Time Management Strategies - CAT Preparation along with Job

Introduction about the exam

CAT exam (Common Admission Test) is an exam undertaken by MBA aspirants to gain admission to IIM’s and other prestigious B-schools all over India. The exam is computer-based and usually happens around the 4th week of November. The different section in the exam includes – Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension, Quantitative Aptitude, Data Interpretation, and Logical Reasoning. It is a highly competitive exam and around half a million students appear for the exam trying their level best to gain admission to pursue their MBA education.

What do working people need to know before taking the CAT exam?

Working people can find a lot of pressure in managing time for proper preparation. As daily planners suggested below, time divided for each topic can be handled diligently.

CAT preparation requires roughly 300 – 500 hours of serious preparation time which he/she can distribute along a span of 3 or 4 month. Studying for at least 2 hours on all days is advised. 

The first thing is getting to know the CAT exam pattern and CAT syllabus in detail. Getting the right material is vital for systematic studies. Make use of sample practice papers to understand the strengths and weaknesses. The right amount of confidence is enough to get a good percentile. Speak to past CAT candidates and experts about their experience of writing CAT.

Cracking Mocks tests are time and again foolproof strategy in preparation. Get familiarized with common questions. At the same time, mock solutions give certain tips and tricks to solve questions that would rather take up more time. 

The key to tackle the challenge of managing work and preparing for CAT is creating a daily planner with the minutest detail consisting of the topics that need to be studied for the day. Follow the routine, create a chart for daily activities for each hour. Be in a position to prioritize the tasks by giving each task some weightage 

If the plan is followed strategically every day, getting 2 – 4 hours dedicated time for CAT preparation is bliss. Life becomes easy once what tasks need to be done is known and what the purpose of doing it. If at all time is of shortage, weekends are always a good option to dedicate more for the time lost.

Below we are giving a sample plan for working professionals to follow for their CAT Preparation (Please note, this plan is subjective to change depending on the work timings the person has): –

  • Wake up early around 6.30 AM preferably. Early risers are found to more productive and able to manage time much more efficiently
  • Spend almost an hour reading the newspaper, preferably Hindu/Economic Times. Jotting down new words you come across while reading newspapers is a really good method. 10 words a day and writing down their antonyms and synonyms would be good enough for preparation
  • Have breakfast, and it will be almost time for the person to leave for work 
  • Suppose the person gets back from work around 7/8 pm considering traffic and travelling time
  • Have a nice bath and take a power nap if it’s needed
  • 3 hours is needed every day for CAT preparation for 3 months preferably. So one can sit to study around 9 PM after dinner
  • Now it is midnight, it’s time to rest. Before that one can read a nice book for 30 mins before going to sleep because reading will immensely help the individual excel in his MBA career
  • Repeat the process the next day
Note: More time can be used during weekends to compensate for any time that will be missed during the weekdays. 
A working professional needs to know that he/she already has commitments to work. So it is better to avoid all kinds of parties and functions until the exam. One should know that he/she is aiming for a goal that will lead him/her to a successful life. So avoiding a bit of entertainment is a part of the sacrifice that is needed. Something better will be waiting on the other side for the sacrifice one has done.
While many may not wish to quit the job and juggling between family responsibilities and work can be hectic, getting work from home or flexible work hours may not work with all employers but discussing with the current employer way ahead of time will help. Remembering saying “no” in the first place is ok rather than committing and not doing the work on time. As a working professional, finding time for preparation is the most difficult. For those who prefer studying at night, some crash course institutes even offer night classes for CAT preparation to study after working hours. And for the early birds, they can squeeze in 1-2 hours of preparation before they run to the office. 
Try avoiding long-distance travelling to work. If unavoidable, reading up articles during travel can be taken up as an option for CAT preparation. Squeeze in a half to one hour during the morning to catch up on the daily news. Good communication skill is a key venture in cracking the CAT. Reading books and the editorial section in the newspapers is highly recommended for talking lack of communication skills. Proper communication skills are necessary during group discussions and personal interviews. 
Try to make stress management as part of the preparation plan. Stress is one of the demeaning factors that an MBA aspirant can encounter in his journey. And having a job to top it off will just add the stress. So, adding stress management as part of the preparation plan will help in the process.

Finding your strengths and weaknesses
A major part of cracking the CAT exam comes when an MBA aspirant can identify their strengths and weaknesses. CAT exam is all about practicing on your strengths and improving your areas of weakness. Cracking a competitive exam like CAT needs proper research, learning, a lot of practice, and a little bit of luck. Although all the areas in the CAT exam are equally important, when a person starts to practice, they will understand which areas they need more improvement on and practice on them accordingly.

Where the exam-taker goes wrong in preparation
Spending the majority of time in one area and neglecting an area where more work is required is not the right approach to tackle a competitive exam like CAT. Students tend to spend more time learning QA which has 34% weightage and spend less time preparing for LR/DI/RC which constitutes the rest 66%. It is advised to find the right approach to tackle all obstructions which work for them the best. Improving literary skills on abstract topics and fiction, current affairs, business & economics, working faster in solving quant questions are all part of the preparation. Even though an MBA aspirant spends more time preparing for quants, there are chances that all questions cannot be answered correctly confidently. Educational centres advise MBA aspirants to give importance and practice all areas to crack exams. 

Analyze Mock Tests
The previous suggestion will help the MBA aspirant in his preparation course. But if one needs to analyze himself/herself properly, what he/she can do is attempt mock tests. If the person has attempted at least 3 mock tests seriously he/she will be having enough data as to where they are weak and where they are strong. An exam-taker should identify which questions to tackle first by splitting them into simple, medium, and complex and solve accordingly. Analyze the answers and rework the wrong ones. Losing marks for simple questions are not affordable for an exam-taker as there is negative marking in CAT exam. Identify the sections and concentrate on working better in those areas which are found to be difficult to crack and thus the weak areas have been found. Practice increasing the speed and accuracy in solving the questions. 
Tackling difficult questions first and getting them wrong is a big no-no. Aspirants tend to spend more time on difficult questions and thus lose time to solve the easy and quick ones which they might be confident to crack. Here the exam-taker needs to be smart enough to identify such questions and try to attempt them later. Although some aspire to score 100%, getting a top percentile is more important. Managing time is the key factor in solving the CAT exam. The more number of questions solved correctly in lesser time, the better. 
Being clear on the fundamentals is compulsory. One of the symptoms where the students are not clear is when they hover over a question over a long period. So being thorough on your fundamentals is non-negotiable.

There is no age limit defined in eligibility norms for CAT. Though 2 Years Bachelors degree is not accepted by IIMs but acceptable to appear for CAT as per the old educational system. Balance is the key here. Trust the process and strive to achieve the goal. Working professionals need to know managing time and stress is the key factor in solving the CAT exam along with the right material and expert help. This way efficiency and productivity will multiply and the exam can be enjoyed. 


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Nihar Mehta
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I joined the classroom coaching programme at MBA Pathshala for my CAT preparation. Since the very beginning, Abhijit Sir & Haider Sir guided me in terms of the strategy & the approach required in order to fare well in the exam. They not only stressed on the academics but also pushed me to build my profile aligned with my interests. Post CAT, they gave me ample practice for my GD & PI preparations with sufficient number of mock interviews & regular feedback for improvement. I managed to get calls from IIMs, SPJIMR & MDI. A huge part in this goes to the team at MBAP and I am cannot thank them enough for their contribution.
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I joined MBAP for GMAT prep and my experience with them was really amazing, from the first day itself the faculties gave personal attention to each student and made sure each student had their own personalised GMAT and CAT prep plans. The Verbal faculty Rohan Kulkarni Sir was amazing, I was very weak in English and verbal section, but through his guidance I scored a V38 (85th percentile) in my GMAT exam. The Quant faculties Abhijeet and Haider Sir helped me develop strategies and short cuts to approach GMAT problems and we're always available for my doubts. Overall it was a great experience and I would reccomend MBAP to everyone for GMAT and CAT prep