Rajesh Balasubramanian is the Director of 2IIM, a CAT coaching center headquartered at Chennai, and also was a CAT 2012 topper by scoring 100 percentile in his fifth attempt, talks with HER magazine and says that this is the best time to start preparing for the CAT 2014.
Q. Most of the CAT toppers are from IITs. What gives them this special talent?
The CAT exams have become incredibly tough in the last 10 years and tougher on a question-to-question basis. However, CAT is significantly simpler than the JEE. IITs have one million people taking the JEE exam every year. Naturally, the students that are admitted into the IIT\'s are the cream of the bunch, which means that the first round of selection is already over for them. The JEE training ensures that these students do not really need to work on their mathematics, data interpretation and logical reasoning separately. Some of them are naturally good at English and with that, you do not actually have to prepare for CAT.
Q. What were your study plans when you attempted CAT for the very first time and what is the best time to start preparations?
I had a good peer group and all of us were taking the CAT exam together. We never based our preparations on topic or subjects. We took mock tests of some test series every week and the entire preparation was completed in 35 exams. Most of the learning material came from the mock exam papers.
If you are taking CAT 2014, then best time is to start is January - February. A reasonably intense preparation of 6-8 months with 8-10 hours in a week is sufficient. Work hard in last two crucial months. Start with verbal practice as the ability to read, understand and grasp comes with lot of iterations. Being steady and consistent is more important than cramming a bundle of questions every month.
Q. How did you manage the stress involved in preparations for the exam?
When I attempted CAT for the first time, I had the advantage of being a college student. At the time I did not feel the urgency of time and this helped me avoid the stress of preparation. I treated the exam as another, just a little more serious, mock test. I never quite felt the stress as I enjoyed the preparation.
Q. What are the major misconceptions of students while preparing for CAT?
Most of the students have a misconception that CAT should be cracked based on a number of shortcuts. The fact is not a single question can be cracked by using a shortcut. People chase these quick queens as how do I read quickly, how do I handle this quickly, what kind of rules I follow for grammar, what kind of shortcuts I can use for mix type of questions? Focusing on the fundamentals and key ideas would be more favorable than using a bunch of shortcuts. The best student is the one who is confident and calm enough to know the crux of an issue and not the one who can multiply or read quicker. This is not as much as of a speed test as people may portray it to be. When you look at most of the mock CAT scores and interviews, students spend more than 40 percent of their time in looking at questions that they do not attend. Nailing the strong areas will help students in improving the scores without trying to do anything quicker.
There is a vast difference between driving fast and knowing the best route to reach a destination. CAT is about knowing the latter. Most people work on building their engines to go faster and faster which is pointless. If you know the right route then there is no need to go fast. Speed matters but clarity is more important.
Q. What are the approaches by 2IIM to prepare MBA aspirants for the exam? What is the success rate of the institution?
2IIM is a small institute and we teach our students everything from basics to build thought process behind anything rather than giving them a tool kit. Due to this I always struggle to find the right teachers who can translate the idea behind a question and not just one formula and equation. We try to provide everything at a nice natural pace rather than rush into some quick fix mantra. This results in dramatic improvement in the pace because the basics are better. As a result, every year 15 percent of our students secure seats in top 20 colleges.
Q. What is your advice to the CAT 2014 aspirants?
Learn as much as possible from basics and forget about the speed until the penultimate month of the exam. Most importantly, understand the fact that life cannot be determined by a single exam. If CAT does not work, then there are other doors waiting to be opened. If that doesn't work as well then there is always a next time.