and Udaipur will be part of the CAT 2010 process. All I can say is that sooner or later these IIMs have to come up. Much depends on the mentoring institutes responsible for these new IIMs. We ourselves are facing a faculty crunch all around and unless we are confident that we can run another institute, I think that people at IIMs would generally be circumspect.


Candidates preparing for the Common Admissions Test (CAT) and other b-school entrance exams often struggle with vocabulary. While the CAT does not test candidates on their knowledge of difficult words directly, other exams, especially the entrance test for FMS certainly do.

In addition, even for the CAT, a good vocabulary is important. This is because the passages and answer options given in the Reading Comprehension section may have some difficult words. Not knowing their meaning could decrease the candidates ability to understand the passage. Also, consider what may happen if you do not know the meaning of a word contained in one of the options: your ability to make the correct answer choice may be seriously compromised!

In this article, I shall put across an innovative way to remember the meanings of certain words. This is to know their origin. Quite a few words have an interesting origin, and there is a story, legend or myth associated with them. A number of words come to us from Roman or Greek mythology. Very often, you may find that you remember the story more than the meaning per se-and that it is the story that helps you recall the meaning of the word itself.

Let us look at some such words:

1. We start with the word Laconic, which is derived from the name of a place, the ancient Laconia in Greece. The inhabitants of this place were known to speak very little.

The word Laconic therefore refers to one who uses few words, is concise and doesnt speak much. Synonyms are taciturn, pithy, terse; antonyms are garrulous, verbose, loquacious etc.

Now for the stories associated with this word. There is a famous example of the usage of this word. Philip of Macedon was supposed to have once written to the Spartans If I enter Laconia, I will level Lacedaemon to the ground . The Spartans, true to their style, chose to reply with a single word If.

There is also a very interesting story about the former American President, Calvin Coolidge, who was the President of the US in the 1920s. Coolidge was known to be extremely frugal with words, which is best illustrated through this story. It is said that on a particular occasion, a young woman was sitting next to Coolidge at a dinner party. She told him that she had placed a bet that she could get at least three words of conversation out of him. Without looking at her, Coolidge quietly retorted, "You lose." Only two words, and thus the lady had lost her bet!

2. The next word is Spartan. This also comes from Greece; Sparta was a Greek city-state in ancient times. It was often at war especially during the Peloponnesian War with Athens, another city-state (and todays capital of Greece), where the famous Parthenon is situated.

As a result, the inhabitants of Sparta had to always be prepared for war and evolved to be extremely battle-ready, disciplined, tough and austere in their lifestyle. In fact, Sparta is said to have been unique for its social system and constitution, which focused on military training and excellence.

The word Spartan thus means austere, plain, frugal.

3. From the names of places, we shall now look at a word derived from the name of a person: the word Promethean.

This word comes from the Greek hero Prometheus. Prometheus was a great hero of mankind and known for his cleverness. He was given the task of becoming a virtual creator of mankind, by moulding people out of clay. As may be imagined, his attempts angered the Gods, especially Zeus. This anger was further reinforced when Prometheus tricked the Gods-during a sacrificial feast, he managed to get the best portions for man and the Gods were left with hardly anything.

He is also supposed to have stolen fire from the Gods and brought it for mankinds use. Fire was clearly of vital importance to ancient man.

Hence the word Promethean means life-giving, creative, original.

The famous story of Prometheus can be found in the Greek tragedy called Prometheus Bound. In this drama, Prometheus' theft of fire and his punishment by Zeus are described. Zeus is supposed to have punished Prometheus having him bound to a rock while a great eagle ate his liver every day; it would then grow back, only to be eaten again the next day. And so the cycle continued till the great hero Hercules is said to have finally released Prometheus from his ordeal.

4. Heard of the word Tantalizing? This has a really interesting story!

Tantalus was the son of the Greek God Zeus, who was punished by the gods for stealing ambrosia and nectar for his people and also for revealing the secrets of the Gods. He is also supposed to have offered human sacrifices.

Angered by his actions, the Gods thought of suitable punishment. Tantalus was put neck deep in water under some fruit trees with low branches, but could not drink any water or eat any fruit.

Whenever he bent down to drink, the water receded. Similarly, whenever he tried to reach the fruit which grew on the branches above him, the fruit slowly moved out of reach, raised up by the branches.

Thus the meaning of the word Tantalizing as used today: it means enticing, but out of reach or arousing interest or desire for something that remains unattainable.

Author Sidharth Balakrishna is an alumnus of IIM Calcutta and author of An Introduction to CAT-Tips from an IIM Alumnus', Reading Comprehension for the CAT- A Winning Approach by an IIM Alumnus' and Marketing Case Studies. Besides having done corporate stints, he is also a Visiting Faculty and admissions interview panelist at a number of b-schools.


The day was rife with news about the Common Admission Test (CAT) becoming a two-tier exam this year onwards. According to a report published in the Hyderabad edition of a leading daily, the IIMs are thinking of launching an initial screening process before the actual examination.

However, Prof Himanshu Rai, CAT 2010 Convenor went on record to say that the news was not true and that this year, there would be no change in the system. The published report quoted an RTI activist Rakesh Reddy who had received the information in response to an RTI query filed by him. Though, it was not specified which year the two tier system would begin, CAT aspirants were already known to be making inquiries on the same.

The article further also mentioned that a majority of IIM board members had approved the introduction of the new process, which is meant to improve the pool of students who would finally get through to IIM. Prof Rai said that it was not the case and there was no development on that front.

MJ Xavier, director of IIM Ranchi also denied any knowledge about this. I have not heard of it and you are the first person telling me, he told PaGaLGuY. When asked whether it was a good decision to introduce a two-tier exam, Prof Xavier said it was a bad move and he would not support it. As it is the validity of CAT can be questioned. Aspirants train in coaching centres and then appear for CAT. Does that guarantee that we are getting a good crop of students, asked Prof Xavier.

The IIM Ranchi director also added that a two-tier system will unnecessarily complicate matters especially for students from smaller cities for whom it is an extra burden to go through two processes. PaGaLGuY was not able to get a response from Prof Janakiraman Moorthy, Convenor for CAT 2011 as his cell was switched off.

Arun Sharma, author of CAT-prep books also said that he had also not heard of this 'development' but if it were true, much thought must have gone into it. "Those in the IIMs who may have decided to get this done have done so after putting their minds to it. IIM is too big a brand for them to take stupid decisions. And am also certain that it will turn out good for the system, if implemented."


(Photo credit: Liza)

For this you need to find the links between the sentences. The goal in these types of sentences is to rearrange the sentences in the original sequence. It consists of a group of sentences that have been jumbled up. All the Best for CAT 2011! Let us look at Para Jumble (PJ) questions that appear in the CAT.

I am sure you can rearrange the above passage to make coherent sense, converting it from a confusing 'Para-Mumble' to a solved Para-Jumble! You can either view solving a para-jumble as a tough task or a kind of a fun activity we used to do as kids --- assembling Jigsaw Puzzles. Trying out various permutations and combinations of the pieces till the full picture emerges. Arranging and rearranging the pieces till all of them interlocked. In para-jumble questions, you will be given a paragraph made of four to five sentences whose original sequence has been changed and you have a few minutes to figure out what that original sequence was.

Why are PJ questions important?

Para-jumbles are significant because they have been regularly appearing in the CAT and other MBA entrance tests. There is a good chance of three para-jumble questions appearing in the 20 questions of the Verbal Ability (VA) section. Which means that if you cracked the para-jumbles correctly --- 20% of your VA score stands secured (assuming that you will attempt 15-odd questions in the this section).

Secondly and more importantly --- PJs are one of those questions of the CAT in which you can improve your skills dramatically within a short span of time. Engineers have a special fondness for PJs as they appeal to the need for symmetry in their souls and let's face it --- it is probably one of the few areas of CAT VA where the scope of ambiguity is limited!

Types of PJ questions

Para-jumbles broadly fall in three categories. In each category, the jumbled sentences are coded with an alphabet (usually A, B, C and D).

1. 4/5 sentences are given in a random order and you have to unjumble all of them. Toughest of the lot!

2. The opening sentence + 4/5 sentences are given and you have to rearrange the group of 4/5 sentences, having been given prior knowledge of the thought that starts off the flow of the discussion.

3. 4/5 sentences + the closing sentence is given and you need to correctly sequence 4/5 sentences so that they flow into the last sentence.

4. Opening sentence + 4/5 Sentences + Closing Sentence are given. Easiest of the lot. You know where the story starts and where it ends. You only have to figure out the screenplay in between!

The smartest approach

a) The best approach to solving PJ questions is the 'free fall' one. That is, develop a high reading speed and scan all 4-5 sentences. Try to get a feel of what the passage is about.

b) At this point you need to decide whether this particular paragraph is one which you are comfortable with or not.

c) If you decide to go ahead, then scan the answer options. Are they of any help?

If , for example the options are,


Then you know for sure that this paragraph has to start either with B or C. A quick look at B and C will tell you which one looks like a better opening sentence and already your choices will be halved.

Similarly, with options,


then we know that it has to end with either B or A. So browse sentences A and B and see if any one of them look like a concluding sentence.

There might be other indicators to keep an eye out for. For example if three of the five options start with A and the other two with C/B/D there is a good probability that A is the starting sentence.

If, say, a link CB occurs in more than 2 options then it is something worth paying attention to.

PJ strategies to save time and increase accuracy

Strategy 1: Once upon a time long ago... / ...and they lived happily after: Identify the opening/closing sentence using what we discussed above. Either the tone of the paragraph or the option elimination method.

Strategy 2: Where's the interlock dude? Identify links between two sentences and try to see if that link exists in multiple answer options (a sure way to know that you are on the right track). A combination of 1 and 2 will take you home most of the time.

Place your magnifying glass on the following,

Strategy 2a: Make it 'personal'. Look out for personal pronouns (he, she, it, him, her, you, they). Personal pronouns always refer to a person, place or thing. Therefore, if a sentence has a personal pronoun without mentioning the person, place or object it is referring to, mark it in your head and scan the paragraph for the original person, place or object that it refers to.

For example if you go back to the opening jumbled paragraph of this article, the third sentence starts with 'it'. We now need to figure out what 'it' refers to and the sentence containing the original 'it' will come before this sentence.

Strategy 2b: Look for 'Poriborton' (Change, in Mamata Banerjee's tongue). Certain words called 'transition words' help the author to shift from one thought flow to another. In other words, they usher in change. Some transition words that appear regularly are --- hence, besides, simultaneously, in conclusion, etc. While you practice PJs whenever you come across a transition word --- note it down. Make a list!

Strategy 2c: Demonstrate! Look for demonstrative pronouns --- this, that, these, those, etc. Again, if you look at our opening paragraph, the first line starts with 'for this' --- now we know that we need to figure out what 'this' refers to and the sentence containing the original 'this' will come before this sentence.

Strategy 3: Main samay hoon! Sometimes the events mentioned in the paragraph can be arranged in a chronological order making it easy for you to identify the sequence. Example,

A: Alexander Bain, Scottish clockmaker, patented the electric clock.

B: The next development in accuracy occurred after 1656 with the invention of the pendulum clock.

C: Clocks have played an important role in man's history.

D: Spring-driven clocks appeared during the 15th century, although they are often erroneously credited to Nuremberg watchmaker Peter Henlen around 1511.

It is quite obvious by studying the chronology what the sequence should be.

Strategy 4: The Chota Rajan Approach. Sometimes you will find that for some terms in the paragraph both the full form and the abbreviation have been used. For Example IMF --- International Monetary Fund, Charles Dickens --- Dickens, Dr Manmohan Singh --- Dr Singh. In these cases where both the full form as well as the abbreviation is present in different sentences, then the sentence containing the full form will obviously come before the sentence containing the abbreviation.

Strategy 5: What an Idea Sirji! If there are two sentences, one containing an idea and another giving examples of the same idea then the sentence containing the idea should come before the sentence containing the examples. But they need not necessarily be exactly side by side. Example,

A: Russia possesses the largest stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in the world.

B: 489 missiles carrying up to 1,788 warheads and 12 submarines carrying up to 609 warheads form a looming threat.

A will come before B in this case, even though there might be sentences in between.

Strategy 6: An article of faith. It is highly unlikely that the definite article 'the' will be part of an opening sentence. If 'a/an' and 'the' both are used for the same noun then the sentence containing 'the' will come after the sentence containing a/an.

Tips for beginners

Focus on improving your reading skills. Also try to improve your cognitive ability. For example --- Go to a random website article. Go immediately to the second paragraph and after reading it try to guess what the author could have possibly said in the previous paragraph and the next paragraph. This will help you with a couple of other types of questions as well which we shall discuss in later articles.

Tips for the 99 percentilers

Whenever you solve para-jumbles the accuracy and speed is a function of how quickly you can become comfortable with the topic. So from today for every PJ you solve, plug a sentence from the PJ into Google which will throw up the source of that PJ or similar articles. Read up that article fully. This will broaden the base of your reading.

To-do practice activity for all of you

Team up with another friend. Both of you select passages from newspaper editorials, magazines, etc. Paste them to Microsoft Word. Break them up into sentences. Jumble up the sentences. Exchange and solve.

Practice!! Practice!! Practice!!

Links for practice from PaGaLGuY threads: 2009 | 2010 | 2011.

All the Best for CAT 2011!

Tanveer Ahmed is an alumnus of St Xavier's College, Kolkata and currently works with a people search firm as a recruiter. He is a visiting faculty with T.I.M.E. and also coaches and mentors CAT hopefuls online in the intricacies of the English language. (On LinkedIn)

If you think you have what it takes to write interesting articles of the above kind on CAT strategy and have a past record of 99 percentiles in mocks, we are looking for Freelance test prep writers. Feel free to apply and we'll be happy to hear from you!


(Original photo credit: Rafael Kage)

An often asked question is, "What is the difference between the average CAT student in Verbal Ability and a 99 percentiler in Verbal Ability?"

(You will notice that I do not yet say 'an IIM convert' because for every six '99 percentilers' who are interviewed, only one makes it. But that is a different story to be discussed on another day.)

So one day in the class where I teach, I decided to illustrate the difference.

Q1: How many of you have heard of Facebook ?

Class: 101% (Which is roughly what SRCC's cutoff will be next year! So don't say that's impossible!).

Q2: How many of you are on Facebook?

Class: 85%.

Q3: How many use it once in a while?

Class: 65%.

Q4: How many have heard of the movie 'The Social Network' based on the story behind Facebook?

Class: 55%.

Q5: How many have seen the movie 'The Social Network'?

Class: 35%.

Q6: How many have heard of the book 'The Accidental Billionaires', the book from which 'The Social Network' is inspired?

Class: 10%.

Q7: How many of you have read the book 'The Accidental Billionaires'?

Class: 1%.

Elementary, My Dear Watson!

Moral of the Story: If you are doing pretty much what everybody else is doing to prepare for the CAT, then you are not doing much. You have to do something different!

Which brings me to today's topic 'How to Build your CAT Network'.

There was a time when a serious student who wanted to acquire additional knowledge and do more research had to visit a library and pore over heavy tomes in the quest for that fountain of wisdom. Lots of drudgery was involved, not to mention facing the occasional occupational hazard of hallucinating (reference: Lage Raho Munnabhai). But today, that knowledge is easily accessible to you at your finger tips through your mobile phones.

What do you need to build your 'CAT network'?

1. A mobile phone that allows you to access the Internet. With the mobile phone, you can be online 24x7 at any location, allowing you to use 'dead time zones' for productive purposes. An example of a 'DTZ' is the commute time spent by you to and fro from office.

2. An Internet connection for your computer. The fact that you're reading this article must mean that you already have access to one.

Plan of action

1. Create an email account specifically for CAT preparation purpose. Use this account solely for CAT-related emails. As a generic rule: whenever you come across a website that you find useful, just sign up for updates.

2. Open a Facebook account for CAT purpose. Don't use your current personal account (too many distractions when you log in). Sign up for all Facebook pages and communities offering CAT-related knowledge.

3. Open a Twitter account if you don't have one. Follow any Twitter users who regularly post MBA-related updates.

How can 'The CAT Network' help you with improving your English?

English is not a subject that you can gulp down in one go. Language skills cannot be built overnight, nor can the nuances of a language be downloaded into your mind inside packed classroom sessions. Here is a better way to progressively get better at English,

1. Vocabulary

a) Join

(i) Check out their Homepage everyday. It is bound to add new words to your vocabulary.

(ii) Enroll for the Word of the Day newsletter. This will push words into your email Inbox everyday and force you to learn one new word and its usage everyday.

(iii) Whenever you come across a new word, punch it into the site. Look at all the meanings of the word. Their collection of phrasal verbs is among the best. The CAT expects you to know multiple meanings of words. For example, if I punch in 'home', this is what I get: You now know the different ways the word 'home' could be used and you thought you knew the meaning of the word perfectly well.

(iv) Follow the website's accounts on Twitter and Facebook for more updates.

b) This gives you both a dictionary and a thesaurus to build your vocabulary with.

(i) Enroll for their 'word of the day'.

(ii) Test yourself using some of the fun tests which are also useful at the same time. For example the day I wrote this article, the homepage had a test on the types of 'Phobias' --- something that appears regularly in the FMS test.

(iii) Use the thesaurus feature to learn new words. Say, you come across the word 'bedlam'. When you check out the thesaurus it shows that the word 'bedlam' is close in meaning to: 'chaos', 'clamor', 'commotion', 'confusion', 'din', 'disquiet', 'disquietude', 'furor', 'hubbub', 'madhouse', 'maelstrom', 'noise', 'pandemonium', 'racket', 'shambles', 'tumult', 'turmoil' and 'uproar '. Our brains are so structured that we visualize words in groups. Now if you come across the word 'racket' somewhere, you will immediately relate it to 'bedlam'!

(c) A good dictionary for origins of words. Enroll for the 'What's the Good Word' emailer. For example, this is what it has to say about the word 'Yankee': "A British officer in 1789 suggested that Yankee comes from the Cherokee word eankhe, which means 'slave', 'coward'. It might just as well come from a Native American pronunciation of English, 'yengees', which later became Yankees. Yankee could have been withdrawn from this word by back derivation. Most probably, however, it comes from Dutch nickname for Jan (John): Janke, where the Dutch 'J' is pronounced ."

d) Visit A good way to learn new words. I once spotted cartoon of a drunk Mr Bacchhan used to explain the word 'bacchanalian' (a drunken person) on this site.

2. Reading and Comprehension

a) Go to Go to the 'featured content' section and further to featured articles. You will find articles segregated by topic. Pick any random topic which you have absolutely no clue about, a different one each day (Architecture, Art, Chemistry, Economics), especially subjects you have never heard of and read the articles under that topic. This will increase the range of your vocabulary and get you up to speed for rapidly scanning unfamiliar topics.

b) CAT reading passages have in the past been picked up from The Guardian newspaper. Browse it daily. That is the kind of vocabulary level expected of you. Sign up for their free newsletters so that you keep getting emails and links from them. I also recommend The New York Times and The Times of India. For more sources, check out my thread.

c) Visit Google Scholar. Type in any keyword, say 'mortgage'. It will throw up research papers and articles on the topic. One example --- You will need aspirin to go through the articles but your comprehension power will skyrocket if you persevere!

3. Grammar

a) An excellent site for Phrasal Verbs is:

b) Grammar Girl:



e) Check out the page on Wikipedia:

Interact with other CAT aspirants

Well you are already here! There is no better site in India for clearing your verbal ability doubts than


There are plenty of websites which allow you to test yourself in short bursts under a timer. At least the two that I know of with a good quality of tests which can be taken on the go are and

General knowledge

1. News

Enroll for for global and national newspapers (at least two each) and sign-up for their daily updates. This will keep you informed and upto date about current events.


Subscribe to or browse through editorial content of newspapers for analysis and opinion of news ---

3. Business GK

Please follow and and the business pages of your daily newspaper.

The 'Lonely Planet' of helpful websites to surf

Visit these websites on a regular basis, preferably in a scheduled manner. Set reminders on your mobile phone. Allot each website a day and remember to scan it on that day.

Suggested Schedule,

Everyday: Especially the weekend reading digests :). I find so many students completely unaware of changes in the MBA and business education world. And if you do not know anything about the MBA world which you are supposedly so passionate about --- what will you know about the world outside?

Monday: (Excellent for CAT preparation oriented articles).

Tuesday: (News and press releases related to MBA).

Wednesday: (Test Prep).

Thursday: (News, test-prep chats, etc).

Friday: (MBA and career-related articles).

Subscribe! Subscribe! Subscribe!

Follow! Follow! Follow!

Once you have put the above suggested regimen into place, your CAT preparation for VA will be on autopilot. All you have to do is to open your CAT-specific email inbox, the Facebook and Twitter accounts every morning and go through all the updates religiously. Do not forget to send a thank you note to Mark Zuckerberg!

Tanveer Ahmed is an alumnus of St Xaviers College, Kolkata and currently works with a people search firm as a recruiter. He is a visiting faculty with T.I.M.E. and also coaches and mentors CAT hopefuls online in the intricacies of the English language. (On LinkedIn)

If you think you have what it takes to write interesting articles of the above kind on CAT strategy and have a past record of 99 percentiles in mocks, we are looking for Freelance test prep writers. Feel free to apply and well be happy to hear from you!


Very Often CAT aspirants wonder how they will manage, what seems like an Herculean task of mastering English vocabulary in the limited amount of time available for CAT preparation. They say that VA should be spelled as a "Walk - a - Bull - Awry" rather than Vocabulary!! One of the simplest methods of becoming familiar with a language is to read the language. To absorb it in your blood stream, so that it becomes second nature. The focus should be on an integrated approach.

The best way to get familiar with English Vocabulary is to read books. At this point alarm bells start ringing and even those who aspire high begin to perspire much saying that it is difficult to persevere! Reading books is too time-consuming or too boring! This may be a valid point from an aspirant's point of view. How do we tackle this?

My solution is simple! Instead of reading one book of 500 pages (which may be boring and time consuming) why don't you do the following?

* Share your books with your friends (sort of a mini library +)

* Read the first 10 pages of 50 different books

What is the rationale behind this?

* I am absolutely sure that every serious aspirant can take time out each day to read 10 pages!!

* This will introduce you to a depth and range of topics that may not be possible with one single book.

* I sincerely hope that while carrying out this process you will come across a book that will spark your interest and you will end up reading the whole book!

While reading a book we have to be on the look out for every single bit of learning that we can garner from the book's 10 pages. It's like Shah Rukh Khan saying: "These are your 10 pages - Do the best you can with them - Change your life!"

Probably the most popular book right now for the current week is the The Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows series. Lets see what we can learn about Vocabulary. from the first ten pages of the book.

1. Title

A CAT aspirant must be curious and on the look -out for words all the time : I am sure that you have heard "Hallows" many many times - but ask yourself how many of you know the meaning of Hallows ( Or have looked up the meaning to see what could be the different meanings and usage of the word? As soon as you see a new word all these questions should spring in your mind. Ask yourself - what does the title mean? Does it convey the right mood for the book?What kind of a title would you have given?

2. Epigraph :

Many books start off with an epigraph which is a motto or quotation, at the beginning of a literary composition, setting forth a theme. For Example DH has two quotations from Aeschylus ( The Libation Bearers) and William Penn ( The Fruits of Solitude). Many a time the Epigraph itself can be a rich source of words. For example in the DH epigraph I can see words like haemorrhage, staunch, libation, omnipresent, solitude. A pretty decent haul for reading a few lines - What do you say?. Plus the epigraph gives you sources for further reading . If you are serious about your prep you should look up these books and authors or writings. And thus a chain is formed.

3. Roots of words:

While reading it is important to keep a watch on words that have been derived from old roots. For example the word illumination on the second page is derived from lumis i.e lumen which means light. You can see throughout the novel what fun Rowling has had in making up names with word roots. Mort means death - hence Voldemort. Mal is a representative of bad ( maladjustment, malpractice etc.) - hence Malfoy.

4. Meaning Plus and Meaning Minus :

Think in terms of synonyms and and antonyms from now on. . Whenever you come across a difficult word ask yourself what could be the other words that could fall in the same range. So for example the synonyms of demonstrate will be establish, evidence, evince, exhibit, expose, flaunt while the antonyms would be conceal and hide.

5. The Birth of Words:

Be on the look out for new words created by authors.A good link for words added recently to the dictionary is the OED site. Rowling herself has created quite a few words. For example her Avada Kedavra is based on the Aramaic avda kedavra, meaning "what was said has been done." This phrase is also the origin of abracadabra, which, like hocus pocus, is used by magicians as a magic word when they perform tricks Source: Why the snake has been named Nagini - need not be explained to any Indian!

6. Watch out for Idioms and Metaphors :

An idiom is a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not easily deduced from those individual words. At one point Snape talks about "laying a false trail" which mean misleading somebody. A metaphor is an implied simile.For example when Bellatrix says " many of our oldest family trees become a little diseased over time" she is comparing a family tree to a real tree made of wood and timber which can begin to rot.

This 'read 10-page-a-day plan' should work wonders for improving your vocabulary skills.Once you begin to understand the value of vocabulary in your daily life you will automatically develop a passion for it!

I leave you with a final quote from the Book.

That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to understand. Of house-elves and children's tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped - Albus Dumbledore - JK Rowling.

Tanveer Ahmed is an alumnus of St Xaviers College, Kolkata and currently works with a people search firm as a recruiter. He is a visiting faculty with T.I.M.E. and also coaches and mentors CAT hopefuls online in the intricacies of the English language. (On LinkedIn)

If you think you have what it takes to write interesting articles of the above kind on CAT strategy and have a past record of 99 percentiles in mocks, we are looking for Freelance test prep writers. Feel free to apply and well be happy to hear from you!


Getting an Indian Institute of Management (IIM) call is the ultimate 'Holy Grail' for a CAT aspirant. But the quest itself is an arduous journey. And a good road map helps in making the journey easier. The hallmark of a good road map is to provide markers with the ups and downs of the journey. Keeping this in mind, let's take a look at the different types questions that you can expect in the VA part of the CAT.

VA is an important part of the whole (CAT Paper) and can be positioned at any part of the exam. In the beginning, in the middle or at the end. The positioning will differ even for students appearing in the same slot. The student can use the review button to toggle across sections and to choose which section he/she wants to attempt first.

The whole history of the CAT exam is such that the content of the paper have been shrouded in darkness except for a brief period of disclosure and light from 2003 - 2008 when aspirants were allowed to take home the CAT paper. Otherwise in the periods before 2003 and after 2008, students had no option but to depend on the coaching institutes to understand the type of questions that could appear in the CAT paper. In fact, in the pre -2003 period, at least students got a glimpse of the previous years' paper in the current year's prospectus. But post 2009, there has been no way of getting to know the exact questions that can appear in the CAT paper.

If we analyse the questions between 2003 -2008, we can see the major groups of Questions are under:

1. Parajumbles - - A jumbled set of sentences is given and you have to unjumble them.

Refer .

2. Fill in the Blanks - A sentence is given from which 1 to 2 words have been removed and from the options given - you have to choose the best fit.

3. Sentence Correction : Sentences with grammatical mistakes are given and you have to identify which of those sentences are grammatically correct/incorrect.

4. Para-completion also called Deleted Sentences : A sentence (at the beginning or in the middle or at the end) is deleted from the paragraph. You have to identify which of the answer options is a good fit in the context of the passage. -


5. Inference Fact Judgement : You are given sentences and asked to identify whether it is an inference, fact or a judgement.Broadly speaking F is verifiable data ; I is a conclusion based on facts and J is an opinion. For more details refer here. -

6. Critical Reasoning : These are question which present a main argument and the aspirant is asked whether the question statements would strengthen/weaken the argument.etc. and other similar types of analytical questions. These questions are especially important because they have been part of other online tests like GMAT etc.

7. Commonly Confused Words : These are pairs of words and you have to identify which word of the pair is appropriate in the context of the sentence.For example, you may have to choose between elude/delude while trying to fill in the blanks for a sentence. These types of questions have been coming quite frequently in the last four years.

8.Idioms: Idioms are defined by the Free Dictionary as a speech form or an expression of a given language that is peculiar to itself grammatically or cannot be understood from the individual meanings of its elements, as in' keep tabs on' means keeping track of somebody's movement. Idioms can be part of the Verbal Ability test whereby the same word may be used in a number of sentences and the aspirant is asked to identify where it is incorrectly /correctly used.

9. Phrasal Verbs : A phrasal verb is a combination of a verb and a preposition, a verb and an adverb, or a verb with both an adverb and a preposition, any of which are part of the syntax of the sentence, and so are a complete semantic unit. Sentences may contain direct and indirect objects in addition to the phrasal verb. Phrasal verbs are particularly frequent in the English language. A phrasal verb often has a meaning which is different from the original verb.- (Source Wikipedia). Example - He is looking after the kids. here 'looking after' means taking care of the kids.

Reference :

10. Figures of Speech --- A figure of speech is the use of a word or words which diverge from the usual meaning. It can also be a special repetition, arrangement or omission of words with literal meaning, or a phrase with a specialised meaning not based on the literal meaning of the words in it. Ref: Wikipedia

Apart from the above, there are 3 more elements that are critical to the VA paper which are also applicable to the other sections as well.

a) Decision Making - You have to be very clear in terms of deciding which questions to do and which questions to leave out. Not all questions are meant to be done ! Some are purposely put there to consume your time!! Sometimes questions may carry unequal weightage (as in 2004, 2005) : then you have to decide whether attempting a 2-marks question is better than attempting a 1-mark one. This is crucial because the paper setters will slip in 2-3 questions in the 2 marks section which are less time consuming than the 1 mark section. Inside the 1 mark section there might be questions which are more time consuming than the 2 marks questions. People will often advise that you attempt everything in the English section. Please don't do that if you are not comfortable with the last few questions. You will only end up with negative marks!

b) Execution / Time Management : Once you have decided what is to be done -- just do it. Allot time to each question based on the amount of marks it carries in proportion to the marks of the full paper. Never exceed this time quota by more than a minute or two. In the years 2006, 2007 and 2008 the CAT paper had printing mistakes. For all you know, you are not able to arrive at an answer because of a printing mistake! (It could very well be lack of conceptual clarity also!)

c) Stress Management: Dont' Panic!! There are many candidates who can solve the same paper comfortably at home but panic in an exam situation. Just one piece of advice - Treat every mock CAT seriously, as if it were the real CAT paper. And take the real CAT like a mock CAT, with a calm frame of mind!

Tanveer Ahmed is an alumnus of St Xaviers College, Kolkata and currently works with a people search firm as a recruiter. He is a visiting faculty with T.I.M.E. and also coaches and mentors CAT hopefuls online in the intricacies of the English language. (On LinkedIn)

If you think you have what it takes to write interesting articles of the above kind on CAT strategy and have a past record of 99 percentiles in mocks, we are looking for Freelance test prep writers. Feel free to apply and well be happy to hear from you!


(Photo credit: Everjean)

If Verbal Ability is the first half of the English section of management entrance tests, then Reading and Comprehension (RC) makes up the second half. As the name suggests, RC comprises two parts --- Reading + Comprehension. A CAT aspirant should be able to read at a fairly good speed and also grasp the material presented in very little time. In a knowledge-based economy, reading and comprehension skills would be essential. You would need RC skills to analyze data, information and take good decisions. Information + RC = Knowledge!

How do you become confident at RC? I am going to suggest these steps,

A. Reading

1. Measure your Reading Speed: You should start by calculating your reading speed and then working on improving it.

Plenty of websites and software help you measure your reading speed. Begin by measuring your reading speed on screen using a website such as It will give you a quick estimate of your reading speed by asking you to read a small passage under a timer. As you work on improving your reading speed, monitor it using such a tool from time to time.

2. Improving your Reading Speed: An average reading speed is in the range of 200 to 300 wpm (words per minute). Reading speeds vary depending on what you are reading and in what environment. Steps to improve your reading speed,

a) Scanning: Learn to 'scan' the material you read --- Headings, titles, chapters and any other relevant divisions that might serve to break the reading down into blocks.

b) Adjustment: You should learn to adjust your reading speed as you read the passage. Slow down when you want to be sure about having comprehended a difficult section. Pump up your speed if you feel the need to skim through familiar sections.

c) Ignore what is not important: You should focus on the key words in the sentences. A lot of time during reading is wasted on conjunctions, prepositions or articles. Eliminate these from the horizons of your focus.

d) Read in blocks: While reading, try to read blocks of words together. You can boost your reading speed by absorbing several words in a line at one time, instead of reading each word or focusing on each letter of the word.

Instead of reading each word as constituted of individual letters, store a pictorial image of the words in your mind so that whenever you encounter that word, its mere shape and visual structure leads you to identify it instantly, within fractions of a second. Without having actually 'read' that word!

Having said all the above, the CAT in its online avatar has not been featuring very large RC passages so the role played by reading speed has reduced to some extent. But in exchange, the role of comprehension has correspondingly increased!

B. Comprehension

Here is a suggested workflow to tackle and improve your comprehension.

Step 1. Topic: When you start attempting an RC passage, you need to quickly skim through it to understand what the author is talking about. What are the key words in the passage? Is the piece about theology, geology, economics or something else? Are you comfortable with it? You have to make a decision here, whether you want to proceed with solving it or not? If you decide to continue, then jump directly to Step 2 --- else skip to the next RC passage. In the actual test, you have the right to choose your RC passages .You dont have to even solve them in the same sequence they are in the paper!

Step 2. Essence of the first paragraph: Take a very hard look at the first paragraph of the passage. Your task? To mentally Paraphrase/Summarise it in your own words! If you find yourself able to do it, go ahead with that RC passage. Else, I'd advise skipping it.

Step 3. Questions, Data points: Once you decide to solve an RC paragraph, take a look at the accompanying Questions (without looking at the answer options. That will confuse you!). Identify the data points asked for in the Questions. This will put you on the lookout for those data points when you read the passage.

Step 4: Read the passage: Very simple. Read the piece. Never graduate to the next paragraph until and unless you cansummarize the current paragraph in your head. I have known candidates to read entire passages and not have a clue about what the author was talking about!

Step 5. Answer the questions: Now you come to the crux of the matter. Either while reading the passage itself or after completing the reading, you should be able to answer the questions!

Watch out!

1. Do not get into ego hassles over questions: This often happens when a person has read the full RC passage and managed to answer 3 or 4 questions out of the total 5 very quickly. I would suggest that it is time to move on. Don't be under the impression that just because you have read the whole passage you HAVE to answer every single question! Some questions are there to just waste your time!

2. Practicing GMAT RCs could help because the GMAT is also a computer-based test and the length of the passages seem to be roughly the same as that in the computer-based CAT. Besides, there are so many online resources for the GMAT!

3. Answering by elimination: Sometimes, you can solve the RC questions by eliminating all the answer options until one answer option remains which seems to fit in and is your answer.

4. Dilemmas: Often, you would think that you have NARROWED the options down to two by elimination but can't seem to be sure thereafter. There is no such thing! It only means that you have not comprehended the passage well enough. At this juncture, you can either opt to take a calculated guess (especially if you have been a consistent 90+ percentiler) or just leave the question alone (advised if you have been consistently scoring below 70 percentile in English).

Tanveer Ahmed is an alumnus of St Xaviers College, Kolkata and currently works with a people search firm as a recruiter. He is a visiting faculty with T.I.M.E. and also coaches and mentors CAT hopefuls online in the intricacies of the English language. (On LinkedIn)

If you think you have what it takes to write interesting articles of the above kind on CAT strategy and have a past record of 99 percentiles in mocks, we are looking for Freelance test prep writers. Feel free to apply and well be happy to hear from you!

Editor's note: This ia an analysis of the CAT 2011 test pattern changes by Ankur Agarwal, a guest author and an IIM Lucknow alumnus who works in a senior position at an Ahmedabad-based coaching institute. The views expressed here are his own.



(Original photo credit: terren)

The new Common Admissions Test (CAT) pattern looks interesting prima facie and is a step closer to resembling international testing systems. One can't say for sure if this is a long-term step because the CAT has been previously known to change its pattern between years. Such pattern changes obviously keep coaching institutes on their toes and also provide an opportunity for people with genuine aptitude for management a greater chance. This move by the CAT is a step in the right direction and to some extent, it may address issues faced in the previous versions of computer-based CAT. The following points in my opinion constitute the broader impact of the CAT 2011 pattern.

Time limitations

Earlier CAT papers allowed test-takers to show their skills at time-management and smart selection of questions to derive the most out of their strengths and accommodate their weakness by spending more time on their weak sections. But in CAT 2011, you can't do this anymore. This is obviously good for test-takers who can perform equally well in both the sections.

One may say that this is a disadvantage to those with engineering backgrounds because they will be time-bound while solving the Quant and DI questions but I don't agree. The real problem is that you will be forced to spend 70 minutes on 30 questions, which means that you will have to face the tough questions in each section and these tough questions will be the eventual differentiators between a sectional 94 percentiler and a sectional 99 percentiler. Being good at selecting questions smartly, leaving out the tricky ones may no longer get you an IIM call. You will have to face and conquer the tough questions. The prognosis is identical to that of a person targeting 760+ in the GMAT.

Two Sections

Quant and DI no longer contribute to forming two-thirds of the paper. Since the weightage of verbal increases in the net score, your overall score will be affected. But it's good that you already know about this change, three months prior to the test. Imagine the plight of those taking the CAT back in 2008 when test-takers were shocked to find that there were 40 questions in verbal and 25 questions each in DI and Quant only after sitting in the examination hall.

All I am simply saying here is that the CAT changed patterns drastically in its previous editions, so there is no reason to panic but to be excited that you are aware of this change 80 days in advance. You have the time to rethink your strategy and prepare accordingly.

What to expect?

On the face of it, CAT 2011 seems like a step towards standardization on the lines of international tests such as GRE and GMAT which have matured over a period of time, compared to the CAT which is only 2 years old in its computer-based avatar. This may take the IIMs a step closer to having a year-long testing window for CAT in the years to come. But at Endeavor, the coaching institute where I teach, we view this as a self-correction exercise by the IIMs to bring the faith back into the testing system.

Difficulty Level

The difficulty level is all set to go up. We observed that CAT 2010 was overall tougher than CAT 2009. Expect the toughness of questions to go up further this year.

With a sectional time-limitation of 70 minutes, the makers of the CAT would have to increase the difficulty level of questions so that students are tested really well in that period. This may mean that Quant and DI questions may involve intense calculation work. At the same time, Critical Reasoning might make a comeback. Critical Reasoning has a big share of questions in GMAT's Verbal section and used to frequently appear in the paper-based versions of the CAT.

In CAT 2009 and 2010, a 20-question section didnt allow the paper-setters enough leeway to balance the section with adequate questions of varying ease and difficulty. But with a flexibility of 30 questions, you can easily expect seven to eight really tough questions in each section which will eat into time. The relatively easy questions too would continue to be a tad tedious and tricky.

Fairer Results?

I have subscribed to the theory that the problem with computer-based CAT is not the varying difficulty between slots, but rather the number of questions in each section. You see, having 20 questions in each section is not a large-enough basis to normalize between sections, especially when it is common for a question or two to contain bugs. A 35-question section on the other hand will relatively be free of these inherent pitfalls but a 30-question section is not a bad start either.

The makers of the CAT have always maintained that they do enough to equate the difficulty level of question papers across slots and that their normalization process sorts out any further unaddressed issues. Both these claims are easier made than done, especially in their original format of 20 questions per section. A 30-question set per section will be relatively free of subjectivity in judging the difficulty level of questions in the paper creation stage. There will be further correction because of the fact that one section does not impact the other section, thanks to the sectional time limit.

So there is a greater reason to believe that the normalization process will be far better this year and test-takers will get relatively just results compared to CAT 2009 and 2010.

Key Takeaways

  1. The sectional time limit would also raise the overall difficulty level of the paper, giving the CAT an opportunity to regain the lost crown of being a difficult paper. This however also paves the way for tougher CAT papers over the next few years.

  2. The Verbal section will play a greater role. Start working on your foundations in the English language and reading skills.

  3. If you are targeting the IIMs, be prepared to tackle a few tough questions as well and not rely merely on smart selection of questions.

  4. Silly mistakes will count you dearly. Accuracy will be the differentiator!

  5. Keep your fingers crossed. The normalization process just might evolve and make the way for fairer results.

All the best!

The author Ankur Agarwal is an alumnus of IIM Lucknow and is currently working as Vice President - Finance at Endeavor Careers and is also associated with the design and development of its online testing portal


Paragraph Completion or Deleted Sentences are an important part of the English section of the Common Admission Test (CAT) exam. And given the new format of the CAT, Para Completion (PC) or Deleted Sentences (DS) may well become a part of the Logical Reasoning section of the CAT, thus increasing the weightage of 'English' in the paper.

Paragraph completion questions are of the type in which a sentence (at the beginning or in the middle or at the end) has been deleted from the paragraph. You are given 4/5 answer options to choose from. Each answer option is a statement which talks about topics/themes discussed in the paragraph. You have to identify which answer option provides the best fit in the context of the passage.

As you can see, an understanding of what constitutes a paragraph is very critical to solving of such questions. A paragraph is defined on Wikipedia as - 'a distinct section of a piece of writing, usually dealing with a single theme and indicated by a new line or indentation.' Thus the important thing for us to understand is that, in good writing, each para is a separate section and should have its own distinct theme. It should have an introduction, body and a conclusion.

Introduction: This is the first section of a paragraph. It should introduce the topic at the beginning of the paragraph and give background information or provide a transition.

Body: This will follow the introduction and discuss the major idea, using facts, statements, inferences and examples.

Conclusion: This is the final section. A part of this will be missing and it will be your task to identify that part. It should summarise all the data provided in the para and also the major idea of the para.

Types of PC/DS questions

- The opening Link is missing: In these types of questions, the first sentence is missing.

- Middle Link is missing: In these types of questions, a sentence from the middle has been removed.

- Closing Link is missing : In these types of questions, the last sentence has been removed. These ones have been most popular in recent times.

For me, Para Completion is solved by the Hercule Poirot method! You have to become a detective and solve the case. Each para given in the test is a small story and you need to find how that story ends, given the clues distributed in the whole para and the characters present in the plot. Here's how to do it.

Look out for the theme. You need to be alert for key words in the paragraph. We have taken a few questions from the previous years CAT papers to illustrate some points. Take a look at Q1, it is all about photographs and the changes in relation to photographs. Thus, the final statement should be something about the power of photographs despite the changes. In Q2, the theme is all about the lack of inventory and the answer should tackle this aspect of the matter.

Progress in order. If a concept has been discussed and a new concept is being introduced and discussed in the paragraph, then the old concept should not be a part of the para conclusion. When two or three concepts are discussed in the paragraph, the concluding line should not regress to the earlier concepts.

Tone of the author. This is extremely critical. If you are not able to judge the tone of the author, you will not know in which direction the para should go. Is the author serious? Is he being sarcastic? Is he pessimistic? If you look at Q3 below and understand that the author is saying some things in a tongue-in-cheek tone, you will realise the answer is obvious.

Summary. Please keep in mind that the last option should be a summary of the passage and should not introduce new themes for discussion.We are trying to end a discussion not to start a new one. The correct answer will not only avoid bringing in a totally new idea but also complete the paragraph most meaningfully. Any option that leaves us wanting for some more explanations can be eliminated.

Elimination. Finally the magic of elimination works as usual! If you can eliminate answer options because they are 'out of spectrum' or not in the same range as the para topic, nothing like it. Such options are not directly related to the context of the passage. Also on the other side, avoid options which once again present the same thoughts presented in the para in a different form. Thus these types of options only serve to present the main idea in another form. Nothing new emerges.

Reference Resources

Links to Deleted Sentences thread on PaGaLGuY,




CAT questions

Q1. Nevertheless, photographs still retain some of the magical allure that the earliest Daguerreo types inspired. As objects, our photographs have changed; they have become physically flimsier as they have become more technologically sophisticated. Daguerreo produced pictures on copper plates; today many of our photographs never become tangible thins, but instead remain filed away on computers and cameras, part of the digital ether that envelops the modern world. At the same time, our patience for the creation of images has also eroded. Children today are used to being tracked from birth by digital cameras and video recorders, and they expect to see the results of their poses and performances instantly. The space between life as it is being lived and life as it is being displayed, shrinks to a mere second.

(1) Yet, despite these technical developments, photographs still remain powerful because they are reminders of the people and things we care about.

(2) Images, after all, are surrogates carried into battle by a soldier or by a traveller on holiday.

(3) Photographs, be they digital or traditional, exist to remind us of the absent, the beloved, and the dead.

(4) In the new era of the digital image, the images also have a greater potential for fostering falsehood and trickery, perpetuating fictions that seem so real, we cannot tell the difference.

(5) Anyway, human nature being what it is, little time has passed after photographys inventions became means of living life through images.

The full paragraph talks about photograph and change and option 1 talks about the change not affecting the power of photographs. This ends the discussion.

Q2. Mma Ramotswe had a detective agency in Africa, at the foot of Kgale Hill. These were her assets; a tiny white van, two desks, two chairs, a telephone, and an old typewriter. Then there was a teapot, in which Mma Ramotswe --- the only private lady detective in Botswana --- brewed red bush tea. And three mugs --- one for herself, one for her secretary and one for the client. What else does a detective agency really need? Detective agencies rely on human intuition and intelligence, both of which Mma Ramotswe had in abundance.

(1) But there was also the view, which again would appear on no inventory.

(2) No inventory would ever include those, of course.

(3) She had an intelligent secretary too.

(4) She was a good detective and a good woman.

(5) What she lacked in possessions was more than made up by a natural shrewdness.

The paragraph talks about a lack of physical assets and inventories. The correct option (2) talks of inventories that are intangible.

Q3. I am sometimes attacked for imposing 'rules.' Nothing could be further from the truth. I hate rules. All I do is report on how consumers react to different stimuli. I may say to a copywriter, Research shows that commercials with celebrities are below average in persuading people to buy products. Are you sure you want to use a celebrity? Call that a rule? Or I may say to an art director, Research suggests that if you set the copy in black type on a white background, more people will read it than if you set it in white type on a black background.

(1) Guidance based on applied research can hardly qualify as rules.'

(2) Thus, all my so called rules are rooted in applied research.

(3) A suggestion perhaps, but scarcely a rule.

(4) Such principles are unavoidable if one wants to be systematic about consumer behaviour.

(5) Fundamentally it is about consumer behaviour - not about celebrities or type settings

The author's tone is slightly tongue in cheek . Thus option (3) seems the right one.

Tanveer Ahmed is an alumnus of St Xaviers College, Kolkata and currently works with a people search firm as a recruiter. He is a visiting faculty with T.I.M.E. and also coaches and mentors CAT hopefuls online in the intricacies of the English language. (On LinkedIn)

If you think you have what it takes to write interesting articles of the above kind on CAT strategy and have a past record of 99 percentiles in mocks, we are looking for Freelance test prep writers. Feel free to apply and well be happy to hear from you!


Let's face it, Quantitative Aptitude (QA) is the section that many absolutely dread. To top it, the importance of QA has only increased in the newly announced format of CAT 2011. As per a previous analysis on PaGaLGuY, this might increase the proportion of tough questions in the paper and smart selection of questions alone might not save the day. To solve the tough questions, you would need to improve upon conceptual clarity.

The importance of conceptual clarity

Consider the following categorization of important sub-topics in QA into groups on the basis of how frequently they appear together in questions.

Group I: Questions related to percentages, compound interest & simple interest, profit, loss, discounts, mark up, and indexing.

Group II: Questions related to algebra, linear equations, quadratic equations, maxima & minima, inequalities, functions, binomial applications, 2-D co-ordinate system.

Group III: Questions related to ratio, proportion, partnership, work, time, speed and distance.

In the CAT, a tough quant problem usually does not contain a single concept in a complex form as much as it does many concepts entwined together. In throwing such questions into the question paper, the makers of CAT want to see how good you are at breaking down a large problem into smaller ones in order to arrive at the answer.

In each of the above groups, one main concept binds the group together. For example in Group I, the main concept that binds all the group members together is percentages. If you improved your skills at calculating percentages, your efficiency at solving compound and simple interest, profit and loss, discounts, markup and indexing questions would automatically increase.

Which means that solving Group I problems requires you to understand the percentages concept and build your skills at calculating percentages faster. This is easy to do.

Example: What is 40% of 10?

The straight way of finding it is to use the percentage formula. But there is an even more intuitive and better method.

40% of 10

= 10% of 10 + 10% of 10 + 10% of 10 + 10% of 10

= 4 x (10% of 10)

= (50% of 10) (10% of 10)

How to find the 10% of anything? Simply move the decimal point one place to the left. So 10% of 10 becomes 1.0 = 1. And hence,

40% of 10

= 10% of 10 + 10% of 10 + 10% of 10 + 10% of 10 = 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 4

= 4 x (10% of 10) = 4 x 1 = 4

= (50% of 10) (10% of 10) = 5 - 1 = 4

It may be easier to understand the concept of percentages pictorially. Imagine a 10-part pizza. 40% would then be equivalent to four pieces of the pizza (Part I in the diagram). Increasing this pizza by 10% would then mean adding an eleventh piece of 10% size to the circle (Part II).

Let's see what the connection is among percentages, profit & loss and compound & simple interest in the following 'Set 1' questions,

Q1. As income in 2011 is Rs 20,000 per month. If it increases by 10% next month, what will be the next month's salary?

Q2. A buys an item for Rs 20,000 and sells it for a 10% profit, what is the selling price of the item?

Q3. Town As 2011 population is 20,000 per 1,000 acre. If the population increases by 10%, what will be As population in 2012, per 1,000 acres?

All three of the Set 1 questions are essentially the same. The income in first question corresponds to the price of the item in the second and population in the third. The basic question remains the same --- "What happens if we add an eleventh piece to the pizza?"

Let's pump up the complexity of the above three questions a bit in 'Set 2',

Q1. As income in 2011 is Rs 20,000 per month. If it increases by 10% next month, what will be the next month salary? If the salary further increases by same percentage point in the subsequent month, what will be the final salary amount?

Q2. A buys an item for Rs 20,000 and increases the amount by 10% twice successively, what is the selling price of the item?

Q3. Town As 2011 population is 20,000 per 1,000 acre. If the population increases by 10%, what will be As population in 2013 per 1,000 acres considering similar increase year on year?

The three questions now deal with 'an increase over an increase'.

Q1 Q2 Q3 ValuePercentage changeIncreased value
Set 1IncomeItem pricePopulation20,00010%22,000
Set 2IncomeItem pricePopulation22,000 (after increase of 10%)10% (over an increase)24,200

Now with practice if you learn to identify that the core of all such questions is 'percentage increases' over a base value, gradually it will cease to matter to you whether the question is about income, price, number, area, volume or weight.

This is how the CAT examiners have been confusing test-takers by mixing up terminology from multiple subjects to see if you can identify the main concept and crack the question faster.

In Group II, building conceptual clarity in algebra will make solving questions related to the rest of the group items easier. For Group III, conceptual clarity in ratios and proportions will do the trick.

Make Math practice fun

Those who are not from engineering and science backgrounds often complain about the lack of comfort with maths. In reality, Math can be made an integral part of your life. For instance, when buying fruits and vegetables at supermarkets, observe as the cashier puts an item on the weight machine and then types in a code that displays the final price of that item. Knowing the kilogram price of that item, can you calculate the price in your head during the few seconds that the attendant types in the code? With practice, you can!

If the speed of the cash register discourages you, start with the receipt instead. Select a few items from the printed receipt and perform the calculations in your head on your way back home. Initially, you can try calculating to the nearest whole number approximation and gradually move towards precision.

For example, 800 g of Rs 130 per kg apples would cost 80% of 130, as 800 g is 80% of 1,000g or 1 kg. This will help you get comfortable with percentages. Eventually a comfort zone will emerge and you will start building your own little tricks and shortcuts. All the best!

The author Shubhanshu Bansal is an alumnus of Delhi College of Engineering and an IIFT dropout. He currently works at a Delhi-based test prep company.


Mocks are the most important part of prep work for the Common Admission Test (CAT). Yet, not all students capitalise on them fully. Often, students do not take the CAT because "the syllabus is not yet complete."

The syllabus for the CAT is never complete. Right through preparation time, there will always be some areas that will need brushing up. A mock test gives you an immediate reality check on which sections you need to concentrate on more. Also, it tells you where you stand in the overall standings vis-a-vis the rest of the aspirants. Plus, in the worst case scenario - i.e. you find yourself looking blankly at the screen and nothing seems to make sense, it will drive you to your books!! Also solving a mock cat has a lot to do with confidence in your abilities and any mock or even the CAT for that matter, will have certain questions that can be solved with the application of native intelligence.

Having said all the above - How do you analyse a mock CAT?

Round M1: This is the actual mock inside the hall. Make sure that you use the review button to scan the section and then decide on which questions to attempt. Keep an eye on the clock because you have ultimately 70 minutes for the section and you need to pace yourself accordingly. Keep cool. One additional feature that you can incorporate from my side, for English is to record the order in which you attempt the questions or record the questions about which you are most confident in order of confidence.

For example, you may have attempted the following questions in the English section 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 11,12, 14. Rank them in the order of confidence that you have in your answers which for example, may look like this 6, 12, 5, 3, 1, 14,7,11 - where you are most confident about 6 and least confident 11.I call this ordering your Confidence Index for those questions.

Round M2: After you get the soft copy/ hard copy of the mock CAT, do not look at the solutions! Give yourself another shot at the same mock CAT! Give yourself lesser time say 35 minutes in each section and try to do those questions, which you left out in M1. When you are attempting these questions try to analyse whether these questions are easier than the ones you did in M1. If yes - then there may have been some fault in question selection in M1 during exam conditions. You should have done the M2 questions in M1. Your aim is to ultimately become so good that the M2 questions are consistently more difficult than the M1 questions.

Round M3: Do this 2 days after M2. There will be still some questions left out that you have not managed to do. Now treat this like an open book exam. Use all the resources available at your disposal. Refer to the solutions given, class notes, text books and consult any faculty that you may have access to. Solve these remaining questions using these aids. Also note down these topics which you were not able to solve as this serves as a reminder that you need to refresh your knowledge relating to these topics. Note down the mistakes that you made somewhere and go through them once in a while.

Round M4: Now you have gone through these questions three times! Many of these questions will get hard wired into your brain. So that if you see a similar question in the CAT you will immediately recall how you solved it earlier. Also if you made any silly mistake in trying to solve the question you will hopefully remember to avoid it this time. Check out the solutions for better shortcuts that you might use or actual rules, for questions you may have cracked by gut feeling!

Plus - the CAT is as much about leaving out questions as doing them. If you know which questions to attempt later than sooner then you are that much ahead of the crowd. In M4 just look at those questions which are still unsolved by you or whose solutions you are not confident about despite having seen the official answer. Thus in this case if you see a similar question in the CAT, you give it a wide berth since you were not able to solve it at home. The chances of solving such a question in the exam hall are bleak!

Round M5: Recall that I had asked you to build a Confidence Index (which I call the CAT CONFEX - just like the BSE SENSEX) in Round M1. Once you get your results -total your scores for the bottom half of the CONFEX. For ex : in our Example above 6, 12, 5, 3, 1, 14 7,11 - just total your scores for the answers 1+ 14 +7+11. Over a number of MOCK CATS just watch what is the net score of the bottom half of the CONFEX.

1) If you find that the net score is consistently positive - there is no need for any change

2) If you find that the net score is consistently negative - then there may be a need for rethinking of your strategy since obviously these last few questions are just eating into the score obtained from the top half of the Confex

3) If you find that the net score is completely inconsistent - sometimes negative, sometimes positive - there is not much you can do about it - you just need more maturity to attempt this exam

As far as I am concerned in English - less is more . Though there is a school of thought, which feels that all the answers in English should be marked since you are not sure about so many of the answers anyway!! But I personally feel that marking only those answers which you are confident about, will ultimately fetch you a higher percentile.

Round M6: This is the last exercise with each Mock CAT! Take a diary and mark one page each with a different title. For Example - Parajumbles, Deleted Sentences, Commonly confused words etc. Now when you are analysing the Mock Cat try to categorize each question into a particular type.

Say for Example you were taking MOCK 4 which had 4 Questions and Mock 3 which also had 4 questions of these types


Q1. ParaJumble

Q2. Sentence Correction

Q3. Deleted Sentences

Q4. Commonly Confused Words


Q1. Deleted Sentence

Q2. ParaJumble

Q3. Commonly Confused Words

Q4. Sentence Correction

Now your Diary pages will look like this







and so on..

If you did this consistently for your mocks you will have a question bank at your disposal for revision in the last few weeks before the exam. This could be especially useful in the Quant section as well. All you have to do is to pick your topic and you know where to practice questions from that topic.

Round M7: For each Mock that you solve from now - get hold of an actual CAT paper and try to solve it. As they say - for achieving success - there is nothing like practising on the real thing!!

Tanveer Ahmed is an alumnus of St Xaviers College, Kolkata and currently works with a people search firm as a recruiter. He is a visiting faculty with T.I.M.E. and also coaches and mentors CAT hopefuls online in the intricacies of the English language. (On LinkedIn)

If you think you have what it takes to write interesting articles of the above kind on CAT strategy and have a past record of 99 percentiles in mocks, we are looking for Freelance test prep writers. Feel free to apply and well be happy to hear from you!


Can you tell the difference between historic and historical?

When do you use accept and when do you use except?

Further and Farther? Sensual and Sensuous?

For the last four years the CAT has been testing aspirants on this particular type of vocabulary question. These types of questions can be labelled as Commonly Confused Words.

Format: Typically a sentence is given which has a blank. Two alternatives are provided for filling up the blank. The aspirant has to use his/her knowledge of English vocabulary to select the right word to fit into the blank. Of course this being the CAT - it does not stop at that - one has to solve 5 sentences like these to be able to arrive at one correct answer! Which means that you have to solve all the sentences very carefully. Even if you get one of the sentences wrong the correct answers in all the other sentences would not fetch any marks.

Sample question from CAT 2007


1.Regrettably / Regretfully I have to decline your invitation.

2.I am drawn to the poetic, sensual / sensuous
quality of her paintings.

3.He was besides / beside
himself with rage when I told him what I had done.

4.After brushing against a stationary / stationery
truck my car turned turtle.

5.As the water began to rise over / above
the danger mark, the signs of an imminent flood were


Answer Choices


As you can see in the above question you have to pick the right word for the blanks in Sentences 1-5 and the correct combination among the Answer Choices 1-5 has to be selected.

Practice: The question before us is to how to practice these types of questions as they are not available as a separate topic in any grammar book as such. In such a difficult situation we turn to the Internet for help.

a) Wikipedia: Our first stop is the Wikipedia. Wikipedia has a page with a list of English words which are commonly misused. The list of words are alphabetically arranged. It discusses the meaning of the words and uses the words in a sentence in the right way as well as non standard constructions.

Example from Wikipedia,

  • accept and except. While they sound similar (or even identical), except is a preposition that means "apart from", while accept is a verb that means "agree with", "take in", or "receive". Except is also occasionally used as a verb, meaning to take out or to leave out.

    • Standard: We accept all major credit cards, except Diners Club.

    • Standard: Men are fools... present company excepted! (Which means, "present company excluded")

    • Non-standard: I had trouble making friends with them; I never felt excepted.

    • Non-standard: We all went swimming, accept for Jack.

b) Google: If you type the phrase "Commonly Confused Words" into Google, you should get access to the following resources for CCW.

(i) Oxford Dictionary has a page on this topic - - which is in the following format and has roughly 65-70 word pairs.

Word 1MeaningWord 2Meaning


a sacred table in a church


to change


not concerned with right or wrong


not following accepted moral standards


to assess


to inform someone


agreement, approval


the action of rising or climbing up


relating to the ears or hearing


relating to the mouth; spoken

(ii) - - This too has a listing of pairs of easily confused of words. The advantage is that the meaning is not given on the page itself but rather is in the following format

Word 1Word 2

Once you have taken a look at the words defuse and diffuse and decided what they mean - you can press the review button and it gives you the difference between the the two words in this form,

Remove the fuse from an explosive device. Can be used to mean to 'calm down' an incident.
He defused a dangerous situation by talking calmly and logically to the angry mob.

Spread over a wide area
The wreckage was found over a diffuse area covering nearly thirty square kilometers.

(iii) ABOUT.COM - A number of quizzes are presented on for identifying CCW. The advantage here is that the words are not stand-alone but appear in sentences as they would appear in the CAT. A look at the link shows us the following,

Q: The _____ applauded enthusiastically after the performance was finished.

(a) audience

(b) spectators

You can keep marking your answers and get your score at the end of the the quiz. Other Links on which may be useful for CCW are,




c) As usual there is no place like Pagalguy for your prep work and a casual look at a couple of threads reveals a rich source of CCW.

Examples from PG Threads,

moot:Subject to debate; arguable

E.g: a moot question.

moor: To make fast (a vessel, for example) by means of cables, anchors, or lines

E.g: moor a ship to a dock.


amended:To remove the faults or errors in; correct.

E.g.: President amended the earlier proposal so as to make it more comprehensive.

emended:To improve by critical editing:

E.g.: emend a faulty text.


ingenious**:Marked by inventive skill and imagination.

E.g: an ingenious scheme

igneous: Of, relating to, or characteristic of fire.

E.g.:an igneous desert atmosphere.


prudent: Wise in handling practical matters; exercising good judgment or common sense.

E.g.: a prudent manager

prudish: Marked by or exhibiting the characteristics of a prude(One who is excessive);

E.g. prudish lady

PG Threads for reference purpose,



d) Books - If you are attending coaching classes you will find that they also provide you with a list of CCW in their Grammar Books. Apart from this, a good book to follow for these types of questions is Better English by Normal Lewis.

e) Mock CATS: Since these questions have been coming in the CAT you will find that you will be frequently asked these types of questions in the Mocks . As discussed in my previous article on Mock CAT analysis - maintain a database of these CCW and you will find the databank extremely helpful for revision purpose when the CAT is just round the corner!

I am sure that if you tapped the above sources well you will be exposed to a variety of CCW and will confidently sale through the CCW. Oh! That should have been sail!

Tanveer Ahmed is an alumnus of St Xaviers College, Kolkata and currently works with a people search firm as a recruiter. He is a visiting faculty with T.I.M.E. and also coaches and mentors CAT hopefuls online in the intricacies of the English language. (On LinkedIn)

If you think you have what it takes to write interesting articles of the above kind on CAT strategy and have a past record of 99 percentiles in mocks, we are looking for Freelance test prep writers. Feel free to apply and well be happy to hear from you!

Nike caused controversy with its advertising campaign during the 1996 Olympics by using the slogan, "You Don't Win Silver You Lose Gold." Nike's use of this slogan drew harsh criticism from many former Olympic Silver medalists. In a way, it did undermine the importance of the second position but in Math things are often very different. Figuring out the second last digit is often tougher than figuring out the last digit in the particular type of Quantitative Ability questions I am going to write about. It is unlikely but definitely not impossible that in CAT you get a straightforward question that asks you to find out the second last digit of a number (abcpqr). It did happen in CAT 2008. In few cases, you will be able to do it by forming a cycle and observing the pattern. Those will be the easier cases. Read on if you wish to do the same for the not-so-easy cases.

The question becomes really simple if the last digit in abcpqr is 0 or 5 because if it 0, the second last digit will be 0 and if it is 5, second last digit will be 2 or 7 (which can be easily figured out by observing the cyclicity). All the other questions can be divided in two broad categories,

a) Last digit is odd

b) Last digit is even

I recommend that before using any of the concepts given below, you should try and see if a pattern exists.

Let us consider our number is abcpqr where a, b, c, p, q and r are digits and c is not 0 or 5.

Concept 1: What to do when the last digit is odd?

The second last digit always depends on the last two digits of the number so anything before that can be easily neglected. We first convert the number in such a way that the last digit of the base becomes 1. The second last digit of the number will then simply be,

Last digit of (Second last digit of base) X (Last digit of power)

Let us look at few examples,

Eg 1a: Second last digit of 3791768 = Last digit of 98 = 2

Eg 1b: Second last digit of 1739768 = Second last digit of 39768 = Second last digit of Second Last digit of 1521384 = Last digit of 2 4 = 8

Eg 1c: Second last digit of 9317768 = Second last digit of 17768 = Second last digit of (174) 192 = Second last digit of (21) 192 = Last digit of 2 x 2 = 4

Concept 2: What to do when the last digit is even?

The second last digit always depends on the last two digits of the number so anything before that can be easily neglected.

We need to remember the following ideas:

  • **2 raised to power 10 will always end in 24.

  • 24 raised to an even power will always end in 76 and to an odd power will always end in 24.

  • 76 raised to any power will always end in 76.

Now we can use these to find out the second last digit. We reduce the number in such a way that the last two digits of the base become 76.

Eg 2a: Second last digit of 1372482

? Second last digit of 72482

? Second last digit of 72480 x 722

? Second last digit of (7210) 48 x (**84)

? Second last digit of 2448 x (**84)

? Second last digit of 76 x 84

? Second last digit of 6384 = 8

Eg 2b: Second last digit of 48307 = (483) 102 x 48 = (****92) 102 x 48

? Second last digit of 92100 x 922 x 48 = 76 x (**64) x 48

? Second last digit of (****72) = 7

Eg 2c: Second last digit of 15484 = Second last digit of (54) 84

? Second last digit of (545) 16 x 544 = (***24) 16 x (542) 2

? Second last digit of 76 x (2916) 2

? Second last digit of 76 x 56

? Second last digit of 4256 = 5

I hope that after reading this post you will be at ease in figuring out the second last digit in such type of questions. I also hope that you will not mind winning silver medals either.

Ravi Handa, an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur, has been teaching for CAT and various other competitive exams for around a decade. He currently runs an online CAT coaching and CAT Preparation course on his website

It's the time of the year for the PaGaLGuY community's CAT teams again. The teams which everyone wants to get into, not just because they smoothen the MBA entrance journey but also because of the bonhomie, friendships and the memorable moments they foster.

What are these teams and how do they work?

There are four national teams,

Dream Team

Underdogs Team

Shout boxers team

Gals' Dream Team.

And regional/city versions of some of these teams.

1. PaGaLGuY Dream Team

The Maharaja Mac of PaGaLGuY teams, the most followed one, looked at by everybody for inspiration. Almost all puys from past versions of the Dream Team are studying in or have graduated from the best b-schools of the country. This team comprises all the mock CAT maulers and proven performers in the previous year's entrance tests.

Getting into this team allows you to network and interact with the best minds of the country in the MBA test preparation arena.

Nomination and selection: Anyone on PaGaLGuY can vote for puys they think are truly 'dream team material'. Then the votes are counted by the judges to select the team comprising 11 members, two reserves, two cheerleaders and a coach.

More here.

2. Underdogs Team

"Feels like I'm lost in a moment

I'm always losing to win

Can't get away from the moment

Seems like it's time to begin."

Everyone who gets into this team is an underdog at heart. This team is for everyone who may not be a serial mock topper but has the potential to become a top performer any one of these days. Time and again, puys from past editions of this team have also made it to the best b-schools of this country and at times given the Dream Team some existential troubles.

For the Underdogs Team, puys can nominate themselves. Eventually, the judges select the members based on how much fire the nominees have in their bellies.

More here.

3. Shout Boxers Team

The most entertaining and colorful team of PaGaLGuY. A team for all those who love spending their time chit-chatting on the shout box and elsewhere, but still have the passion to make it big.

More here.

4. PaGaL Gals Dream Team

Girl power! A team of future CAT crackers exclusively for girls, also known as the fashion-brigade or naari-shakti of PaGaLGuY. This team had its first edition last year and members made it to IIMs and other elite schools.

More here.

Besides these, there are also regional and city versions of the above national teams.

How do these teams help?

Just as 1 and 1 make 11. Participating in these teams can increase your efficiency at the CAT and enlighten your thought process. Whenever you are down, someone from your team would always be around to motivate you, to inspire you.

Constant idea sharing takes place inside each of the teams. In the process, these teams become like your family. Most importantly, they make your CAT journey beautiful and memorable by splashing it with a bunch of great people.

Deadline for nominations to these teams: August 25, 2011

(Yeah, act fast!)

How to nominate? Visit the threads linked above. See an overview here.

Nitin Kumar is rahicecream on the PaGaLGuY forums.

(Photo credit: Christopher Matson)

One of the most dreaded portions of the English section of the CAT is the one relating to grammar. MBA applicants find themselves frequently at a loss while trying to negotiate a deadly landmine of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions articles and gerunds. Additionally this is something that is of practical use to applicants in their professional life. Poor grammar makes for a poor impression! Thus --- proficiency in this section becomes all the more critical!

A frequently tested aspect of grammar in MBA entrance tests is "Subject-Verb Agreement" (SVA).

The Basics

Subject: The part of a sentence that commonly indicates what it is about, or who or what performs a particular action. The simple subject consists of the specific noun or pronoun that is doing the action or whose state of being is being described.


The most hardworking student in my class never sleeps much.

The simple subject of the sentence is student because the student performs the action. The complete subject of the sentence includes the simple subject and all words that modify it: The most hardworking student in my class.

Verb: The part of speech that expresses existence, action, or occurrence. In other words the 'doing word'. It may also express a state of being.


The most hardworking student in my class never sleeps much.

The verb 'sleeps' describes the action of the sentence.


Consequently, he is always fresh.

The verb 'is' describes the state of being of the subject, he.

Generic Rules

1. Agreement in Number: SVA implies that if the subject is plural (cats), then the verb needs to be plural (meow). If the subject is singular (cat) then the verb needs to be singular (meows).

Do remember that verbs do not form their plurals by adding an 's' as nouns do. In order to determine which verb is singular and which one is plural, think of which verb you would use with he or she and which verb you would use with they.

runs, run

Which one is the singular form? Which word would you use with he? We say, "He runs." Therefore, runs is singular. We say, "They run." Therefore, run is plural.

2. Agreement in Person: Sentences are written in either first, second, or third person, based on the author's viewpoint. If a sentence is written in first person, the writer is writing about herself/himself, using pronouns such as I and we. In a second-person sentence, the writer speaks directly to the reader, using the pronoun you. Third-person sentences generally refer to their subjects by name or with pronouns like he, she, it,or they.

Often, there will be a change in the form of the verb, depending on whether its subject is in first, second, or third person. For example, the singular first-person, second-person, and third-person forms of the verb are completely different from each other as seen below,

I am hungry. ( am - a first-person subject)

You are hungry. ( are - a second-person subject)

He is hungry. ( is - third-person subject)

There are some additional rules that will help you to maintain SVA in Sentence Correction questions of MBA entrance examinations.

1. A subject made up of two or more nouns or pronouns joined by and takes a plural subject, unless that subject is intended to be singular.

He and I run every day. (Plural)

Peanut butter and jelly is my favorite sandwich. (Singular)

2. When a subject is made up of nouns joined by or, the verb agrees with the last noun.

He or I run every day.

Potatoes, pasta, or rice pairs well with grilled chicken.

3. Dont get confused by the words that come between the subject and verb; they do not affect agreement. Connectives, phrases such as combined with, coupled with, accompanied by, added to, along with, together with, and as well as, do not change the number of the subject. These phrases are usually set off with commas

The dog, who is barking noisily, is usually very well behaved.

The team captain, as well as his players, is disappointed.

4. When I is one of the two subjects connected by either/or or neither/nor, put it second and follow it with the singular verb am.

Neither she nor I am going to the festival.

5. When a compound subject contains both a singular and a plural noun or pronoun joined by or/nor , the verb should agree with the part of the subject that is nearer the verb.

The boy or his friends run every day.

His friends or the boy runs every day.

6. Words such as each, either, neither, anyone, everyone, someone, no one, nobody are always singular and, therefore, require singular verbs.

For example, when we write each of my sons, the verb must agree with the singular subject each instead of the plural noun sons. And the singular subject everyone who knows my sons should be followed by the singular is impressed by them, and not are impressed by them.

Note: There is one indefinite pronoun, none, that can be either singular or plural

  • None of you claims responsibility for this incident?

  • None of you claim responsibility for this incident?

7. Collective nouns (team, couple, staff,committee etc.) take either a singular or plural verb depending on whether the emphasis is on the individual units or on the group as whole.

The committee were divided over the issue. (Tip : Think of it as --- The commitee (members) were divided over the issue.)

The cricket team is practicing for the World Cup.

8. With words that indicate portions percent, fraction, part, majority, some, all, none, remainder and so forth look at the noun in your of phrase (object of the preposition) to determine whether to use a singular or plural verb. If the object of the preposition is singular, use a singular verb. If the object of the preposition is plural, use a plural verb.


70% of the cake has been eaten

70% of the cakes have been eaten


As in any other subject regular and continuous practice is the key to success. There is no magic wand! After every Grammar lesson - this what you should be doing,

1. Refer to to your grammar book and go to the related chapter. Solve the exercise problems given at the end of the chapter. More than just mugging the rules you should be focussing on these practice questions.

2. Use online resources for additional practice




3. If you are really diligent and serious about the CAT - while you are doing your online research - keep open a word doc into which you copy paste all the material that you come across on the particular topic. Save the word document with the relevant name e. g. -Subject Verb agreement and you have a ready reckoner for revision when the CAT is just round the corner. CAT is not only about working hard but also about working smart!

The successful student is one who can quickly revise all the concepts of the year long study in a matter of weeks!

Tanveer Ahmed is an alumnus of St Xaviers College, Kolkata and currently works with a people search firm as a recruiter. He is a visiting faculty with T.I.M.E. and also coaches and mentors CAT hopefuls online in the intricacies of the English language. (On LinkedIn)

If you think you have what it takes to write interesting articles of the above kind on CAT strategy and have a past record of 99 percentiles in mocks, we are looking for Freelance test prep writers. Feel free to apply and well be happy to hear from you!

The concept of divide and conquer, derived from the Latin phrase Divide et impera, was put into use effectively by everyone from Caesar to Napoleon to the British in India. Even Muammar Gaddafi tried using it but as the latest news events show us --- he wasnt very effective at gaining from it. Dividing --- rather divisibility rules to be specific --- can come in really handy at times in solving problems based on Number Systems.

The standard rules which nearly all of us are very comfortable with are the ones for 2n and 5n --- all that one needs to do is look at the last n digits of the number. If the last n digits of a number are divisible by 2n or 5n, then the number is divisible by 2n or 5n and vice versa. For rules about a few other types of numbers, I suggest that you read on.

Funda 1

For checking divisibility by p, which is of the format of 10n 1, sum of blocks of size n needs to be checked (blocks should be considered from the least significant digit, or the right side). If the sum is divisible by p, then the number is divisible by p.

Example 1,

Check if a number (N = abcdefgh) is divisible by 9

? 9 is 101 1

? Sum of digits is done 1 at a time = a + b + c + d + e + f + g + h = X

? If X is divisible by 9, N is divisible by 9

? Also, N is divisible by all factors of 9. Hence the same test works for 3.

Example 2,

Check if a number (N = abcdefgh) is divisible by 99

? 99 is 102 1

? Sum of digits is done 2 at a time = ab + cd + ef + gh = X

? If X is divisible by 99, N is divisible by 99

? Also, N is divisible by all factors of 99. Hence the same test works for 9, 11 and others.

Example 3,

Check if a number (N = abcdefgh) is divisible by 999

? 999 is 103 1

? Sum of digits is done 3 at a time = ab + cde + fgh = X

? If X is divisible by 999, N is divisible by 999

? Also, N is divisible by all factors of 999. Hence the same test works for 27, 37 and others.

Funda 2

For checking divisibility by p, which is of the format of 10n + 1, alternating sum of blocks of size n needs to be checked (blocks should be considered from the least significant digit, or the right side). If the alternating sum is divisible by p, then the number is divisible by p.

(Alternating Sum: Sum of a given set of numbers with alternating + and signs. Since we are using it to just check the divisibility, the order in which + and signs are used is of no importance.)

Example 1,

Check if a number (N = abcdefgh) is divisible by 11

? 11 is 101 + 1

? Alternating sum of digits is done 1 at a time = a - b + c - d + e - f + g - h = X

? If X is divisible by 11, N is divisible by 11

Example 2,

Check if a number (N = abcdefgh) is divisible by 101

? 101 is 102 + 1

? Alternating sum of digits is done 2 at a time = ab - cd + ef - gh = X

? If X is divisible by 101, N is divisible by 101

Example 3,

Check if a number (N = abcdefgh) is divisible by 1001

? 1001 is 103 + 1

? Sum of digits is done 3 at a time = ab - cde + fgh = X

? If X is divisible by 1001, N is divisible by 1001

? Also, N is divisible by all factors of 1001. Hence the same test works for 7, 11, 13 and others.

Funda 3: Osculator/seed number method

For checking divisibility by p,

Step 1: Figure out an equation such that

p ? n = 10m 1

If we have this equation, the osculator/seed number for p will be -+m. (-m in case of 10m+1 and +m in case of 10m 1)

Step 2: Remove the last digit and multiply it with the seed number.

Step 3: Add the product with the number that is left after removing the last digit.

Step 4: Repeat Steps 2 and 3 till you get to a number which you can easily check that whether or not it is divisible by p.


Check whether 131537 is divisible by 19 or not.

? 19?1 = 10?2 1 (Seed number is +2)

? 131537 ?13153+7?2=13167?1316+7?2=1330?133+0?2=133

? 133 is divisible by 19

? 131537 is divisible by 19

I hope that these divisibility rules will enable you to divide and conquer few of the Number Systems problems that you encounter during your preparation.

Ravi Handa, an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur, has been teaching for CAT and various other competitive exams for around a decade. He currently runs an online CAT coaching and CAT Preparation course on his website

Do you back up or back away or back down? Break away / Break down / Break up? Call back / call off/ call on? Do you find it difficult to differentiate among them? Then, welcome to Phrasal Verbs ! To start with, let's find out the difference between ordinary usage and phrasal verbs,

(1) I got on the No. 8 bus at Banerjee Road. vs I boarded the No. 8 bus at Banerjee Road.

(2) I really need to get on with my paper! vs I really need to continue writing!

(3) We need to get on together to succeed. vs We need to understand each other to succeed.

(4) We?ll have to be getting on soon, or we?ll be late. vs We should leave soon, or we?ll be late.

As you can see the same meaning is conveyed by the pair of sentences but while one of them uses a single word, the other uses a phrasal verb.

Definition - A Phrasal Verb is a combination of words in any of the following forms :-




Very often the phrasal verb (PV) has a meaning which is quite different from the original verb. This makes it slightly difficult for the new learner because, even if he breaks down the phrasal verb into different words and looks up its meaning in the dictionary, he will not be able to understand the meaning of the phrasal verb itself. For example 'look after' as a PV means 'take care of.' However independently look would mean 'see' and 'after' means 'next in order'! There are some resources on the web which help with understanding the meaning of phrasal verbs. Say - you come across the phrasal verb 'keep up' and want to know the usages of the phrasal verb.

Go to - and type in the phrasal verb 'keep up' in the Verb Search Box at the top

This will throw up the following results:

  • You're walking too fast. I can't keep up with you.

  • Life moves on. I just can't keep up with it. In her first few weeks in her new job, she took some work home in order to keep up.

  • The underwater pictures are unbelievable. Keep up the good work.

  • The international community needs to keep up the pressure and maintain a visible presence in Cambodia during the critical transition period.

  • You're not being honest to yourself so you probably won't even keep up the pretense for very long.

Some Rules for Phrasal Verbs

1) Verb + preposition / adverb


I ran into my teacher at the movies last night. So run + into = meet

2. Some phrasal verbs are intransitive. An intransitive verb cannot be followed by an object.


She suddenly showed up. 'show up' cannot take an object

3. Some phrasal verbs are transitive. A transitive verb can be followed by an object.


We made up the story. So 'story' is the object of 'make up.'

4. Some transitive phrasal verbs are separable. The object is placed between the verb and the preposition.


I talked my mother into letting me borrow the car. Here mother is the object for the verb

5. Some transitive phrasal verbs are inseparable. The object is placed after the preposition.


I ran into an old friend yesterday.

Some Phrasal Verbs are discussed below to illustrate how different meanings can be obtained from the same word


break down = fail to function

break in = interrupt a discussion; burgle

break off = discontinue (relationship etc.)

break out = escape from prison

break up = end a relationship


call back = return a phone call

call for = require

call off = cancel

call out = read names aloud

call on = request somebody to do something

call up = reach by phone


fall apart = fall into pieces

fall behind = fail to keep up pace

fall for = be in love with; deceived by

fall off = decrease

fall out with = quarrel with

fall through = fail, miscarry

What is the relevance of Phrasal Verbs in the CAT?

Phrasal Verbs are used quite frequently in everyday spoken English. That itself makes them very important! Apart from this, PV are tested in the CAT in the following form. A sample word is taken and and four different sentences are constructed using the sample word. One has to identify which of the sentences has incorrect usage.


Sample Word : Hand

1. I have my hand full I cannot do it today.

2. The minister visited the jail to see the breach at first hand

3. The situation is getting out of hand here.

4. When the roof of my house was blown away, he was willing to lend me a hand.

The most frequently used phrasal verbs are formed with the following words: break, bring, call, carry, come, do, fall, get, go, keep, look, make, put, run, set, take, turn.

Make sure that you research the above phrasal verbs from the sources given below and thoroughly understand the different ways in which these phrasal verbs can be used.

Sources for Practice:


Tanveer Ahmed is an alumnus of St Xaviers College, Kolkata and currently works with a people search firm as a recruiter. He is a visiting faculty with T.I.M.E. and also coaches and mentors CAT hopefuls online in the intricacies of the English language. (On LinkedIn)

If you think you have what it takes to write interesting articles of the above kind on CAT strategy and have a past record of 99 percentiles in mocks, we are looking for Freelance test prep writers. Feel free to apply and well be happy to hear from you!