Vishesh Garg (23), a Common Aptitude Test (CAT) aspirant who scored 99.99 percentile in the examination, says that management was always part of his life plan. Having cleared the examination twice, he shares with readers some preparation strategies that worked for him.
Having grown up in Solan, Himachal Pradesh, Vishesh attributes a lot of his success to the reading habit that his school, St Luke’s, instilled in him.
“Reading has provided me with a great sense of confidence, and for that I am thankful to the school’s well-stocked library,” he says.
What’s interesting about Vishesh’s preparation strategy is that he was working a full-time job and was able to devote only the weekends for structured study. He says, “It’s not the amount of time one spends studying, but the quality and the focus with which one does. I prepared for four months, and used only the weekends to do so.”
1. Find your strength and weakness
For Vishesh, having attempted the CAT earlier and scored 99.00 percentile, the exam was one that he understood. He says, “That helped me realise that my baseline was good enough to dedicate focussed time for preparation. It also helped me ascertain what my strengths and weaknesses were.” Vishesh ensured that during his preparation, he built on his strengths. He also made sure his weak areas were covered enough to attempt the easy questions under their ambit.
2. Be mindful while selecting questions
This, according to Vishesh, is among the most important things a CAT aspirant must learn to do. “There is limited time and the level of questions asked is high. It is therefore prudent for aspirants to only attempt questions that they are more than a 100 percent sure about. Do note that each wrong answer carries a negative marking,” he says. Do not enter the examination hall telling yourself that you will attempt all the questions – that will prove to be your folly, he adds.
3. Question paper pattern may be changed
Speaking about the question paper pattern, Vishesh says, “This year the total time aspirants get was reduced from three hours to two, and simultaneously, the number of questions being asked was also reduced. We had to attempt a total of 76 questions within two hours, and because of the reduction in time, we had less time for each question. Do not get flustered when some changes are made – your preparation will hold you in good stead,” says Vishesh.
4. Make mock papers your best friend
“The more mock papers you solve, the more confident you are likely to feel when attempting the main paper,” says Vishesh. He says that it will also help in understanding what areas need more work. The main challenge, according to Vishesh, is training the mind to leave questions which you are not completely sure about. “We are always told, through school, to attempt all questions. However, in this examination, unless you are more than sure, I would urge you not to attempt it,” he says.
5. Keep nervousness at bay
As much as this seems easier said than done, Vishesh says, “I worked towards keeping all my nervousness at bay before entering the examination hall. I went in with a completely blank mind with almost zero expectations and that helped me a great deal.” Not caring about the outcome while attempting the paper might be the biggest strength for aspirants. “My focus was on just solving all that I could and then looking at the tougher questions to see if I could try attempting them,” he says.
6. Have a strategy for each section
The questions in these competitive examinations are usually divided into sections, and Vishesh says that devising individual sectional strategies for each will help. “In the verbal section, which was my strongest, I made sure to go through the questions from start to end, and just solve all the ones I knew. In the Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning paper, I took time to understand, work out the answer and only then move on,” he says. In the first attempt, only answer the ones you are sure of, or that need minimal work time. Come back to the questions which need more time later, advises Vishesh.
7. Have a clear study plan
Since Vishesh was able to devote only the weekends to CAT preparation, he ensured that he attempted a mock paper every Sunday. “I would create an exam-like environment and ensure that I attempted all three sections within the permissible time limit. That gave me a clear understanding of where I stood,” he says. After doing this, on the following Saturday, Vishesh would spend time analysing his mistakes and working on areas that needed more attention.
In conclusion he says, “Work on your strengths and just stay focussed on the goal.”
(Edited by Divya Sethu)