The very first thing every candidate needs to do well in the CAT is motivation; a source of continuous motivation that will keep you going even when things look bleak. You could have any reason for giving the exam and trying to get into the best B Schools in the country, whether it be the placements you’ll get, or the character development an MBA offers, or even a fast-tracked career progression. Find your reason, and you’ve won a major battle and you’re well on your way to winning the war. For me, personally, the main motivation came from my desire to leave the dead-end software development work I was doing and do something, anything else that I would be passionate about. My search for alternatives eventually led me to this exam and the opportunities it offered, and so, I decided to put all my efforts into clearing it.
Once you’re sure about the why, move on to the how. We’re fortunate to have a ton of resources to help in preparation – coaching centres, online courses, books. Select one that is best suited to you. I am not a very organized individual… I have difficulty following schedules set by myself, and so, I thought I was better off joining a coaching institute rather than take up self-study, or online programs. And it paid off for me – classroom coaching not only allowed me to assess competition and see just how much work was needed to overcome this competition, but it also gave me mentors who guided me on what exactly needed to be done. It is my belief that sitting in a classroom with other students, trying to solve a particular LRDI or quant question before anyone else was a massive factor in improving my speed. On the flip side, I have several friends who have taken up online courses and scored excellent percentiles, so I would urge you to assess different resources first and make a decision.
Following the above, you will have the knowledge you need to crack the exam. But this knowledge is not an effective tool until it is sharpened with practice. And the best way to do this is by giving mock tests. I cannot stress this enough – mocks are the single most important thing that will determine your final score, so develop a habit of giving mocks early on in your preparation even if you feel that coursework is not complete. If nothing, it will improve your test taking ability and will help you in deciding on a strategy to go about attempting questions. Analysis of these mocks are just as important. Looking through an attempted mock will tell you where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Use this to do mock sectionals to improve on your weaknesses. Towards the end of my preparation, I used the whole day in giving mock tests and analysing them. I would give one test a day and take a break before looking through them. I can confidently say that this strict regimen was the single biggest contributor to my percentile.
Last, but definitely not the least, chill. Life is much bigger than one single exam, and cracking/not cracking CAT is definitely not going to be the one thing that decides its direction. You never know when Lady Luck will smile on you or turn her back on you, so it’s useless to worry. It’s all about that one day of the exam. I have seen people with amazing scores in mocks fail to get a good percentile and poor mock scores transform into 99+ percentile in the actual test. It’s all about that one day – don’t let tension ruin it. Stay calm and composed and quietly confident in your abilities and preparation and you will sail through