What is your strategy ?

If I were to tell you that there is just one right strategy to write the CAT, I would be lying through my teeth. It is quite normal that many students falter in CAT, as they have never understood CAT correctly Let’s take CAT 2007. This had 75 questions (25 per section) and a total of 150 minutes to spend. Clearly we are talk- ing about two minutes per ques- tion. Then what can you expect about the difficulty ley- el of the paper Undoubtedly there will be difficult ques- tions. You don’t go to take the CAT hoping that the paper will be simple. You expect the paper will be difficult and then if the pa- per is so, where is the problem? The problem is clearly in the mind. Reckon this: the cut off for receiving a single IIM call was as low as 105 marks out of 200 in CAT 2007. If this is true, then the question of a difficult or easy paper does not arise. You are looking at solving about 50 per cent of the questions in the paper with a reasonable degree of accuracy Before looking at the strategy, one must understand the variables involved in the game. We are not talking about the areas in which questions are asked.

There are two variables, which help you maximise your score – attempts and accuracy Your ability to play with these variables in the CAT (probably differently for different sections) is the key to cracking this test.

To use these parameters, there are basically two tactics.

Tactic 1: If the paper is tough, then go slow and concentrate on accuracy

Tactic 2: If the paper is easy try attempting as many questions as possible so that you can maximise scores.

English Section

For two years in succession this section created al1the problems for CAT aspirants. Even though there were close to 7 questions (out of 25) for which the answers were ambiguous, the other 18 were not that difficult. Consider this, if you hadgotjustabout50percentaccuracy in these 18 questions and 1 question correct out of the other 7 (ambiguous) questions, then your net score would be 25 (10 correct and 15 wrong: +4 for a correct answer and -1 for a wrong answer) 25 net score was 95 percentile + in CAT 2006 as well as in CAT 2007 and was incidentally the cutoff for none other than IIM Ahmedabad. Why was this then so difficult and why did a lot of students miss the cutoff? Both these tactics fall flat in the face of a paper as difficult/ambiguous as CAT 2007. There is also no reason to believe that CAT 2008 would be any different except the normal changes that one expects in CAT Problem 1: In tactic 1, it is assumed that if we go slow then there is a greater chance of accuracy On the contrary, since the paper is difficult/ambiguous, there is little chance that your percentage accuracy will go beyond 60 per cent and hence it makes no sense to go slow and even at the cost of accuracy you have to attempt as many as possible. As can be seen from the calculation above, even with a strike rate (accuracy rate) of just 40 per cent, one can get a net score of 25 (which incidentally is also the re- quired cutoff for IIMA for CAT 2007 as we have seen before) if the attempts are maximised. Problem 2: In tactic 2 it is assumed that if you go fast in an easy paper then we can maximise the marks. But in reality, for an English section it is prudent to go slow in a paper which has more easy questions as the accuracy percentage in an easy paper would be higher and hence taking unnecessary risks in the paper would reduce this overall accuracy thereby making your score relatively lower than others’ scores.

If the English section is difficult, then try to maximise the attempts and if it is easy, then concentrate on accuracy

QUANT Section

The Quant section is totally different from the English section. Here the tactics work perfectly The only reason why they do is that in a Quantitative section the chance to guess an answer (unlike RC or Verbal) is very little and you can only answer when you know the concept behind the question.

Here using the tactics would work perfectly. Let’s take CAT 2006 as an example. The quant section in CAT 2006 was pretty simple. But if we look at the history of CAT, then attempting around 30 per cent of the questions with a high degree of accuracy would have done the trick. But since the paper was pretty simple it called for greater attempts. As was proved, the cutoff was close to 40 marks (out of 100) and that would mean 10 questions right out of 25. This is 40 per cent of the questions. And it is prudent to budg- et for some negatives and then the asking rate would go up to 15 questions (attempts) in that time. Hence, the speed would become very important and you cannot be complacent even if you have attempted 10 to 12 questions.

However, in a very difficult paper, attempting less questions and concentrating on accuracy would be more than sufficient to get you the cut off. In CAT 2007 the cut off was a low as 24 for some of the IIMs and only IIMA and IIMC had a higher cut off for the quant section.

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