Tuesday, October 27, 2015

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IIM CAT - Use your last 30 days effectively


Consider a CAT examination candidate in his final month of preparations. As the clock strikes 12 every day, the countdown towards the CAT, ticks a number down and anxiety amidst millions of candidates preparing for exams increases by a few notches. Guardians and friends and sometimes candidates themselves would find themselves worried about a slight change in candidate’s behavior and showing signs of frustrations and irritation. Well, it is bound to happen and natural phenomenon for every exam and hence this in slight moderation should not be a point of worry for anyone. Unless of course the extent is severe and one is satisfied that this is not limited to results of general exam anxiety. There is an apprehension of performance within every candidate and this leads to nervousness which according to me is an energy of sorts which pushes you to perform better and faster. This energy symbolizes the seriousness you attach to the exam and this seriousness is the driver of your preparations. When you prepare well for something, it is bound to bear fruits. But no, this is not an articles on phycology or philosophy of pre-exam behavioral management. This is an article to help candidates steer through this culmination phase of preparations and to equip them with specific pointers to be followed on the D’Day.

Day Countdown: -30 to -15 | Last Round Preparations

Two Practice Tests

As you being your final count down towards the examination day, during this fortnight, avoid the rush of taking up a mock every alternate day and target to take a mock each week of the fortnight, preferably towards starting of each week so that you have time to review and improve. Take detailed test in exam like scenario and assess your performance to analyze if there is still an area you could improve upon. Practice tests at this stage are more about reinforcing your preparations rather than finding your weaknesses so take it in that spirit.

Content and Video Review

You should realize that this is last time you have to prepare content and any time post this fortnight should only be devoted to revisions and strengthening your strong points. So use this time judiciously to get your concepts in order. In case you identify an area of improvement during the practice tests or if there are topics you are not as comfortable with, then identify the best way to study the underlying concepts. If you have studied from a particular book or have bought a video series, this is the perfect time to grasp those loose concepts and gain some additional perspectives to solve problems from that area.

Final Notes Preparations

This is also the time when you should prepare for ways by which you can reduce your revision time right before the exam. You would anyway be under pressure and anxiety in your last week and hence you need to be prepared to review the concepts and formulas in most effective manner. I know many guides and books provide a crux and formulae list but none can be as effective as one created by you. I would hope that you would have taken notes and developed review sheets or formula sheets during your preparations when you studied the content. However, if you have not done that, this is the time when you still can spare some moments to get this done.

Finalize Strategy

CAT is all about planning and strategy. It’s about finding the approach that best suits you as an individual. This is purely based on your strengths and weaknesses. There can be no ‘one size fits all’ paradigm when you approach CAT. You have to sit down, work through a series of tests and post-test analyses so that you can develop your own strategy to crack the exam. As you wrap up review of your practice tests and final round of preparations, you should be finalizing your approach for taking up the challenge of CAY. For most of you this would already be in place and you would have decided an approach after trying various options during the mock tests. All you need is to build up on that strategy and fill in any specific loop-holes. Do ensure that whatever your strategy may be, keep it nimble and flexible enough to allow for extempore adaptations based on the examination requirements. You never know what twist these IIM intellects may bring in to throw you out of your game if you stick to a rigid strategy.

Day Countdown: -15 to -5 days | Validate and Plug-in

Strengthen concepts

These ten days are for last minute review of any concept that you may still need help on. You may try to gain in perspective of your teacher or an “expert” on how to tackle some specific type of questions. While it is always good to learn whatever you can, avoid the temptation to absorb too much in too little time. Also in case you believe that you need input on specific areas, do look for concept specific source of information rather than checking in with anyone you find. Use this time primarily to build on the knowledge you already have rather than attempting to gain new knowledge in unknown topics.

Revise notes

You should already have “solid” notes ready by now which cover all the critical concepts, short-cuts, theorems and formulae that you may need during the exam. Review these notes in detail and at least go through them 2 to 3 times you develop familiarity with these notes. Assess if any particular topic is left and try to get them covered too. Also, make a mental note of which specific notes are more critical than others and you may want to mug them right at the last moment. Also there would be some notes which may not provide enough context and you may want to elaborate it near the specific note.

Final Mock Prep

During this 10 day window, take your final mock test to assess your final preparation level and reinforce your approach and strategy. However, give this mock as a general assessment and do not lose your nerve if you cannot solve a particular question or your overall performance is dismal. This is not the stage where you can improve you preparedness level to a significant extent. Your exam day is approaching and hence it is almost the culmination of your preparations. If you anticipate that you are someone who would be affected by results of the mock then it is best for you to avoid this mock.

Day Countdown: -5 to -1 days | Gearing up

Relax and Avoid Anxiety

So you are in your last week before the exam and the primal objective in this phase is to avoid any anxiety. You have prepared for months for this exam and you should have confidence in all that hard work you have put in. Last minute invention of new topics or running to new teachers/mates would not help much. It is time to sit back and relax and work on calming your nerves in preparation of the D’Day. CAT is a test of your ability to handle pressure, to maintain your focus over two hours and sometimes even to do real-time planning. A certain degree of test anxiety is normal and may help you to prepare more effectively, work more efficiently and remain focused during testing. Too much anxiety, however, can negatively affect performance. Being aware of anxiety and talking about your fears is the best solution. Obviously if you have specific doubts, do get them cleared but do not run after finding new doubts. The sole point being, the more you would try to grasp in your last days, more you would find missing from your preparations and this only leads to tensions and lose of confidence both of which are ready recipe of disaster in the exams.

Notes Revisions and Quick Practice

Go through the notes you have so meticulously prepared during your studies. Review the notes once every day if possible so that you have most of the content almost by-heart by the exam – remember that you have captured the absolutely critical information in those notes. Also, if you feel like take a shot at a couple of questions just to keep in touch with maintaining speed of your problem tacking ability. However again, keep in mind not to overdo these practice sessions.

Prepare Logistically

Another important this which is as critical as preparations is the logistics for the final day. Get you admit card printed in advance and prepare for any other documentation you may need. Also, get you stationary arranged with enough back-ups and extras. Assess your mode of transport to the test center and arrange well in advance. If you would be taking a cab, try booking it in advance. Also, if someone is going to drop you to the test center, ask him/her to pay a visit to the test center so that you do not spend anxious moments looking for the center. In case you are taking a cab, either you or someone who could accompany you on exam day should visit the center in advance. Once set with everything, relax and spend some light moments on the examination eve. Go to bed early and have a full night sleep because that is all that you can give yourself tom enhance your performance.

Final Day: Day 0 | D Day Appear for examination

So the day for which you have waited for long and prepared for with all the hard work is here. Be confident in your preparations and go appear for the exam with a positive attitude. Give your best and hope the gods connive together help you Bell the CAT because in the end, it is this single day which matters.



Wish you all the very best of preparations in your last stage. Remember to ward off anxiety to the extent possible and trust yourself. I would be back before the exams with a few exam day pointers but until then stay on-course. And as usual, feel free to post any questions you may have or a feedback to this post for which I know you have too less of time and too much on mind.

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