Ok – let’s lay down the cards on the table. You have a full-time job for at least a year or so. You now have the basic understanding of the market and a clearer picture of the career path that you want to follow. But you see a roadblock! You don’t have a management degree. You are battling thoughts about the importance of doing a full-time MBA or a part-time course or an Executive MBA. Maybe you should simply continue working and carve a career using the brute force of experience. Everyone you talk to has an ‘expert opinion’ to share. Finally, you decide to pursue an MBA for better future prospects. And thinking about your future, you wouldn’t want to compromise and decide to appear for CAT and study at one of the IIMs.
Sounds familiar? There are many students who take up a job immediately after graduation, either due to financial responsibilities or due to a lack of clarity about their careers. After working for a few years, most of them realize that an MBA is essential to open certain closed doors in their career path. However, deciding about doing an MBA is the easier part – the tougher one is preparing for a competitive exam, like CAT, while being employed. Here are some strategy tips to help you make the best out of the little time you can spare to prepare for CAT.
Before you start
CAT is an aptitude based test having the following sections:
This is not a test of your knowledge, but of the application of fundamentals to seemingly complex problems with a logical and common sense approach. The traditional rote methodology which was sufficient for our academic exams is not helpful here. CAT needs practice – a lot of practice.
A test before you start preparing for he test
Sounds oxymoronic but allow me to explain. When you are hard-pressed for time, it is important that you know exactly which topics to target to improve your scores. This can be achieved by appearing for a couple of mock tests before you start preparing for the Common Admission Test (CAT). A careful analysis of your performance in these mocks will give you a clear idea about your areas of strength and weakness in the above-mentioned sections. This can be a good starting point. Here is a preparation strategy that you can follow:
As can be seen above, appearing for a mock test or answering some previous years’ question papers can help you build a good foundation for CAT.
Strategize and create a study plan
As a working professional, it is important to realize that you will have limited time and energy to prepare for the CAT. Hence, strategizing and creating a study plan is paramount to your success in the exam.
Once you have taken the mock test and analyzed its results, sit down with the analysis and create a study plan. This has to be done meticulously ensuring that you give enough time to improve your weak areas while strengthening your areas of strength. Resist any urge to skip topics or sections as this can backfire.
Dedicate a fixed time every day, according to your schedule, for the preparation. Your mind will slowly tune itself to the schedule and you will be able to grasp better as time progresses. Even a couple of hours spent every day for 6-7 months can put on track to crack the CAT.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a Mentor
Whether it is analyzing your initial mock test results or creating a study plan or solving doubts; there is no replacement for a good mentor when you are preparing for CAT – more so if you have limited time. Tips, tricks and shortcuts can actually save you a lot of time on the day of the exam while increasing your efficiency. Seek guidance to ensure that you are on the right track.
Creating a regular frequency of taking mock tests to assess your progress. Don’t do it every alternate day. Once a month should be good, to begin with. Repeat the entire cycle on a monthly basis and keep altering your study plan accordingly. This will eventually help you cover all sections and know which sections to target early and which ones to answer later.
As an ending note…
If you find it difficult to study after getting home from work – due to fatigue or lack of time – try scheduling your study hours early in the morning while you are fresh and energetic. Remember, the biggest hurdles you have to cross are, effective time management and optimal utilization of your study hours. Conquer these two elements and a 99+ percentile could be well within your reach.
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