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A prep plan for the last leg of CAT

I was pleasantly surprised when a few days back I started receiving a similar query, both in mails from across the country and from the students I was meeting in person — what do I do in the last 45 days, I need a plan for the last 45 days.It is not surprising since approaching deadlines have a strange effect on our psyche and round figures such as 45 have a strange way of both spurring and postponing action (if the time is 9:45, most people postpone stuff they have to do till 10). I have always felt that our need insatiable need to find meaning in entropy leads us to irrationally seek comfort in rational numbers such as 45 — why not a 47-day prep plan, at least 47 is a prime number!

What is your score out of 11?

To improve the maximum in the next few weeks you need to rate your skills on 11 fronts — RC, VA, DI, LR, Numbers, Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Modern Math.Doing well on the CAT means having the all-round ability to solve Easy and Medium questions across all of these nine areas without any catch or conditions apply such as I can solve Geometry pretty well except circles.

You have to be a 11 out of 11 in terms of answering Easy and Medium questions. Anything less than that and you are not preparing to ace the CAT since you are saying that you will not score off a bowler called Geometry or DI, that means you are essentially, going to leave all of these balls, even if some of them are rank long hops, and expect to score more off the other balls, even if they are bowling yorkers.

So make a list of all question types or topics that you have not practised or have not studied and get comfortable with them.

Put your VA house in order

I am sure a lot of test-takers across the country would have ignored or barely practised Verbal Ability/Reasoning — VA/VR seedha test mein dekh lenge — and even if they have practised it will have been only Jumbled Paragraphs.

Last year there were 10 questions from VA/VR, with no questions based on vocab or Grammar, if 7 of these are Easy/Medium then can you guarantee that you will get 21 marks out of them?

What most test-takers do with zen-like consistency is this –

  • Start with RC and do all RCs irrespective of level of difficulty
  • Go to VA/VR with 10-15 minutes left and start with Parajumbles – where the probability of getting a question right is at best 1/6 (if you can fix 2 sentences) and at worst 1/120, in both cases lower than any other question type on the test!
  • Answer the questions with a certain nonchalance and zero strategy (*ab Summary mein kya strategy lagaana*?) since anyway there is no negative marking.

Essentially this ensures that most test-takers don’t really get a lot of marks from the non-RC questions. Does all of this mean that test-takers love RC? Absolutely not!

When VA-RC and LR were one section (before 2014) no one touched RC! Everyone was busy doing LR and VA.

And for the love of God, TITA ≠ FREE HIT!

No negative marking does not mean casually marking the answer. What it means that if even after you give your best you cannot figure out an answer, then you can take a guess.

So what should you do now?

  • Read the strategies for VA from the posts on how to improve your VA-RC percentiles.
  • Go to your application builder and solve VA questions.

You have exactly a week to practise VA question types as per the strategies and achieve enough competence to get 7 out of 10 questions right (gut-feel based practice is not going to take you anywhere in terms of consistency).

Once you are through with this keep taking Section Tests.

Clearing the DI-LR cut-off

Despite the Last Mile to CAT sessions and the other sessions I have taken across the country, I still meet a lot of test-takers who prefer LR to DI. If you are going to put all your eggs into one basket called LR this is what is going to happen:

  • Going by the last couple of years’ papers, all four LR sets are not going to be easy
  • Given your weakness/preference for LR you will spend at least 40 minutes on LR before going to DI with a best case scenario of having 3 out of 4 sets. In all probability it will be 2 out of 4 sets.
  • The last 20 minutes will be spent recovering from the shock of not being to solve more than 2 LR sets, skipping from one DI set to the next given the ticking clock and not making any major headway.
  • In all you may solve around 3 sets out of 8, which means at best you can get 36 marks.

The target is to first solve the easiest sets across DI and LR, followed by the medium sets and then take a shot at the difficult sets. The posts on how to increase your DI-LR percentile cover the process to choose DI-LR sets in detail. But choosing makes no difference without the intent to solve.

In the next two weeks

  • Solve all the DI-LR sets from the SimCATs,  the sets that you left are the kind of tough sets that turned up in the last few years.
  • Solve DI-LR Section Tests from myIMS- If you have finished those as well and need only tough sets, then buy CAT 500 from your IMS centre and solve the DI-LR sets in those.
  • Before you do anything, watch the DI videos on CATholics 

Increase your scoring areas on Quant

Till you get comfortable enough with all 5 areas  — Numbers, Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Modern Math —  you will find that your scores are stuck.

On average you can expect about 7 questions from each of these areas, not accounting for questions with overlapping areas, of which 5 will be Easy/Medium. If you are good at 3 out of 5 areas,  then you will have a shot at 15 questions which if you solve with 80% accuracy will lead to a score of 33.

So you have no other option but to increase your range of scoring areas. You can

  • Solve the chapters of relevant chapters from the BRM to learn the basics
  • Solve the questions you left in the SimCATs to learn concepts and application together from them itself
  • Go through the topic-wise blogs on CATholics

If you have very low ability on QA (which has nothing to do with being a non-engineer) then I would suggest the first option, else options 2 and 3 are best at this point of time.

If you are good at all five areas but still find your scores stuck at an undesirable level then the problem is one of choice. Since you feel you are good at Math, you feel you can do every problem and are hence unable to differentiate between A and B and hence unable to apply A, B, C properly.

So here is what you need to do if your concepts are strong but scores are stuck.

  • Go through the posts on how to improve your QA percentile.
  • Take Section Tests to ruthlessly apply A, B, C to maximise your score.

For the record, I did last year’s QA section in 3 rounds — first As, followed by easy Bs, followed by medium Bs.

Tests, tests and more tests

As I have mentioned in other posts, a first-time serious CAT-taker, should take at least 25 tests, which means another 13 tests in addition to the remaining SimCATs provided you have taken all the SimCATs so far.

So make a calendar with dates on which you will take tests with a clear focus to  improve your – stamina to sit for 3 hours and perform to the best of your abilities on the QA section- ability to execute A, B, C so that come D-Day there will be no chance in hell that you will missed an easy question.

What got you here won’t get you there

If there is one lesson from CAT Prep that will be applicable throughout your life it is this — you strengths will only take you upto a certain point, a certain designation.

What will determine the distance you travel beyond is how well you manage to identify and manage your weakness, how much more than what you are can you become, how willing you are to become a different person.

In terms of CAT prep this translates into becoming a person who can handle the stuff you currently cannot handle.

Unless you go 11 out of 11 areas and are able to execute A, B, C to perfection you can’t expect your scores to move up drastically.

So stay patient, work on going 11 out of 11, and will see your scores getting better slowly.









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