CAT 2020: Section-wise preparation tips for IIM entrance exam

Since not many days re left for the IIM entrance test, here is a look at an action-oriented strategy to score good marks in CAT 2020.

— Written by Amit Poddar

The Common Admission Test (CAT) is an exam conducted for entry into IIMs and other top management institutes in India. Cracking the CAT is the dream of lakhs of students. With just a few days remaining for CAT 2020, revision is the keyword now. Relook, revisit all the concepts learnt so far and more importantly try to identify the ways in which you have made mistakes in the mocks taken so far. The more one knows about one’s mistakes, the better one becomes. Learn from the wrong answers you have marked and take the corrective measures. That’s the demand for the next few days left for the CAT entrance exam. So, being action-oriented is the key and the remaining days should be used very judiciously.

The three broad areas tested in the exam are verbal ability and reading comprehension (VARC), logical reasoning and data interpretation (LRDI), and quantitative ability (QA). As per the recent changes, the time has been reduced to 120 min from 180 min and this demands a strategy change from the students preparing as per the old pattern. This test is definitely about informed decision making rather than wild guesswork. The English section has been mostly reading-based in the past 4-5 years with a focus on reading comprehension, para jumble, summary, and odd man out type questions.

Last year, particularly, was a lot about critical reasoning based questions with words like inference, assumption, least depth, most agree, most invalidate, except, etc. used in RC questions. So, one has to practice at least 2-3 passages daily and work a lot on CR type questions. These are clearly skill-based questions and the aspirants need to practice a lot of questions to reach a good accuracy level.

Verbal ability and reading comprehension

For the English section, one should do a good mix of RC and VA questions regularly. Doing passages, para jumble, para completion, summary, critical reasoning, fill in the blank, should form the basis of the preparation. Vocab building with a bit of focus on idioms and phrases should be done every day without fail. Basic grammar rules should be learned and practiced once in a while.

Reading newspapers and online articles every day can help in enhancing the reading skills in diverse areas but given the time left for CAT one may not give more than 30 min every day to this task.

There is no fixed distribution of RC topics so one cannot neglect any topic/ area during the preparation. The passages and paras can be from areas like philosophy, politics, psychology, history, biology, economics, literature, etc. A good number of questions may come from the neglected topic/area in your CAT slot. So, a selective preparation strategy is very risky.

While doing passages develop a habit of writing summary, title, important points, etc. Understand different genres of passages and try to work on comfort level and the reading speed gather the words picked up during general reading and note it down with the meaning and usage. A good vocabulary is definitely a key to better reading. Though the focus in the next few days should be more on the RC practice than just reading articles and novels.

Full length and Sectional tests should be taken regularly and a proper analysis should be done to identify the weak areas. Do 2-3 RCs every day from the material and take some intermediate/advanced sectional tests. Do some passages under time pressure and some without any time pressure as to check your accuracy and speed in different situations. Then analyse it by looking at the solution.

VA should also be done on a regular basis and one has to be well aware of the tips and tricks of solving para jumble, para completion, para summary, odd man out, etc. Please note that RC needs accuracy more than speed. If you achieve that reading speed but do not understand the passage, then there is no benefit. Even the top performers do not attempt all the questions. If you are still struggling, try to do a deep analysis and figure out how to pick easier passages and drop tough passages during the exam.

Quantitative Aptitude(QA)

The only prerequisite for attaining good marks in this section is to be very clear with the fundamental concepts. This essentially means that knowledge of basic arithmetic, proportionality and variation tools, percentages, simple and compound interest, numbers, elementary combinatorics, algebra, and geometry is more than enough to help you crack the test.

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Most of the problems are level playground so there isn’t much of an advantage that engineers or other math people could have. QA section, apart from a regular test of one’s conceptual and calculation skills, is also a test of scanning skills. One’s ability in terms of browsing through all the questions, identifying the most direct ones, and attempting as many of those in the given time duration is tested to the hilt.

Always remember that basic mathematical skill is just one dimension of QA section and the other dimensions are rather more important which are the ability to perform in a pressure situation, observation skill, decision making, adaptability/flexibility, and finally an ability to comprehend the questions.

Solving a CAT quant problem is a step-wise process and the basic algorithm is

Step-I: Comprehension of the question
Step-II: Interpretation of what is given and what is required etc
Step-III: Problem-solving (If required).

Before moving to step -III one should explore all the possibilities of answer option elimination through various approaches like observation or through finding out the range of guestimate values after analysing the extreme cases. Observation skill works when you bring your relaxed brain to the examination and there are some really easy questions you just need to be patient with. To inculcate the above set of skills one needs to practice hard and once you have an experience of solving some good number of sectional tests and mocks, it will provide you an extra edge. Remember, QA section of CAT is a true test of your thinking performance in which speed and accuracy both matter. Keep improving with each passing day.

Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning(DILR)

There is no fixed syllabus in DILR section as such, it is less knowledge-oriented and more skill-oriented. These areas involve fewer concepts, and proficiency may be attained only when you practice the quality material on a regular basis. Practicing under a time limit is essentially required to get rid of the exam pressure. One has to be flexible in his/her strategy while attempting the Mocks and DILR sectional tests. Scanning the section properly and selecting the right sets is the key to have a good percentile in this section.

If you are not able to solve questions under time pressure but are able to solve the sets while analysing, work on your time management skills and keep improving on your ability to solve questions under time pressure. The best thing to do in such case is to solve as many online sectional tests and mocks as possible. The most important feature of the DILR section of last three years of CAT was the superb distribution of questions in a set. Most of the sets had about 2 easy and 2 difficult questions.

The key to a good score in not only to scan the sets properly but also the questions in each set. Skipping the questions which serves as a speed-breaker is an ideal strategy. Solving these individual questions may not give you the satisfaction of ‘cracking the set’ but being able to identify and solve these easy individual questions within a set will fetch valuable marks. Aspirants need to be selective within the shortlisted sets. Devoting 2-3 hrs. daily will surely help an aspirant ace this section of the CAT.

— The author is Senior Regional Head, T.I.M.E coaching institute

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