IIM - CAT Coaching: Experts' Insights

IIM - CAT Coaching: Experts' Insights: July 2014

Sunday, July 27, 2014

CAT 2014 Notification: What does this mean?

CAT 2014 notification is out .

First up, let us review the facts

Time duration: 170 minutes instead of 140 minutes
Number of questions: 50 per section, instead of 30 per section previously
Dates: Nov 16th and Nov 22nd, two sessions per day, instead of 40 sessions in the previous avatar
Change in pattern: Candidates can shift from one section to another, the time limit is 170 minutes for the overall paper. Previously, we used to have 70 minutes per section. Now, the time limits are not in silos and one can choose to spend unequal amounts of time on each section.

Thankfully, the IIMs have chosen to clarify why they are doing these changes. All these changes have been done to make the exam "aspirant-friendly". They might have changed the format dramatically, it is reassuring to know that the IIMs have at least retained their sense of humour.

How does this change preparation strategy for individual sections?
The study plan remains the same. The syllabus, framework remain the same. Practice the basics, build intensity and take lot of tests in the end. Do not pontificate too much on why these changes have been made. Be happy that the test has been made more aspirant-friendly, and continue preparation with the warm glow that comes from knowing someone is looking out for you.

How does it change the plan for CAT?
1. Stamina matters: Taking an exam for 170 minutes is tough. This is not a college exam that can be taken even with "day-dream spells" in the middle. This is an intense exam. The extra half hour can be sapping. I have been taking CAT in the past few years purely for the experience (the implication being that the pressure is less). I get drained out completely by the end of the 140 minutes. I am so tired that I can barely drive back home. An extra 30 minutes is going to kill applicants who do not have stamina. So, start building intensity and stamina from now on.

2. Time management needs to be better: Given the freedom to shift from one section to another, students might flit from one section to another too many times and kill momentum in both. Have a plan that broadly allocates time across the two sections, and have one buffer for going for playing it safe in case you are worrying about section cut-off. Do not plan to shift from section I to II once every 10 minutes. Just because the freedom has been given , it does not mean one has to use it. Till 2009, CAT gave students the freedom of shifting from one section to another. Those of us who have taken CATs in both forms will tell you that this freedom of shifting from one section to another is a double-edged sword. I used to consistently "steal"  a few minutes from quant and use this for verbal. This did not help my overall performance much. My best results came when this freedom was taken away from students. The pressure of worrying about section cut-offs sometime takes something away from the performance. So, be careful with this new found time-management freedom.

3. Students with one strong suit and one weak suit will have a small advantage: A student who is frightfully good in quant and just about average in verbal can now spend 95 minutes on verbal and 75 on quant and "balance" things out. Because this option is now available, students with sharp variance between the two sections can now plan with this in mind. Just a word of caution though, trying to be too cute can come back to bite you in this exam. Plan to have mild tweaks, avoid major overhauls.

Obviously, you will have to take a few mock CATs to get used to the new pattern. As always, the best place for getting the newer version of mock CATs is 2IIM.

Best wishes for CAT 2014.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Strategies for taking Mock CATs:

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Scored 74 in 10th, 82 in 12th what are my chances for getting into IIMs?

I have scored 74 in 10th std, 82 in 12th std, 64 in UG, what are my chances with the IIMs, especially A, B, C? 

This video, in a tribute to Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy more or less says the answer to this question is 42. As the video says, only certainties in life are death and taxes.

To elaborate on this, I am going to start with a quote from Donald Rumsfeld for this one "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know".

Now, why have I written all this? This question, and its sister-questions, cousin-variants, nephews-nieces etc can all be categorized under "No need to know unknowns".

Suppose I were to tell you that to get a call from IIM B, C and L you will need to have 99.68, 99.71 and 99.23 with your profile, how exactly will it influence your CAT preparation? Further let us say, you have attempted 82 questions in the paper with 10 minutes to go. You know that with this attempt number, you should be able to get 99.73. Will you stop right there and say, "I can take rest now. I dont need any more marks."

I took my first CAT (relevant one) in 2000. Back then, the exam was paper-based. There were no percentile scores, no section updates, no new IIMs. We guys took CAT in December. By about February, IIM A, B, C, L would post their interview invites by snail mail (no email either). So, if you did not receive that post, you can assume you just missed out. So, you had to keep the postman in good spirits. There are endless stories of guys nearly missing out on interviews because the post got mixed up.

Now, thanks to this surfeit of information available, there is this enormous temptation to analyze everything and try to get  some 'certainty'. Whether this question gets 100 replies or 1000 replies, whether 'experts' chip in or experienced candidates share their 'wisdom', you are no more likely to know an exact target or a surefire solution than you were before.

So, forget about this, put your head down and prepare for the exam. There is one thing that you can be sure of. Ceteris Paribus, a higher CAT score will give a candidate a higher chance of getting any admit.

As far as your question is concerned, for IIM A, B, C you need 99.6+, for IIM ILK you probably have a shot with 98.5+ (with L requiring more). 96+ should give you a shot with the new IIMs. If you are thinking, why couldn't this guy have given this last paragraph without going on a rant. Where is the joy in that?

Note: I had written the above as an answer to a query on Quora. Since Quora does not protect writers' freedom, I have pulled down the answer from Quora and published it on the blog

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Friday, July 18, 2014

When should one start taking mock CATs, how should one analyze them? A short video from 2iim to address these two questions.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

2IIM - CAT Online Course

2IIM launches its online course for CAT. Have a look at the two-minute introduction video to know about the course.

Why the 2iim online course is the best in the world?

The course has been built by a very small team, with ~85% of the lectures handled by Rajesh Balasubramanian. Rajesh is an alumnus from IIMB (2003) and scored 100th percentile in CAT 2011 and CAT 2012. 

2IIM's online course offers students three key freedoms
Freedom over location: Class can be taken anywhere. Course is 'light', i.e. should load even in places where internet speed is not that high
Freedom over time: The course cane be taken any time; and any number of times
Freedom over pace: This is the most important factor that should be a breakthrough for students. Each class is broken into modules and has been built with a mix of slides and videos. So, the course offers students the freedom to take lessons at their own pace.  Each class is of ~2.5 hours duration; but one that an exam-ready student can complete in 45 minutes, and a beginner can take 4.5 hours or longer. Each class has 8-15 short videos interspersed with slides, and is not one long 2.5 hour long video. 

What does the course offer?

  •  50 online classes – Each of 2.5 hours duration; but one that an exam-ready student can complete in 45 minutes, and a beginner can take 4.5 hours or even longer.
  • 10 books that cover all aspects of CAT preparation
  • 20 online mock CATs + 10-paper based mock CATs. Online mock CATs will come with video solutions for select questions.
  •  25 online section tests. 

New product, new idea. Obviously you are not sure 

Rajesh might have scored 100th percentile and think he is god's gift to mankind. But what if he teaches at a level that is way too high for you; or at a level that is way too low. Proof of the pudding is in the eating. Hit a few sample classes at online.2iim.com .

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