Paper Solving Strategy

 | April 09,2010 05:29 pm IST

With CAT about one month away, it would be wise not to waste time working on anything new. In the next few weeks, just revise your fundamentals.

Also, the basic process of revision should not be one where you check yourself on whether you remember the solution to questions or not.


While revising, see if there is a better way of doing a question. At this stage, your study hours should be towards keeping a clear head and improving your concentration.


Don't Experiment

There should be no fiddling with your strategy at this stage. The time for experimentation is over now. As long as you know that the strategy you are using is giving you rewards, don't change it.


For example, you would know if your best bet is to scan a passage and then move onto to the questions, while another person could be more at ease scanning questions before going onto the passage. So just stick to whatever works best for you.


Taking the Tests

Test-taking is the most important aspect of your preparation now. Take two, or at the most, three tests a week. Test-taking should be followed by a complete and thorough analysis of the paper.



A thorough analysis into mistakes you have committed and how you will rectify them is very much required. You should not take the test as an end in itself, rather it should be a means to an end. Remember, CAT is not about last minute cramming and revising. It's about being alive and mentally alert, here and now!


Gauge Yourself

The most objective analysis of your performance is to judge your performance with respect to that of other students. There cannot be any method more objective than that. The second step is to go by the benchmarks you are expected to get in that test. Ideally, if you retain your old scores even if the test is getting tougher, it means that you are improving. At this stage, improvement can come not by knowing new things but by fine-tuning what you already know.


Finishing Touches

Do away with your urge to cover the complete syllabus instead of revising or analysing the test. Besides spending time on why some answers went wrong, also concentrate on why some answers were correct, or whether there is any better way of doing the question.


Furthermore, in any well-planned CAT paper, you will not be able to complete the whole section or paper. So go through the questions that you did not attempt, and see if you made a mistake by leaving out those and attempting the ones you did. Also remember that in every paper, there will be both difficult and easy questions. This is where the concept of revision comes in. With regular revision, you get better and better at questions and are able to do them in a short span of time.


For D-Day

One of the biggest pitfalls is that as students we always search for short-cuts, asking 'which is the easiest way out and which are the easiest questions?' A critical issue here is the tremendous urge to skip questions.


We tend to lose concentration at different stages during the exam and tend to skip questions because of the pressures of time. But things get better if you follow a couple of golden rules. If you want to identify the questions to attend, it is imperative that you read all the questions.



Start with the shorter questions. The advantage with short questions is not that they are easier, but that it will take you less time to identify whether you can do them or not. The short questions are not just one-liners or two-liners. So read all the questions and quickly decide which ones to attempt.


Be Decisive

Decide in two readings whether you are going to attempt the question or not. This is perfectly normal and don't let it bother you. It will take not more than 15 seconds, at a very leisurely pace, to read a question. But if you read the question faster, you would have saved a few seconds. These can then be spent on understanding the question.


While reading the question, your attitude should be, 'let me give everything I have.' Concentrating for those two and a half hours is not easy, but it's imperative. Another good approach is to attempt questions that you are comfortable with.


Here and Now

This is also the time when students have to appear for other MBA entrance exams. For IRMA, XLRI, IIFT and other institutes, the one section where you need to work on is general awareness and business aptitude. Good reading habits help. But right now, focus on CAT till November 16, and nothing else.


In the last month, people are under a lot of tension. Reading the newspapers will not only give you that daily dose of news, but also help you relax and build upon your Reading Comprehension section!


The Data Interpretation Angle

Let's talk about the Data Interpretation (DI) section for a moment. If your basic fundas are clear, you will immediately understand the question. And out of a set of five questions, at least three are bound to be easy.

Learn the art of skipping questions in DI. The misconception is that you have to solve the whole set before you move on to the next set.


Risk Taking

If you do the question correctly, you get marks. If you do it wrong, you get penalized. The negative marking is 1/4th of a mark (based on last year's CAT). Since you don't lose a mark if you leave the question, one should avoid really wild guesses. Which brings us to a controversial area: What should you do when you know that the two choices are wrong and that the correct answer is among the other two? You could mark one of the two as the answer. But if you do not have the appetite to take that small risk, leave it.


But also remember that intelligent guessing is a part of the game. As long as it is an educated and intelligent guess, it will benefit you. Often, by this stage, we also know our effectiveness at intelligent guessing, this is where the regular test analysis comes in, especially checking questions that you got right and analyzing what is it that helped you get it right. If you are a poor logical guesser even when down to two options - invest time in seeing why you consistently go wrong. This could pay huge dividends in the long run.


Expect Surprises

The surprise is more in terms of format than spirit. They will change the structure somehow. CAT is traditionally known to check how students deal with ambiguity because it is necessary to be a good manager in real life and the IIMs are very clear, they are looking for the best of the best of the best.


Ease up. Learn to Relax.



Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions. is not responsible for the views and opinions of the posters.
5 + 1 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.


Er aman singh on 10/08/10 at 11:44 pm

i think Test-taking is the most important aspect of your preparation now .