CAT isn’t just about Math and English

I can imagine what must be going through all you MBA aspirants-a racing pulse being just one phenomenon. Year after year, few lives are made and many hearts broken based on the performance in the test. If this article can convert more non-believers into believers and help students approach the test in the right perspective, its purpose would be served.

This article focuses on how to handle CAT from a managerial perspective and not just from a Maths and English perspective. The article attempts to tackle the issue from the various aspects that the CAT tests a student on, and how to handle one’s preparation.

What the CAT really is about
How often have you heard this statement: CAT is not a test of Math and English? Your faculty or friends who have taken the CAT earlier will testify to this maxim. CAT actually uses Math and English as tools to assess whether the aspirant has the potential to be a manager. One of the biggest mental hurdles while preparing for the CAT is the overemphasis on learning the ropes in Math and English and not on understanding the hidden agenda underlying the various topics. For example, let’s understand the logic behind a Reading Comprehension (RC) passage in English. A lot of students feel too intimidated by the size and complexity of the passage. But if they could read the minds of the test setters, the following would emerge:

RC is a test of

  • Comprehending ability
  • Strategy (to answer the questions in the least possible time requires strategy, which is nothing but a plan)
  • Communication
  • Selection, discretion and decision-making
  • Managing limited time for maximum results (Accuracy and Speed)
  • Ability to handle pressure (the sheer length of the passages can be intimidating)
  • Analytical ability
  • Common sense and getting the fundamentals right-the most critical quality in an effective manager

All these are nothing but managerial qualities and what an RC passage essentially is doing is judge the student’s managerial potential.

The logic cited through the example of RC holds true for any other topic either under Math or English. Across the CAT, while the topics vary, they are all assessment tools to check for managerial qualities. Thus be it Problem Solving and Data Interpretation in Math or Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension in English, right through the two-hour test, a student is assessed on inherent managerial qualities which can be polished when selected for admission to a B-school. While English tests one’s language and communication skills, Math essentially tests your analytical and conceptual skills–two very critical traits in an effective manager.

Let’s now see how Math tests a student’s managerial potential. Time/Speed/Distance per se is not Math, but it applies Math. As speed increases, the time taken would decrease. You do not have to be a Mathematician to understand this. You just need to use your common sense and most business situations are similar, be it forecasting and planning, production planning, cost control, etc. Thus Math is a tool to test whether the student has the willingness to analyse a situation through logic and reasoning.

Thus, when seen in this light, the following aspects of the CAT stand out:

— It is one of the most fascinating aptitude tests in the country, if not the toughest. It is complex not because of the level of Maths and English, but because of the competition.
— It is a test of one’s managerial potential and not whether somebody is already a manager.
— It is not a test of one’s subject knowledge, but of one’s aptitude to be a corporate manager. If the focus of CAT were academic, it would not include problems from Math and English just from the Xth and XIIth Std levels. It would rather include higher-level Math and English.
— Thus, one of the most critical qualities needed to crack the CAT is strong fundamentals and a commonsense approach

All this obviously does not mean that one can ignore the importance of Maths and English to crack the CAT. In a relay race, the baton is the tool for success. If the baton is not used properly, success becomes elusive. Thus, proficiency in Maths and English is critical to success in the CAT.