Common Admission Test is not something for which one can define a preparation time-frame. There are three components when it comes to any entrance exam.
- Natural aptitude
- Preparation strategy
- Quantity and quality of work
Every aspirant is different. People understand thing differently, we have different learning styles, personality types, etc. Our background also plays a role in deciding our aptitude and how our mind works. Over the years, we develop a certain skill-set which can be summarized as our aptitude. So one with a higher aptitude for competitive exams will find it easier to prepare for an exam like CAT whereas someone with a higher aptitude for some other skill (playing a flute) can learn a similar skill quickly (say playing a guitar). In three months, you won’t be able to do much about your natural aptitude. You can try the following things to sharpen it a little.
- Solve a lot of puzzles (Sudoku, Kakuro, crosswords, Shakuntala Devi books, brain teasers, etc.)
- Perform mental calculations (I generally calculate the total of the stuff I buy at the local grocery store or find percentage discount I am getting on a combo deal)
- Read anything and everything (Reading and connecting random pieces of information helps a lot in improving learning ability as well as increases your knowledge)
- Pattern recognition (Can you look at a graph or a table and understand the obvious and the hidden information? Can you find a pattern?)
- Play a mind sport (Chess, strategy based games can help one develop thinking ability)
In the next three months, assuming you are starting from scratch, you have roughly a month to prepare basic fundamentals, two months to take mocks and fine tune your strategy. So how you are going to divide your time depends on how you are able to handle the basics. One can finish the basic concepts in about three weeks and then jump on basic-> moderate -> advanced problems as soon as possible. You can refer to any material available in the market or coaching institute material. Bottom-line is to do the relevant stuff quickly and move to mocks. Taking mocks, analyzing them and fine tuning your strategy is very important. To give an example, when you solve data interpretation sets, just by looking at the set and the questions, you should be able to decide whether to attempt it or not. This will come only when you practice enough questions and solve mocks to understand test dynamics.
Quantity and quality of work
Solving 100 questions of the same type is not required. Instead, you should solve n different questions of a particular concept to understand applications. Books that promise 3000+ questions have about 10% core concept based questions. Rest is just wordplay and changing question figures and options. So do the stuff that’s relevant. Solve quality questions, past CAT papers, take quality mocks. Instead of taking 40 mocks just because your friend is doing it, you should aim for x number of mocks with analysis and decide x for yourself. 2-3 hours of preparation is good enough even if you are starting now, if you are serious and put in genuine efforts.
One can take six months to prepare for CAT whereas one might take a year. Under constructive pressure, one can even do it in a month. My suggestion is to enjoy the process and be serious about the whole journey. Rest should fall in place.
This article originally appeared on Quora.