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How To Crack CAT Without Coaching Classes?
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Anam Shams

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CAT or Common Admission Test is considered as one of the toughest entrance exams held for admission to PGDM (Post Graduate Diploma in Management) programs at 20 IIMs and other top B-schools in India. The exam is conducted by one of the IIM’s on a rotational basis, CAT 2019 is organized by Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta on November 24, 2019

CAT Registration 2019 has been started from August 7, 2019 in online mode. All the candidates who wish to apply for the exam can submit their applications on the official website of CAT till September 19, 2019. Students also have to pay an application fee of INR 1900 at the time of application form submission (For SC/ ST/ PwD candidates INR 900). 

Check CAT Eligibility

CAT is a computer-based exam. Students have to attempt 100 MCQ & Non-MCQ questions within a duration of 3 hours. CAT Syllabus is based on class 12 consists of questions from 4 sections i.e. Quantitative Ability, Logical Reasoning, Data Analysis & Sufficiency, and Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension.

Preparation Tips by Topper Satyendra

Satyendra sat for CAT in 2008 and scored 83.9 percentile. He took admission in Xavier Institute of Development Action and Studies, Jabalpur. He has been in our CAT Toppers List because of the efforts he put in CAT preparation. His journey of cracking CAT will be an inspiration for many aspirants. He scored high in the exam without any coaching institute. Let’s know about the same in detail. 

Find below his response to our questionnaire for CAT toppers.

Q1. What is your five-point rule to excel CAT?

Start early, manage your time effectively, practice and practice a lot, join a test series and don't give up! 

Q2. What were your strong and weak areas? How did you prepare and what special efforts did you put for improving weak areas?

Easy to list down my strong areas. I was doing well in mock papers and test series in the Verbal Ability section, so that went well along with Data Interpretation and Reasoning.

I wasn't very sure on Quantitative Ability and the only solution which every expert gave was to practice and practice. So, through question banks, I spent significant time in practicing those numerical.

Q3. Did you take coaching classes? If yes, how they did help in your story?

I did not take coaching classes but joined the test series of Career Launcher. Test series was particularly helpful to me as it gave a good understanding of managing time and maintaining speed as desired in a real-time test situation.

I worked hard on my Quantitative Ability which was not a very strong zone for me through the test series and managed to score well. I believe that more than CAT Coaching Institutes,  test series play an important role in CAT preparation for students. 

Q4. Review the coaching institutes and what was their role in your story?

To me, test series of Career Launcher was very helpful particularly for the reason of checking the ability to maintain time and coping with real-time like the situation of taking the exam.

I followed a lot of material from online and tried to solve question papers from previous years. It helped me to cover most of the topics from CAT Syllabus.

Q5. What mock papers did you take?

Mock papers by Sultan Chand and Tata McGraw Hill were of much help. Also, at times I borrowed question papers which other coaching institutes were administering on their students. It is always advisable to have a mix and match in that Case. Test series by Career Launcher also helped me a lot.

Q6. What is the website you followed regularly to practice free sample papers or to get updates?

Well, I followed for all the details along with MBA Universe. CAT Sample Papers are like a mirror. These tests help you to know how prepared you are for the CAT exam. 

Q7. Discuss your strategy for the Quantitative Aptitude section.

There are shortcuts which definitely needs to be practiced. Be very sure that you will never have enough time to work on all questions the long way comfortably so it is advisable to work out and understand the shortcuts, hit and the trial method you can adopt.

Q8. List the name of books you followed for Quantitative Aptitude.

For Quant, there are two good books- Arun Sharma and Sarvesh Varma. CBSE Class XII Mathematics by R S Agarwal was enough.

Q9. Discuss your strategy for the Data Interpretation section.

Data interpretation requires lots of practice. I practiced problem sets from past years’ question papers and mock papers. Also, try understanding the trend that is followed in the cat exam when it comes to this section. Year on year you will be able to understand what kind of DI questions appear.

Q10. List the name of books you followed for DI.

I only followed one book- Data Interpretation by Arun Sharma.

Q11. Discuss your strategy for the Logical Reasoning section.

This directly relates to one’s decision-making ability. I tried to understand the logic behind the problem. A good strategy here would be trying and working out backward from weeding out all the improbable answers from the set of answers given. It made a problem more approachable.

One of the tricks to prepare logical reasoning for CAT is to classify the questions under different categories. With this way, knowing the strong and weak topics become easier. 

Apart from this, you must follow the below-mentioned steps:

1. To solve the LR questions, use only the information specified. An assumption based answer may not be right.

2. Practice how to solve different types of questions like linear/circular seating arrangement, questions based on set theory, those on cubes and verbal arithmetic. 

3. Reading books on logical reasoning will help to get a firm foundation on the subject.                

4. Work with brain teasers to improve your logical reasoning for CAT and make it fun.

Q12. List the name of books you followed for Logical Reasoning section.

I only preferred Logical Reasoning by Arun Sharma (TMH).

Q13. Discuss your strategy for the Vocabulary and Grammar section.

Again, vocabulary and grammar were strong areas for me. I tried to work problems from test series as well as previous years’ question papers. I also engaged in a lot of debates and discussions with my friends who were also preparing for CAT along with me.

Q14. List the name of books you followed for Vocabulary and Grammar section.

For verbal Ability, I would suggest “Word Power Made Easy” by Norman Lewis.

Q15. Write some of the preparation tips for someone who is starting a month before the exam?

For somebody who is starting off the preparation just 2 to 4 months before the exam, it is very important to work out a timeline for CAT preparation and prepare a timetable for each of the sections.

Also, keep an eye on what's going on around try and follow online discussions on CAT & CAT Preparation. Give mock tests to check the reality. I would like to give a few more tips to the aspirants:

  1. Understand the syllabus: Knowing the syllabus and CAT Exam Pattern is must for the aspirants. CAT can be segmented into four sections, viz Quantitative Ability, Logical Reasoning, Data Interpretation, and Verbal Ability. The questions asked in CAT exam are a bit tricky to solve and require a good amount of logical reasoning.
  2. Begin with the end in mind: A candidate must start your preparation with sheer determination. Whenever you feel demotivated, you can dream about the day when you will crack the exam and it will definitely motivate you. 
  3. Book and material: First of all, a candidate must get CAT preparation material of some good coaching institute or some other authentic resource only.

    For Quant, there are two good books- Arun Sharma and Sarvesh Varma. You can refer to any of these. My friend suggested me Sarvesh Varma so I prefer that only, but what I have noticed is that Arun Sharma is more popular with the students. But one should choose only of them instead of buying both as there is no need to unnecessary collect a lot of books and material as we have limited time. I don’t think there is any special book for concepts of Data Interpretation, Logical Reasoning and Verbal Ability. You can rely on the coaching material for all the topics in the CAT syllabus. For verbal Ability, I would suggest “Word Power Made Easy” by Norman Lewis. It is a very good book which helps in increasing vocabulary not by memorizing stuff, but by understanding the ideas behind the words.

Q16. How was the interview in counseling? Share some of the questions with us.

Most important questions usually come from your background, an undergraduate degree is a general anchor when it comes to starting a conversation. Also, increasingly B Schools emphasize on why MBA as a choice and where do you want to be perhaps 5 or 10 years down the line.

Try to be honest in your admission round, if you don't know answer to a particular answer, beating around the bush doesn't help.