Over the last few days, I have been traveling around the country, interacting with a lot of CAT 2015 aspirants. While there have been quite a few direct content and macro-level strategy queries, a lot of aspirants worry about maintaining high level of concentration and lack of any sort of tiredness throughout the 3-hour window. In this article, I will try to clear a few doubts and suggest a few techniques that might be useful to improve concentration while taking the test.
CAT 2015 is going to be a 4-hour test
Surprised? No, I am not fielding any rumours out there. For all those of you who find it difficult sitting at one place for three hours, you have to take into account the fact that you would need to reach the center a good 1.5-2 hours before your slot post which you would be directed to your testing area post biometric analysis and then you will have to wait for another 30-45 minutes before the actual test begins.
So, if you are finding it difficult to solve the last 30 minutes of verbal ability, during the actual test, you might find yourself struggling with the latter half of DI unless you are in the best frame of mind.
Generally, irrespective of whatever the student databases say, around 30,000 students genuinely prepare for CAT by means of taking mock tests, getting enrolled in coaching institutes, self-prep, consulting seniors and getting notes and so on. The population beyond this is practically non-existent and you can be assured of leapfrogging them if you have put even some thought to your prep.
Also, remember that out of those 30,000 serious aspirants, if you are not able to focus for those 3 hours, the gap between you and the top candidates will keep on increasing. The best of the candidates realize the importance of these extra 20-30 minutes and can increase their score by good 20-30 marks by simply concentrating a bit harder.
There are a few things that you can take care of during your prep so that it doesn’t surprise you during the actual test and also help you improve concentration.
Mock taking is probably the most important thing that a serious aspirant can do to race ahead of the candidate pool. While the preparation aspect of mocks is well documented and understood by a majority of the candidates, few appreciate the scenarios that can be simulated during a test.
Many aspirants take mocks keeping in mind the scores, the accuracies, the percentiles across sections and other objective parameters. However, it is very important to take mocks simulating the test environment. Whenever you are taking a mock, try taking it without any breaks, no water, no stretching and standing up, no phone calls, no texts, and no chats. Also, make it a point to solve the entire paper using only a couple of A4 sheets. It might seem taxing at the start but slowly you will appreciate the sameness that comes with each test. This leads to lesser variations and so, you have a fair idea of what to expect during the test.
The 3.5-hour mock
While it would be extremely difficult to sit at one place for 4-hours straight while taking each and every mock, it would not be a bad idea to try out a 4-hour test 2-3 times before the actual CAT. This can be done closer to the CAT when you might have more time as you would not be preparing fresh content. Sit idle in front of your desktop/laptop and stare at your screensaver/wallpaper without doing any activity. Think about the strategy and the good things you have studied as a part of your prep. Once you have exhausted more than 30 minutes doing nothing, start with the test.
A lot of students prefer studying early in the morning when their minds are fresh and there are no worries. While it is a good practice to ensure that you grasp as much as possible, few suggest that you make it a point to study a bit at the end of the day. It is advisable to take a sectional or solve a few questions at the end of the day to make sure that you train yourself to solve questions while being tired.
During the test
While it is not really recommended unless the issue is serious, you can take a break for the first five minutes at the beginning of the third section. As it would be Verbal Ability in all probability, you would have sufficient time to finish the section even if you take a time out for 3-5 minutes at the beginning. The downside is that it would lead to loss of momentum and you might think about the previous sections making you more nervous and fidgety but if you desperately need a break from the goings-on and if you can refrain from thinking about your performance, it would be the best bet.
Meditation, yoga and beliefs
While it is not really possible to build concentration during the test, you can try out simpler techniques that help you maintain focus. Yoga and meditation have a calming effect which acts more or less like a placebo. Another technique called Mindfulness by Thích Nhất Hạnh has been practiced by a few test takers with some perceived benefit. You have to be aware of the activity that you are doing and not allow yourself to deviate. In case you do, you would have to come back to the original activity and start thinking about the same again.
Enjoy your prep
As simple as it sounds, not many students are able to do this. You already knew what you were signing up for and so, you better be prepared for it. Most of the students make a big deal out of the entrance test and subsequently end up putting a lot more pressure on themselves than is required. The more enjoyment your prep gives you, the better off you are. The best of the CAT performers will tell you that they were simply excited at the prospects of facing a test. After a certain point in time, taking tests becomes second nature to them. CAT is not only a quant and verbal assessment test but also does it provide some insights into your psyche and can tell a lot about the nature of a candidate. If doing something that your career hinges on doesn’t excite you enough so as to hold your attention for a span of 3-4 hours, you are probably not cut out for the challenges that lie in the near future. So, if you are facing these problems even after practicing the various techniques, it would be a nice idea to take a step back and introspect about your decision and if you really need to do an MBA that badly. If the answer is yes, you will find a way to concentrate long and hard during the test.
We really hope that these tips would make a difference to your prep. In case you want to hear about some other aspects of test taking strategies, do drop us a line and we will try to cover it.
Also, do check out the other posts under 75 days to CAT!
All the best!