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CAT 2009: Strategy for the last 3 weeks

By IMS Learning Resources
November 11, 2009 10:28 IST
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By now, you would have evolved as a "test taker" with certain identified strengths and weaknesses. With less than a month for the CAT, you need to manage both your strengths and weaknesses and ensure that the result is upbeat.

Starting with the strengths, the first thing you need to do is to understand whether you have consistently done well in these areas to label them as strengths or was your performance purely incidental?

In case of the first eventuality, the next issue you need to address is whether these areas emerged as strengths in a fair distribution of time across all sections/ areas of the test or due to significantly more time allocated to these areas? If it is the first case, then it is infallibly an area of strength; you simply need to sustain the tempo and ensure that it stays a cash cow for you.

If it is the second case, you need to ensure that the same performance is upheld in a certain desirable time frame. For example, a student getting 99 percentile in one section (because he has spent disproportionately more time in this section) and faring abysmally in the others, cannot brand the first section as his/her strength. You need to sacredly anchor on to an instruction which requires you to be competent across all sections of the test.

In case of the second eventuality, that is, when your performance in the so called "strong areas" is a consequence of random flukes, you have to immediately stop cheating yourself, categorise it as a weakness and revamp your approach vis-a-vis these areas.

Coming to weaknesses, you need to understand the core reasons for not doing well in these areas. The following have been identified as the most common ones, with their corresponding remedies:

  • Inherent dislike for these areas, due to which students start ignoring them. For example, most of the students have a natural antipathy towards 'permutations and combinations' and they start shying away from questions on this topic; consequently, even the easier questions on this topic get overlooked on that day and this adds to the 'opportunity cost'. You need to prepare all topics/areas of the test -- which ones you finally respond to or attempt would be a function of multiple variables.
  • Not being able to spend adequate time on these areas, due to which your performance gets affected. You need to apportion judicious time to all sections of the test. Placing the sections appropriately along the time curve is a skill you need to master. The sequence of attempting the different sections would vary from one test taker to another and an equilibrium would evolve only over a period of time.
  • Incorrect prioritisation and selection of questions due to which you end up picking 'wrong' questions on the day. You need to be more vigilant and understand that wrong picks can ruffle even the best of students! While selecting questions, the following points need to be factored in:

    1. Do not choose questions only because they are shorter than their bulkier counterparts. Shorter questions are not necessarily easier and vice versa.

    2. Do not pick questions only because they are from apparently simpler topics; for example, students typically prefer questions on arithmetic and algebra as compared to geometry and modern math.

    3. Please ensure that you exhaust all aspects of the section while selecting questions. Starting off in a sequence and not being able to reach the end of the section, because of dearth of time may keep you from potential picks.
  • Conceptual flaws and loopholes in these areas, whereby they assume the proportions of 'weaknesses'. This requires an immediate attention to fundamentals and revisiting concepts. Unless the requisite conceptual clarity is there, application of these concepts would be a far fetched expression!

To summarise, 'the one month to the CAT' requires you to leverage your strengths, hone your weaknesses and formulate a smart strategy to approach the test. The most important thing is not to lose heart or feel that it's just too late. There have been others in your position and they have made it to the top through sheer focus and pragmatic time management. 

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