As we enter the final month to CAT 2010, many test-takers are confused about what their strategy should be for the last leg of their prep. Here Vinayak Kudva, IMS Learning Resources, addresses some of the most frequently asked questions CAT candidates have:
How many tests should I take in the last month?
Taking about 5 to 6 tests in the last 30 days is recommended. But more important than taking the test is its analysis. If you don't learn from each test before proceeding to the next, there is no point in taking a large number of them.
Try out various strategies for each test such as dividing your time equally in each section or spending more time on the weaker sections by working quickly in the stronger sections.
It is also important to attempt a variety of tests because you may score well in a test that is more suited to your strengths while the CAT may carry more questions of the kind you are uncomfortable with.
Exposure to range of problems and the rationale behind them will ensure that you are better prepared.
How much time should I spend on studying for the CAT every day?
Ideally, you shouldn't spend more than four hours a day on studying for the CAT. The manner in which those four hours are utilised depends on the individual student's strengths and weaknesses. Some may prefer to spend more time on verbal while other on DI. Ultimately, you must ensure that your progress in each section is equal.
This holds greater relevance if you are aiming only for the IIMs because at these institutes, cut-offs matter. Organise your day in such a way that the hours spent studying are those when your brain is most active. Working professionals for example, shouldn't study at night after a hard day's work.
Preparing for this test is not like preparing for school and college, where you need to spend long hours memorising.
Can I leave out topics that I find too tough?
Students usually find topics such as Modern Math tough but you must remember that Modern Math questions in the CAT are not always tough nor are Arithmetic questions always easy.
Your aim is to maximise your score in all sections, you can do that by solving all the easy questions. The earlier CATs had a greater number of questions so you could probably afford to leave out certain topics. But today, with 20 questions to a section and possibly a further division into 1 and 2 mark questions, you cannot afford to leave questions out. You can't even assume that the one-mark questions will be easier than the two markers.
If you leave out Modern Math entirely, you have narrowed your selection to only the easy questions in Arithmetic and Algebra.
How do you maximise your score then?
Tough questions from any topic should be ignored in any case. For example, in one of the IMS practice tests, a student left a question based on playing cards because he felt it involved permutations and combinations. When he looked at the problem later, it turned out to be a simple linear equations question. So, read problems properly before leaving them; they might be 'sitters'.
What exactly do we do when we analyse a test?
For attempted questoins:
- Check whether your mistakes were silly, careless or conceptual errors.
- Check if there are better ways to solve questions
- Did you comprehend the problem irrespective of the level of difficulty
- If the concept is new, learn the concept and move on
- If answered correctly, check the explanatory answers -- was your solution the best possible approach to the problem? Should you really have attempted these when and if there were easier questions elsewhere in the section? Why were you attracted to that particular question?
For unattempted questions
- Solve each of them
- Identify which questions were potential score increasers
- Why did you leave them?
- Did you even read these questions?
Now you have an idea of where you are faltering. Therefore pick one area you need to work upon and spend 2-3 days on solving every possible question of the kind from the material given to you (section tests/comprehensive tests), from the previous years papers and also refer to your Basic Reference Material. In the tests ahead, you're assured that you will be able to solve any question relating to the topic you picked.
Could you suggest a test prep strategy for the final leg of preparation?
A suggested strategy is to take a test every four days. If you take a test on Day 1, get into the analysis mode for Day 2, 3 and 4. Make sure you get in touch with the basics of your weak areas in this period.
Before beginning a test, ensure you have an overall target score and section target scores.
While taking the test, you could mentally slot the questions into those that you can:
- Understand and solve
- Can solve but will take time
- Can't solve (whatever the reason may be)
By dividing the questions in this manner you will be able to prioritise and plan your time. Also, developing this habit in practice tests will hone your ability to pick the 'right' kind of questions.
One of the main reasons people don't do well is that they get stuck in problems and can't move on. If you find that you began a problem assuming you can solve it but can see that your attempts aren't leading you to the answer, let it go and move on to the next.
You already have an idea of what you can attempt and there might be a more easier question elsewhere.
Does analysing a test with a group of friends help?
Taking a test with a group of friends is immensely beneficial because people tend to complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. With, say four friends, you will have four different approaches to solving a problem.
When you analyse a test by yourself, you will probably come up with time-saving approaches for about 5-6 problems because one person can come up with a limited number of perspectives. With a group however, you can be assured of multiple approaches to a sum.
For example, some sums may not require you to use calculations; someone else might see that while it may not strike you.
Vinayak Kudva is Product Head at IMS Learning Resources.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
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