The Common Admission Test (CAT) is known to be one of the most competitive exams in India. So many aspirants prepare for CAT but only a handful manage to be in the very top percentile. Failing to get a good score is usually blamed on not working hard enough but this is not always the case. More often than not, the culprits are lack of proper planning, preparation and repeating some common mistakes.
The common CAT mistakes candidates make can be due to varied reasons – starting from lack of motivation to inconsistency to something as drastic as not taking enough mocks. Let’s look at some common mistakes a candidate makes as well as tips to avoid them. CAT aspirants will be well advised to go through these mistakes to have an effective CAT preparation and be one of the top percentile holders.
More often than not, candidates directly start solving problems and ignore going through basics. This usually results in the candidate solving only a few problems from a topic and moving onto the next one without really understanding the basics from that particular topic. Candidates usually do this with the Quantitative section since they feel the syllabus is vast and they just want to finish it as soon as possible.
It is extremely crucial to get the basics of mathematics right before solving problems. CAT syllabus requires a candidate to have a thorough understanding of maths and the candidate must begin with basics to ace this section.
A continuation of the previous mistake is the fact that several candidates skip topics because either they feel overconfident about them or they simply don’t like the topic. This can be dangerous because the CAT syllabus requires comprehensive preparation of all topics and skipping too many topics can result in candidates feeling lost in the actual exam.
A lot of candidates start strong during the early stages of preparation but lose steam in between. Studying 8 hours one day and not touching books for the next two days will lead you nowhere. It is vital to make a study plan and stick to it. It doesn’t mean you have to study for 12 hours every day. If you start your preparation early enough, even managing 3-5 hours a day would be enough to cover the vast CAT syllabus – which brings us to the next point.
Some candidates start CAT preparation as late as September/October leaving them barely a month or two to cover the CAT syllabus. As mentioned above, starting early and sticking to a study plan will yield high results to the candidate.
This usually happens with people who have been working for the past 1-2 years and have become comfortable in their 9-5 jobs. These people just view CAT as a fallback option and rarely find the will or motivation for serious preparation. The drive to crack CAT will only come if the candidate truly understands and believes that CAT can change his/her life. Factors can be umpteen – ranging from getting more money, better roles, and work-life balance to reaching a good social standing or even something as trivial as an IIM tag. It is vital to find this motivation within yourself and not slack off during preparations.
“I hate the VARC section! It’s simply beyond me! I’m good at Quants and I will cover it up there.”
Did you ever hear such a statement from a fellow CAT aspirant or did you mutter something similar to yourself? We impose several psychological barriers on ourselves based on our past experiences and we give up before even finding alternatives to get past them. Over-reliance on one subject can spell doom if that subject ends up being the toughest section for that year. Never ignore a subject just because it is ‘too hard’ or ‘out of reach’.
This is mainly for those people who have a psychological barrier towards the VARC section. This section in CAT just tests your general understanding of the English language. You do not need to know complex grammar or sentence structures to crack it. Just regular and thorough reading of newspaper editorial sections, well-written novels or articles, or even reading non-fiction books regularly is enough preparation.
Several candidates end up joining too many WhatsApp/telegram groups and end up spending a lot of their time-solving questions that are either unnecessary or simply too hard. It is advisable to focus on one mentor and one base book for each subject for the main preparation. Only after completing everything from that one source should the candidate decide if he/she needs to refer to extra study material.
Candidates finish the entire CAT syllabus and decide to start tackling mocks instantly. They spend the last 1-2 months attempting mock after mock (another mistake – will be dealt with below) but they forget a vital component to CAT preparation – Revision. Humans tend to forget things if we do not revise regularly. Candidates start CAT preparation as early as January so it is only natural that they might forget a few concepts or topics by October/November. Everyone prepares similarly but it is the revision that differentiates the top percentile students from the rest.
This happens to be one of the biggest mistakes any candidate can do. Taking mocks will teach you the art of taking the CAT exam. It teaches time management, what to attempt and what to avoid, prepare strategies, identify weaknesses, and taking steps to eliminate them. It also teaches the two most crucial elements for CAT success – speed and accuracy. Opinions will differ on the number of mocks to take. Some would recommend 10-20 and some would go as high as 40-50 but the real difference is in how you analyze them – which brings us to the next crucial mistake most candidates do.
Most candidates simply check their scores in a mock exam and quickly move on to the next one. There is no error graver than this one. Each mock allows you to analyze your mistakes and rectify them so that you don’t repeat them. You are not simply writing these mocks to know your marks or to celebrate your preparation. After completing each mock, check the wrongly attempted questions and find out what went wrong. Also, try finding solutions to the unattempted questions. If these questions are from topics you have already thoroughly prepared, then you need to understand the different approaches used to solve these problems. Each mistake in mocks is an opportunity to improve. When the margin for error in these exams is so low, you do not want to be missing out on even a single question.
As a continuation of analyzing mocks, ensure that you find the little tricks and strategies that some special problems require. These strategies can be the difference between taking 5 minutes to solve to taking less than 1-2 minutes to solve the same problem. Every bit of saved time will help you attempt a new question. When speed and accuracy play such a huge role in the CAT exam, every single trick and strategy you learn will only help you gain an advantage over everyone else.
CAT preparation can be monotonous. You spend hours and hours going through problems and sometimes, the whole process can be overwhelming. Take breaks between studies and do something you enjoy during this time. This can range from spending some valuable time with family and friends to pursuing your favourite hobbies or activities. Finding balance and not overstressing is the key to a happy mind. Once you feel refreshed and re-energized, you can continue your CAT preparation with full gusto again.
To err is human and every candidate will end up making mistakes both in CAT preparation as well as in the actual exam. But it is important to remember that motivation and hard work are always key to success. Keep a goal and never waver from it. Keep practising, revising, and analyzing and success will surely follow. And always remember, giving up is not an option!