Strategy for cat 2016 re-takers/repeaters

The CAT 2016 fever is starting to gain momentum with freshers and re-takers alike thinking about how to start with their preparation. Recently, I replied to this question on Quora: How do I start preparation for CAT 2016 starting April? (repeater with 1.5 years of prep). For those of you who are wondering where to start and what to do before the mock season takes off, here are a few pointers. First thing that you have to do is to decide whether you would be taking CAT 2016 or not.

Identifying the gaps in your prep – if there are major gaps with regard to content (not focusing on a particular area at all e.g. arithmetic, geometry, PnC, etc.) or strategy (composure, nervousness, not taken enough mocks, etc.) you would stand a chance to improve your score by a significant amount. Simple tweaks in strategy and strong basic content are enough to get a 90-95%ile in CAT at the very least in my opinion. The rest is up to what you prepare post this stage.

Targeting institutes accordingly – Many students falter at this step and realize it a bit too late that the institutes they were targeting require a much better performance (past academic performance, CAT score, GDPI, etc.) than what they could put. Generally, you would want to grade colleges under three heads

a) Ambitious – the ones you could get through if you perform out of your skin on the D-day
b) Practical – the ones that you could get through on a normal day which can be extrapolated from you score in mock tests
c) Conservative – the ones that are essentially your backup and you would not mind getting if it eventually comes to that

Be frank with yourself while grading these institutes and consider your performance over the past few tests that you have taken. If someone has consistently been stuck in the 70s even after a lot of dedication and focused prep, s/he has to understand that being adamant about getting into only IIM A/B/C is a bit risky (not to discourage students who dream about it but history has shown that there have been extremely rare cases of students improving by that much).

Coming to your main query regarding a prep schedule, you have already prepared for 1.5 years and so, it would be an overkill if you sit with your basic material again. I am pretty sure that by now you have understood what needs to be done what needs to be left out while preparing for CAT. So I would advise something on these lines:

1. Finish off glancing at your basic material by April end and especially strengthen the following concepts

a. Percentages
b. Profit loss discount
c. Averages
d. Simple interest and compound interest
e. Ratio and proportion
f. Mixtures and alligations
g. Linear equations
h. Flat figures geometry (triangles, quadrilaterals, circles)

If you are not very sure of the question types, you can maintain a PPT of the same by adding a screenshot of a new question type every time you come across one. Do not add similar questions one after the other and be very selective of which ones you want to admit into this set. An example could be, in case of say SI CI:

1. Basic simple interest question with one missing variable
2. Basic compound interest question with one missing variable
3. Difference in 2 years of investing a sum on SI and CI is given
4. Difference in n years of investing a sum of SI and CI is given
5. Quarterly/half-yearly compounding
6. Part of an amount invested at SI and remaining part at CI

…and so on.

This will help you understand the question types and the strategy to follow while solving them.

2. Start taking mocks and sectionals starting from May. Ideally you should target one mock per week at the start till the notification comes out (July end) and then 2 mocks a week till CAT (probably November end) so, a total of 10+30 = 40 mocks approximately. I am focusing more on mocks here as you would not require much help with basic content and topic wise prep and so, you need to make things a bit more interesting this time so that you do not get bored of prep (trust me, it will start getting monotonous after a point in time and it becomes very easy to give up especially if you are not showing any signs of improvement).

3. Analyse your mocks well and understand exactly which areas you need to work on. I had written a post here about mock analysis that you might to check out:

The art of mock CAT analysis

4. Take a lot of mixed-bag sectionals. If you are solving 20 questions from one area consecutively, you will find that you timing would improve with each passing question as you do not need to switch on and off. But CAT will have a mixed bag of questions and so, one needs to be adept at putting the topic that one just solved behind and be ready for the next question with the same amount of concentration. The people who wander during this period are the ones who generally get lost (with all due respect to JRR Tolkien).

5. Read across a lot of topics and be prepared for a fresh domain which you haven’t encountered yet: A lot of students are not well-read and so, find it difficult to adapt to a new passage which is most probably outside their area of interest. While many identify this weakness, very few actually work on it. So, it might be beneficial to read a lot of topics from various sources (op-eds,,, etc.) if you want to improve your adaptability to topics.

6. If you are not scoring well in mocks (consistent 60%iles and 70%iles), start with a 10-10-10 strategy and then build on that. Spot 10 of the easiest questions in each section and solve them first. If you finish with 10 questions in say 40 minutes, cross-check them again for any errors. Only once you are confident of these 10 should you go to solving other questions. It sounds incredibly downgrading but is very helpful if you get into the habit of scoring at least a 90 in each of your mocks and gives you a starting point to develop on. Analyze these questions thoroughly after your test and see if there were any questions that you chose wrongly. Trust me it helps, especially if you are not a gifted candidate and rely on analysis than anything else.

Bottom line, target solving around 5k-7k quality questions, including mocks, be well-read, understand yourself and your prep well and you should do a lot better than what you did last year.

Hope that helps. All the best with your prep.

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