CAT preparation plan 

With eight months to CAT 2020, it is high time for a person who has decided on doing an MBA to start preparing for this enigmatic exam! Read to find out the ideal CAT preparation plan

How many hours per day one needs to prepare for CAT?

This question has no right answer.  If you have already prepared and written the CAT exam, then about 6 to 7 hours per week till July and then increasing the prepping hours would do. However, if you are beginning your CAT preparation today, then it may require closer to 20 hours per week or more depending on your state of preparedness, especially in the Quant and the Verbal Areas!

But, before one starts prepping for the CAT (or any MBA entrance exam), it is imperative to understand what entails the CAT exam and what marks/percentiles are required to get into an IIM or other institutes. The CAT pattern has remained same for the last five years (CAT 2015, CAT 2016, CAT 2017, CAT 2018 and CAT 2019).

CAT 2019 Analysis revisited

The CAT 2019 paper, held on 24th November 2019, had three sections. The exact pattern of the paper is reproduced below.

Section Area No of Qns Marks in Section Time Limit
Section I Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC) 34 102 60
Section II Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR) 32 96 60
Section III Quantitative Ability (QA) 34 102 60
Total   100 300 180

The student could attempt only one section at a time in the above given order. Once the student had finished one section, there was no provision to go back to that section again.

Each section consisted of Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) as well as non-Multiple Choice Questions (non-MCQs).  Also, There were Negative marks (-1) for wrong answers for MCQ questions. For Non-MCQ questions, there were No negative marks

Understanding Percentile

You keep hearing from people that someone got a 100%ile or a 99 %ile or a 80%ile!

What exactly does a percentile mean?

A percentile is calculated as the Percentage of people below your marks in a particular exam.

For example, if in an exam, there are 100 students writing the same, and one gets a FIRST Rank (mind you, it is NOT the full marks, only the first rank with whatever marks compared to the rest of the students), then there would be 99 students below this student. 99 students out of 100 (meaning 99% of students) are below the student and hence the student will get 99%ile in that exam.

In the same exam, if someone gets a 10th Rank, then the percentile would be 90%ile (as 90% of the students would have a got a mark lower than this student).

An illustration of how a percentile is calculated is given below:

No. of People Writing Rank Percentile
100 1 99
10 90
10,000 1 99.99
100 99
1,000 90
1,00,000 1 99.99=100
100 99.9
1,000 99
10,000 90

CAT 2019 was written by about 2,09,926 students. To be in the top 90 %ile, then one has to be in the top 10% of the students (or in the top 20,000 ranks). Not very difficult, mind you, if you put in sincere effort!

Getting into IIMs is a coveted dream of many students. But, most students do not even attempt CAT or prepare for the same seriously only because they are not aware of what gets them this seat in an IIM.

The percentile required to get a seat in the top 3 IIMs for a Open Category (student with no reservation) student is around 99 percentile. Similarly, if one has to get into the next top 10 IIMs, the percentile for an open category student would be about 96%ile. An OBC candidate, an SC or an ST candidate will require much less percentile to make it to the top IIMs. Add gender diversity and academic diversity to the same, then the percentile required reduced even further.

It is pertinent to note that CAT is also used as the written exam for almost all top Management institutes in the country including FMS Delhi, Sp Jain Mumbai, MDI Gurgaon, NITIE Mumbai, all IITs and a host of others!

The only reason students don’t take up CAT is because they do not even know how easy it is to get into an IIM (given ofcourse that one prepares consistently)!

Here’s therefore a quick information on what the marks required are for each of the sections as well as the overall marks required for obtaining various percentiles.

CAT 2019 Percentiles and Scores

Percentile Overall
99.5 170
99 158
95 120
90 99

 As one can see, by getting about 170 marks out of 300 marks in the CAT exam, one gets a percentile close to 99!

By getting a percentile of around 96 (130 score), one can easily get a call from the New IIMs and with a little higher percentile into some of the older IIMs too! And to get 96 percentile, one has to score just about 130 marks out of 300!

Mission IIM

The road to IIM is through CAT (except of course you are an NRI and then you write GMAT!)

Preparing for CAT require one to have targets/milestones and since the exam is expected to be at the end of November, the plan would require one to do certain tasks and reach a certain stage.

To make it easy, the following plan can give a kick-start to your CAT campaign!

CAT preparation plan – April to July

The objective in these 4 months would be to gain complete familiarity in the areas, topics, concepts and type of questions that the CAT exam has.

In the months of April, May, June and July, the focus should be in going through all the topics in all areas of CAT viz QA, DILR and VARC. However, the preparation for each would be different and the way to improve in each areas is given in the next article. Suffice it to say that these 100 days (a student may have three or two months only till July depending on when one starts preparing), the expectation is that all topics are covered at least once (First Round of Work).

Funda of Concepts, Application & Tests

  • Basics in terms of Concepts are formulae to be revised for each topic
  • Exercises to be solved to understand Application of Concept
  • Topic wise Tests to be taken to get know the level and one’s speed (through the Test Gym)
  • Start writing the Mock CATs to understand the overall exam

 CAT preparation plan – August & September

These two months are crucial to your preparation. You have to work on Strategy, Second revision and continue taking Full Length Mocks CATs and Experiment on Strategy.

We will discuss this in more detail once we come closer to August. But, it is important to note that the two months of August and September are also important in applying to various exams at the same time continuing the focus on preparation

Here, apart from the Mock CATs, Areas wise tests and Section wise tests to be taken to iron out the weaknesses while improving /honing on one’s strengths.

CAT preparation plan – October & November

The last two months (40 to 50 days) before CAT would be the final assault on the exam! Here one has to prepare for a third revision, taken more sectional tests, finalise on the exam strategy while writing about 10 Mocks, A thorough analysis of each of the tests one writes, zeroing in on the problem areas, working towards eliminating the problem areas AND finally strengthening the Mental ability to crack this exam would be the requirements.

Once we come closer to October a longer version of what exactly needs to be done would be shared!

In the part-2 of the article, we would get into specifics of each of the areas of the CAT exam.

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All the best

Team CL