I never thought I will be doing a timing strategy post since the CAT has gone with fixed sectional time-limits for a long time now. But a since IIFT does not have one I thought it might not be a bad idea to do a short post on the same.
I have always preferred a test without sectional time-limits since it tests a crucial quality required for management — optimizing resources to achieve maximum return on investment. In this case, the resources are your own skills and the investment is your time.
So how does one go about using the 120 minutes on the IIFT?
Breaking 120 minutes into smaller blocks
The first thing that you have to do is ensure that you clear all sectional cut-offs. This can be tougher than it seems on tests without sectional time-limits since you can get stuck on your favourite section!
The catch hence is to maximize your areas/sections of strength while clearing the cut-off(s) on your weaker section(s).
The best way to do this is by keeping a buffer that allows you to take stock and play the paper on its merit.
I’d say you should allot 30-30-30-10 for VA—DI-LR—QA—GK.
Use the fixed blocks to clear the cut-offs by a bit
Your first task is to clear the sectional cut-offs. Use the 30 minutes per section to solve enough questions to comfortable clear the cut-off in each of the sections. Realistically, for those aiming to get into IIFT, on a paper of last year’s difficulty this would mean about — 12-15 questions, 30 marks on DI-LR, 8-10 questions and 25 marks on QA. VA-RC is more about speed and I would say 20-25 questions for 60 marks is very much possible.
What will result in this plan failing is if you end up solving each and every question without leaving some for later and without leaving some altogether.
What order should I attempt in?
Should you attempt your section strength first or your Achilles’ heel first?
Should it matter which section you attempt first?
You can start with your strength first so that you can get as many marks in your bag.
I feel that if you have have the stamina to perform for 120 minutes then no strategy can help you.
Do not break the time-block under any circumstance
When I took the CAT the second time, it was a 120 minute-150 question test. My VA was very strong and I could solve 50 questions in 40 minutes flat. The challenge was to clear the cut-off in QA.
I could have solved all 50 VA in 40 and then moved on to the other two sections but I decided otherwise.
I stopped the VA section after 30 minutes, I would have solved around 35 questions — good enough to have cleared the cut-off.
I then did the QA and DI-LR sections, ensuring that I solved enough questions to clear the cut-off. In the end, I had some time left and I came back to polish off the remaining VA questions.
I attempted about 90-100 questions in all if I remember correctly, about 45 in VA and the rest equally split between QA and DI-LR.
If I had spent an extra 10 minutes on VA, I would not have gone into the other two sections knowing that I have time on my side even if the section got tough.
So whatever happens ensure that you stick to the time-block and don’t exceed it.
How to use the buffer time
How you use the 20 minutes of buffer time can determine whether you end up getting an IIFT-call or not.
What are situations you can find yourself at the end of 100 minutes.
You are confident of clearing all the cut-offs
If the paper goes according to plan and you are confident of clearing all cut-offs then go back to your strong area to increase your overall score.
When you go back to your favorite section, ensure that you are not engaging with the really tough questions and getting stuck on them.
On average you should have about 10-15 questions left in each section at this point and even if you solve 7-8 questions in these 20 minutes at almost 3 minutes a question you will have easily cleared the overall cut-off.
One or two sections do not go well
If two out of three sections go badly then it will mean that you will give very little time to the one that went well.
If, say one or two sections have not gone well at the end of 100 minutes, and you are doubtful about them attack them first in the buffer zone.
So do enough to clear the cut-off by eking out whatever you can and move on to the other section.
By now you should have taken enough Sim IIFTs to know where your relative strengths and weakness and before you next Sim you should have a list like — the one below made by an aspirant who works with me — ready.
- 10 min – GK
- 30 min – VA-RC
- 30 min – QA
- 30 min – DI-LR
- 20 min – Buffer
It goes without saying that you can make your own order, with GK coming in anywhere.
Also, it is important to mark out questions to return to in your buffer-time — the ones that can be solved but will take about 3-4 minutes.
With sectional time-limits it is like batting in the first innings just go out and make as many as you can, without sectional time-limits, it is similar to planning a successful chase. If you do not keep a buffer and divide the time equally it means you have not done any strategising.
Most importantly please note that all the attempts and marks mentioned in this post are based on last years pitch(paper). The actual level within each section can go up or down, so do not feel happy if you comfortably reach the attempts or sad if you are struggling to reach the attempt. In a perfect test you have no time to feel happy or sad your foot is to the pedal at all times. Happy chasing!