CAT Strat
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How to plan your post-CAT prep for other exams

I hope the last week served its purpose, which was for you to process all the emotional side-effects of the CAT. Going by the response to the previous post, there seems to have been enough and more trauma that this year’s edition of the CAT has caused.

The CAT is an indicator of what you CANNOT do, not what you CAN do

The aim of the CAT is to eliminate applicants and not benchmark applicants, so given this you should understand that the CAT exam serves the needs of the IIM admissions teams more than the test-takers.

So, in effect what is tells you is this — it puts really heavy weights in front of you especially the DI-LR section, if you can lift great if you cannot, hard luck.

Until 2018, the other two sections were easy, I assumed it was by design to ensure a more equal playing field to applicants from diverse educational backgrounds (you cannot say you want educational diversity and shaft the non-Math students in the QA section). Last year, the VA-RC level went up appreciably and this year, they did the same with the QA as well. It goes without saying that they still just play it by the ear, every year a different IIM just sets the paper, what ever happens, happens.

So, more or less across sections all you know is that you cannot lift a certain weight but you still do not know what you can actually lift.

With the GMAT for example this is not the case. The test is adaptive, it starts at medium and moves up only if you consistently get questions in the medium range right. This is the reason why the first few questions can seem really, really easy. And each of the questions are tested as experimental questions before they are made scored questions.

So, if you take the GMAT and you get an 85 percentile, it means that you can only solve questions at that level. And as an instructor I would know what your capabilities are precisely, since the $250 is to benchmark your capability with the test being one of the parameters and not the first eliminator. This is also the reasons why the GMAT score card claims that the score has a reliability of 87 percent — which exams that if you took the test again with no change in your level there is an 87 percent guarantee that you will get the same score. So, if I were a recruiter I will always use the GMAT since I will know what you can do as opposed to what you cannot do.

Why this lengthy paean to the GMAT?

So that you stop emotionally telling yourself that you are no good and start making a logical assessment of your level on the other tests.

Please do not go an take a mock GMAT on the rebound to see if you will feel good because nothing you did for CAT is technically useful for the GMAT — 57.33 percent of the test has question types that are not tested on the CAT.

Benchmark your skills with each of the areas on each of the other tests

Each one of you will be taking a different number of other tests. Go through or solve a mock each of the other tests and measure your chances on each of the area of the other tests, make yourself a TABLE like the one below (it is only partially filled)

At PAR denotes that your ability is equivalent to the level of questions asked on test and some light practice will suffice; BELOW PAR indicates that test is tougher than your current capabilities and you need to prep specifically; ABOVE PAR indicates that you do not any prep or practice just the mocks will do.

You should be able to do this based on your evaluation of your performance on the SimCATs and the actual CAT. For example, the RCs on this test are a lot easier than those on the CAT I can easily handle it.

One new
Above PARAbove PARNAAbove PAR
Three new
Above PARAbove PARNAAbove PAR
XATBelow PAR, Three new
Below PARAbove PARat PAR
IIFTAbove PAR, One new



I have not included sections such as GK and DM that were not there on the CAT — there is no way you can evaluate your level since you have not even prepared.

Plan your prep test by test

I do not endorse two-timing your prep — each of these tests is very different from the other and it is best that your prepare one test at a time.

The big temptation can be to prepare a bit for each test all at the same time but think of it — you have 100x hours from now to the end of Jan, and for each test you would need to allocate a certain hours of prep — are you better off spreading those hours or bunching them closer to the test? I think the latter.

You have to work on specific areas, question types and take mocks as well, I for one would not think about XAT even a whit until SNAP is over and IIFT until XAT is over.

Yes, there is the case of TISSNET and XAT being together but the former will end up becoming a subset of the latter in terms of level (with GK being the exception, since the it is an easy test.

Plan your prep area by area

Within your preparation for each test, plan your prep area by area.

For example, you know you need to prep for CR, Modern Math, and DM, if I were you, I would spend three days to master CR fully and then move to Modern Math spend a week and so on (the duration is just a random number). I would not do a bit of CR, a bit of Modern Math, a bit of DM everyday.

If you feel your head will burst with a full day of Modern Math, may be it is best that it burst first before it can tackle QA in an exam situation. The only leeway I will grant is that you can go topic by topic Logs, followed by CR followed by P&C.

If you feel you will forget the CR you have learnt when you start to solving Logs, then I am afraid you have not learnt CR at all, one does not forget to reason, the reverse can be possible if you are learning Logs for the first time (so doing five to ten log problems after you move on to CR should suffice.

Once you finish mastering all the areas, using dedicated stretches of time, you can move on to taking the section tests and then the full-length tests.

Make a list of where and how you messed up on the CAT

Now that the emotions will have died down, write down where and how you messed up on CAT — the worst thing you can do is not correct the execution issues that you faced on the CAT.

  • My Arithmetic is still a problem area — I tend to not read properly, I tend to not solve the problem in front of me but patch solutions from Mocks onto the question in front of me
  • I never really could apply or did not consistently apply the Shadow Answer technique on RC, which cost me dearly
  • I ignored set selection and chose the 6-question DI-LR set (selected to face the 9-balls over instead of 6-ball over without checking whether it is Bumrah or Saini who is going to bowl; akal badi ya bhains, obviously bhains)
  • I did not have any time-management strategy

The usual questions I get for the other exams are how to prepare for Vocab, Grammar, GK, and DM.

Firstly, I am last person you should ask stuff like where do I mug up something from. So as far as vocabulary goes, I do not think there is a well-defined list the way there is for GRE, I do not know how many words you know and do not know, so there is no way I can tell you to go mug up this list or that; Barrons Word List, Word Power Made Easy, All About Words — these are some generic books that are around but there is no guarantee that mugging up these words is going to specifically help you out with the questions on these tests.

For Grammar all the videos on the LEARN Module of myIMS should suffice.

The words General and Test do not ever go down well in an Indian context. The GK section on these tests are sometimes just that General, so IIFT can have questions ranging from

What is right combination of the movie and the vest endorsed?

(A) XYZ-Lux Cozy (B) ABC-Macho (C).. (D)…


What is latest reduction in the Prime Lending Rate by the RBI?

(A) .25 Basis Points (B) .50 Points (C) (D)

May be this is their way of selecting a candidate who can be a judge on Jhalak Dikhla Jaa as well as a panelist on CNBC TV-18 with equal ease.

My two bits of advice on GK — use the IMS GK Zone, and just read the newspaper end-to-end for Current Affairs (if you are really desperate, mug up the Manorama Year Book, that is how general, the general in GK is)

For DM, I will do a Masterclass like I did last year.

I will soon put up posts only for the XAT since I have not never prepared and taken the other tests at least once. My skill sets are limited to CAT, XAT, GMAT and GRE.

But some of my colleagues are real champs on the SNAP, NMAT, and other tests, so here are their how to prep videos (the IIFT one will be out soon, abhi Dilli door hai)

Your goal is to do an MBA from a school that will advance your career and set you up for the future. For this you are taking 3 to 5 different tests based on your profile.

This is no different from playing a 3 to 5 test series against different teams at different levels. You just got mauled in the first test by the strongest team, does that mean that the series is lost? There is still everything to play for, losing to the best team does not change your chances against the others.

I do not think there are any more cricketing analogies I can come up with!

I think our unique talent as human beings is to confuse categories, in this case converting a matter of the mind into a matter of the heart, and I am sure we do the reverse as well and pay dearly.

Smile, incase you have forgotten how to 🙂


  1. Aditya Joshi says

    Thank you Tony sir . Your blogs are just addictive to read even for a bibiliophobe like me 😛

    Looking forward for you XAT MC .


  2. BookPecker says

    Funny thing, while I get new post notif. I was watching your “Surviving DM -XAT 2019”. You always help, I have learnt alot from you through your LMTC-2019, simCATS analysis or through your posts (I missed last year from admission just coz of over confidence).
    Keep helping us coz even after this year’s CAT your last post was more like Dumbledore saying “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
    Thank you.
    (spare the grammatical mistake; that’s the area I have to work on)
    Stay Safe 🙂


    • Hi Bookpecker,

      It is a bummer that you missed last year’s admission but overconfidence or rather taking things for granted is best sorted out at the earliest.

      Will keep doing the posts as usual 🙂

      All the best!


  3. Hi Sir,
    Once again, a really insightful post. With so many exams in front, it is very easy to get bogged down and at the end achieve nothing substantial. Keeping the prep plan as minimalistic as possible is all one needs right now.
    But as I am preparing for the ADMATs, and trying to achieve mastery over some topics, I feel that I quickly hit a plateau after a particular point. There is something that drags my ability to go beyond a certain point.(in terms of level of difficulty or in terms of time taken to solve a particular problem).I had observed the same pattern while my CAT prep as well( your blog about hitting the plateau was of help at that time).
    All the standard measures that one can take to increase the focus are tried and still underway. This includes off course meditation and solving sudoku. Which by the way is a classic case in point. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to bring down the time to solve the medium sudoku set below a certain point (say, 8-10 min).

    How does one break and move past this barrier?


    • Hi Amey,

      One of the things that retards solving time is not moving fast enough while holding more information at the same time.

      A lot of students in their desire to solve correctly both read and process information at a very slow pace.

      So you can do two things: deliberately push yourself to go faster, it will seem scary at first, not very different from increasing your driving speed from 50 to 60, but it will be you have to concentrate harder, and this is where the meditation and other things will come into play, secondly do google or youtube how to solve sudoku faster and you will find out the ways of thinking that you are stuck with.

      All the best!


  4. Smile, incase you have forgotten how to 🙂,the most remarkable words in the blog,i literally smiled after reading this,which i forgotten a little bit after a dreadful CAT,tysm sir:) for such a bolster blog,sir please arrange a session on this.


    • Hi,

      Well, I had finished the post but could not find a way to end it. I thought of not putting anything since I don’t like to write anything just for the sake of it but then it felt incomplete to end with the videos.

      I let it be, had dinner, and by the time I came back to my desk and sat down I knew what to put in 🙂

      Will see you in the DM Masterclass soon.

      All the best!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. shavimahajan17 says

    I click on the Register Now tab of Management Masterclass to register for a webinar on Business Analytics by Dr Aritra Pan, and this blog opens up, HOW CAN I REGESTIR FOR THE WEBINAR?


  6. Vignesh T says

    hello sir . I checked my cat score today and am expecting calls from IIM C, L and FMS . should I start my gdpi prep now or after xat?


    • Hi Vignesh,

      You are better off just reading the newspaper end to end every day. I am not sure there will be a WAT or GD, it will just be an online PI; either way, they will continue asking quite a few Current Affairs questions in the PI.

      Good job with the score!


  7. Typsi says

    I have no idea how I missed this particular post – since I have been religiously following all of the posts in this blog since September! Nevertheless, this post+the comments – really helped reframe my approach for upcoming OMETs.


  8. Aarya says

    Much needed post sir , my problem is that I’m really aiming for IIFT since I basically flunked CAT, and also I’ve become a lot paranoid regarding the upcoming exams due to this CAT debacle. You mentioned here not to two time our prep , but I cant help preparing for IIFT even though I’m yet to give snap and xat. I get low on confidence if I don’t prepare for IIFT fearing it would turn out as bad as CAT . What to do?


    • Hi Aarya,

      You yourself have said that you in a slightly paranoid state right now.

      If you feel your IIFT prep will not hurt your XAT and SNAP prep in the least and will help you calm your frayed nerves then go ahead and prep.

      But you know the sooner you move from fear to logic, the better you will fare.

      All the best!


  9. Virendra Chandel says

    Hello Sir!
    I am not able to guess whether my cat score is good or bad. I am expecting percentile between 98-99 based on my marks so what calls can I expect and and should i start with the GD-PI for these colleges or should I focus on xat and iift my profile is
    10th 93.2 cbse
    12th 80.92 maharashtra board
    engineering 8.10 gpa
    general category
    and i also have a gap between my 10th and 12th
    what IIm calls can i expect and any private colleges like S.p.Jain or MDI and sholud I start with preparing for their PI cause I am not willing to take admission to colleges outside top 10-15 colleges


  10. Hi sir,

    Firstly, simply love the way you put across your thoughts, which makes it fun reading.
    I’ve been giving a few IMS mocks lately but I’m scoring 30-35 in SNAP mocks and around 220 in NMAT mocks, both of which are on the lower side considering the cutoffs. Although, I did not give a lot of them so as to form a pattern but there’s a lot of room for improvement I feel. Any sources that you can recommend to follow to improve my below par areas?
    Also, I gave XAT 2018 VARC in mock format and found the RC’s really typical. Different from both CAT and GMAT format. So any particular source to practice for that too?


    • Hi AA,

      Good to hear you find the posts fun to read!

      The sections tests, workshops, and practice material for all non-CAT tests provided by whichever brand you are preparing with should suffice. In addition, for XAT, the old papers will be a really good source.

      All the best!


  11. Utsav says

    Sir,Before going for B.E, I had done diploma after 10th.So i don’t have a maths or commerce background. Few colleges like IIT have special exams for Business analytics course, also SCMHRD has criteria that applicant should have Maths till 12th.While a few colleges don’t have such criteria. If i apply to such colleges, is it so that it would be difficult for me to learn Business Analytics ? Should i apply for such courses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Utsav,

      It finally depends on your comfort with Maths, especially statistics, since Business Analytics programs have a lot of quantitative coursework, it will also need a certain proficiency with software as well.

      If you just somehow just clear the QA cut-off or find it tough then these courses might pose a problem for you.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


      • Utsav says

        Sir,I get my best marks in QA section. I am good at aptitude but i don’t have in depth knowledge of Calculus , differentiation , integration and all other topics which are taught in 11-12th science. Will that affect ??


      • I think if the programs have said Math is not required then you can take them at face value since it depends on the courses in the program.

        The best way is to find people who are currently in the program on LinkedIn or FB and speak to them.

        All the best!


  12. Shailja says

    Hello sir, thank you for sharing this article.
    So i have been focussing on XAT now since that is my main exam. I have started off with past papers sir as suggested by everyone. I am aiming for the HRM program at XLRI jamshedpur. I am finding the xat quant a bit tough have scored in the range of 9-12 in the past xat papers 2017,2018 in quants (I have prepared for CAT and was decent in quants). Are there any other sources that you suggest for quants practice or will past papers (14-20) and 5 ims mocks suffice?


    • Hi Shailja,

      You need to figure out if the problem is more practice or better conceptual clarity since the XAT Qa is not that Arithmetic heavy. So doing Modern Math from the LEARN Module once again (watch the videos as well) will not be a bad idea.

      All the best!


  13. Greeshma C says

    Hi Tony Sir,

    I have 30 months of overall work ex and had to quit my job due to health issues in last march. My second attempt at CAT went bad. My SNAP score at IMS mocks is around 25-30 and XAT is around 20-30 . I see that my weak area is Verbal and especially RCs . May I know how do I improve at it? also, any specific tips for XAT VA ?


  14. Ridhi says

    Hi Sir,

    Thank you for all the effort you put into helping us throughout our CAT prep. Really made a huge difference!
    Sir you mentioned that 57.33 percent of the GMAT has question types that are not tested on the CAT. Could please give a rough idea of what is not covered (other than SC and CR), and what would be the best way to cover them?
    Also, sir do you think it’s possible to give the GMAT in a few weeks and apply for Fall 2021 in Round 3/4 and get accepted(because I do not want to delay my MBA by another year)? I had given a GMAT mock on a few months ago without any prep and gotten a 680.


  15. pourush kachhawah says

    Hi Sir,
    This year I gave cat and expecting 96-98 percentile. Sir i have heard many times from different mentors that difference between a 95 and high 99 percentilers are the methods they apply.
    Like in maths restricting the use of paper instead doing it logically, So sir like this what are the different methods in all the three sections ?? Can you please tell it will be a very helpful.



  16. Shubham jain says

    hello sir
    I have my snap exam on 20th and NMAT on 22nd December. I am a little confused whether I should start preparing for XAT as well since after NMAT, there will only be 12 days left for me to prepare for XAT. So should I start my Xat prep now only or after giving Nmat?


    • Hi Shubham,

      There is a point in the prep after where you know that you just need to take are mocks. Prepare for the XAT only if you feel you have reached that point for SNAP and NMAT and your prep for XAT will in no way jeopardise your prep for the other two exams.

      You can always cut-down sleep and prepare more for XAT during the last 12 days.

      All the best!


  17. Thank you Sir for the wonderful post. Your posts are very inspiring. Indeed I have forgotten how to smile after my terrible CAT attempt. I hope I can perform well on the other exams.


    • Hi Simona,

      Hope you have since smiled!

      As I have told other students, the test is a matter of the mind; whereas our feelings, emotions, and reactions seem to stem from the heart (for lack of another word). The sooner everyone makes this distinction the easier it will be for them to move on.

      All the best!


  18. Purvesh Agrawal says

    Sir, I am an EWS category student and I am getting 96 marks in cat. From which colleges should I expect call?? Also, should I fill FMS form?
    My profile is Engineering, Male, 96.17/81.38/8.80 and no gap year.


  19. Akshay MAne says

    Dear Tony sir,
    Thanks for cricket analogy my Cat attempt went like India’s first test match against Aussie.
    So I am not demotivated, gearing for XAT2021 & IIFT.
    I had 31-month work experience in mfg domain plus 8-month gap for Cat preparation…
    I am targeting for XL, IIFT, Tapmi ,GIM. I am also considering the FPM program also ! My final goal is to teach at Top Bschool, where it is wise to commute 5 yrs from now or took other like after MBA

    Thank & regards


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