–Updated on 25th January 2017.
Following are answers to some of the frequently asked questions. I have encountered this questions myself and here is what I think you should do.
Q. Which books to refer?
A. There is an overwhelming number of books available in the market that try to teach you everything from logical reasoning to reading comprehension. Would it help to get hold of a book? Well, may and may not. If you lack the bare are minimums in a particular area, say in Quantitative ability, you might look for a book. I prepared from IMS materials and I didn’t feel the need for buying any other book to help me in my preparation. The materials were more than enough.
CAT is not predictable and so, you need an experience in solving a variety of questions. You can do that by solving all the questions handed out to you by your coaching institute. You might also want to solve earlier years’ CAT papers. I have found them helpful. There are publishers who publish last 10 years’ CAT papers. Solve them if you find time .Books wouldn’t teach you anything out of the world. Ultimately the basics you need to crack the CAT Quantitative section are the 10th standard maths with some +2 level stuff such as logs thrown in.
I thought I would buy a Reading Comprehension book, but abandoned that thought later. RC is all about how fast you read and understand a passage. I focused on regular reading, with a conscious effort to increase speed. I think I took the right decision.
In my opinion, if you think you seriously lack an ability that is not duly fulfilled by the coaching material, consider buying books.
Q. How should I start? When should I start?
Based on your comfort level, discipline, availability, decide on classroom coaching vis-à-vis correspondence. Whatever you chose, do online research to figure out who provides the best materials. Working out questions form two or three different institutes can also help significantly. For e.g. I solved both Time and IMS material. Take feedback from any local fellow aspirant / MBA student who has already gone through similar experience. If you are planning to take a correspondence course, visit the coaching centre websites and find out about them. Start preparing early and be regular with preparation. Start reading magazines, novels and topics you may not generally read. It would help you in RC. Definitely start calculating without the help of a calculator. Mug up tables and use them while solving questions. Follow a strict routine and solve the coaching class materials in time. Don’t postpone anything. Stay passionate and have confidence that you can make it. The moment you lose confidence, you would want to drop out. Say to yourself, ‘CAT is not that difficult after all’. All the best. 🙂
Q. Only 5 months are left. Is it too late?
Don’t kill me for this. But ‘it depends’. However, I know that this won’t serve your purpose. Many students want to know, especially those who took a late decision for CAT, whether they can hope to crack CAT in such a little time.
Well, I think 5 months is a bit short, but it’s still doable. All you need is a decent command over one or more of the three areas already, and an aggressive preparation. If you are good at Quants, you can easily brush up your skills in 5 months. However, Verbal Ability wouldn’t be that easy to improve; it has a longer gestational period. Logical Reasoning doesn’t take a long time to master though. It depends on your reasoning and thinking ability – how clear, concise and systematic you think. And it is more gifted than cultivated.
Even you if you think five months is too short for you, I suggest you appear for CAT with full preparation. It would help you tremendously in the next attempt, if you don’t make it in the first.
Q. Is reading newspapers, articles from magazines enough for English?
IIMs don’t need future Booker prize winners. You don’t have to be a literature genius. Nobody expects you to be. What CAT looks for is people who have a good sense of English with a decent vocabulary and knowledge of English grammar so that when you write reports, you don’t embarrass your alma mater. That’s it. Someone who already has a good reading habit would already know the basic grammar rules and would instantly know if a sentence is correct or wrong. And whether a sentence would precede or follow another.
If you didn’t have such a habit, there is nothing to worry. I didn’t have a great reading habit. I used to read only Page 3 out of Times of India, and never the editorial. However, I started reading magazines and newspaper editorials when I started preparing. My grammar was never a problem and reading helped me refine those skills. So start reading newspapers and magazines. Any reputed one that you can lay your hands on. For grammar, if you wish, you can buy a grammar book..but that way you would waste time on things that might never be tested. I would suggest working out the GMAT grammar instead. That was really helpful.
Q. Do I need a coaching?
Yes you do, in most cases. Even if you are super genius, to channelise your skills to CAT-type questions and to practice the 2 hours of gruelling test, you should join a coaching, correspondence or classroom. I have found that classroom coaching is helpful when you are not able to squeeze time out of your busy schedule. Once you join a classroom coaching, you must attend the class and hence, you must spend, say 1 hour, regularly. It falls into a routine and you don’t skip or postpone your preparation. But don’t expect to get miracles from the coaching institute instructors. Compete with fellow students. That would help.
Q. How many hours of study when only five months are left?
I think it’s difficult to prepare for more than 3 hours a day when you have other obligations/engagements. For some people even three hours a day could be a luxury. Those guys should start early preparation…say right after CAT is over (not the CAT you want to appear 😛 ). I don’t have much patience. Even if I were absolutely free, I couldn’t have prepared for more than three hours because of fatigue. And normally, preparing for more than 3 hours is not required. Avoid taking CAT preparation as a crash course. Build up skills slowly over a time. Start early so that you don’t have to devote more than 2 hours a day. But yes, in weekends, you need to spend more time. As CAT approaches, those 2 hours can stretch a ‘little’ longer. But for heaven’s sake, don’t burn yourself in days leading up to the CAT.
Q. What are the usual cutoffs?
This has a simple answer. Worry about cutoffs only after you have appeared CAT. You don’t want to clear just the cutoffs, do you? If you do, you are never going to clear CAT anyway. So why bother? 🙂
Q. I am thirty. Would I have problems in getting a placement in investment banks? I only have experience in IT.
I don’t think it’s a problem. But you still might have a question in your mind, ‘Why would i-banks take me in the first place?’ Well, if that is the case, let me tell you that i-banks prefer people who are good at numbers and have good analytical ability. If your CV or your grade point prove this to them, you might be on board!