A large proportion of students preparing for CAT are the ones who have taken this exam once before. The preparation plan these CAT “Repeaters” adopt will have to be different from the plan for first-timers.
All CAT repeaters need to do three things –
1) Take more mocks and start taking them earlier. You know what this exam is about. You also know that mocks matter.
2) Do a thorough analysis of your strengths & weaknesses and what went wrong in the previous attempt(s).
3) Have a clear plan so as to avoid preparation fatigue. Thinking of CAT preparation every day for 18 months can burn you out. If you have thrown everything into CAT prep once, then step back, take a break and tweak your plan.
Beyond this, we are going to categorize CAT repeaters in three different groups and outline a customized plan for each group
Group I: Those who have scored below 75th percentile in previous CAT attempts. Students in this category, plan your preparation as if you are taking CAT for the first time. 75th percentile is a decent score, but it just does not cut it. 75th percentile says that there are 40,000 people ahead of you and you scored about one-third the score of someone who scored 99.5+. It is best to accept that you need to pretty much start from zero.
Group II: CAT went decently well, but one section dragged down the overall score: Prep plan is very simple if you know your weak section. If you have scored 99th percentile in Quant and DI-LR, but 75th percentile in verbal, you should plan to read 20 books and gazillion articles before CAT.
Group III: All three sections were slightly below what was required. This is the toughest category because there are no easy fixes. Some improvements come from simple tweaks, some require re-learning the fundamentals and some come from practice. You will have to go topic-by-topic and decide whether you have to learn anew or merely practice more. From my experience, I would suggest learning anew for topics such as Geometry, Number Systems, Functions, Trigonometry and focus more on practice for Speed-Time, Work-Time, Profit & Loss, Simple Interest Compound Interest, etc.
Assessing where you stand
For those who have taken CAT before, since you know how this exam works, assess where you stand very early. Particularly, look to answer these two questions –
- Is the issue with speed or basic understanding? If it is speed, focus on drill. If it is understanding, focus on fundamentals
- Did you sacrifice accuracy in the previous cycle? This is the most common error. Accuracy should be upwards of 95% for Quant and DI and upwards of 80% for verbal. If that is not the case, become anal about accuracy pronto.
One common error for repeaters to bear in mind
There is a temptation to look for a quick fix. Avoid this. Most major gains are made by revisiting the basics and getting a lot of drills done.
Imagine you are a batsman who has good potential but struggled against quality short-pitched bowling in your first international season. Changing your stance slightly is a tweak. Bolstering your technique and hitting 1000 short balls in the offseason is the equivalent of a fundamental shift. The mind wants to go for the first approach because the player wants to believe that one small adjustment and he is the new Ricky Ponting. The latter approach is more likely to bear good results.
So, even if you are a repeater, focus on learning and practicing and nor merely on making minor modifications to test-taking strategies.
Best of luck with CAT preparation.