Wednesday, August 16th, 2017
Is there enough time to prepare for CAT 2017? As the CAT 2017 exam draws near, fear and sometimes panic starts to set in and this the most common question that I get asked. I will try to answer the question in this post and probably two more.
Short Answer: Yes
Slightly long answer: CAT preparation requires anywhere from 300 hours to 500 hours of serious preparation. That much time is more than enough for you (and for anyone else) to reach his or her peak potential. So, if you can put in 2-3 hours on weekdays and perhaps a little more on the weekend, you have enough time.
Really long answer: This would be in a series of three posts. This post is the first one in the series. I plan to discuss a 100 days plan to ace each of the three sections. In this post, we are talking about Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension. If this post generates decent feedback (and social shares), I would surely go ahead and write posts about the other two sections as well.
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If we are going to make a plan for acing the CAT 2017, there could not be a better source of inspiration that the words of perhaps the ultimate strategist the world has ever known – the great Chinese general Sun Tzu, who wrote ‘The Art of War’.
“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”
In order to ace the CAT Verbal Section, we need to have a winning strategy that takes into account the most important factor in any plan – time. While there is no upper limit to the amount of preparation for the CAT, there must be a lower limit. In my opinion it must be no less than 12-hours of self-practice per week, whichever way you choose to divide the hours.
For example: Non-working test takers may divide them equally across 6 days of a week, while those who are working professionals may divide them equally between the week (6 hours) and the weekend (the remaining 6).
Assuming that the CAT is approximately 16 weeks (112 days) away, we have 192 hours (a minimum required time, I repeat) to devote to the Verbal and RC section. Given the fact half of the entire set of VRC questions come from Reading Comprehension, one half of these hours (96 hours – 6 hours a week)) should be devoted to the preparation of Reading Comprehension.
The remaining 96 hours need to be divided between the following: Sentence Correction (grammar) and Vocabulary questions, Parajumbles, Para Completion questions, Critical Reasoning (including FIJ and Summary). These are the question types most likely to appear in the CAT 2017, irrespective of whether or not they appeared in the CAT 2016 or 2015.
That gives us a minimum preparation time of 27 hours (1.5 hours per week) for each of the above question types.
Let me point out something very important here: The minimum preparation time suggested above must be followed, irrespective of how good (or bad) you think you are when it comes to these questions. Even if some of these are your strengths, they must be practised regularly. It is similar to doing push-ups every day. You may be able to 100 push-ups non-stop, but in order to maintain that level of strength, you need to do them every day.
On the other hand, if some of the above questions require extra preparation (in most test-takers’ cases it is grammar and vocabulary), you must set aside extra time in addition to these 27 hours. It might mean waking up earlier on weekends or missing a movie on a Sunday evening!
The primary objective of the above division of time is to achieve a minimum proficiency in all kind of likely questions so that we have as few weaknesses as possible when we go into the CAT 2017 exam.
“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.”
“Plan for what it is difficult while it is easy, do what is great while it is small.”
Developing the requisite reading skill for RC is a long-term process, one that gets progressively difficult as the time to take the test approaches and the pressure begins to mount to focus on the question types, rather than general reading. As you must have discovered by now, Reading Comprehension passages in the CAT (and indeed, most other similar exams) are primarily non-fiction – something which most test-takers do not really frequently read. As we have discussed earlier in these posts, it is extremely important that some amount of time is devoted to the reading of non-fiction materials, such as books, newspapers, magazines, online and offline journals etc.
Of the 108 hours we have for the RC preparation, a third needs to be set aside for such ‘extra-curricular’ reading. That means we have 72 hours for practising the passages, and 36 for such reading. That means 4 hours a week must be dedicated to practising the passages and the questions, and at least 2 hours a week (about 30 minutes a day) for such extra reading of newspapers and journals. Remember, this is the minimum. Depending on your existing level of preparation, you may need to devote more time to such reading.
Through such reading, we are going to improve not only our reading skills for RC but also general vocabulary, which is going to contribute to our performance in the vocabulary questions. Simultaneously, such reading is also going to help us sharpen our instinct for grammatical accuracy.
That we have 72 hours for practising RC passages means that we can devote 4 hours per week (240 minutes) to this task. Assuming that the average time taken to deal with an average-level passage is 15 minutes, we can practise a minimum of 16 passages per week. That is good practice.
For the next 18 weeks, we have a total of 12 hours a week to devote to the preparation of Verbal and RC section.
You may choose to divide these 12 hours over the 7 days of a week in any way you desire. Personally, I would prefer to have Sundays entirely for relaxation!
We devote 6 hours to the preparation for RC – 2 hours out of 6 are given to general, non-fiction reading, and 4 are given to the practising of RC passages, allowing us to practise a minimum of 16 passages every week.
We devote the remaining 6 hours to the preparation of the Verbal questions – with 1.5 hours per week devoted to the preparation of Sentence Correction and Vocabulary questions, Parajumbles, Para Completion, and Critical Reasoning questions.
I repeat, this plan represents the minimum required level of preparation for the VRC section of the CAT. You may add to the number of weekly hours as per your own and your trainer’s assessment of your need and your progress, and also as per the free time available to you outside your college/office hours. But whatever you choose to do, stick to a timetable. Have a roadmap. Do not lose your way into the battlefield by deviating from your plan. You may change the plan, but you must have a plan at all times.
Above all, remember the words of one of the greatest warriors ever – on the field of sports:
“Every time I feel tired while I am exercising and training, I close my eyes to see that picture, to see that list with my name. This motivates me to work again.” – Michael Jordan
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