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CAT 2009: Why you need a draft strategy

November 12, 2009 10:28 IST

In the last few weeks before CAT, a very important thing for you to do is to analyse your test scores and performance in a detailed manner. If you have been taking mock tests, you should sit down with your performance results and try to spot a trend. Crucial aspects to look out are:

In the English Section

In the Quant Section

In the Data Interpretation and Analytical Reasoning Section

The reason for doing this is that it is time for you to decide your strategy to attempt the paper. Of course, this is only an 'interim' or 'draft strategy'. The reason why it is called interim is that there is no way you can actually predict the CAT paper, and hence your actual final strategy must be decided only when you get the actual question paper in your hand/view the questions on the computer screen, as we shall see in the next chapter, since there is always some unpredictable aspect in the CAT exam.

Nevertheless, it is beneficial to have an interim strategy in place. As Louis Pasteur said "Chance favours the prepared mind". This will ensure that there is some method you adopt in tackling the CAT exam and that you do not panic and attempt the paper in a random, haphazard way.

It is time to decide what type of questions you will definitely take a shot-at in the exam, what you will most likely leave and what you think you should work more on in the remaining month. For example, let us say that you are weak with passages pertaining to philosophy. What you can do is read 5-6 passages on this theme from a journal or a site like and improve your confidence and comprehension abilities in such passages.

Similarly, if you realize that you are weak in Geometry, you can go back and revise the basics from any of the CAT preparatory material you may have with you. In addition, you can decide to practice 15-20 questions on this topic every day for the next 7-10 days, thus attempting to improve yourself in these types of questions.

Or if you are weak in Mathematical/Analytical Reasoning based questions, you can practice the same from a good book on the same lines (10-15 questions a day for 7-10 days).

The important thing is to take stock of where you currently stand a few weeks before CAT and focus your preparation accordingly.

Getting your interim strategy in place

Now based on the analysis you should have done as mentioned above and all the practice exams you may have taken, it is time to devise your 'interim' strategy. This strategy should cover the following aspects:

Do you plan to spend some time at the completion of the exam, cross-checking or verifying some of the answers, especially of those questions that you are not really sure of and have just estimated or guessed the answer?

Remember that this is only an interim strategy. Points like the sectional cut-offs etc can only be actually decided when you see the question paper on the day of the exam and judge its level of difficulty. CAT can certainly throw-up surprises -- instead of the usual three sections these days, you may face four or five or even two sections.

Think also of a back-up plan. What will you do if the unexpected happens? If nothing you had planned happens, this plan can be implemented?

Keep in mind that this interim strategy that you have decided should be a 'customized' one, a unique one, given your areas of strength and weakness, your comfort levels etc. Do not borrow this strategy from anyone else, without tailoring it to your needs.

Excerpted from An Introduction to the CAT: Tips from an IIM Alumnus by Sidharth Balakrishna with permission from the publisher Pearson Education India.