HomeWord’s WorthChewing the Fat

How and when to start the CAT retake preparation?

Most of the institutes have given out their calls. With that, many candidates might be planning to retake the CAT. While some candidates almost converted to their dream college but missed out because of one poor section or just missing out on the overall percentile. For others, the CAT day might have been not so great a day at the office straightaway knew nothing much was going to happen. 


For students, who plan on retaking the CAT exam, the new cycle of preparation for CAT 2023 has begun. In the initial prep stages, certain things must be unlearned to learn.


Percentiles do not indicate ability in a section.

Test-takers use to evaluate their performance in a section is by looking at the percentile they scored in that section. Candidates rate their ability on the section depending upon what percentile they scored in that section. CAT is an exam with varying question types and difficulty levels every year. If we evaluate CAT-18 concerning CAT-17 there were significant changes

  • The Quant section was trickier than on CAT-17 as well as in the preceding years, making speed & accuracy less of a factor than it was on CAT-17

If a candidate scored 90 this year on Verbal & Quant and lost on DI-LR, which was as tough as in the previous year, then candidates can’t assure themselves that VA & QA are strong and will need very little prep.


What if the following year, the RC passages next year go up a few notches? What will you do if the Quant section poses trickier problems and LR becomes easy? It has happened to quite a few students in the past, with percentiles getting reversed in the second attempt.

Nothing can be more dangerous than evaluating ability solely based on percentile when planning a re-attempt, especially when sectional percentiles are in the 80-95 range.


Only those with a percentile above 98 on a section can rest assured that their ability on a particular section is pretty solid. So what are the alternatives to understanding where the candidate’s ability lie? 


Instead of evaluating ability solely based on sectional percentile, the evaluation must base on the amount of effort a candidate dedicated to the particular area. For instance, if a candidate has not performed well in a section, they must figure out the weaknesses, go back and learn the basics, and solve all types of problems and questions in the category.


Do not prepare optionally.

One of the most popular questions googled by cat prepping candidates has to be – which topics are most important for CAT?


We are so used to guide-book preparation for the better part of our lives that we cannot think of an approach beyond it. One cannot get into elite institutions and secure high-quality jobs by playing the percentages.


Firstly, you will be taking not just the CAT, but other tests such as the XAT, IIFT, NMAT and SNAP. Across these five tests, ability across all areas will get tested to various degrees.


If a candidate starts learning the core skills then it brews into a habit in future that the candidate must repeat and learn everything from the core, it provides a depth of understanding pushing them ahead of the crowd. It is necessary not just to crack the cat but also to succeed in life.


Make a list of the skills you want to acquire, the areas you want to master

Not getting through is dispiriting, to say the least, more so after putting in a lot of effort,

Before you retake the attempt, ask yourself some tough questions — why did you shy away from questions from a particular, was it tough to understand, or did you simply judge it not to answer by the looks of it?


So now that we know the answer let’s make an attempt to understand them and get comfortable with them — bridge those knowledge gaps. Try to comprehend the solutions to the questions which were not attempted even after clearing the cutoff.


In my first attempt, I focussed more on getting better at what I knew rather than learning what I did not know and thus did not expand my range of scoring opportunities. So my single point agenda in the lead up to my second attempt was to focus on really getting the better of my pet hates and increase my range of scoring areas.


Make a list of liked topics versus the unliked topics and the candidate shall find that the amount of practice put into unliked topics during the first attempt was proportionally lesser than the amount of practice put into liked topics


Learn to understand better not just for the CAT but for everything

Generally, our focus has always been on memorising. As a result, candidates might know a concept in terms of definition but rarely manage the application. The students who made it to the WAT-GD-PI rounds are also peppered with math questions.


What is really important is to move away from learning to remember but learning to understand and thus remember once and for all.


The letters are not just alphabets but symbols used to represent logic. Try to get to the logic of things, this is the single biggest tool to improve your aptitude.

The same curiosity is applicable to Verbal, Quant and DI-LR


Entire prep has to have one motto — To learn new skills and get better!

It is important to keep in mind that most people prepping for a retake do not focus on the quality of their prep. They go in with full enthusiasm, energy and drive with the motto — to nail this test this time!


The problem with the second approach is that it is very energy-intensive and somewhere leads to burnout. You will end up over-preparing, not really getting better in terms of your aptitude and ability to handle questions from a wide variety of areas but only getting better in terms of speed.


Over preparing might only lead to more stress and burnout affecting performance on the day it matters the most. Hence just like balance is required in life to achieve great things a balance between hard work and smart work must exist as well to score a good percentile in CAT.