Category I: I am a rockstar in one of the two sections but have no idea
whatsoever about the other.
have identified your strength. Now, play
to your strength. If your strong area is,
say, Section I i.e., Quant and DI, never even shoot to attempt (and get right)
less than 26 questions. Make this a
habit right from your first mock. Remember, this means you don't have the
freedom of either focusing less on DI because you don't like calculations (Hi
five! I am one among them) or focusing less on a particular chapter, like say
Work and Time, because you don't deem it important/don't like it. Doing this would ensure a 99.6x+ percentile in
this section. Believe me, the gap between a 99.6 and a 98.5 percentile is wider
than you think because the gap in the CAT score out of 450 could be much higher
than the percentile difference suggests. Since the interview call is based on the CAT
score out of 450, the percentile number could be slightly misleading.
it. But, what do I do about the other section?
If you are
a rock-star in Section I, then it is almost impossible that you don't
understand anything of LR in Section II. Well then, that's your strength in
Section II. I know of candidates who attempted just the 9 or 10 LR questions in
Section II, ended up scoring an 80.xx percentile but maxed Section I by scoring
a 99.9x and landed a seat with a top IIM. That's a smart strategy. But be
cautious about the cut-offs for general/OBC/SC/ST categories. Of course, not
many people would want to do this and you don't have to either. Anyone who is a
rock-star in one section and has no idea about the other has just not tried
enough. A person's skill sets for these two sections are not so poorly correlated,
after all. Reading Comprehension is, by far, the best sub-section in Verbal
that one can focus on. You know you would get around nine or 10 questions of RC
and any candidate with a decent understanding of English (if you can max out Section
I, you got to be decent in English) can attempt and get right four or five
questions. While you are practicing RCs, do not focus on building speed. Focus
on understanding what you read. Not being able to attempt enough questions is
primarily a function of being unable to correctly answer a question in the
first attempt; this happens because you can't understand the question. With
this, you might be able to increase the count of RC questions to seven or eight.
So, nine or ten LR questions plus seven or eight RC questions and you already
have 16-18 correct attempts in your kitty. With a good understanding of
passages, you will begin to get most of the answers in Sentence Rearrangement
and Paragraph Completion/Elimination questions right. That's three or four questions
more. A total of 20 to 22 correct attempts in your weaker section is brilliant.
Again, this is something you should practice right from your early mocks.
Category II: I am not a rock-star in either of
the two sections but I almost always manage to get a balanced score.
is tricky. I know it is because I am one of your kinds. You always have this
feeling that you are almost there, yet far. I have come to realize that being
able to get a balanced score is actually not that bad. If you also know that
you would always score in the range of 94.xx to 98.xx percentile in both
sections with an overall of 97.xx to 98.xx, you should focus on accuracy in
attempts. Only accuracy can take you from 98.xx to 99.7x and is important for
any candidate (especially in the open category and with not-so-decent
academics) to secure an interview call from at least a few IIMs. You know you
are going to be capped at 22-23 question attempts in each of the sections and you
cannot afford to get even a single one wrong. And for that level of accuracy, besides the
fact that you should read every question properly and not fall for common
traps, you should not get anxious in the examination hall. Calm down your
nerves before you hit Start.
my nerves!?! That's easier said than done.
There's no one way to do this. Even the most careless of all test-takers will
have a moment of anxiety while entering the exam hall. However, there's one
thing you might consider doing. I did this but I can't say for sure if it
worked or not. Do not write only the CAT and be hell bent on joining only the
top IIMs. Broaden your options. There
are so many other good B-schools in India, including FMS, XLRI, MDI, IIFT and
the likes. If you are prepared for the CAT, you are prepared for pretty much
any other exam. So write XAT and IIFT, for sure. You might want to add NMAT and
SNAP too. Also, apply well in advance to B-schools that accept CAT/XAT scores such
as SP Jain, MDI and FMS. Two reasons why this might help: One, if some of these
exams were to happen before CAT, that's good exam-day practice. Two, by
applying to so many B-schools, you end up knowing a lot of information about
them, thereby realizing that you do have a larger basket of 'good' options to
choose from. For all you know, you might end up with a BCG offer from FMS/XLRI
than if you had been to IIM-A/B/C!
The author of the above piece is Shivaram, a
graduate from College of Engineering at Guindy in Chennai, Class of 2010. He worked
with 2IIM for a year before joining IIM-A in 2012.