Tips and Tricks for CAT – How the Toppers did it!

Dushyant Vanaik updated on : 13 Sep 2016

From rigorous practice to time management, to taking mock tests, know how to crack the CAT exam and how the top students did it, right here.

The Common Admission Test (CAT) is conducted every year by the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) on a rotational basis. The score qualifies a candidate to seek admissions in any of the business administration programmes offered by these IIMs.

To begin with CAT preparation, aspirants must familiarise with the CAT exam pattern and syllabus, prepare a timetable and keep CAT books for preparation and guidance. The following article will guide you through the tips and tricks of preparing for CAT other than letting you know how the toppers prepared themselves for the D-Day.

The total duration of the CAT exam has been changed from 170 minutes to 180 minutes, i.e. 3 three hours. The sections are divided into three separate sections. The questions will be objective type and approximately 10% of each section will contain direct answer based questions.
The number of questions has been revised for each section. The following table shows the distribution of questions for each section.


Number of Questions

Verbal Ability


Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning


Quantitative Aptitude



CAT Preparation Strategy:

The exam format has three sections: Quantitative aptitude (Mathematics and Data Sufficiency), English (Verbal Ability, Reading Comprehension and English usage) & Logical Ability and Data Interpretation. There are plenty of ways an aspirant can strengthen each of these sections.

One of the CAT toppers, Kautuk Kushansh, got 99.79 percentile and explains the first step for preparation on Quora saying, “First and foremost what you should do is to figure how much time you have and then judge yourself as to which section do you need to work more on. For example, I knew I had to work more for English part than mathematics or logical reasoning.”

“Second thing must be to decide your sources of preparation based on these judgments about your strengths and weaknesses and time availability. You will find a plethora of books and websites and coaching centres available to you - choose wisely,” adds Kautuk.

Practice makes a man perfect. It is one of the key points while preparing for CAT. A section wise practice will make you stronger, and boost your time management skills. One should look out for questions in their strength area and manage the time.

Another option is Mock Tests. Aspirants can register themselves on any website providing CAT mock tests and try and do as many as they can before the final exam.

Shaumik Daityari, one of the CAT 2014 toppers with 99.86 percentile quoted on Quora, “During these mocks, formulate your strategy. CAT 14 allowed you to jump between sections. Do you prefer starting with Verbal, moving to Quant, coming back to Verbal again? How many questions would you prefer to tackle each time you go through a section? Mocks are great at trying out different strategies.”

Another one of CAT preparation tips is analysis. Analyse your answers after every mock test. This will bring clarity on your strengths and weaknesses. Kannu on Quora states, “Analyse every mock test of your thoroughly. The analysis should help you to identify the better solutions, identify your weaker areas, to manage your time, to identify the order of the sections to be attempted an the D-day. Direct your preparation towards the weaker areas.”

“Make it a habit of reading every day. Reading newspapers, editorials will not just help you out with GK sections but also with your vocabulary, verbal and reading comprehension,” adds Kannu.

Making a habit of reading every day will strengthen your reading speed and vocabulary. This will help you a lot when you do the Reading Comprehension section. This is one of the most important parts of Verbal Ability section. The CAT paper might carry 3-5 passages which constitute around 45-60% marks for this section. Get well versed with words that we don’t use in our normal conversations. Use flashcards (easily available for purchase online and in bookstores) to improve your vocabulary.

Being familiar with certain shortcuts would help you to solve many problems in the CAT exam with greater speed, thus giving you an edge over your competitors. Hence, know the shortcuts as much as you know the fundamentals.

To have an edge over 2 lac aspirants who appear for CAT every year, most of the toppers state one thing, a proper CAT preparation strategy. To put it in simple words,

  • Know the concepts
  • Plan a strategy and streamline yourself towards it
  • Identify the weak spots and practice to strengthen them
  • Manage your Time
  • Take Mock Tests
  • Keep a positive attitude and a relaxed mind

CAT topper Pranav Pant rightly says, “I consider three P’s to crack an exam: Potential, Preparation and Performance (under Pressure).”

While attempting the paper, keep your strengths and weaknesses in mind. CAT allows you to jump between sections. So focus on your strength and do that section first. Do not waste more than 2-3 minutes on one question. If you are not sure of the answer, do not attempt the question. Remember that every question holds the same number of marks and no one attempts the complete paper. 

You must know your own potential and should aim to achieve beyond it. The CAT exam is a piece of cake if one knows his/her potential. Second, keeping ample time in hand for preparation will always keep you one-step ahead. And lastly, keeping a cool and calm head during the last days before the exam will help you in performing much better on the main day. 

Keep all the key CAT preparation tips in mind and excel with great results. Wish you all the best!

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