Strategy to crack CAT for a non-engineer: Hi fellow aspirants. I am Ankita Bajpai, an Economics graduate from the University of Delhi. Today, let me traverse you through my spiralling yet enthralling journey of reaching IIM Lucknow which comprised of blood, sweat, and tears, alongside sacrificing my social life and even the social media! However, there is no mountain which is impossible to climb and my story proves just that. When Maanjhi, the ‘Mountain Man,’ can hammer through a hill for a staggering 22 years of his life to carve out a path he can call his own, cracking the CAT exam sounds like a relatively smaller feat, doesn’t it? Online CAT Coaching or no coaching, you can still ace this exam. Find out how you can do the same.

Not to undermine the importance of a solid preparation strategy and diligence required to crack the CAT exam with a decent percentile, the exam, still, is not the monster as it is made out to be! Now, without further ado, let us embark upon my journey so you can see for yourself how I have managed to conquer a dangerous territory and so can you! Through this article, we bring to you the perfect strategy to crack CAT for a non-engineer. 

First things first, let us start from my personal academic profile:

  1. Female
  2. Non-engineer
  3. Fresher
  4. Took a gap of two years to crack CAT
  5. General Category

My past academic records were 72.3/77.8/67.2, nothing fancy and no extracurriculars to boast of as well! New to Delhi as I was, I had spent the three years of my graduation exploring the street food of Delhi, quite literally, and had no idea what to do with my life after college till the CAT bug bit me. Post college, while I was packing my bags to head back to my hometown, I wondered what would I tell my parents and friends back at home when they ask me, ‘What next?’ Since some of my friends were talking about going for an MBA, I thought I should do the same. Little did I know that this would go on to become a test for myself and acing it would become my dream.

At home, I decided to give the CAT exam a decent shot since it was my only option and dedicated the next 4-5 months of my life to this exam. However, the Mock Tests taken by me said otherwise. Despite finishing the syllabus, I was consistently scoring poorly in both Maths and Verbal, besides struggling with speed and time management. You, however, don’t have to go through the same. You can resort to an Online CAT Verbal course and Online CAT Quant course, if the going gets rough for you. 

My main challenges in the Math and Verbal section were:

  • Problem-solving’
  • The lengthy questions in the Quant section me puzzled me to no end.
  • Took too much time for calculations.
  • Concept building was on the weaker side
  • Avoided inferential, philosophical, literary, medical or biological passages in the Verbal section.
  • Sentence correction puzzled me since I was not too thorough with the grammar portion.
  • Made mistakes in Para jumbles and deductive logic questions as well.

Quite predictably, the results from my first attempt at the CAT exam were as follows:

68%ile in CAT, 48%ile in XAT and similar scores in other exams as well.

This obviously did not go down too well with me. I gradually started getting depressed since l wasn’t reaching anywhere despite putting my best foot forward. I had deactivated all my social media accounts, cut off from all my friends and even broke up with my boyfriend since a lot was at stake for me and I had nothing to go back to, no plan B if my plan of cracking the CAT exam failed.

Therefore, I implemented a new strategy, identified my areas of strength and weaknesses, and instead of working hard, worked smart this time.

My strategy for cracking the Quant section, which is generally considered to be the most difficult section of the exam, was simple and systematic, which I will share with you all.

  • Building your basics strong is the first step of acing the Quant section like a pro.
  • Meticulous preparation would both help you solve mathematical problems smoothly. The more topics you cover, the more proficient you will be.
  • Concentrate more on areas you are weak at.
  • Master QA shortcuts and half the battle is won.
  • Focus on concepts and not simply problem-solving, so you can learn to predict questions well. Methods based on lateral reasoning, generalized formulae, and simplification of the question will also enable you in getting a better score.
  • Learn the formulas well.
  • Practice and more practice!
  • Remember to use memory techniques, understand the formulae, use different methods to learn the formula, create tables and charts for your understanding.
  • Proper time management and avoiding guesswork.
  • Revise, revise and revise and take as many Mocks as possible.

Similarly, my strategy for CAT Verbal section was also a basic one which however can be a standard strategy to benefit all.

  • Practicing from the right preparation material. Investing time in too many, frivolous books and notes fetch nothing. Arun Sharma, Wren and Martin and Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis will help enhance your vocabulary, grammar and reading speed.
  • As an MBA aspirant, you must devote one hour every day to reading.
  • Devote a decent amount of time to Parajumbles/Odd sentences since they have been part of your Question paper for the past 20 years. Critical Reasoning also demand adequate time and effort.
  • In Reading Comprehension, focus on accuracy. Speed is important yet optional, but accuracy is indispensable. Do not strive for speed at the cost of accuracy. Speed can be gradually developed through practice, so you should try to strike the optimum balance.
  • Learn from and analyze your Mocks. Every failed or successful Mock Test will teach you something, so take your lessons from them and march forth.

The aforementioned strategy paired with relentless practice proved to be fruitful and the results that came out in my second attempt of the CAT exam were as follows:

96.78 %ile in CAT, 50.66 marks in IIFT, 93.28 %ile in XAT(Failed to clear Quant cut-off)

Calls from IIFT, IMT-Ghaziabad, IMI Delhi, IIM Lucknow.

Again, there were further hurdles for me in the form of GD-PI. I thought of settling for any other college besides IIM Lucknow, because it seemed too good to be true and I was relieved to even make the cut somewhere, anywhere. I was too nervous in the GD-PI and so could not convert IIFT. IMT Ghaziabad was offering a DCP (Dual-country programme) which I was not too keen on since it involved moving abroad and somehow could not convert IMI Delhi as well, which left me shattered. Since I had nothing more to lose and still had IIM Lucknow shortlist in hand, I decided to give it one last shot and went prepared for the GD-PI and did not let myself be nervous and jittery this time, lest it ruins the only offer that I had in hand.

During the PI, I gave satisfactory answers to most academically-oriented questions and on current affairs as well. Still, I did not have high hopes but had a hunch that I just might make it and I did! I realized why some things don’t work out in your best interests and why you need to be rejected from certain places so as to be redirected to better ones.

Today, I am a proud IIM Lucknow alumni. This strategy to crack CAT for a non-engineer helped boost my performance exponentially!

Now, before we wrap up, I would like to give you the magic formula to cracking CAT with flying colors:

The magical word to crack the CAT exam is ‘Mocks.’ Try solving Quant Books as many times as possible, but unless you take close to 30-40 Mocks, you would have no clue as to how you will perform in the actual exam. Roughly calculating, coaching combined with self-study is mandatory, yet Mocks are the ones which determine your performance in the actual exam. The test is not gauging how much you know, rather how much you do and can display in 3 hours. If you are a CAT 2019 aspirant, start writing Mocks July onwards and increase the number from October. We hope all the average non-engineers would benefit from this strategy to crack CAT for a non-engineer.