I have made a post in my blog regarding my CAT experience. I am posting the same here, so that it would be useful for a wider audience.
Some Gyaan on CAT n Aftermath
I have compiled my own experiences and those of my friends, and collated all the gaan bestowed upon me by my seniors n coaching centres and the so-called gurus over the past year and a half, as a valedictory note in a fitting tribute to one of the most exciting phases of my life. I will try best to keep it light and straight, entertaining and informative, a nice break from ur hectic prep. schedules.
I'll start with a simple confession : I haven't cracked CAT, I have only cracked an IIM. With my percentile, IIMB has been the only IIM kind enough to call me, and I converted it. So I will try to concentrate more on the GD/PI part, where I feel I have performed better.
The Humble Beginnings
CAT is not just a test to take, It is a career decision. So, the first step is to do some soul searching to find out the precise reasons for pursuing MBA. Once you are clear about your motives, they themselves prove to be strong motivators.
It's not uncommon that people take CAT for the wrong reasons and in fact, for no apparent reason at all. Or the numbers of CAT applicants wouldn't be so great. The true IIM aspirants are in fact less than a quarter of the total applicants; your true competition lies there. And to list out some of the most common reasons :
The Big Bucks Theory : One of the wrong reasons. In fact the biggest and the most common illusion. But taking the realities into consideration, it can be seen that the Bucks aren't really so Big. People can earn loads more continuing in good old software field, without sweating much.
The Stagnant State Theory : A fear arising from the perceived state of stagnation of the career, esp. amongst the graduates, propels many to look for a masters degree, so as to avoid any skipped promotions citing inadequate qualifications. Happens among the workex guys and valid enough reason.
The Follow the Mob Theory : IIMs are considered the most prestigious institutes in the country, and the IIMers are considered to be the cream of the country. Naturally any fresher without any idea of what awaits him in the corporate world, would want to prove his mettle by getting into the most sought after institutes, expecting them to give him a gratifying career. The reasoning behind that : If they aren't that good, why would so many people slog so hard to get in.
The My Job Sucks Theory : Very common motive, esp. amongst the IT Professionals with a coupla years workex. I don't think it warrants any elaboration.
Most possibly, one or more of these would be your motive. But MBA is in fact bigger than these. And these reasons are not worth the effort you are gonna put in the coming few months. You will come to know the right reasons as you get along with your preparation. As you know more and more abt MBA, the illusions will fade and clear goals will form. The sooner you realize that, the better it is.
Now that you have taken the decision, what is the first step ? Get enrolled in some coaching institute. Which one ? It depends on your comfort because the cost, the material, the tests are almost same across all the Biggies. Now, Is it necessary to join an institute? Well, I feel it helps. It reminds you of your goal, keeps you on track and facilitates interaction with likeminded people etc etc. The most important factor is that it gives u a good peer group. Group work helps a lot in CAT.
And the next step, Plan your course. Plan it till the date of exam and stick to it. Plan it, unless you want to wake up one fine day to find out that you haven't completed half the reading material, whereas the mock cats are fast approaching. Believe me, that would be a nasty experience.
The Language, numbers and general awareness, the three things intrinsic to CAT are not something you can develop overnight. These require regular and consistent effort. Don't expect to improve your vocab mugging up wordlists in a month, you need to pick up words with context at most 10 a day. Vedic maths is not gonna help you, unless you practise them over a period. And Year book will not boost your GK all of a sudden, you need to follow day-to-day news.
Gunning up for the D-Day
You'll come across a lot of tip and tricks to crack CAT. I am listing down the most important of them, which you wouldn't want to miss.
1) Never Lose your Focus
It doesn't matter whether you start early or late, as long as you work in a focussed manner. Almost every one exhibits a great deal of zeal in the initial days, but as time goes on, the verve is lost. Only a determined and resolute aspirant can carry forth the same momentum till the final day. You may have to go on official trips, you may be plagued with illness, your boss may foist critical tasks on you, family problems and XYZ, whatever, remember it's your goal that is important and that is which matters in life. All others are temporary. Do not lose your focus for these ephemeral tensions.
2) It is not hardwork as long as u love it
Many times I was asked, " After slogging for five days in office, How do you manage to work over weekends for CAT ? Some hardwork !". Nope, It is not hard. It is not just weekends, I used to spend an hour or two on CAT after spending half the day in office. In fact I used to look forward to my preparation. It used to bring excitement and challenge to my humdrum existence. It wasn't hardwork, It was a relief ! So, feel passionate abt it, and you'll never have to wait for that dreadful study hour to be done with.
3) Do not Boil the Ocean
Sometimes Enthusiasm crosses the line and becomes over-enthusiasm. In such ebullience, people tend to read anything they can get their hands on and in the end they end up forgetting everything they had read. IMS classes, TIME tests, Career Launcher material, Vedic maths, Wren & Martin, Think without Ink, Word power, Barron's word lists....phew! Relax Guys, Don't just barge into the battlefiled. Have a tactical gameplan. Know what to read and what to leave. One set of material and one test series is enough. Do not overdo things, Just do whatever you do with concentration and get the basics right.
4) Fortify your strengths and fight your weaknesses
Generally, people tend to spend more time either on their strengths or weaknesses and neglect the other. If you concentrate on your weaknesses, you may miss cashing in on your strengths. And by sticking only to strengths, your fortunes lie in the hands of the paper-setter. So polish your strengths and make sure that you get comfortable with your weaknesses too, so that you dont have to miss the few sitters in the area.
5) Pluck the low hanging fruit
Most important. Though we were surprised last year with less number of questions than the number of minutes, generally CAT is all about picking the sitters in a huge heap of questions. So identify the easy topics, the ones you are comfortable with and pick those easy ones begging for your notice. Do not leave the entire section or topic. For example, take a look at DS, even if your DS stinks. You may spot an easy one. Browse through the Qns of the RCs you haven't touched, Just in case you find a straight fact based or vocab based question, you can score. It is a sin if you haven't browsed through all the questions, at least in VA and DI.
6) Don't put more money after bad money
When you start answering a question, and end up nowhere after a minute or so, Do NOT spend any extra time just because you have invested so much time already. This is not the time to think about Return on Investments. Even RCs, don't answer all the 5 questions just because you spent so much time reading the entire passage. Remember, CAT has got negative marking. Every one knows this, but still fails to resist the temptation and finally ends up ruining the test. If you want to get through, You need to learn to control your ego.
7) Use the pre-tests effectively
SimCats ya MockCats, Take them darn seriously. If your preparation till the point gets you ready, it is the conscious effort you put into analysis of the mocks that gives you the extra edge. Picking the sitters, leaving the suckers, distribution of time, controlling the anxiety..all these indispensible skills can be cultivated through effective use of mocks only. Make sure that by the time you take CAT, you have consistently performed well in atleast 3 mocks.
8) Skewed Percentiles ain't any good
Profile of a Loser : VA-65%, QA -98%, DI - 99%, OV - 99+%. No IIM Calls. This is not at all uncommon. You will find enough people everytime this way. That is a result of neglecting the weaker section. Make sure you allocate equal amounts of time across the sections. By spending more time on some easier section may be you'll get a high overall score, but you'll end up with a low percentile in the harder section. It is hence important to spend equal time/effort/concentration across all the sections.
9) Burn some calories..and midnite oil
It is imperative that you work hard. And as the D-Day approaches, anxiety gets on the nerves, tensions peak up, and the efforts are aggressively doubled to the extent, where the fatigued mind shouts, "Enough!". It may lead to saturation and disinterest. In all such occasions of low morale, using certain motivators as catalysts helps. I used to keep the copies of BusinessWorld, BusinessToday ( Top 10 B-Schools Issue ) and certain issues of Advance Edge ( Yes, I am an IMS student ). Whenever I felt my ardor going down, I used to take a look at the cover stories, the pics of those hallowed halls, the snaps of the smiling faces of the students, and all those discussions going on about the B-School Grads' worth.
10) Cool and steady wins the race
This is the success secret! Before and on the D-Day, Just keep cool. Go with an open mind, a fresh mind, with a lot of confidence, without any anxiety or nervousness, maintain your cool during the tough times, perform in your natural way, steadily without getting frustrated or distracted and you have done it. Come out, relax and jump in joy. Fool around for while, and get back to the next task...The task is only half-done.
The GD/PI stage is as important as the written test. After seeing a high percentile, a sense of achievement and complacency sets in. But remember, there are people who ended up with no converts inspite of having all the 6 IIM GD/PIcalls, and at the same time, there are people who converted their only call ( Yours truly being one among them). So this is the time you need to put in double effort, because you'll have to fight with the cream of CAT aspirants now.
1) Practise makes man perfect
Many of you might have never faced GDs before in your life. Maybe you have a low voice, you are too generous to interrupt while others speak. Everyone has one problem or the other. Only way to get out of the fear is to practise. Find a good peer group and engage in as many informal discussions as possible. Convert your chit-chats into intellectual discussions. It helps.
2) Form an Opinion on everything
Editorials are no more nasty. You need to read them, understand the issue with it's historic roots and future implications, and form an opinion after, I repeat after taking into account both sides of the coin. Don't jump into conclusions and don't just mug up facts. Try to study the ramifications and think about feasible solutions to the problem. Developing these qualities helps you in anlaysing the GD topic. And gets you through in the PI.( Usually General Awareness is tested in PIs )
3) Silence is Suicide
Unless you open your mouth and put your points forth, you will not be able to get into any B-School inspite of having huge percentile. You may be having so many ideas. But if you don't butt into the discussion, you are out. No panel would come back and give you an exclusive chance to express your ideas. Sometimes they ask you to summarize, but better avoid such situations.
4) When to shout and when to shut-up
In the initial days, I used to feel that people who use lung-power to seize more air-time are the ones who make it through. That is one wrong assumption. The panel easily gets pissed off by such people who disrupt the GD and they immediately strike them off. No one likes to be bossed around. So, If your GD is moving towards utter chaos( yes, with a lil diligence, even a coupla intransigent guys can mess it up ), Just keep your mouth shut. You can try to calm the people, but don't make the mistake of trying to shout them down.
5) Your Body Language can deceive you
One thing a person cannot control when emotions overtake is the body language. It can give your true feelings away. So be extra careful. It is no wrestling match. Don't try to stop others from interrupting you by using your hands, or by an angry _expression on your face. And when you are a victim of such snubbing, don't show your displeasure ( You can kick him once out of the room ). And don't sit meekly in a corner, folding your legs, crossing your arms etc. Arrogance, Impatience, submissiveness, everthing comes out. So watch out !
6) Pitch in Early
If you have good information or some good ideas, always try to start the GD. In case someone snatches the first moments away, try to be the second or third speaker. If your ideas are good, people tend to follow your train of thought, and you emerge as the de facto moderator. If you are not able to pitch in early, do not try to disrupt the GD by introducing new topic in between some heated discussion. And If you have no idea about the topic, wait and pick upon the line set by some one else. Don't embarrass yourself starting the GD just for sake of getting noticed.
7) Act as a facilitator, not as a boss
Trying to emerge as the leader of the group is a good thing, but you shouldn't try the wrong ways for it. Don't try to moderate the group by bossing around, like stopping someone, giving chance to another, giving interim summaries, introducing new topics at wrong time etc. Try to bring in ideas at right moments and build the structure of the discussion, and steer the GD towards a productive end. That marks you as the leader.
8) Get noticed, but not for the wrong reasons
People get desperate to get noticed at times. Esp. If they haven't spoken enough content. They try different tricks to grab the panel's attention. But if the trick backfires, you yourself are to be blamed. For example, giving an opportunity to a person desperately trying to pitch in, is a good gesture, If the person brings in valid point. But embarrasing someone who determinedly sat dumb, by asking his opinion, will count against ypu.
9) Don't miss the dress rehearsals
When people have multiple calls, over-confidence creeps in and they feel lazy to attend the not-so-premiere institutes' GD/PI round. That is not a good idea. Treat it as an opportunity to test your skills. Generally, such GD/PIs help you to refine your skills. It happened with me. My first GD/PI was so lousy. My heart was thumping and I was sweating all over. But By the time I attended IIMB, My previous experiences helped me in going with a cool mind.
10) Honesty is the Best Policy
In PIs, always be honest. The proffs are so good and so experienced, that they easily see through the bluff. And being honest, generally boosts up one's confidence, whereas lying increases the anxiety. Be cool, be yourself..that's all.
So, there ends the process. Do your best and leave the rest to Almighty( If you are religious ) or to Luck( If you believe in it ).
P.S. This has become a longer post than I expected. And it could in fact gone longer had I got more time. I hope it helps.