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How to Crack the CAT 2014? Useful Tips and Strategies

An interview with CAT coaching expert Tony Xavier, Head of IMS Chennai on cracking one of the toughest entrance exams in India. Learn everything about the CAT 2014 exam and get useful tips, insights and strategies to bell the CAT 2014!

Head of IMS Chennai

About IMS: IMS Learning Resources Pvt Ltd. is India's one of the oldest and most reputed training institutions which prepares students for entrance examinations and professional courses. Founded in 1977 by Prof. Nagesh Rane, the institute has grown tremendously with 75 centers spread across 44 cities in India. The institute believes in mentoring, motivating, guiding and accompanying student to achieve their dream of crossing the threshold of entrance exams and studying in one of the top management institutes in India or abroad.

How CAT aspirants should prepare for the exam?

Tony Xavier: The CAT 2014 exam is just three months away. So aspirants need to plan strategically and prepare religiously, to increase their chances of cracking the exam. With major changes in the CAT 2014 exam pattern, candidates will get increased number of questions 60 (previously) to 100 (as per the new pattern) and time duration going up from 140 min (previously) to 170 min. The real challenge will be how effectively students manage their time (170 minutes).

There are two different CAT aspirants -- Fresher and Re-appearing Candidate (who have already appeared for CAT previously). Students who are appearing for the first time should take up CAT Coaching classes and practice as many mock tests as possible, at least 25 full length test to get a hang of the new exam format. Generally, students tend to focus more on the Quantitative section as they need to learn a lot of concepts and devote less time for preparing the Data Interpretation, Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning sections. Rather they should split up time equally for the three sections and practice a minimum of 3 sets of question papers for each of the sections every day. And the rest of the time, they can learn quantitative concepts and practice test papers. As for the re-appearing candidates (who already attended CAT coaching classes), they need to focus more on learning new quantitative concepts, practice at least 25 mock test papers in the new CAT pattern, devote time to practice 3 sets of test papers every day in Verbal Ability, Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning sections. Every section of the CAT test is important, as candidates need to score cut-off marks in each of the sections.

How should working professionals go about preparing for CAT 2014?

Tony Xavier: In terms of preparation for the 2014 CAT exam, there is no different strategy for students or working professionals. If a working professional is appearing for CAT for the first time, he/she should take up CAT coaching classes as a fresher would do. Since they have less time, they can focus more on taking up mock test papers as much as possible rather than learning new concepts. Cracking the CAT requires a lot of preparation and practicing CAT test papers on a regular basis.


Which section of CAT is difficult and how aspirants can overcome it?

Tony Xavier: I don t think there is any specific section in the CAT exam which can be deemed as more difficult than the others. Some students find Quantitative section difficult and others find hard to answer Verbal Ability questions. The real challenge for students is to qualify for top B-schools such as IIMs by securing sectional and overall cut-off marks, to get into top management schools. The CAT exam is more or less very unpredictable, as one year the Verbal Ability section can be very difficult with relatively easy questions in the Quantitative section. So it will be incorrect to say one specific section is more difficult than the others.

But I feel students on an average find the Data Interpretation part difficult. To tackle it, they should practice 2-4 test papers or devote 20-30 min (every day) to practice Data Interpretation questions. Aspirants should also try to solve the questions quickly.

What traits in students generally cracks the CAT exam?

Tony Xavier: CAT is an unpredictable test and in a given year one of the sections can be more difficult than the others or other way round. And each of the students have different weak areas so they should try to learn concepts which they find difficult. Generally, students who crack the CAT exam have the following traits:

  • Flexibility in terms of willing to learn new concepts
  • Willing to work hard and overcome their weak areas
  • Preparing consistently and focusing on working every day dedicatedly
  • Ability to stay calm

What are the two most important soft skills required for a future management student?

Tony Xavier: The two most important soft skills required in a future management student would be -- very good communication & articulation skill and people s skills. A future manager will require to communicate & articulate effectively with a number of people while running or being a part of meetings on a daily basis. They should be able to communicate & articulate effectively - orally, in writing and using a PPT. People skill is another critical skill a future manager will require, as he/she need to work with a number of people from same or different teams. The ability to get along with various people easily is of utmost importance, as they will hardly work in isolation or in an individual capacity.

How students can prepare for the group discussions and personal interview?

Tony Xavier: In the last two years, top management schools such as IIMs have moved from group discussion to essay writing which generally requires aspirants to have more information or awareness on a topic. Aspirants should be more aware of current affairs especially in key policy decision making areas (for the last six month from now) e.g. should FDI in retail be allowed? And more similar topics, for the CAT Group Discussion round.

For the personal interview, candidates should have in-depth domain knowledge besides knowing their role and responsibilities. Candidates should do extensive research in their respective sector .i.e. IT, Automobile, Retail and know the current trends in the specific sector. It s essential that candidates know about top five companies in India and internationally of a specific sector and keep a track on company specific details.

What are the positive aspects and challenges, aspirants may face with the new CAT format?

Tony Xavier: The biggest challenge of CAT 2014 exam is the absence of sectional time limit. Students may end up wasting a lot of time or losing track of time in a particular section. Time mismanagement and getting stuck in one section can be major issue for candidates, which may end up in not clearing sectional cut-off marks.

On the brighter side, candidates can utilize the time (170 min) and tailor it as per their strengths and weakness - thus maximizing strengths and minimizing weakness. In the previous CAT format, students had no option of switching between sections so they were not able to utilize their time completely. With the new format, a student can complete sections they are comfortable with quickly and devote the rest of the time solving difficult questions in other sections.

Effective time management will be crucial for cracking the CAT 2014 exam.

A winning mantra you would like give to CAT 2014 aspirants

Tony Xavier: A winning mantra would be spending as much time analyzing a mock test paper, as much time spend on taking a test. Analyzing each mock test paper from three angles is important:

  • Trying to know the solution of each question which a candidate does not know
  • Finding better solution for each question
  • Knowing exactly the best score they could have scored

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