How to prepare for CAT exam? | Tips and Tricks

Jeetesh Varshney

May 18, 2019

Disclaimer : Previously published on InsideIIM.com

Common Admission Test-CAT, as we popularly know it, is the most important exam for the management aspirants, receives around two lakhs applications every year. Last year in 2018 only, around 2.40 lakh aspirants applied for CAT, and the number keeps increasing year after year. The journey of each aspirant begins with the same thought of ‘whether I am interested in management or not’, ‘even if not interested, is it worth to do management for a push in career?’ The answer to these questions leads to other questions, ‘how to prepare for CAT?’ ‘What should be my CAT preparation strategy?’

Some time ago, I was one among the numerous aspirants of CAT. Now, I am a student of one of the prestigious members of the elite league of IIMs, i.e. IIM Udaipur. This has been a great journey for me, filled with many ups and downs.

To put things into perspective, my journey for CAT had started when I was in my third year of engineering. I worked fingers to my bone along with my engineering studies till the final year, but in the final year, I got so engrossed in placements and its processes, that the CAT preparation took the back seat. After leaving college, I owned a good job with only 70 percentile in CAT, but then I decided that I will make a comeback after having two years of work experience and that is what I ultimately did with some rectifications in my CAT preparation strategy. Here is a list of the same:

  1. First and foremost, introspect what all errors you did in your prior attempt (if applicable) and jot down everything and paste it in front of you so that you will never repeat them.
  2. Start with the basics first and complete them as soon as possible.
  3. Make reading a habit. Read at least 3-4 editorials of numerous genres daily.
  4. Try to leverage social media and internet for your preparation. With the right strategy, social media can make studying more collaborative and efficient.
  5. Start with Mock tests as early as possible, as giving a mock test and its proper analysis requires a good amount of time, but it will provide you with a whole lot of new insights which only solving a question can give you. So, start early with one mock test in a week, then two in a week and keep going but never give more than one mock test in a day.
  6. Don’t lose hope even if you are getting not so good percentile in mock tests. Just analyse them properly and work more on your Achilles heel and don’t give up till the D day.
  7. Finally, on the D day, get enough sleep and go to the exam centre with a lot of self-confidence and a positive mindset.

All the above-mentioned CAT preparation tips are very much applicable for the beginners (except first one) as well as for repeaters. Other than remembering and following these exam preparation tips diligently, other important tasks are to figure out, ‘What are the best CAT preparation books or materials?’ ‘Which coaching to join?’ etc.

CAT Preparation Books or Materials

  1. For Quantitative Aptitude:
    • How to Prepare for Quantitative Aptitude for CAT by Arun Sharma
    • Quantitative Aptitude Quantum by Sarvesh Kumar
    • Quantitative Aptitude for CAT by Nishit Sinha
    • NCERT Mathematics books (6-10)
  2. For Verbal Ability:
    • How to Prepare for Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension for CAT by Meenakshi Upadhyay and Arun Sharma
    • The Pearson Guide to Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for CAT by Nishit Sinha
    • Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis
    • The editorial sections of good newspapers like The Hindu, The Economic Times etc
  3. For Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning:
    • How to Prepare for Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation for CAT by Arun Sharma
    • Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation by Nishit Sinha
    • A Modern Approach to Logical Reasoning by R.S.Agarwal

Apart from these books, you can also join renowned coaching classes (online or classroom) as per your comfort, which offer quite good CAT preparation material including mocks as well as sectional tests. Some of the renowned coaching institutes are Career Launcher, Time, IMS, Cracku etc.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”- Winston Churchill

Along with all the tips, materials and strategies to crack an exam, the next crucial thing is to keep your motivation or zest level intact till the end. Here are some of my tried and tested ways for the same.

Along with all the cat preparation tips, materials and strategies to crack an exam, the next crucial thing is to keep your motivation or zest level intact till the end. Here are some of my tried and tested ways for the same.

Manage a ‘To Do List’ – A Wonderful Way to Succeed!

Maintaining a ‘To Do List’ is an excellent tool while preparing for the CAT. You should start your day by jotting down the tasks you want to wrap that day. This can be a great encouragement to get quick details about your performance level. With the help of this list, you can be in sync with what all you have covered, what gets left behind and what should be your next target.


Reward Yourself – A Secret Mantra to Enhance Exam Motivation

Want to know how I motivated myself during those tense and anxious months of preparation? Chocolates!!

Start with setting daily goals as per your ‘To Do List’ and reward yourself with little delicacy when you accomplish them. Along with daily goals, also plan out short-term ambitions and try to achieve them. This will encourage you to push your limits and keep you going forward with an exciting and optimistic outlook. So, reach for the stars and once you get there, be ready to do more than patting yourself on the back. Celebrate, and then be ready to aim even higher next time!

Review your progress regularly – A way to stay on track for your goals

Anything which is more vital than completing the course or giving mocks is to review your progress repeatedly. It is important to keep your goals in focus and track your progress that how far you have reached and how much you have still to cover, this will help in keeping you on the right track.

Post Affirmation and get yourself Self-Motivated

Nobody can motivate you in the way you can motivate yourself. If you have a dream, nobody can imagine it better than you do. So, do everything which can take you one step in the direction of that dream and motivate yourself for the same whatever the way is, either by watching the videos of previous 100 percentile holders or by reading motivating articles on Inside IIM. But keep your spirit high and visualize the way you conquer your goals and imagine your moment of triumph.

Do What Works the Best for You!

Having the best approach is one of the most effective manners for a flourishing study. Do what works the paramount for you, be it creating a comfortable environment for studying which is in line with your needs and demands of the exam, finding a study buddy or studying alone, switching off the cell phone while studying and keeping yourself away from social media. But do whatever suits best for you.

Lastly, I want to say that whatever the situation is, whatever your scores are in mock tests, just be sanguine and genuine to yourself and your dreams. You will accomplish your goals only if you believe in yourself and invest your precious time in the right efforts. But don’t leave the race as glory awaits you at the finish line. That’s all that matters. That’s something I have done, and it worked well for me.

“YOU WILL NEVER KNOW YOUR LIMITS UNTIL YOU PUSH YOURSELF TO THEM.”