Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Preparing for CAT: Few Tips

"IIMs have the most random, absurd and opaque selection procedure in the form of CAT". This comes right from my experience over the past 6-8 months. No body knows what conspires in the selection procedure, what each IIM looks for, etc. In this article, I will make an effort to help you about in your preparation for CAT. This year, only 6 IITK freshers made it to IIMs, which is really an exceedingly poor performance in comparision to any other IIT. I wish more people from IITK make it through IIMs, and here is my helping hand. Articles of others are also listed below.

First of all, I begin with my profile:

Gave CAT in 2004, got calls from B,C,K
Got an admission in IIMB
CAT %ile- 99.3
Deptt: CSE, Decent CPI, Good extra-curriculars
Job: Inductis
Note that I have only mentioned things which matter in CAT.

Before starting with tips for preparing for CAT, I would like to say something about "Why one should go for CAT ?" Here are few benefits from my side. Heavy salary packages. Yeah, for sure, but don't expect a $150,000 package!! Definitely, average packages at IIMs stand at about 7 lacs (that doesn't include salaries in dollars). An MBA degree afcourse, gives you an edge in your career graph growth. Why MBA just now, and not after job experience? Definitely, job ex helps. But, then why not now itself? You never know what happens in future. Go for the KILL right now.
I will now discuss various aspects of getting through CAT. This will be followed by my ranking of important factors considered during selection by IIMs. The ranking is highly subjective.

1. Preparing for CAT written test: Most believe CAT is about speed and accuracy. I believe CAT is about two Ps, Practice and Persistence. You got to practice hard, and you got to practice regularly. A serious preparation for 3 months is good enough. I didn't take classroom coaching, so really can't suggest whether coaching helps or not. CL and IMS Test series are good. Coaching can help you to learn few more tricks and techniques. Other than that it's all about YOU. I discuss each section individually.

A. Verbal Ability: This section haunts IITians. Don't get disheartened with your low scores initially. You can definitely improve. For improving vocab, mug up any word list(Baron/ CL).
Do it in the first month of your preparation. Vocab. is not all about meaning of words alone, but also about the context of usage. The number of questions related to this are increasing, and the trend is likely to continue. After one month, analyze how much you have improved. If vocab. is proving too difficult, switch over to RC. RC is all about practice. Work out your technique to handle the comprehensions of various types. Here are few from me, but you should always decide based on your strengths and comfort level.
INcrease your reading speed.
Don't try to read the whole passage.
Try to go from questions to passage, rather than vice-versa.
Go for accuracy. Try not to make mistakes. Afcourse, all this comes through practice.

Work really hard in VA, as it usually is the "Make or Break" section in CAT. You need a score of 20+ in CAT, as the cut-offs are usually higher for this section.

B. Data Interpretation: A section to score. Mr. Neeraj Prasad is a master at this. Mug up %ages, square root tables, etc. One important thing: this year's DI was not based on calculations, but on logical reasoning. I think the trend is likely to continue. This can turn out to be in your favour, as you can really outscore commerce guys here. So, practice logical reasoning well. A "Mental Ability" book for NTSE preparation might be a good choice.

C. Quantitative Ability: You are a master at this, isn't it? Well, rethink. CAT QA is about tricks, right question selection and accuracy. Minimize the number of mistakes, instead of maximizing the number of attempts. Also, don't give too much time to this section. Remember the individual cut-offs.

2. Before and during the Test: One month before the test, you should be ready with your methodology of giving the paper. By methodology, I mean the order of attempt of sections, time devoted to each, the order of attempting questions etc. It should be a well tested one. Now, comes the 'D' day. Perform BEST on this day. Be cool, but don't let your brain cool down. Keep working out problems till the last minute. Even a single mark can make or break the day for you. Don't ever think that you have done enough to get through. I did the same, and sat there relaxed during the last 10 minutes. Later, I found out most of others have done much better than me :(

3. How do IIMs give out the calls?
Nobody knows. But, a balanced scores in all the sections(usually 95%ile+ in each section, and overall above 99%ile) is required. Good score in English is required in A, C lays stress on QA. B gave out calls to 95%ile people this year !!

4. GD/PI: You will have 1.5 month to prepare for it. You can easily prepare for it. Start reading business magazines, go through your important deptt. courses, current affairs, hobbies.

GD: There are few well known tips such as speak 2-3 times with good content, rather than speaking crap 10 times. Control your body language, give everybody a chance to speak, be assertive, yet not aggressive. You will get better with more GDs. In the end, if you think you can't really speak well, wait for your turn, and make smart entry 2-3 times. You will be through.

PI: The most important thing is: Know your strengths and weaknesses.You will have to divert your interview to what you want to tell the interviewers. Before the interview, decide upon what you are going to tell the interviewers, and then just tell them those things. Afcourse, this comes through practice. I have given a brief of my interviews on my blog. Nobody asked me any acad question because of my CPI. Otherwise, you are likely to be grilled on your deptt. knowledge. PUSH in every good thing you have in your CV, be it your excellent internship (foreign exposure is weighted in IIMs), extra-curriculars, or a competition you have won. Regarding low CPI, you simplly can't defend it. Accept your mistake. Don't contradict yourself during your interview. One important thing is your career plan. Be pretty sure about it, as clarity of thoughts really helps you in interview. Be confident and cool.
Believe that you belong to that place.
Have few mock interviews definitely.

5. Important Factors for CAT preparation:

  1. CAT Score: Most Important. Do your best and get it as high as you can. 99.6+ will take youto a safe zone. I made a blunder in the written test, don't do it.
  2. CPI: Unfortunately, YES. You should have a decent CPI, i.e. above 7.5. If you are below this, score more than 99.8-99.9%ile in CAT. Then, you have a fair chance. So, don't be disheartened if you have a low CPI. You can still make up !!
  3. Extra-curriculars: Nobody looks at your certis. Fraud certis are freely available in the market, isn't it? Your extra-curriculars can help you to guide the interview and gain command over it. The important thing is that you must tell them the difference you made while engaging in an activity. But, remember, all this comes only after they have been through your grade sheet ;)
  4. GD: least important. If you are not good at it, just open your mouth 2-3 times in the GD. That is enough.
This ranking is highly subjective and debatable. Take it in that spirit only.

You must show a SPIKE in CAT to get through. This may be in the form of your excellent CAT score, or CPI, or extra-curriculars to some extent.

You can post your specific queries/comments on this article. Please give your mail id so that I can reply you back.

Happy belling CAT!!
Related articles to read:
Vyom Kr Gupta(Y1 Batch)
Vikas Kumar's blog
Why MBA?- By Nakul @IIML


Vikas yadav said...

My profile:
CAT 2004,sole call from IIMB
(as I goofed up DI section)
Got admission in IIMB
CAT %-99.23
Deptt:EE,CPI-9.1,Above avg Extra curriculars

So IIMs have done it again.all the results are out and nobody has a clue about what went in getiing them selected or rejected.As Pankaj has pointed out most of the imp things regarding CAT,so just to add on.
-During my prep for written test ,I had only joined Test series,so no idea abt coaching.I personally felt that tests are the most imp factor.One must give quite a few tests to know his weaknesses ,strengths and finally come up with a strategy which suits him.
And then definitely aim for a very high % in the region of 99.7 and above.

-regarding GD and PI.Its all abt wat overall impression u make on the proffs.They must feel like taking u.It may be due to ur academics,extracurriculars,comm skills,Leadership qualities, ur hobbies or anything.You shud be able to project urself as a balanced person. And as PAnkaj pointed out ,u must have a spike somewhere.

Also regarding GD,start reading some gud magazines and be aware of the events which are taking place and try to analyse them and form an opinion of your own regarding those.

All the best to all of u.

Rajat said...

At IT-BHU also this year we had 6 converted calls to IIM's with only one to A.
The guy who got call from IIMA had just 80.1 percentile (believe me just eighty) in ENGLISH..
He got through due to his excellent academics and superb accuracy in other math sections (only 1 ques.wrong with99.9 percentile).
So i don't think that english is the deciding factor for A.
Afterall the IIM's remain the same... nobody can guess what they look for...