CAT within the CAT

CAT calls for a methodical approach and clear understanding of its structure. There are three aspects or stages to cracking the CAT. Each stage is as critical as the other and the second and third build on the first.

Stage 1: C oncepts
Stage 2: A pplication
Stage 3: T est Taking Techniques

Stage 1
A lot of students under the pressure of pushing up their scores often spend less-than-desired time on concepts and try to solve problems based on mere speed and guesswork rather than through attaining conceptual clarity. It doesn’t matter just how smart a student is, he or she cannot succeed at the cost of concepts. Late starters especially try to catch up with their fellow aspirants by sacrificing accuracy for speed. Let’s understand that speed feeds on accuracy and not the other way round. What makes a Bullet Train fascinating is not speed, but the accuracy with which it runs at that speed.

Stage 2
Once the concepts are in place, the next challenge is to apply these to a Maths and English problem. The way one solves the Maths and English problems acts as an indicator of the way one would solve a real life managerial problem on the job.

Stage 3
It is typically seen that a lot of students start dropping out as the countdown begins for CAT. This is because while they may have mastered the concepts and started applying them to problems, the pressure to score the maximum in minimum time gets to them. Add to this the element of negative marking and many students start feeling truly intimidated. The way to work around this situation is to learn and develop test-taking techniques to crack problems. Different strategies are required to crack different sets of problems, as a manager will not face uniform situations and will have to come up with multiple ways to solve multiple problems. The right test taking technique for each area comes only from constant practice.

It is important here to understand the trick in the whole game called CAT. Paper-setters would be unrealistic to expect the student to solve all 150 questions in 120 minutes. But by restricting the time, they test a student on his selection and decision making skills, which as a manager he will be required to tackle day in and day out.

Driving a Car

Now, what has driving a car got to do with cracking CAT? Well, nothing directly, but the concept of CAT within the CAT can be understood by looking at how one acquires the skill of driving.

When somebody sets out to learn driving a car, what is his biggest focus? Concepts, of course. He will first learn how to start the car, the various gears, how and when to change them, functions of an accelerator and clutch, etc. This is like the Concept stage of CAT.

Once the concepts are understood, he will start applying them while driving, e.g. the right time to shift the second gear to third gear and come back to first gear, etc. This is like the Application stage of CAT.

Finally, when he is comfortable with driving on the road and in traffic, he will try to increase his speed and follow strategies to get to his destination. Thus, if he finds a certain road is continuously jammed, he will look for alternative routes and try to reach his destination faster, or look to manoeuvre faster through the traffic by speeding on a certain lane without sacrificing accuracy. This is nothing but the strategy or test taking technique stage of CAT.

Thus, the moral of the story is for cracking the CAT or becoming a cat at driving, there cannot be speed without accuracy. Just as speed without accuracy while driving can lead to accidents, speed without accuracy in CAT can lead to irreparable errors.