While most of the candidates focus on what needs to be done while starting your preparation for CAT 2017, the better ones are probably those who know what not to do while preparing for CAT. I chanced upon this question on Quora earlier and thought of making a list of things to avoid during preparation for CAT 2017. The list is indeed larger compared to what to ‘prepare’ for CAT. However, a few things that commonly happen and are not really productive/downright harmful are (in no particular order):

1. Overestimating the nature of the test: Many students get carried away by reports that hold CAT in high regard and term it as one of the toughest entrances to crack on the basis of converts : candidates ratio. Statistics as we all know can be twisted to prove anything that we would want to. The level of difficulty is not that high but it is the relative grading that makes it tougher. However, it is something that you do not have control over and so, should not be a worry.

2. Looking for a perfect strategy/having a rigid strategy/asking generic questions: Most of the queries that CAT trainers get are somehow related to “I am at point X, how do I get to a 99+ score”. There is no magic potion or a sure shot method that allows anyone to get a 99+ score. However, there are basically three aspects to doing well in anything in your life: ability, ambition and awareness. If you lack even one of the three, you will have to keep your expectations in check (see point 9 as well). Most of the aspirants ask generic questions and so, get generic advice which doesn’t really help them differentiate themselves from the other aspirants. Ergo, try to understand your ability well and know your prep like the back of your palm. After all, you would be expected to be good with analysis and data after you finish your MBA and the process starts now.

3. Following the wrong people/institutions: Taking advice is good and is highly recommended if you want to do well but there are too many people out there giving out too much gyaan. You have to understand which of them is really going to help you and which one is not. Credentials don’t mean much and quite a few people are downright fake when it comes to advising students. If I were an aware aspirant, I need not dwell too much on the names and credentials. Also, just because a 1000 students from an institute (out of (coughing) 40,000 (more cough) ‘registered’ users!) made it to an IIM doesn’t increase your chances of getting into an IIM. So, choose your friends wisely and your mentors even more wisely.

Things to avoid during your preparation for CAT 2017

4. Preparing too much/peaking at the right time: Just because someone took 100 mocks and got a 99.9+ score doesn’t mean you too will. Again, there is no magic elixir that helps you get a 100 percentile and so, do not stick to formulas that worked for others. Understand your learning style (mocks only, material only with minimal mocks, 100 questions per concept, etc.) and follow it religiously. Ideal number of questions hovers around 6000-7000 and anything above that would be an overkill. Understand that peaking at the right time is very important and you need to be in the best possible mental state come November. If you peak too early, you would get bored with prep (there is not much to do anyway) and if you delay your surge, it won’t be of much help.

5. Do or die situation: A large majority of the students make it a do or die situation and end up putting additional pressure on themselves instead of enjoying their prep. I have never seen someone who does not enjoy his/her prep getting into the institute of his/her choice. So, love what you are doing instead of doing it out of compulsion.

6. Mock percentiles: Take all the percentiles you get in your mocks with a pinch of salt. The sample set is low, the level of difficulty is higher and you would have a far more number of serious aspirants taking the test. Also, beware of the fake scorers who boost their percentiles by unfair means (yes, that is true and the number is higher than we would imagine). Get to know your strengths and weaknesses and treat your percentile just the way it is meant to be: just a number.

7. Taking a gap: Not recommended in any scenario. There is a concept called Parkinson’s law which states that your work would expand to fit into the time that you have. Even your most hardworking aspirant would prepare for roughly 2-3 hours a day on an average (not considering the mocks) and so, full time prep is a concept that is grossly misunderstood. Also, defending questions during interviews could turn out into a big nightmare.

Things to avoid during your preparation for CAT 2017

8. Changing your lifestyle/not having a life: For many students, CAT prep = not having a life. Not true at all. Carrying on from point 5, enjoy your prep and enjoy the things you do. Learn to prioritize though and instead of not doing an activity altogether, try borrowing time from another and balancing the two. After all you are aspiring to be a ‘manager’ aren’t you?

9. Overestimating your ability/putting all your eggs in one basket: Understand your ability well. Do not put everything in the CAT basket especially with the kind of uncertainty that is associated with the test. XLRI, SIBM, IIFT, NMIMS, etc. are competent institutes and you might want to reject them after you convert one of them. Many students overestimate themselves and end up being disappointed and without options at the end of the season. Beware of that.

10. Not understanding the Pareto principle: I would touch a bit of prep in this point. 80% of your CAT paper comes from 20% of the concepts you have learnt. Instead of going for obscure concepts (shoes and socks to be put on a 12-legged insect, unequal distribution of alike objects, Chinese/Japanese/German remainder theorems, etc.) try to focus on the ‘simple’ concepts (arithmetic, basic algebra geometry, time speed distance, probability, etc.).

11. Improper mock analysis: Analyse your mocks well and take a mock with a certain objective in your mind. Aimlessly shooting darts and hoping to hit the bulls eye is something that rarely bears fruit. You can read more on the art of mock analysis in this post: The art of mock CAT analysis – Learningroots

Do let us know in case you have anything to add to the list of things to avoid during your preparation for CAT 2017.

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