This article discusses tips and strategies for testing day for this year's computer-based CAT.
Firstly, it is important to have a plan in place to attempt the computer-based CAT. Your plan of action should be decided based on all the practice and mock exams you might have taken and a careful analysis of your performance.
You should be clear on:
- In which section you normally score well -- your areas of comfort.
- What kinds of questions you are normally able to solve.
- Your weaknesses -- questions that you cannot solve or where you take too much time.
From this, you should have an idea of aspects such as:
- Which section -- English, Quantitative Ability or Data Interpretation and Analytical Ability -- you will attempt at first
- Which type of questions you will tackle and in what order. For example, within English, you might choose to do Reading Comprehension after the Verbal Ability section or vice versa.
- How much time you will spend on each of the sections: do you devote equal time to each or slightly more time to the section in which you are most comfortable?
- You should have at least a vague idea of the minimum number of questions you will attempt in the various sections. This will ensure that you clear the sectional cut-offs.
- Will you spend some time at the end going back to certain questions or verifying some of the answers, to ensure a decent accuracy level?
Besides this plan, it may also be useful to have a fallback strategy -- a plan B. What will you do if the unexpected happens? For example, what do you do if the section where you hoped to do well turns out to have extremely tough questions in a particular paper?
How to begin:
Make sure you go through the instructions very carefully before you commence the exam. Try and check the following:
- How many questions there are in total
- How many questions per section (generally there are equal number of questions per section, but this is not always the case)
- Is there any kind of differential marking scheme ie do some questions have a higher weightage than others?
Next, even though the CAT is now computer-based, you could try and scan through a few questions to see what types of questions there are. For example, how many Reading Comprehension questions are there? Are there any questions on Vocabulary at all?
Attempting the paper
- Make sure you are conscious of time, especially since there are different sections. If you spend too much time on one section, you may end up struggling to clear the sectional cut-off for others.
- Try to stick to your strategy: Try not to panic and forget your strategy. Remember, if you find a particular section extremely difficult, it is so for everybody.
- Attempt the paper in a smart manner. There are some types of questions, such as Reading Comprehension and Analytical Reasoning, that may require a higher degree of concentration that others. Do not leave such types of questions for the end.
- Also, you will have to estimate what the minimum sectional cut-offs are for all sections. This will depend on the difficulty level of that section. Previous practice tests and mock exams should help you judge the possible cut-offs.
- Accuracy: Accuracy is very important. Do not indulge in excessive guesswork. You should aim for an overall accuracy level of close to 80 per cent.
- Use the answer choices for solving some questions: There are always some questions, particularly in the Quantitative Ability section, that can be solved by using the various answer options. Be aware of this possibility.
- Make sure you attempt the 'sitters': Based on your comfort level and skill, you will find some relatively easy questions. Try and ensure that you spot these and solve them.
- Ensure that you do the questions that give the maximum return for your time: This may mean doing the questions that take the least time to solve individually or doing sets of 'linked questions' or caselets-while solving these may take time, you get the answers to a set of three or four questions and hence more marks. At the same time, you should leave the 'speed breaker' questions that take too long to solve.
Sidharth Balakrishna, an MBA from IIM Calcutta, currently works in a global consulting firm in New Delhi. He is the author of best-selling book 'An Introduction to CAT: Tips from an IIM Alumnus' and is a recognised MBA preparation expert, having trained students for over five years. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org