How to crack CAT 2016

Common Admission Test – CAT 2015 saw 1,79,000 candidates battling for approx 3500 seats making it one of the hotly contested competitive exams in India. For every successful candidate, 98 didn’t make it. Just like those who cracked CAT in first attempt there are those who couldn’t crack it even after 4 attempts. What makes some people tick while others struggle to barely make it. Are these students who cracked CAT super human? What have they done separately which made them stand apart? Is there a “secret sauce” to cracking CAT? Let us understand the tips shared by successful candidates for helping us to crack CAT 2016.

Crack CAT 2016 without losing sleep

After being on both sides of the fence and having cracked CAT after second attempt first thing I had done was to do self-evaluation of what made me clear CAT subsequently than my earlier attempts. Then to remove the individual bias, I embarked on the journey of interacting and interviewing tens of successful candidates over a period. What started as a curious experiment lead me to discover some of the deepest insights on what made candidates tick. The pattern keeps repeating so does the characteristics exhibited. This article is a reflection of those findings.

First the Mythbusters

Many a candidate do believe that cracking CAT or for any matter any toughest entrance examination need high level of Intelligence Quotient (IQ), doing tons of material and studying atleast for 10 hours a day for more than a year. While I am not going to negate some of the above assumptions but certain things are overly exaggerated. My interaction with tens of successful candidates lead me to conclude that:
  • Candidates with average or good IQ are able to crack CAT. This is also the same reason that non-IITians in a batch comprise more than 75% in IIM A, B and C whereas the numbers are higher for other B-Schools. My intention is not to disparage IITians but put out a fact that people with good IQ can make it.
  • Instead of focusing energy on trying different study material, almost all of them followed only one set of study material and one set of reference books. On very few occasions they referred or deviated from this pattern. What have they done with this study material once it is done, they have done it repeatedly. Repeatedly doing the same material gave them the confidence and speed which is highly essential in a competitive environment.
  • Contrary to popular belief, successful candidates followed a focus approach than exhaustive and elaborate one.
  • Majority of candidates cracked CAT with 4~8 months of preparation (in case of repeaters) and 8~12 months (in case of freshers). So intensive and solid preparation for 6 months is sufficient to put you in top 5 percentile of exam goers.

Getting The Act Together

While each successful candidate had their own way of preparing and cracking the CAT, nevertheless it was observed that many of them  had similar traits which make them apart from the rest of junta. Some of their never discussed characteristics are as under:

Focusing on “One” thing

This mantra looks simple but believe me it focuses all your energy into one thing i.e., cracking CAT. It brings clarity to your though process channelising all your thoughts and actions to single purpose of qualifying in written exam. Always focus on single goal at a time, incremental in nature, first on qualifying written test and then clearing the second stage of selection process.

Inculcate “Good” Habits

I have not come across an IIM grad who is not comfortable with reading. Inculcating good habits early in the career will help you long way not only for competitive exams but in real life. When you plan to dedicate few hours of everyday for preparation then you have to make sure of sticking to it by changing your habits. If you are an early riser then stick to the habit of waking up as early as 5 AM and prepare till 9 before you go to college/office.  Research says that you start one activity and continuously do for 66 days it becomes a habit. So why not start some good habits from now itself.

Understand Strengths and Weaknesses

When you start preparing for competitive exams, you get so busy with attending classes or preparing on your own that you miss the big picture. Cracking any competitive exam is not only about crunching numbers but also about understanding your areas of strengths and weaknesses. With so many topics and sub-topics to cover, one has to really understand where they stand to prepare the strategy for overcoming weaknesses. At the end of the day,not even a single section/sub-section should be left. Every mark counts in a competitive exam.

Different Levels of Preparation

When you are competing with the best, you always have to lift your preparation levels to the next level. Two pronged strategy of mastering fundamentals and doing lot of experimentation with test taking strategies would help a candidate immensely tide over any uncertainties presented in CAT exam.

Mental Modes

One has to be mentally tough while preparing for competitive exams. There will be times when it test you out of your wits, those who kept the head calm would sail through. Confidence levels play a key role in shaping one’s preparation. This is one of the key differences between those who made it and those who don’t. To gain confidence, always keep small and incremental milestones and gain the necessary boost after achieving the same.  Make small wins and gain confidence, over a period you start getting the belief that you can really crack the exam and never ever stop the preparation. The moment you leave it, everything is done for you.

Learn Through Discovery

I believe that there are 2 approaches to learning. Learn through instruction (LTI) and learn through discovery (LTD). LTI is a rudimentary way of learning where students learn what teacher imparts. The next level of learning i.e., LTD helps you absorb what the instructor has said and enables you to improve the same suiting your requirement.  In LTD, student takes active steps at each level in adding his knowledge and experience to the foundation laid by instructor. You may listen to 1000 of successful stories, you may be guided by the brightest and most helpful mentor but if you don’t learn through yourself then you are like blind horse doing a wild goose chase. The successful candidates always learn on their own. All the Best.

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