Preparing For The MBA Entrance Tests

The Common Admission Test (CAT) is conducted annually to select the top 1,100 from among over 120,000 students. Candidates from varied backgrounds appear for CAT including chartered accountants, engineers, doctors, working professionals and even fresh graduates. Most students attend CAT coaching classes to get a general idea of the testing pattern and also brush up on fundamentals.

says Sreekar Purandare, Bangalore-based regional manager of Career Forum Pvt. Ltd.

MBA – Master of Business Administration

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree is among the most sought qualification in today’s increasingly business-driven world. An MBA offers opportunities for career enhancement, an interesting work profile, and fantastic pay and perks. Although India has 958 B-Schools, the six IIMs (Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta, Lucknow, Indore and Kozhikode) still remain the most sought after. Admissions into B-Schools are essentially through a series of elimination rounds starting with a written test followed by a Group Discussion (GD) and personal interview.

Common Admission Test (CAT)

CAT is a test of aptitude, language, reading and basic quantitative skills along with logical reasoning, decision making and clear career goals. The test is divided into three sections comprising 150 questions to be answered in 120 minutes. In the two hours one needs to tackle ten-odd questions on para jumbles, where each question consists of four large sentences and that too not in order but jumbled up; read six passages of 800 to 1300 words each and solve around forty questions based on them; understand six-seven sets of data in tabular or graphical form and calculate growth percentages, etc.

The entire format of the CAT question paper changes every two-three years, while there are sectional changes every year. Currently, the paper is divided into three parts – verbal ability, quantitative ability and reasoning. “It’s not easy – almost impossible – to solve all 150 questions in the given time, one should be good at omitting difficult questions. Our research has revealed that students who score 68-72 are shortlisted by IIMs. So it is not about answering all 150 but getting maximum correct answers,” adds Purandare.

When to start preparing?

According to several successful candidates one should start preparing for the CAT exams at least a year in advance. A common dilemma among students is whether to take CAT along with final year or after finishing graduation. All coaching classes and faculty are unanimous in their opinion that CAT should be taken along with the final year.

Analyze weak areas

Begin by identifying weak areas and evolve a strategy to overcome them. For example:

o To improve maths skills, start with high school books to brush-up on arithmetic, algebra and geometry.

o To improve verbal ability read extensively – editorials, articles, etc. Create your own lexicon by noting down unfamiliar words.

Maths/ Quantitative Aptitude:

According to faculty at CAT training institutes the math proficiency expected is not of a very high standard. “CAT is a test which takes you back to basics. A thorough revision of high school maths, hard work and logical thinking is sure-shot ticket to success. CAT aspirants should get the fundamentals right, then become familiar with as many shortcuts as possible to solve problems,” says Rohit K, a computer science postgraduate and currently faculty at Career Plan, Bangalore.

A list of things one must master in maths to succeed in CAT

1. Tables up to 30 X 30

2. Squares up to 30

3. Cubes up to 15

4. Reciprocals up to 30

5. Reciprocal Percentage equivalent are an absolute must.

6. Fractions in percent terms like 37.5% = 3/8ths; 62.5%=5/8ths etc

English: Verbal Ability

Most of us think we are proficient in English because we speak, read and write in the language in most aspects of our daily life. But that is not enough to succeed in CAT. A solid foundation in English grammar, vocabulary, phrases and idioms etc is vital. There are no direct questions in CAT, so a clear understanding of words by their roots, usage, adverbs and noun is essential.

English: Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension (RC) is the most unpredictable section of CAT. A candidate with a good reading habit cultivated over a long period has a definite advantage here. The following tips can help you clear the section even if you don’t have a reading habit:

o Involvement and concentration

o Avoid Regression/ revision

o Enlarge Recognition Span; Reduce Fixation Time

o Active reading.

Personality orientation.

A candidates attitudes play an important role in his/ her success at CAT. Original thinking, grit and determination, management approach, ability to handle pressure, time management, decision making skills, change management are vital skills necessary while attempting CAT.

Relaxation is key

Most students have the impression that to be successful in CAT they have to concentrate only on study. Wrong, CAT preparation is important, but more so is to be at ease and relaxed. Take a break, pub-hop, walk, swim etc do whatever required to relax.

Tips and warnings

o The pattern of CAT is constantly changing, so don’t go with the presumption that you have solved the past 10 years papers and you are well prepared

o Qualifying CAT is not about knowing everything but it is about being able to identify right questions and solve them

o You can practice calculations anywhere. For example: calculate run rate while watching cricket

o Every year there are new questions of a different type

o Stay calm and focused – don’t panic

o Work on past question papers to get a feel of the questions

o One has to secure minimum qualifying marks in every section to be short listed

o Don’t attempt questions you are not sure – there is negative marking

Practice leads to perfection

Almost all CAT training institutes conduct full length mock CATs at regular intervals between May and October. One must start taking mock tests at least four-five months before the test and endeavour to take as many tests as possible before the exams. The last month before the exam should be exclusively devoted to solving mock CAT tests.

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