This is a common yet important question, especially for those who have just made their mind to give a shot at the CAT exam. Oftentimes, what happens is that aspirants are highly motivated to study hard and crack the cat exam, but they just don’t have an idea as to how to kick-start the cat preparation. They don’t know where to start.
I was in a similar situation in 2017. I began my preparation in January 2017, and I did not join any coaching institute. So, based on my experience, I am sharing with you how you can prepare for this exam (assuming that you have 7-10 months for preparation). A word of caution – the following points are the ones that I followed. These might or might not work for you. Having said that, this is not the only way to prepare, but one of the ways that you can follow.
Start with WHY:
The first step towards CAT preparation is knowing why you want to do it. The CAT exam demands consistent preparation over a period. In this period, there comes a time when our confidence shakes, and we get demotivated. In such a situation, it is important to have a good reason to prepare for CAT so that when you feel down, your reason can lift you and motivate you to keep going. So, always start with why.
Don’t rush, cover the basic concepts first:
It is very important to do things at your own pace. Don’t rush. In the first place, you can start solving basic questions of all the sections. Spending 2-3 hours daily will help you gain some confidence in a month itself. You can increase your study time then. I solved questions from TIME booklets, and that helped me gain some basic understanding of the concepts. You don’t need to join any coaching just because you want to have the material. If you feel, you can prepare on your own, you should. You can easily get the study material of any coaching institutes in soft copy.
- Quant: If you have been out of touch with books, a good idea is to brush up the basic concepts first. You can cover the basics from booklets of any coaching institute. They precisely explain the topics and then provide practise exercises that help you reinforce the concepts. From my experience, you should cover the topics in the following order. Arithmetic –> Algebra –> Number Systems –> Geometry. This order ensures that you are covering the easier and relatively important topics before the tricky ones. And for speed, you should work daily for around half an hour working on speed maths learning various tricks to calculate fast. Speed Maths module of TIME can come in handy for this. I have covered the quant preparation strategy in detail here.
- LRDI: To be honest, LRDI is all about practice and getting exposure to as many varieties of sets as you can. And for this, you need to practice as many sets you can. To start things, you can start practising topics from any of the coaching institute’s booklets. Once you are abreast of all the basic concepts, you can start exploring more LRDI sets here and there. You can also solve sets from previous year mock tests (AIMCAT and SIMCAT).
Read: How Should I Prepare LRDI For CAT?
- VARC: Don’t rush, cover the basic concepts first: Quant and LRDI can be mastered by practice. Certain formulas can be applied to quant and LRDI questions. However, VARC is a different ball game. To get better in VARC, read, read, and read. There is no substitute for reading. The more you read, the better you can become at comprehending RCs, which form a major chunk of the whole VARC section. So, read. Read anything and everything. Read whatever you like, be it sports, entertainment, politics, history or psychology or whatever. Just read. It is very important to develop the reading habit to ace this section. You may read from any source – novel, newspaper, blogs or websites. And be consistent with reading. If you are not an avid reader, you may not like reading initially, but with persistence, you will develop a taste for it.
This is the most important aspect of CAT preparation. You need to be in touch with all the sections throughout your preparation. Long breaks may break your rhythm and cost you dearly. So, even if your schedule is hectic, make sure you spend some time to solve at least a few questions daily from all the sections. This helps you retain your confidence and positivity.
Join peer-learning groups:
This point is derived from my second point. Peer-learning groups are a great way to maintain consistency in your preparation. These groups keep you busy daily through myriad questions that keep coming up on these groups. This allows you to help as well as get helped. You can join ‘The CAT Talk‘ group on Facebook. It will help you get all your doubts and queries answered quickly.
Don’t delay in taking mocks:
Once you feel that you have covered 60-70% of the syllabus, buy a test series, and start taking mocks. You should not wait to be 100% prepared. This will never happen. You should start taking mocks ideally from the first week of June. Every week, you should take one mock. And there is one thing more important than taking mocks, and that is analyzing it. If you are taking a mock for 3 hours, you should spend 5-6 hours analyzing it. This is how you will feel 100% prepared gradually. Before the CAT exam, you must take at least 30 mocks (assuming that you are an average student).
Maintain a learning diary:
Some formulas, some concepts are really hard to grasp, no? Indeed. So, to ensure that you get a better hold on them, you should maintain a learning diary where you can note down all the important formulas and concepts. You can also maintain word files topic wise and take screenshots of tough/important questions and save them in that file. Revising them time and again will help you solve those quickly in the exam (telling this from my experience, literally).
Don’t ignore any section:
99.5+ percentile is a waste if you fail to clear the cut-off score of all the three sections. So, don’t take any section for granted. Try to solve questions from each section daily. This is important.
Solve previous year questions:
Generally, questions don’t repeat in CAT, but concepts do. So, solve previous year questions religiously to get the hang of what CAT questions look like. This is one of the best forms of practice. You can get all the previous year questions in the Face2Face book. It is available on Amazon.
Practice, practice, and practice:
More than talent, cracking any competitive exam is about intent. So, persevere. Keep practising. Practice as much as you can from as many sources as you can. There is no one book that one should follow for CAT preparation.
Take time out to unwind yourself:
Just like any machine, humans also need breaks. So, take breaks at regular intervals of time to unwind yourself so that you can practice harder and longer.
Finally, don’t give up:
Not saying this for the sake of saying, but I mean it, literally. CAT is more about intent than talent. In this journey, there will be times when you won’t score well in mocks, or when you will lack the motivation to prepare for the CAT exam. In such moments, do anything but give up. As mentioned above, whenever you feel low, take a break, but don’t give up. Around two lac aspirants take CAT every year, but only around 20 k go on preparing seriously till the end, others cave-in to disappointment mid-way, and fail eventually. So, competition is not that fierce, you see!
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