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How to start preparing for CAT?

As you decide to write CAT, the important question that arises with it is “how to start preparing for CAT?”. An adequate answer to this question will steer your CAT preparation in the right direction.

For students aspiring to make a full-fledged career in business and corporate administration, how to start preparing for the CAT exam is the only question that makes sense. CAT exam is an aptitude screening test which qualifies a candidate for MBA admissions in more than 1200 management schools in the country, including top A listed b-schools ranked at elite positions by global publishers like Financial Times, MHRD NIRF etc. The CAT question paper is set by top tier institutes (IIMs) that assess a candidate's caliber to grasp business education. Along with cracking CAT, candidates are further assessed in the rounds of WAT, GD and PI as well.  Candidates pondering about how to prepare for CAT need to lay the proper groundwork for it. Focused handwork and consistency are two most important weapons of CAT Preparation inflicting strong conceptual foundation and great accuracy.

Now the question arises, with numerous CAT preparation strategies floating on the internet, how do you know which one to follow? To make it easier for you, this article comprises some fundamental steps listed by CL experts. Acing CAT with flying colors will be a definite phenomenon if you follow these practices religiously and without any exception.

How to Start Preparing for CAT: Pre-Preparation Checks for CAT

Here are some preparatory measures which would help you bell the CAT in the best possible way!

  • Familiarize yourself with CAT Building Blocks: You cannot participate in the CAT race until and unless you do not develop an understanding of the rules and regulations. Here, the rules and regulations will be disguised in the form of CAT Exam Pattern and CAT Exam Syllabus. This would be the point of incidence for your preparation which gives an idea of topic-wise weightage and evaluates the overall intellectual ability and level of knowledge amongst aspirants. Your CAT preparation journey will be deemed incomplete and bumpy if you ignore these two attributes of the CAT exam. Remember, the CAT exam is a combination of aptitude and accuracy. 

  • Assess your current level of knowledge: Knowing how to start preparing to CAT through the help of experts can set you in the right direction. CAT experts and veterans believe that the first step of CAT Preparation is knowing where you stand at present. Determine your proficiency level in the sections that are tested in CAT (I.e., Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension, Quantitative Aptitude and Data Interpretation and logical reasoning) by taking the CAT Readiness Test. The result of this test makes it easy to decide whether you require coaching for CAT or not, which is the most crucial piece of information to be known in the very beginning. If you plan to join CAT classes, take all the factors into consideration such as finances, location, availability of time. Also, ensure you enroll yourself in a program which will guide your CAT preparation in the right direction and provide constant motivation through peer-to-peer learning.

  • Develop a conceptual foundation:

The most fundamental requirement to score well in CAT is speed and accuracy. Both of which cannot be attained without having strong conceptual foundation. Hence, the next step is to strengthen your concepts. The way to attaining strong basics is through practice and revision. Practice several questions, with varying levels of difficulty, from the topics you have studied. Revise what you have studied every weekend. This will not only help you strengthen your concepts but will also offer momentum to your CAT preparation.


  • Make mocks a habit

As you kickstart your preparation for CAT, keep in mind that mocks have to be a part of your preparation from the onset. Don’t wait to take mocks at the end of the road. This is a major mistake that most aspirants make. Take at least one mock per week starting from April till September. From October, start taking at least 2 mocks per week. Writing mocks will help you understand the paper pattern, benchmark your performance across test takers, familiarize you with the test taking environment, and prepare you for the D-day.


  • Solve Previous Year CAT Papers

The CAT exam is taken by roughly 2 lac aspirants every year. What will help you beat the competition? Effective Preparation! Practice CAT level questions, take mocks that are closest to the actual CAT level, solve previous year CAT question papers. Your performance in a CAT level mock will not only tell you how prepared you are for the exam but will also tell you how you are weighing across test takers.

How to Prepare for CAT: The VARC Section

The VARC (Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension) section is mainly dominated by reading comprehension, which constitutes roughly 60% of the section. The most effective and efficient way to improve your VARC scores is to understand the main idea behind the question and frame a preparation strategy around it. For example, while solving an RC passage, you might cross ways with some complicated sentences. It can be said that some passages in CAT are mind boggling for everyone, regardless of how much of a scholar the candidate has been. Apart from logics, the verbal section focuses on a candidate’s unexplored areas i.e basic academy grammar and complex vocabulary. 

Here are some tips regarding CAT VARC which will help you get a hold over this section:

  • The Role of Reading: This might sound very boring and procrastination-worthy. But honestly, reading increases your power of visualization and impact. Reading simple philosophy works like “Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde and “The Savage Gorge” by Colin Forbes is a great way to kickstart your preparation. Just read. Reading takes you on an adventure. Exams can wait, adventure can’t. Some other novels you would find a bit interesting and readable are:

  • The Alchemist, Brida, The Pilgrimage and The Spy by Paulo Coelho

  • Three Mistakes of My Life, Five Point Someone and Revolution 2020 by Chetan Bhagat

  • The Monk as a Man, by Swami Vivekananda

  • inferno and The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

  • Malgudi Days by R K Narayanan

  • Listen to your Mentor: In case you are going for cat online classes, make it a point to listen to all what your teachers say. Also, do as directed. If your mentor wants you to finish a particular set of questions before leaving the class, even if you have already finished a previous set of questions in the same context, do as directed. Believe me, he knows what he is doing and you don’t know what your tired brain might be interpreting, Don’t give up soon, take breathers instead. This would help you cement your base and develop accuracy sooner than you expected.

  • Crispen your vocabulary: Apart from the books, make it a point to sharpen your vocabulary. You should be at least acquainted with 2500–3000 difficult words and around 500 idioms before you walk in to give your CAT exam.

  • Read about Social Issues: Also, try to spend some time reading your favorite magazines or articles and excerpts from the editorial section of newspapers like Indian Express, The Tribune, The Hindu etc

  • Get a Grammar Manual: This is the most efficient way of improving your grammar. A high-quality grammar manual can help you improve your grammar skills by offering various exercises and practice questions.

  • Practice Critical Reasoning: Critical Reasoning is a very crucial topic in verbal ability apart from odd one out, Para jumbles and Para summary. Basic components of critical reasoning questions are: Fact, inference, assumption and conclusion. You should understand and answer the questions with respect to the relevant factual information present in the question. Many times, you need to identify unstated assumptions and inferences from the questions and evaluate the present arguments. It is very similar to logical reasoning where you need to arrive at warranted conclusions based on existing data

How to start preparing for CAT: How to solve an RC Passage using Elimination Technique

While solving an RC passage, try to make use of the “elimination strategy” I.e eliminating answer options which are not relevant to the passage. To achieve mastery over this technique, you need to bolster your reading speed and practice more than 700+ RCs until the CAT Exam. Also, following the reverse technique I.e looking at the answer options before looking at the passage can be of great help in hitting the correct answer. This strategy has observably, been the most successful and preached by CAT 99%ilers repeatedly. Here is how you go about it:

  • Refrain from extreme answer options: You need to watch out for answer options that stretches the main idea a bit too far. Sometimes, this can be inferred from a single word. For e.g., words like “all”, “never” or “every” points to the extremity of a given statement, deferring from the main idea of the question.


  • Avoid answer options contradictory to incidents mentioned in passage: Some answer options will “flip” a relationship. They’ll say that B caused A when the passage really states that A caused B, or they’ll say something came first in the process when it really came later.


  • Eliminate Outlier/Distortion: The easiest answer option to eliminate, these answer options bring in information or ideas that weren’t mentioned at all in the passage.


  • Avoid answers which are supported by the passage but don't answer the question being asked: As we said above, this is a very common wrong answer type, which is why it’s so important to make sure you fully understand what is asked in the question before selecting the answer. But there are other kinds of decoy answer options that come up as well: options that are too much of an inference for a detailed question, options that are too explicit for an inference question, and so on.

How to Prepare for CAT: The DILR Section

DILR is the “Carl Kent” of your CAT examination. It is a culmination of “data interpretation and logical reasoning” which forms almost a third of your CAT Score. CAT has the ability to scare candidates with its twisted DILR questions. As it is a non-adaptive examination, it is impossible to predict what would be the difficulty level of DILR. As per CAT 2020 analysis, the DILR section was a bit more difficult than the other two sections. This is why that DILR should be the last point of focus of the candidate. But being the last, all DILR concepts need to be perfected in order to score a decent percentile.

Here are some effective steps to kickstart your DILR preparation

  • Focus on identifying the most appropriate way to represent information given in the question. This will help you solve a DILR set correctly. Do not assume any information which is not present in the data set.

  • Focus on arrangement questions (linear, circular, matrix, mathematical) questions primitively. Most of the LR questions would be from this topic.

  • Practice caselets, bar graphs, different types of charts (line, pie, radar), table-based DI sets etc.

  • Learn about cardinality rules, direction rules, Alphabet Sequencing, clockwise and counterclockwise directions on priority.

  • Practice LR topics like Games and Tournaments scheduling, routes and network, blood relations, etc. They are important from an exam point of view.

To know how to prepare for CAT DILR in detail, click here

How to prepare for CAT: The QA Section

The Quantitative Ability section is the “make or break section” of the CAT examination. Most of the CAT QA questions are application oriented and evaluate your hold on concepts of algebra, arithmetic, geometry and sometimes a combination of topics. Many a time, a question can involve two or more concepts and appears to be really technical or difficult. However, if you are able to master your basic quant syllabus topics and correlate them to the question, finding the answer would be a cakewalk for you

To know how to curate a 99%ile strategy for CAT with the remaining time in hand, an informative

How to start preparing for CAT:  Mock Test

Mock simulations can be your holy grail when it comes to practicing for the competitive entrance. It will help you manage your time and develop a test-taking strategy. From February to May 2021, you should at least try to attempt 3 full length mocks of 3 hours each and spend another 5 hours understanding the analysis. This implies spending at least 8 hours per fortnight for the purpose of practice. From June 2021 onwards, as you would have covered most of your basics, you should take one mock in every three days, making it 4 mocks in a fortnight and eight mocks in a month. This will not only help you keep your preparation in check but also will help you efficiently manage your time and increase your self-motivation. You can head over https://www.careerlauncher.com/cat-mba/freecatmock/ to take section-wise as well as full length mock tests, completely free of cost.

Read in detail: Why is CAT Mock Tests important?

How to start preparing for CAT: An Overall Summary

Regardless of the fact whether you are a student or a working professional, all CAT aspirants should aim to score 99 percentile and AIR 1. Doesn't matter what sort of strategy you devise; you need to back your own self and be your own source of motivation. You should also focus on gaining inspiration from your peers and academic experts who have already set a benchmark in the management industry setting and can mentor and help you overcome your fear and nervousness. They can teach you about the essence of time management and how crucial it is to maintain speed and accuracy throughout the exam. Also, with the time crunch, it won't be possible for you to solve every question in the test. If you find yourself getting stuck at any point, the best is to leave that particular problem and move on to answer as many questions as you can before the dreaded bell rings. Consult the teaching fraternity who have gathered the best of the advice which can be useful and can fit in for your CAT preparation.

"redeem yourself and redefine everything."


By focusing on the key points mentioned in this article you will be able to keep your CAT preparation in the right gear. Manage the time available competently, make full use of the resources available to you, and keep yourself motivated throughout the journey. Are you ready to take the first step in your journey to your dream B-School?

Learn at your own pace comfortably with the help of CAT Online Classes led by experienced CL mentors from the safety of your home. To know more on the course deliverables, speak to our student representative today!

All the best!

Team CL