CAT Exam Preparation Strategy: When and How to Start?

By Debasmita Mohapatra

Since CAT 2020 exam is on 24th November, so only less than 1 months are left for the great preparation. And it is the crucial time period for a CAT aspirants who dream of pursue MBA from one of the top IIMs. To crack the CAT exam with high score the students have to go through some important aspects such as"

1. Understanding the CAT 2020 Exam pattern & syllabus.

2. Taking mock test to check the students’ current preparation level.

3. Making choice of preparation, whether you want to go for a CAT coaching or prepare for it on your own.

4. Collecting tips from the previous CAT toppers, learn from CAT 100 percentilers.

5. Then preparing the final time table for CAT preparation 2020.

6.And finally start your CAT preparation for each section.

The above 6 aspects comes under the CAT 2020 preparation strategy. Lets discuss about this thoroughly-

1. Understanding the CAT 2020 Exam pattern & syllabus-

Before going ahead towards the CAT 2020 preparation, it is very important for the student to understand the CAT exam pattern which was lastly changed in 2014. As per the revised CAT pattern, the CAT 2020 will consist of 3 sections comprising 100 questions, 1 hour for each section separately. Candidate needs to score high in each section as there is also a CAT sectional score cut off in IIMs for shortlisting. Here is the revised CAT pattern for 2020:
Section name Total questions Total MCQs     (with negative marking) Total non-MCQs(without negative marking) Total full mark
Verbal ability & reading comprehension  34 24-25 9-10 102
Data interpretation & logical reasoning 32 24 8 96
Quantitative ability 34 25-26 8-9 102
Total 100 73-75 25-27 300
The exam pattern of CAT 2020 is expected to remain same as per the last 3 years, only a minor changes in number and type of question & their sectional composition can be done.

CAT syllabus:

The CAT syllabus is normally based on the topic that appeared, added/deleted in the previous CAT exams. CAT preparation syllabus mostly cover all the major topics on verbal ability & reading comprehension, Quantitative aptitude, data interpretation & logical reasoning. But there is no repetition of CAT questions in any CAT exam and the difficulty level of the question also comes under the CAT syllabus.

2. Taking mock test to check the students’ current preparation level-

To successfully attend the CAT test, one should be aware of his/her weak area from the question pattern as well as strength. And by giving mock test one can get to know it properly and can focus on his weak areas in CAT exam preparation. By research one can find how mock test help the students in cracking the exam. It just build the confidence of the aspirant. So it is very much important to take CAT mock tests and plan your CAT preparation strategy.
Importance: CAT 2020 Mock tests, CAT previous years question papers, CAT exam quiz, CAT previous year mock test, CAT sectional quiz, etc act as major CAT exam preparation tools and play a major role in improving the speed and accuracy of the candidate in CAT preparation 2020.
According to the CAT topper mock test help in identifying the sectional strength and weakness so that one can prepare his schedule as per the result. Solving mock test in a given time will help in managing the time in the exam hall, understanding the errors and work on it. One can follow the CAT practice test papers designed by experts And CAT toppers. The sample papers of CAT are available as CAT online tests. CAT online tests or the mock tests help to get over the exam day anxiety and pressure.

3. Making choice of preparation, whether you want to go for a CAT coaching or prepare for it on your own-

It’s totally up to you whether you want to prepare yourself without any coaching or with coaching depending on your requirements, availability of time, skills and the section you want to improve. Self-preparation for CAT with the right CAT 2020 study material can give you a sure success too. For this, at first you have to understand how to prepare for CAT exam at home with the help of right book and other necessary study materials.
Most of the CAT toppers prepared for CAT exam without taking any coaching. Now the question is how to start preparation for CAT without any coaching. Here is some tips for the students who want to prepare for CAT 2020 without taking any coaching for any reason:

1. First visit the revised CAT exam pattern and read the syllabus for 2020 mindfully.

2. Collect the best book recommended by the experts and the toppers and study material for CAT exam 2020.

3. Decide your strong and weak area from the question pattern and work on it. Mark the progress regularly.

4. Take mock tests daily during the time of preparation and don’t forget to analyze it. Knowing about every wrong and right move of yours is necessary.

5. Read 5-6 newspaper every day and note down the new words you learn from it. Read Novel, talk to friends in English, it will strengthen your VARC

6. Focus on Data Interpretation as it is time consuming. Try to solve it using techniques for quick calculations.

Here are the suggestion of some books for CAT self-preparation by the experts:
For VARC section- 

1. How to Prepare for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for CAT’- by Arun Sharma & Meenakshi Upadhyay

2. Editorial and short articles published in English news papers

3. Word Power Made Easy’ – by Norman Lewis

4. High School English Grammar & Composition’ – by Wren & Martin

5. Regularly solve the Verbal Ability questions from your study material especially on Para summary, Jumbled Paragraphs

For DILR selection-

1. How to Prepare for Data Interpretation for CAT’ - by Arun Sharma (Published by McGraw Hill)

2. How to Prepare for Logical Reasoning for the CAT’ - by Arun Sharma (Published by McGraw Hill)

3. ‘Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation for the CAT’ - by Nishit K Sinha (Published by Pearson)

4. ‘Logical Reasoning and data Interpretation for the CAT’ - by Nishit K Sinha (Published by Pearson)

For Quantitative Ability section-

1. Quantitative Aptitude for the CAT’ – by Nishit K.Sinha, Published by Pearson

2. ‘How to prepare for Quantitative for the CAT’ - by Arun Sharma, published by MGH Education

CAT preparation with coaching-
If you want take a coaching class for CAT 2020, then go for the best coaching if you can find one. But keep in mind that along with the coaching class you have to find the best coach for Cat preparation who can help you in strengthening your weak sections. There are many CAT preparation institutes and many personal coach for CAT in India but the right coaching offer a uniform preparation material for CAT exam pattern.
Choosing a coaching also has its benefits such as- can interact well with the faculty during the session, doubts can be cleared with peer learning, covering the syllabus is also the aim, can get opportunity to take different difficulty level mock tests for CAT exam

4. Collecting tips from the previous CAT toppers, learn from CAT 100 percentilers.

Apart from all the preparation, tips from the toppers also matter a lot as they face that phase and succeed in dealing with that so their experience and guidance can help you a lot. Here are some of their experiences that can be helpful for you:

1. Get the best CAT preparation material with best books for CAT preparation. Beginning your CAT preparation early will give you time to periodically assess yourself and overcome your weaknesses.

2. Remain confident right from the day one during your CAT preparation journey. Self-Preparation is the best preparation strategy for CAT 2020 however time is also an important factor.

3. Don’t waste too much time on theory. If you have understood the basics, attempt CAT sectional quiz. Practice after theory is a must. Accordingly take periodical CAT 2020 Quiz, attempt CAT previous years Mock test, CAT previous years question papers.

If a candidate gets stuck on some question due to his/her lack of conceptual clarity, the wastage of time is more and depression begins to set in. It could be a small quant formula, LR logic, or Verbal usage clarity which might need a simple push to come out of the shallow waters. This help can be provided by your mentor online or offline depending upon your preference.

5. Then preparing the final time table for CAT preparation 2020.

Preparing the time table for CAT preparation is one of the most important activity. It should be prepared as early as possible so that the candidate can start working according to it. It helps in maintaining the preparation in a manner, you can find out your problem areas, can spend most of the time learning new things, can analyze your own performance which is necessary.
CAT preparation step by step-
Scan the CAT Exam Pattern & Syllabus.

1. Attempt a few CAT Mock tests/previous test papers to figure out your strong and weak topics.

2. To begin with make sure to devote a minimum of 2-3 hours a day for CAT preparation.

3. Divide your time as per your skill set and requirement to build your basics and bring conceptual clarity through books, study material as per CAT Exam pattern & Syllabus.

4. Consistently work to improve upon your weak areas by allotting more preparation time.

5. Be ready for the CAT exam day, treat actual CAT exam like another Mock Test.


6. And finally start your CAT preparation for each section.

There are 3 sections carrying 100 questions in total. Each section need to be focused individually to ensure high score as there is a sectional score cut off in IIMs. The candidate must be aware about his/her sectional strengths and weakness and start working on them.
Preparation tips for VARC:

1. Reading newspaper, article. Making summary after reading a passage and it should be one-third of the passage size. Cover all the key points in that summary.

2. Make questions and try to answer it and enhance your reading speed.

3. Monitor your time to attempt the CAT RC passages.

4. Preparation tips for Verbal ability.

5. Making a summary of small para of 50-60 words in a single sentence.

6. Putting the sentences in Jumbled paragraphs in coherent order.

7. Picking out odd sentences from a jumbled paragraph and know about it’s structure.

Preparation tips for DILR-
The Data Interpretation Study material like Data Interpretation for CAT by Arun Sharma; The Pearson Guide for logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation are the few of the best books for CAT 2020 preparation. DI questions for CAT with solutions are available online also.

1. DI questions are formed to test how candidates can interpret the given data and answer questions based on it.

2. Preparation tips for Logical Reasoning-

3. Logical Reasoning questions in CAT can be your score booster upto 48 core marks leading to an improvement of overall percentile by 20-25 in CAT 2020.

Try to solve as many LR questions on all difficulty levels, as possible.  Never be shy of practice on LR.  Once it is done, you will develop the methodology and will come to know beforehand whether you will be able to solve a particular LR question set, when it appears in the examination or should skip that. 

1. Read CAT toppers’ Logical Reasoning Preparation Strategy.

2. Go for CAT Logical reasoning mock test and analyze your mistakes after completing.

Preparation tips for Quantitative Aptitude-
 It is 3rd and last section of the exam pattern. And it is considered as the very tricky section.

1. As after spending 120 minutes on the other two sections, this section need more attention from the candidate as it is more calculation based. Candidate must have prepare themselves to keep their cool till the end.

2. Your own devised shortcuts to quickly solve the questions with accuracy will help more.  It has become more crucial for aspirants to score high in Quantitative Aptitude section in CAT 2020 without any support of questions from DI part which could be attempted by not so proficient candidates in mathematics.

3. Candidates should keep trying variety of Quantitative Aptitude to crack this section.

Here we have shared some of the important tips related to CAT 2020 exam pattern, its strategy, best books for individual sections, etc. But at the end, the hard work and smart work of an aspirant can lead him/her to success where patience & concentration are must.
Get details about CAT exam, Click Here
Read here, How to score 100 Percentiles in CAT Exam?
Read also : How to Prepare for CAT without coaching


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