With just about 6 weeks to CAT 2016, it is time for us to move on to the next stage of preparation. While the earlier stages of CAT preparation were about building up of fundamentals, application of concepts, exposure to MCQs, increasing speed and working out strategies for various types of questions, the focus of this stage of preparation is to ensure accuracy with speed.

This stage of preparation (6 weeks to CAT) is also a stage of confusion. Do I have sufficient knowledge to tackle the paper? Which topics can I afford to leave?  How many Mock CATs should I take? Which CAT papers should I revise? What about Test Gym? What to do in the run up to CAT? Let me try and address some of these questions.

Play on your Strengths
You can win only on the basis of your strengths, so this is not the time to worry about the question types that you are never able to solve. This is the time to accept the fact that if you have not been able to understand a concept in the last six to nine months of preparation, no miracle will take place in the next six weeks so it is in your best interest to ignore these islands of ignorance and focus on the areas where you can improve your speed or attempt and accuracy. With about 6 weeks to CAT, “Selective but intensive” should be your motto.

The 6 week CAT Preparation Plan
In these 6 weeks to CAT, focus only on three things: Practice – Analysis – Revision. Let us understand this in detail:

The 6 week CAT Preparation Plan – Practice: Mock CATs (Proctored & Unproctored) along with Test Gym Classic/Lite, Section Tests and past CAT papers are the only things you should consider to keep yourself in shape for the D-day. Do not worry about the funda books; in fact, you can even throw these books away. You should, however, be revising the important MCQs in the funda books. The focus has to be taking tests (Mock CATs, Past CAT papers, and Section tests) under actual test condition so that you are CAT-ready.

To ensure that you are exposed to all question types, I strongly urge that you complete all tests in the Basic and Advanced levels of Test Gym Lite. Go for the advanced levels after CAT when you are preparing for XAT.

Once you are able to download your CAT admit card and know the time slot that has been allotted to you, please ensure that all tests are taken in the same time slot that has been allotted to you for CAT 2016. So if your CAT is scheduled at 2:30 pm, you should take all tests in the 2:30pm to 5:30pm time slot.

Past CAT papers should not be taken as a whole but in the form of section tests. The time limit for past CAT papers should be 100 seconds per question hence a section of 45 questions should be attempted in 75 minutes. While questions from all the past CAT papers (1990 – 2008) are important, you should ensure that the following CAT papers are definitely attempted:

VA: CAT 1997 to 2008 as these papers have a good collection of Para Jumbles, Para Completion, and other verbal logic questions.
RC: CAT 2000 to 2008 papers have a good mix of factual and inferential questions and also are of the right length. The earlier CAT papers had lengthy and mostly factual RC passages.
DI: CAT 1990 to 1999 papers have the best DI sets. They cover a wide variety of DI sets of all difficulty levels. You can expect similar DI in CAT 2016
LR: CAT 1999 to 2008 papers focused more on LR and less on DI and will provide good practice material for LR sets. Some of these sets are a combination of Logic and DI.
QA: CAT 1990 to 2008: The CAT 2014 QA was similar to the QA section of the 1990s and hence these are important. However the QA section of the 2000-08 papers should not be ignored as the QA section in these was more logic oriented and less formula driven and CAT 2016 is expected to be a mixture of the two.

A simple way of implementing the above would be:
• Start QA and DI with CAT 1990 and move forward till 2008
• Start Verbal, RC, and LR with CAT 2008 and move backward till 1990

Hope you have taken or booked/taken your NMAT before your CAT. The experience of an actual computer based MBA entrance test before CAT would be useful. If not focus on ensuring actual test conditions for each Mock that you take.

The 6 week CAT Preparation Plan – Analysis: A test is useless if it is not followed by a detailed analysis. Every 180 minute paper needs at least 180 minutes for analysis. Analysis helps us in identifying what we are doing correctly and incorrectly in the paper. It helps us in fine tuning our strategy for the sections

Do pay attention to your question selection as missing out on easy questions or attempting difficult ones can lead to a disaster in CAT. The blogposts The single-most unpardonable, gravest sin you can commit in CAT and Are you choosing the right questions in your Mock CATs? give the guidelines for question selection.

The 6 week CAT Preparation Plan – Revision: The reason why many of us have a problem with speed and accuracy is the lack of revision. The focus in this last stage of preparation is to ensure that we are able to attempt around 75-80 questions in overall with at least 85% accuracy. Weekly Revision of important questions identified in Mock CATs, Section Tests and Past CAT papers ensures that if you come across a similar question type you are able to solve it fast, it eliminates silly mistakes, makes you more comfortable with vocabulary, grammar & difficult questions and also improves your ability to choose the right questions to attempt. All of these result in higher attempts with high accuracy.

How to manage all three?
My suggested plan is a 3-day cycle of Practice, Analysis & Revision. This would ensure that not only are the Mock CATs, past CAT papers and Test Gym took care of (with analysis) but also revision is not neglected. Assuming about 6 hours/day for preparation, your schedule could be as given below:

Day 1: Practice (Mock CAT) & Analysis
1. Mock CAT and Analysis of the test.
2. One section test of QA, DILR or VRC or one section test of past CAT paper or questions from Test Gym Adaptive/Lite.

Day 2 : Practice (Section Test) and Analysis
1. One section test each of QA, DILR or VRC or section tests from past CAT papers with detailed analysis.
2. Questions from Test Gym Adaptive/Lite.

Day 3: Revision
Revise important questions from all Mock CATs, Section Tests, Test Gym and Past CAT papers.

Day 4: Practice (Mock CAT) and Analysis
1. Mock CAT and Analysis of the test.
2. One section test of QA, DILR or VRC or one section test of past CAT paper or questions from Test Gym Adaptive/Lite.

Day 5:  Practice (Section Test) and Analysis
1. One section test each of QA, DILR or VRC or section tests from past CAT papers with detailed analysis.
2. Questions from Test Gym Adaptive/Lite.

Day 6: Revision
Revise important questions from all Mock CATs, Section Test and Past CAT papers taken so far.

An alternate approach could be a 4-day cycle as given below:
Day 1: Practice (Section Test) and Analysis
Day 2: Practice (Mock CAT) and Analysis
Day 3: Revision
Day 4: Practice (Mock CAT) and Analysis

Obviously, the above plans are not sacrosanct; while on of these can be the default plan ideally you should work out a plan based on your specific requirements.

How many Mock CATs should I take?
My suggestion is to take for 2-3 Mock CATs every week. More than 3 Mock CATs a week will not give your time to do section tests or (more importantly) to revise and hence will not helpful. If this means that some Mocks will be left un-attempted, so be it. You can however attempt these Mock CATs as Section Tests.

What about IIFT?
If you are appearing for IIFT entrance test scheduled for 28th November then you have to start your IIFT preparation now itself. The good thing apart from GK and Mock IIFTs you do not need to do anything extra. Past IIFT papers and IIFT Mocks/FLTs will be good practice for CAT also. The overall level of difficulty of IIFT is lower than that of CAT but it is a more complex paper and requires you to manage time across four-six sections and ensure a minimum score in each. Also with about 120 questions in 120 minutes it will help you build your speed and improve your questions selection process. It is advisable that IIFT aspirants take one old IIFT paper (IIFT 2010-14) or a Mock IIFT every week with immediate effect by adding an IIFT paper/Mock in their schedule or by replacing one Mock CAT with a Mock IIFT. However do ensure that you do not go beyond 3 Mocks a week. In the one week before IIFT  you can consider 2-3 IIFT Mocks/Old papers but do keep 26th and 27th November free for revision. I will be posting an article on IIFT Test Taking strategy in a few days.


All the best

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