I took CAT in 2005. I gave it my everything — coaching classes every weekend, mock tests every Sunday, 2 hours prep every evening, flash cards/ revision in my 1 hour cab rides to and from work. I made it to a 98.01 percentile.
In 2006, I spent 6 hours every Sunday for 3 months on CAT prep. Nothing more, nothing less.
I made it to a 99.55 percentile. Deadlines (and poor planning) forced me to take my GMAT with exactly 5 days of additional prep. I scored a 760 (top 1 percentile). I thought I was super smart.
It was actually later that I realised the specific strategies that had worked.
Every Sunday, I used to take a 2 hour mock CAT at a center near my home (the tests used to be paper based at that time). After the test, 5–6 of us would get together at a juice shop next door. We’d order juice, grab plastic chairs, form a circle, and start discussing the test we had just taken.
We would start with the first question, and go on till the very last. We would discuss answers, with much more focus on the hows than the whats. We’d chime in with shortcuts we used to answer a question quickly, how options made a seemingly lengthy question so straightforward, how a particular question would have been too time consuming and so was skipped, everyone would share how they handled each question.
The entire exercise would take around 3–4 hours. By the end we’d have dissected the test in more ways than doctors do frogs.
Of course, my strong foundation in Maths and English helped. The CAT prep in 2005 certainly did not vanish the next year either. However, the key difference had been a complete overhaul in the approach. It was those hours spent at the juice bar every Sunday that made all the difference.
So, what worked:
- Social environment
- In-depth analysis
Social environment: I used to look forward to Sundays when I’d get to hang out with my friends. We’d analyse the test, yes. But we’d also crack jokes, talk about common interests, and overall have a good time.
Of course, it was not just any social group. It was a group of peers who all were linked with the common goal of getting into a top B-school. So, while we did chill, we never forgot the main purpose of those sessions.
In-depth analysis: In 2005 I was enrolled in 2 test series — TIME and CL. I’d take one mock test on Sunday morning at 9, and then the next the same day at 3. Madness. I consumed questions like crazy, yet I did not derive even half of what could from each of those questions.
I don’t remember how (or why) those juice shop sessions started. They probably started as a way to blow off some steam after a long week. In hindsight, they were nothing short of magic though. In-depth analysis is the way to go. My mantra, like many others’, used to be practice, practice, practice. Until I realised, it should be practice, analyse, practice.
I have been an offline aptitude trainer since then assisting thousands of students ace their tests, and build successful careers. Doing that has given me an opportunity to give proper structure to my strategies. I have tried to present my learnings in a thought-out manner that benefits all CAT aspirants.
My goal is to share with you what I have learnt over the years so you can maximise your test scores, and realise your education dreams.