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CAT: Your three-month countdown

September 17, 2009 16:18 IST
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So you've got your basics in place and chances are you've already started with your test series. You would have written a few tests and might've realised that after a few attempts it is difficult to improve on your percentiles beyond a certain limit.

So you go back to your books and study harder with no avail. The scores simply don't improve. You get frustrated and your scores fall further. So what do you do?

Try new methods
There is no point in revising concepts or rote learning formulae over and over again. The best way to improve is by analysing the papers you have already solved. Your focus however should now be on trying new methods.

Past data proves that most students who score over 90 percentile in the first attempt usually score lower in the second attempt. This happens because students become complacent and feel that whatever method they have adopted for solving is good enough and with more practice tests they can only improve thier percentiles. But this doesn't hold true and many students will stand testament to this.

More practice does not improve your scores. You might be able to maintain the speed at which you solve a sum or at best increase it slightly. However chances are that it might actually slow you down since your mind is not trained to think in new or different ways.

So one of the good ways to actually improve is to go back to the sums you have solved and see if you can solve them in a better way.

Also it's important to know that the methods that you get should be even better than the methods given in the explanatory answer. This will give you an edge over the other students who refer to the same explanatory answers and use the very same methods.

Think like your faculty and don't be afraid to share
When you go through the papers, put yourself in your faculty's shoes. Think how you can add value to a class by coming up with better ways of solving a sum. You needn't have a better method for every sum. Even if you manage to crack a few, your results will improve drastically.

Another way to improve is to study in groups or study with someone who is better than you. Learn from other students' methods. Also help them with your methods.

The moment you start explaining different methods to others, you become stronger conceptually and can use the method better and for varied types of sums.

Solve different types of puzzles to improve on your Math and Logic section. Puzzles help you think differently. As there is no single method to solve all the puzzles you will have to think of innovative ways to solve them thus helping you with your thinking ability. You could start with Sudoku and then move on to other type of puzzles.

Don't sacrifice time for accuracy
DI is one area where improvement can be quite drastic. The difference between DI and Math is that in the former there are only a few ways of solving the sums. Math has far more topics to study from.

For improving on your DI, the key is to calculate approximately. Vedic Math might help you get the accurate answer. However unless you've been acquainted with it for five years or more and have mastered it, I'd advise against using it.

CAT does not require accurate answers. You simply have to pick from options. So it's fine if you arrive even close to one of them. Just mark the option and move on to the next question! This will save a lot of time, which you would have wasted in unnecessary calculations.

One way of solving DI is without a pen or pencil in hand. Imagine yourself travelling in a crowded train where you cannot use a pen to actually solve the sums. Make the calculations in your head and you'll find yourself coming up with different ways of solving the questions in a shorter way. What's more, you're also forced to make approximate calculations rather than arrive at exact answers.

Cracking Logic
The Logic section is usually a part of DI. Solving puzzles helps improve skills for this section. The key to solving a logic problem is to be systematic. When you are solving a logic sum, mark the conditions you have already used so you know of the conditions you haven't used. This helps you save time and also ensures that you haven't missed out on any condition (which is the cause of major mistakes in logic sums).

Read everything under the sun
The Verbal section might take you longest to improve upon. Reading regularly is the key to cracking this section. The more you read, the faster you get. And the faster you get the better you score. You can develop your reading speed in a matter of a month.

How to read better and faster is a good book that can help. If you're a slow reader I'd recommend you read for at least an hour or two every day. Avoid fiction because there's always a storyline that helps you get hooked.

Read as many diverse topics as possible since CAT RC passages could be from absolutely anywhere. It also helps you familiarise with varied topics.

Most importantly you must remain focussed and never give up. Do not lose touch with the subject and keep practicing as often as possible. Read the newspapers and introduce yourself to a group that is also preparing for CAT.

There will be times when you feel de-motivated and discouraged but remember the Zen master's words: This too shall pass.

The article has been written by Patrick D'souza, BE, MMS from JBIMS and a CFA for is the leader in online MBA test preparation and provides complete MBA prep for CAT and other MBA entrance tests in online, CD and print format. With 4 IIT-IIM graduates leading the 65+ team of programmers and subject matter experts, TestFunda currently has more than 1,07,000 registered users and is growing at 300 new users each day. For free content: strategies from CAT 100 percentilers, vocabulary games, puzzles, quizzes, previous CATs, XATs with detailed solutions logon to

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