Consistent preparation and analysis of weaknesses key to CAT top scorer’s success

Archit Gurg from Cluster Innovation Centre, University of Delhi, was one of the 20 100 percentile scorers in the Common Admission Test 2017. We offer him our congratulations and and get insights about his study schedule, thoughts on the importance of a coaching institute and engineers bagging the top percentiles, amongst other interesting things!

Q.1 We’re sure everyone wants to know the magnitude of hard work that goes into securing a 100 percentile. Can you elaborate upon your own study regime?

CAT is mostly aptitude, and most of us would be able to solve all the questions, given sufficient time. It’s just the time aspect that has to be mastered, and the best way to achieve this is through practice. Since the beginning of my preparation, I focused on this. It included reading passages & newspapers, and practicing quantitative section questions regularly. A couple of hours each day was sufficient till the very end.

Q.2 Most 2017 CAT aspirants have already begun preparing. Can you map out an effective course of study for them based on your own experience?

In my opinion, consistent preparation is absolutely essential. I began preparing around this time itself, and focused on identifying my weaknesses first. This helped me prioritise among the subjects and topics I had to study. I regularly analysed these weaknesses to observe my progress, and modified my preparation accordingly. It is useful because it keeps fresh in our memories the mistakes we make & the areas we falter in, and helps us keep track of the progress we are making. This, along with regular practice, helped me overcome my weaknesses.

Q.3 The dreaded Quantitative Ability section is feared by many. What are your tips for achieving maximum accuracy in this section?

I think what gave me an edge in QA was the fact that I began focusing on it quite early in my preparation. By April/May, I had figured out the topics I needed to specifically focus on in the section.  Secondly, I tried to do a couple of questions of each chapter, every day, so as to not lose familiarity with any topic at any point of time. This helped me retain my learning throughout the preparation period.

Other than that, maintaining a record of the questions you’ve gotten wrong, the concepts you’ve faltered upon, and the tricks you’ve found in tests, is definitely useful. This would ensure that the first few months of your preparation are not a waste, and the learning is kept intact till the end of the preparation.

Q.4 As for the Verbal Ability section, many students are deterred right in the beginning believing themselves to have inferior vocabulary. What do recommend to such students?

Well, I believe I can identify with the question. I always used to be concerned about my vocabulary, or the lack of it. But VA is not really about vocabulary. It’s more logic based. For instance, it might not be essential to understand a reading comprehension passage in its entirety, as long as we can decipher the intent of it, and the questions that follow. This understanding can be achieved through practice.

The best way to improve one’s score in VA, in my opinion, is reading. While this might sound like a clichéd solution to the age-old question, it is the ultimate solution. It is also the hardest to pursue. While in QA, if you practice a particular topic extensively, you may be able to observe a boost in your score. In case of reading, the same won’t be visible that easily. It takes time to actually achieve significant improvement. However, the key is to keep at it.

Q.5 How did you train yourself to accurately attempt maximum number of questions in each section within the allotted time period?

According to me, in order to make optimal use of time, one needs to have a strategy for attempting each section. This can be achieved by knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses. In Verbal Ability, I always found consecutively reading through all the reading comprehensions tedious. Hence, I preferred attempting two comprehension passages, followed by non-comprehension questions such as para-completion, and later coming back to the remaining comprehension passages. This helped me not lose interest in the paper.

Similar strategies can be employed for the quantitative section. Initially, for chapters like geometry, I used to take a lot of time to solve the questions. Hence, I used to keep those questions for the end. As I progressed with my preparation, I modified these strategies according to my strengths.

One thing I always used to keep in mind was: while it might not be necessary to attempt all questions, it is absolutely essential to, at least once, read through all of them.

Q.6 Did you opt for a coaching institute or prepare on your own? How important is each of them?

I did opt for a coaching institute. At first, it used to seem that coaching is an essential part of preparation. However, as I moved on with it, I realised that it was completely dependent on one’s self devotion and preparation.

CAT is a paper based on aptitude. A self-motivated person, who can manage to remain motivated throughout the preparation period, is equally likely to crack the exam without any coaching. The only benefit I reaped from my coaching was the material that they provided, and the test series which helped me analyse my performance at each step. If one has access to these things, coaching might not make that great a difference.

Q.7 How did you utilise your study time in the last few days leading up to the exams?

In the final few days, I focused on reading through my analysis of all the mock tests I had given. This helped me recall and learn about the mistakes I often made. Other than that, I maintained a regular schedule of going through a couple of passages, doing a set of quantitative questions from each chapter, and a bunch of logical reasoning and data interpretation questions as well.

A concern that most of us might face is that our semester examinations usually occur around the same period as CAT. So I targeted completing my preparation before the same. Also, even during the examinations, I regularly devoted an hour or two to CAT preparation each day.

Q.8 Twenty 100 percentilers this time and all engineers! Being an engineer yourself, according to you, what leverage do engineers have over other students?

Nothing at all! This, according to me, is a complete myth. If anything, more engineers are switching to this field, making their presence noticeable here. All of us have been through the same level of mathematics till class 10, and that is essentially what is needed for CAT.

Q.9 Lastly, did you have to compromise on your extra-curricular activities while preparing for CAT? How do you strike the balance between work and play?

Consistent preparation was what helped me in this aspect. I never had to intensify my preparation at any time. Throughout the year, I devoted a couple of hours each day for it, and worked through the same schedule till the end. Of course it got hectic, as I had to add an altogether new activity in my schedule, but consistent devotion helped me avoid such scenarios and maintain a balance between the preparation and other activities.

Interview by Swareena Gurung for DU Beat

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