How To Ace CAT: Preparation Strategy and Tips

How To Ace CAT: Preparation Strategy and Tips

With IIMs declaring the final results of shortlisted candidates for the 2021 admissions, aspirants who are planning to appear for CAT 2021 are now in the forefront, and need to pull up their socks if they want to gain entry to any of the most coveted management institutes in the country.

It is absolutely crucial to plan out the best preparation strategy accordingly. CAT 2021 calls for endurance and hard work. In this article, you will learn the tips to crack CAT 2021 and strategies to employ for the same.

The ‘Octernity’: Eight Strategies to stick by

Both experts and toppers of CAT emphasize on effective planning, practise and accuracy of question attempted. Based on that, we have prepared a list of eight major and interconnected strategies to enhance your chances of success, provided these are followed stringently:

  1. Time Management
  2. Speed and Accuracy
  3. Selecting the Right Set of Questions
  4. Number of Attempts
  5. Section-Wise Strategy
  6. Joining Online Study Groups
  7. Mock Test
  8. Refrain from Last Minute Discussions

We will describe each strategy in detail so that you can make the best use of them!

  1. Time Management

The easiest to understand, the most commonly known and something to swear by: Time Management. As per the experts of CAT, it is mandatory for candidates to devote three hours a day without fail. The aim is to amass 600+ hours to be battle ready till the CAT 2021. Initially, the candidates should start with the sections he/she is relatively sluggish or weak in. Candidates should practise more sets of Logical Reasoning based questions, starting from the basics, since these are most prone to mistakes. Ideally, all CAT 2021 candidates should understand the basics for all sections. The objective should be to use your hours to cover all weak areas for all the three sections initially. As the exam day comes nearer, candidates should ramp up the hours they put in daily in the preparation to 5 or 6 hours.

  1. Speed and Accuracy

Since the CAT entrance exam has a sectional time limit as per the exam pattern of CAT 2021, candidates need to maintain their speed while attempting questions. Negative marking will mean that one mark for each inaccurate/incorrect answer will be deducted, while four marks will be added for correct/accurate answers. Hence, candidates should focus on improving their reading speed and understanding skills, particularly for the Verbal ability and Reading Comprehension section as the questions will be lengthy and time consuming.

  1. Selecting the Right Set of Questions

The first focus of candidates should be on accuracy, and not on solving all questions indiscriminately. Candidates need to prioritise sections and subsequently, questions on the basis of their strengths and weaknesses. Answer questions that you are sure of first and avoid guess work.

‘Type in the Answer’ or TITA questions can be attempted with few guesses but candidates should ensure that they write quickly to leave enough time for other questions as well. Speed will be your asset; lack of it, on the other hand, will be a liability. To complete the test within the stipulated time, it is important to focus on speed and, for the best results, on accuracy as well.

  1. Number of Attempts

Gautam Puri, Vice Chairman of Career Launcher, says that the net score required to obtain 99 percentile and above depends on the number of questions attempted. The following table projects the number of attempts required to secure good marks in CAT 2021 as per experts:

Sections Number of Questions to Attempt Net Score
Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning 22 to 24 attempts 65 to 70
VARC 20 to 22 attempts 55 to 60
Quantitative Ability 23 to 25 attempts 70 to 75
Overall 175


  1. Section Wise Strategy

Keeping in mind the previous years’ CAT papers, there are three major sections. Candidates are advised to draw a productive section-wise strategy for all.

  1. Quantitative Ability:For this section, candidates should focus on understanding the basics of mathematics. For example, topics like profit and loss, geometry, number system are frequently asked and might form the key questions from an examination perspective.
  2. Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension:Inculcating a habit of reading is essential. This can be done through reading anything; be it blogs, newspapers, articles, or journals. Try to devote an hour daily to this section, just for reading and this will consequently improve your vocabulary too. Practising comprehensions, inferences and passages can be helpful too.
  3. Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation:Again, brushing up on basics of seating arrangements, syllogisms, blood relations and other such topics will enhance your grip on the topic.


  1. Join Online Study Groups

Candidates nowadays have the option to join online study groups. Popular social media groups are coming up, providing relevant tips on cracking all types of exams. Ronit Banerjea, Topper of CAT 2019, admitted in one interview that he joined the coaching institute and began his preparation with the study material while the online study groups helped him discover new and shortcut techniques of solving the questions.

  1. Mock Tests

According to Shashidhar Unni, Academic Head for CAT, T.I.M.E. Chennai, “To expect an IIM entrance test to be a breeze is living in La La Land. They should try to understand concepts across various fields and then apply a sensible preparation and acing strategy to gain maximum accuracy”.

Giving Mock Tests helps the candidates to evaluate the strength and level of their preparation and gain a better understanding of the exam pattern. A fairly given mock test will also induce the same kind of pressure as an actual examination and familiarise you with the examination environment, so that on the day of the actual exam you are more comfortable, and dare we say, accustomed to the CAT exam.

Rishi Mittal, Topper of CAT 2019 says, “My strategy was nothing out of the ordinary honestly. I solved the material provided in the classes, attempted mocks regularly, identified my strengths and weaknesses in every mock of CAT, capitalized on strengths and worked on my weaknesses, and repeated this cycle. By the time the CAT exam arrived, I had given around 20-25 mocks which gave me an exposure to a good amount of questions.”

  1. Refrain from Last Minute Discussions

Concentration and calm should be the only mantra to be followed on the day of the CAT 2021 exam. Before the D-day, it is a usual practise for candidates to discuss what they have prepared with their friends as well as peers. It is advised to refrain from this practise. It is imperative to maintain your confidence and not indulge in any last-minute reading or discussion. Last minute discussions are futile and can even mess with your mental calm and fuzz up all that you have prepared diligently. So, refrain from studying any new topic or comparing preparation levels with your peers.

All the best and Happy studying!

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