CAT on the Computer

The CAT for admission to the Indian Institute of Management (IIMs) and other B-schools in India will be held over 20 days between October 27 and November 23, 2010 with breaks for Diwali. Given the extraordinary amount of technical glitches in last year’s exam, most students are wary of this year’s test as well. However, no matter the technical goof-ups that may or may not occur this year, the following steps will surely help you maximize your performance in the exam.

Appearing for the CAT on the computer is substantially different from appearing for it in the paper and pencil mode. For instance, it is much tougher to read large quantities of text in the reading comprehensive questions on the computer than in an exam booklet. Similarly interpreting graphs and tables on the screen is tougher than on a paper. Where you can make all kinds of scratch marks and notations Thus, it is crucial that you are prepared to appear for the test on the computer. It is fine to work with paper and pen during the initial stages of practice but in the final run up, i.e. beginning September you should practice tests only on the computer

Focus on important topics

If we were to list all the topics in the math section of the CAT, we would end up with a list of about 25 odd topics. However, only three of these are extremely important – geometry, functions and number systems. There is a good chance that these three will account for more than a third of all the questions asked in the math section. However, you cannot take the risk of preparing for only three topics out of 25. But you need to ensure that you are well prepared for these. Likewise the reading comprehension section in the CAT continues to be disproportionately long. Hence you need to spend a lot of time practicing comprehensive questions.

Master your strengths improvise on your weakness

Prepare for the test realistically. Make sure to score high in your areas of strength and not perform too poorly in sections / topics that are you are weak in. In the month of August you can spend most of your time overcoming your weaknesses. But beginning September at least half your study time should focus on revising topics that you tend to do well in. As the CAT approaches, the proportion of time you spend on topics you are proficient in should increase. In any case, by the end of September you should complete the syllabus. October is the month of practice.

Understand the exam

To begin with CAT has a reputation that intimidates many. As if that was not enough rumor mills are abuzz with likely problems that are supposedly occur in this year’s computerized test. Some common concerns that you may have as a candidate are:

Different students’ different tests

To most students who are used to one entrance exam held on single day of the year, it is disconcerting to know that there will be 40 different administrations of the CAT this year. That is to say there will be two CATs each on 20 different days. The important questions that arise are: What if your CAT is more difficult than that of some others? What if your favorite topics do not appear in your test, but show up in that of others? What if the people appearing for your test turn out to be highly intelligent consequently making your core see poor in comparison?

These questions do have some basis, but you have to go with the belief that the IIMs will take care of these discrepancies. Normalization is the statistical process where such noise in the test scores can be removed. Be assured that the IIMs will normalize the scores.

Minimum score in each section

Every year, hundreds of students score well in the CAT but do not make it to one of the IIMs. The reason though their overall score is high, they fail to get the minimum score required in each section.

All CAT applicants know that to qualify for admission to the IIMs they have to secure an overall score as well as separate sectional. But in the melee of the actual CAT, it is easy to overlook this crucial fact. The solution to this problem is effective time management during the exam. For example, if you are more or less equally proficient in three sections of the CAT (quant, verbal, DI/ LR) then you should consider allocating 50 minutes to each of the sections.

Practice meaningful practices

Repeated practice could end up as a vain routine. The trick is to learn from your practice and take the right steps. Once you practice a topic or attempt a mock test, you should evaluate your responses. Try to find out how you could have increased your score. Work on improving your speed in questions that you answered rightly.

Choose the right date

Given last year’s mess it is recommended not to choose an early date to appear for the exam. At the same time, waiting for the last date may not be prudent as it increasing the stress associated with the exam. Keep in mind that this year Diwali begins on November 5 so it’s best to be done with the exam before the festival begins. The best dates then would be November 3 or 4. This should give you adequate opportunity to learn about the pattern and administration of this year’s CAT. However, if you are not up for these dates, chooses the earliest date feasible after November 11.

Don’t get rattled by the procedure

You have quite likely never appeared for an exam such as the computerized CAT. On the day of the exam, you will have to sign a legal document called an NDA (Non Disclosure agreement). Your thumb Impressions will be scanned. In addition, different computers in the exam will boot at different speeds all this is enough to rattle the serious student. But, it is important to realize that as far as score and admission are concerned, none of this matters. Try your best to avoid getting caught up in the motions.