Last Minute Tips for CAT 2016 Aspirants

How many questions will CAT 2016 have? Will grammar be tested in the Verbal Ability Section? Will the DI-LR section be as difficult as last time? How do I quickly improve my percentiles in the last few days before the CAT? How do I push my scores beyond the 95%ile that I am consistently scoring in the SimCATs?

With around 15 days to go for CAT 2016, these are some of the anxieties that the test-takers have in their mind. So, what is the right prep plan for the last fortnight before CAT – how do you ensure that you maximise your scoring potential in the limited time available. In this blog, I have listed a few Dos and Don’ts that you must follow in the run-up to the CAT on December 4.

Have a positive attitude

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” -Michael Jordan

Whatever be your current level of preparation, you need to give it your best shot in the next 2 weeks. Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try. Being positive will not only boost your confidence but also help you stay focussed on your goals. If YOU believe YOU can, only then will YOU taste success!

Do not worry about the test structure – be prepared for any eventuality!
There has been a lot of speculation on the number of questions that CAT 2016 may have – will the number increase, will the number decrease and how will this affect your performance? Do not go by hearsay (44-28-28 is the most well spread rumour about CAT 2016!!) IIM Bangalore has clearly stated that the number of questions in CAT will only be disclosed on D-Day. So, you need to simply be prepared for all possibilities. Take SimCATs whch will expose you to the various possible scenarios – and ensure that you are able to adjust your strategy to each of them.

Do not try to outguess the syllabus
The Verbal section last year had no grammar questions and the demo test put up on the CAT website has none either. But this does’nt mean that you ignore Grammar while preparing for the CAT. Over the years, the CAT has been known to throw surprises and this year may be no different. You should be able to solve at least the easier questions across all areas – there should be no room for repentance at a later stage.

Do not obsessively worry about the level of difficulty!
The level of difficuly of the individual sections has varied every year – in other words, a sectio that was difficult in one year has become easy in another. There is no fixed patten to these variations, and so there is no point trying to guess which section would be easy or difficult this year. Remember that if you are prepared – then if the test is easy for your it will be easy for everyone and if it is tough it will be tough for others too. CAT is a relative game and you only need to perform relatively better than the others. Last year , for example, when there was a tough DI-LR section people cleared the sectional cut-off by bare;ly managing to solve 3 sets (around 12 questions) in the section. So, even if a section is tough, just give it your best shot and your attempts may just be sufficient to clear the cut-off.

Set your target attempts and accuracy for the test – and work towards it
Students keep asking me how to achieve a certain X percentile in the CAT – and my standard reply is that one should rather focus on working towards maximising one’s attempts in the test (without compromising on accuracy, of course). In other words, if you are currently attempting 80 questions – push for 90; if you are currently attempting 50 questions push for 60; whatever be the case, simply push for more!! The key is to decide which areas should you work on in the next few days to achieve this jump. Take into account your current performance in mock-tests to identify the areas that you should work on, the areas that are most likely to help you meet the goals.

Plan to achieve
It’s not just enough to “want to improve” – you need to work towards it. And the first step for this is to create a plan. Decide your daily/weekly study hours; decide what you will do in those hours, and then stick to it.  A possible plan could look like this:

Tue-Fri-Sun: Mock Test and analysis

  • 3 hours: Take  a Simulated test (preferably in the same slot as you have been scheduled for in the actual CAT).
  • 3 hours: A detailed analysis of the SimCAT performance (on the same day or otherwise)

Mon-Wed-Thu-Sat: Purposeful practice

  • 3 hours: 35 to 50 Math questions from pre-fixed area identified on basis of SimCAT performance OR 1 Quant Section Test followed by analysis
  • 45 min: 2-3 DI sets + 45 min: 2-3 LR sets OR 1 DI-LR Section test followed by analysis
  • 1.5 hour:  30 to 40 VA questions of a specific type (say Jumbled Para) + 30 min: 2-3 RC passages OR 2 hours: 1 Verbal Section Test followed by analysis

Execute the plan 

While taking the test: Make sure to take the test in a distraction-free environment. Take a practice test like the actual test, and if possible, in the same slot in which you are scheduled to take the CAT. Execute your test strategy and build your test stamina. Fix the order in which you will attack the questions within a section – practice using the IMS ABC approach to maximise your attempts within a section. Learn to make good use of the options, wherever possible – remember there are no extra marks for solving the questions. Do not get stuck on questions – it’s a proven fact that spending a lot of time on 1 question does not generally yield good results.

After every test: Don’t simply take simulated test after test just for the sake of it! Make sure you analyse your performance, review your progress against set benchmarks.  This will give you an idea of whether your performance is on track. Identify areas where you can improve in the limited period available and also those that give you the highest returns in the test. Do purposeful practice by solving a sufficient number of questions from identified areas – sufficient enough to give you the confidence to tackle similar questions in future mock tests and more importantly, in the CAT. Keep track of time while you’re practising – you will soon know what a 10 or 20 or 30 minute stretch feels like! Also, quality practice is better than quantity practice at this stage – it’s Ok if you do not cover all areas before the CAT, but for areas that you do cover ensure you do them well.

Since the CAT is a computer-based test, it’s quite obvious that you even your practice should be computer-based. You need to get used to solving questions on the computer – especially questions based on Geometry, Graphs, DI, RC etc where we are used  to scribbling/drawing/constructing/underlining on the question paper. You also need to get used to using the calculator – with discretion and wherever needed. You need to get used to effectively using the various features of the test engine, for example, the View Question Paper feature.

Don’t keep looking for the light at the end of the tunnel!
You need to endure the length of the journey to reach the end. There is no point wondering whether all the effort that you are putting is worth it or not. Just focus on the process and the outcome will take care of itself. Give it your best shot and your scores are bound to improve.

On the Day before the D-Day

  1. Don’t overstrain yourself : For instance, taking three simulated or mock tests back to back is quite a bad idea. In fact, I would recommend that you don’t take any test at all.
  2. Find out where your test centre is: Make sure you know how to reach there, how long it’ll take to get there, and plan accordingly. If the centre is far away or in another town, it would be a good idea to reach the town on the previous day itself.
  3. Be ready with all you need to carry: Don’t wait till the last minute to collect everything. Remember to carry your admit card and the required ID proof as mandated.
  4. Relax in the evening – watch a movie: Take the evening off to do something fun and relaxing. And don’t do anything stressful that might disrupt your emotional balance. De-stress by watching any comedy movie or your favourite sitcom. Have a good night’s sleep and be fresh for the D-Day.
  5. Do not give up at this stage – it is important that you reach as close to your destination as possible and who knows that might just be sufficient to get you through THIS YEAR!!



31 thoughts on “Last Minute Tips for CAT 2016 Aspirants

  1. Hello Sir,

    This post has given me some confidence, however I had a few lingering questions related to my current state.

    My percentiles in the past few Simcats have been fluctuating in the 80-96%ile range. Moreover, I barely manage to clear the QA cutoffs, at times falling short by 2-3 marks. This however might be due to my limited attempts, I am unable to attempt more than 15-18 questions per mock. However, while analyzing I am able to solve 80% of the questions from the QA section. This has become a demotivating factor.

    The other 2 sections I have been scoring in 90-95%ile zone. Can you suggest what can I do in these few days to push that percentile even further. Plus what can I do about my QA?


    • Hi..fluctuations in score can be attributed to 2 reasons: 1. there are areas where you aren’t comfortable and when the number of questions from these area form a majority your score will go down; 2. you are not able to select the “right” questions to solve while taking the test and hence you are not able to push your attempts higher
      If your problem is (1) then identify those areas of improvement and work on them in the limited time available for now – prioritise those areas which will give you maximum returns. if your problem is (2) then practice the ABC approach as suggested by me ( Hope this helps. All the best!!


  2. Sir, you have always been an inspiration and motivated students a lot ! Thanks a lot for your support ! We need your blessings totally to bell the exam ! TC :d


  3. Hi Sir

    I scored 208 in NMAT. Should I go for retake ? What is the expected cut-off for NMAT this year ? I scored 149 in SIMCAT 15. For other SIMCAT, on an average my percentile remained in 75-85 bracket.

    What percentile can I expect in CAT 2016?


    • Hi, You are very close to the border for NMAT…a retake would therefore be a safe option…Do not worry too much about predicted percentiles…just go and give it your best shot:-)


  4. Dear Sir,

    I have some queries regarding Reading Comprehension (RC) in CAT

    1. If a question is about the tone of a passage, what is the difference between an analytical tone, critical tone and reflective tone?

    2. If the following question is asked,
    “Which among the following is the author most likely to agree?”
    What should I look at, i.e., the option which has a comment made by someone stated in the passage I think the author will agree on or something else. How should I approach this question?


  5. Firstly thank you for the valuable suggestions. I have one doubt that is running through my mind from the day I started preparing CAT. What is the marginal difference that one expect in his mocks and real mocks.I mean if someone scores 85 percentile in SIMCAT’s, in the real CAT how likely is it that his score will increase. From the experience you have in this coaching field, how do the actual CAT percentile show up, will it be more than the MOCK percentiles or on the lower side.


    • Over the years I have observed that students score increase by a value equal to half their distance from the maximum – so if you are at 80 percentile you can expect around 90 percentile, if you are at 90 percentile you can expect around 95 percentile. The assumption is that you maintain your level of performance in the actual test.


    • The blog suggests what you should do in the last week before the can also read my article in Advanc’Edge – the IMS student magazine. Focus on MCQs and TITA alike so that you do not miss on any of the easy questions that are there for the picking – and yeah of course do solve most TITAs, if not all, as they have no negative marking.


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