CAT Strat, Motivation
Comments 5

CAT Retake: Resetting your head before you restart prep

I have always been a big believer in the principle that how we approach a thing — an exam, a project, a a relationship — the quality of our thoughts around the same, ends up determining the end outcome to a much larger extent than the actual strategies and the things we do since the mindset precedes all of these things.

So, before I post the three-part series on how to prepare for a retake, I thought I should do a short post on the right mindset that you should get into before you set sail once again.

Firstly, count only the “proper” attempts

I have seen a lot of people talk about attempts as if they were carrying a huge cross — this is my third attempt — as if they have given their lives for this exam and it just does not seem love them back!

Well, firstly unless you have taken at least 10 SimCATs, you cannot  legitimately say that you have prepared for the exam — it is not true love 🙂

You think you do but you do not have a clue about what this exam is, which you would have found out on D-day.

Stop saying this is your third attempt if you took it in your final year casually, and then in the first year of job took it semi-seriously but in both cases you did not take the minimum ten SimCATs — tell yourself that is your first attempt at the CAT; it will help you get rid of all the baggage completely.

You might say — Sir, but many people know that I have been taking the exam and they might say things like kitni baar lega test — just tell them that this is your first serious attempt.

And do not forget — those who matter do not mind; those who mind do not matter!

Think like a prospective MBA, not like a worker 

Those who are quitting or plan to quit their job to retake the CAT are perfect candidates to fall into “donkey-prep” mindset.

You have made a commitment to the CAT and for this sake you have left everything and so now you are going to prepare 8 hours a day for the same.

You are a prospective MBA, so start thinking like one — will you pay Rs.200 for what you can get for Rs.100, you will spend 100 hours on a project when all you need to spend is 50 hours, just because you really want to do the project well or you really want the product no. It is all about optimisation, right?

Similarly, prep for the time “you” need to get better and move from X to Y and not to show your commitment and put in those eight hours. 

The law of diminishing marginal returns applies even to working out and prepping out for CAT.

A student had recently asked me how much time out of the planned 8-hours every day should be allocated to revision and it just beat me!

Revise what for God’s sake? Practice I can understand — topics, area-test, section-test, full-length test — but revise?

Do you revise actually riding a cycle or a car, every day?

You either know how to drive a car or cycle or not and you train for a race.

Similarly, you should know what weighted averages are for the rest of your life and you practising solving problems of at the right levels to increase speed and accuracy but you should not have to revise what weighted average actually or the formulas!

To want to be an MBA (may be not in HR) and have to revise Arithmetic is literally the biggest contradiction there is since business is all about Arithmetic! The whole world runs on Compound Interest and if you have to keep revising the formula, God help you!

So, start thinking like the MBA you want to be and this is your first MBA project. Just like you need to maximise revenues for a firm in the future, you need to maximise your marks on the CAT — the difference is that here, you are raw material, you are worker, you are machine, you are manager, you are the CEO, so technically everything is under your control.

You need to take the right investment calls since no one will know yourself better than you.

Do not let your ego decide your prep needs

A lot of us measure ourselves based on external parameters — the brand of our college, our prior Academic profile, and even the intellect of our friends.

But you know better than assuming that all or one of the above — big brand college, great marks in non-Aptitude tests, super-bright friends — translate into great personal potential on the CAT.

None of the above factors have any bearing on your ability on the CAT — only your scores last year (not just the CAT score but also those on the SimCATs you took seriously) indicates your ability on the CAT and start with the premise that that is your current level.

Do not get into the — if I had prepared I could have scored higher since my actual level might be closer my friend’s who with similar profile took more mocks got a 95 — mode. Nope. You are what the your scores say; just accept that.

Do not decide your prep needs based on these assumptions that you might have made about yourself.

Take decisions on whether you need formal prep for the whole exam, for a section, or not at all based on how you are actually faring and not based on whether your friends who cracked it last year took help or not.

If you do this you will give yourself the best chance to give your best shot at the CAT.

The best source for me to learn was to watch people better than me solve — my teachers, the odd peer, and then want to solve like that.

Some people need to watch it once, others need to watch it twice and some others quite a few times before they actually learn to solve like their teacher or peer, so choose your prep needs based on which category you might fall into on the test or on a particular section.

If you took more than 10 Mocks last year (without formal prep, only test-series) and

  • Scored less than 90 percentile — you will be better off taking formal prep for the whole test or for a section if your scores are very lop-sided
  • Scored less between 90-95 — you will be better of taking formal prep for your weakest section that stands between you and the 99; you need not do it now, you can do it post-June
  • Scored above 95 percentile — you probably will not need formal prep unless your score on one section is very low; you need not do it right now, you can do it post-June.

If you took fewer than 10 Mocks last year, and are not confident about your capabilities, then do not wait for this season’s Test-Series to start, take up a program right away.

If you took fewer than 10 Mocks last year, and are confident about your capabilities, then take up a Test Series straightaway and take a call post-June — once you have five SimCATs under your belt — on the specific prep needs you have.

I hope you give these things some good thought since many a times a poor result can be a result of ten minor things rather than sheer ability; and if you are doing it one more time you would want to ensure that you get everything right.


  1. Hello Sir,
    I took the CAT seriously this year(CAT 2021). I had taken the test series with the self learning program as i knew the concepts but i needed tips and shortcuts to solve the problems for which i used to write the complete steps in my school and college. I had graduated in 2021 and took no job and gave my complete attention to CAT and other entrance exams. I knew that i wasn’t scoring well in my mocks where i scored a maximum of 70-75 percentile a few times. I gave almost 25-30 mocks including all the proctored simcats.
    I dont know what happened and i cant blame anyone for my results but i scored a mere 83 percentile in CAT. My center was in a different city all together(I got my 6th preference as per the form). I gave all the other exams but like a normal person because my CAT went badly i messed up my remaining exams ( I gave IIFT, XAT, MICAT). I got a call from MICA but i wasnt able to convert it because i suspect my marks were too low since there were students in my batch with 90+ percentile in the interview and marks have a weightage of 50% in the final selection of MICA.

    Now im in a dilemma as to what i should do next. i am from a media(marketing) background. I am confused as to should i be planning to give CAT and other exams again or try for abroad and do a masters from the US. I have received a mixed review from everyone who has been there and im in a lot of confusion. I have been doing internships from the month of February and im planning to join a full time job ASAP.
    My profile is 8/8/(9.47 CGPA) and i have no formal workex as of now but i have internships.

    Sir please suggest me as to what i should be doing next as your advice helped me getting my score in VARC section from 8-9 to 36 in actual CAT. It would be of great help if you can help me.

    Thank You in Advance,
    Agam Choudhari

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Agam,
      This was your first serious attempt and as I keep mentioning very few people crack first time round.

      All you need to know is how you are going to get a higher score – where are those marks going to come from – if you are confident that you have enough in the tank for another round, go ahead.

      As far as a Master Abroad goes, it is a very expensive proposition and you should be certain if wanting to build a life abroad, if you were an engineering student I would suggested an MS abroad since one can always do an MBA later. In your case the same would not apply.

      Taking up a job and giving another shot at the CAT is what I would advise.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!


  2. Rohit Patil says

    Hello Sir,
    I took the CAT 2021 and got 42 percentile. I had taken an Online course and studied for 6 months. I don’t know what happened on D-day but I’m tense about my preparation and the score that I have got. My issue is Whenever I attempt a question I’m not able to solve it even though I have done the syllabus twice (not able to apply the core concepts to questions that I solve).
    I completed my graduation in 2021 and took no job and give complete attention to CAT.
    and now I’m preparing for my 2nd attempt with a Gap year and still, I think that I’m not going to make it this year because of low scores in mock.
    Now I’m confused about what to do next to improve my score,
    Sir, please suggest what should I do to improve my basic concepts and score in actual CAT,
    It would be a great help if you can help me.

    Thank you.
    Rohit Patil.


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