Preparation strategy and study plan for CAT repeaters

If you are taking the CAT exam for the second time or have attempted it several times before but haven’t been able to reach your aspired score, here are some strategies that would help you prepare well to crack the CAT exam.

Two important advice

  1. The previous test scores are irrelevant to how you would perform in the next attempt. If you are focussed on the preparation, it would be unfair to expect a limited increment in percentile on looking at your previous score. I’ve seen students going from 70.xx to 99.xx percentile. Also, if you have scored anywhere in the ‘70s in your first attempt, prepare as if you are giving the CAT for the first time. A fresh start will bring fresh possibilities.
  2. You must make significant changes to your study routine. The reason why it didn’t work out the first time is that either the efforts were not enough or the direction of your efforts was wrong. Albert Einstein once said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” You need to understand what went wrong last year. Was it sectional imbalance, lack of accuracy, lack of revision/practice, incomplete syllabus, unclear concepts, etc. Identify the factors and change your preparation strategy accordingly.

Analyse your strengths and weaknesses

Since you have already appeared for the formal exam once, you would have gauged the exam level and the level of your preparation. This is a major advantage as you are aware of your weak and strong points. The first and foremost step, you would want to take once you begin preparing for the test again is to put yourself under one of the following categories:

  • You struggled with managing time
  • You had to compromise on the accuracy to complete each question within a time frame
  • You faced problems answering basic questions due to a lack of understanding of the fundamentals of each section

To be able to answer these questions effectively, begin by solving mock test papers. Taking mock tests at an early stage would not be as overwhelming for a CAT repeater because in this case, you already know the pattern of the paper. Doing so will also help you diagnose whether you are specifically weak in one section (say for example in DILR) or if you need uniform preparation across all sections. Once you’ve identified your weak section, it is advisable to practice as many similar types of questions to achieve a greater level of confidence.

If you are struggling with managing time

The average time you should spend on each question to complete one section within an hour is not more than 2-3 minutes. The secret to bringing down the average time you spend on each question is increasing the frequency of mock tests. The more practice you put into similar kinds of questions, the less time it would take you to solve them accurately. Calculate the time it takes you to solve one question in the beginning, compare this to the time you take to solve a similar question after having attempted around 7-10 mock tests. Secondly, planning is the key. You need to strategize the time to be given to each section. Since the entire test is 3 hours, your aim should be to finish each section within 1 hour. Using a stopwatch may help you reflect on the questions you are taking longer to solve and what kind of short tricks you may need to learn to help you answer these faster. Also, check out our article schedule to obtain 99+ percentile in CAT

If you want to work on your accuracy

Consider the following 2 cases:

  1. A candidate is attempting 80 out of 100 questions but with 70% accuracy.
  2. A candidate is attempting 70 out of 100 questions but with 80% accuracy.

The latter is a favourable situation. No matter how much you work on increasing your speed for each question, the accuracy must not be overlooked. Once you ace your accuracy only then should you work on your speed. Attempting sectional tests and practising a specific type of questions would help you gain a better understanding and hence increase your accuracy. Carry out thorough analyses of the errors that you make and focus on solving the problems attempted incorrectly the first time.

If you lack understanding of basic concepts

Students often are under the impression that focusing on the strong areas will help them score better, but it is most often the opposite that proves to be true. Polishing and reinforcing the fundamentals of the weak topics would help you perform better in the overall test and pull up your scores. Work on your weaknesses until they become your strengths and you would surpass your expectations. There is no substitute for a strong foundation, and it is only wise to move to a higher step once you’ve taken all the small steps before.

An even more important point to make is not to replicate last year’s errors. The easiest way to overcome this is by avoiding selective learning-not just focus on your weaker sections but give each section enough time. Ensuring maximum score in your section of strength is as critical as doing well in your weaker sections.

Preparing for CAT with job

If you are a repeater, there are high chances that you are preparing for CAT with a job. In that case, you must properly utilise the hours you get after the job. This blog will provide tips for that: CAT Prep with job

Focus more on mock-tests

Next, you should plan the number of mock tests you are required to undergo before the D-day. Begin with at least 2 mock tests a week and try to bring it up to one test per day. This would not only drastically increase your practice but also condition your brain into thinking in particular, CAT specific manner! Read about everything related to mock-test in this ebook.
If you have already covered the entire QA syllabus once, there are only two things that you need to focus on:

  • Give mock tests regularly and analyse them properly.
  • Set some hours every day for reading books/ articles.

With these pointers, you can prepare effectively for the CAT exam.

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