How to Prepare for CAT While Working

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21 Oct 2022

The Common Aptitude Test or commonly known as the CAT exam is the most popular MBA exam in the country. Through CAT, one can aim to attend some of the best business schools in India, and lakhs of students write this exam each year with hopes to pursue their dream. 

CAT is also one of the toughest MBA entrance exams, and it requires more than just practice and knowledge. If one wants to make it to the top colleges, they will need more dedication, and how to apply certain skill sets to certain areas. 

CAT aspirants often take varied approaches when it comes to preparing for the CAT exam and there is no set preparation strategy that guarantees success in the CAT entrance exam. There are various factors that affect the kind of preparation strategy that candidates adopt.

Preparing for the CAT exam is also something that takes a bit of management. For instance, a person who is confident about their verbal skills can afford to focus more on quantitative ability instead.

Preparation for this exam differs greatly according to each aspirant. It depends on the circumstances that the candidate is facing. If you’re someone who has a job and is working side-by-side, or if you’re deciding to quit your job to prepare for the entrance exam. One should ultimately choose their preparation strategy in order to get through these exams. 

However, whether you choose to quit or job or not depends on how well prepared you are from the get-go. Are you someone who has to start from scratch? Do you know what your strengths and weaknesses are? Do you already have a strategy that you can use to prepare for the exams? Choosing to quit a job for CAT prep is not a decision that you can make on impulse, therefore one must weigh both the pros and cons of quitting the job and see what suits your circumstance the best. 

Let’s look at some pros of quitting a job for CAT prep

  • It might be a bit daunting to balance a full-time job and CAT prep, and you might even be distracted and lose patience. However, once you quit, you wouldn’t have to worry about such distractions.
  • You will have more than enough time to focus primarily on these exams alone. You can make schedules that can help you with your studies, and you can track how much you’ve covered as well. 
  • Balancing a job and prep for CAT might devoid you of any other interests. You might not have enough time to do anything else, which can result in burnout. 
  • If your job is draining you mentally, emotionally or physically, or maybe all of them at once, then it's best to quit the job and focus on your CAT preparation to pursue your management dreams. 
  • An MBA degree from a good institute can give a huge boost to your career.
  • The motive here is, that you must be very positive and confident that CAT is the answer you are looking for, and it is in every way a better alternative than your current job. Only then, you must consider leaving your job behind, for taking chances at CAT.

Now, let’s look at the cons

As someone with a job, studying won’t come as naturally to you as it did before. So long hours of studying are off the book if you suddenly decide to quit. Facing such obstacles initially might dishearten you, which will distract you from studies and resulting in wastage of the time you actually thought you would use for studies.

It is risky because the CAT exam has a lot of uncertain factors embedded in it:

  • The Eligibility Criteria for CAT changes every year, it might not match your background the next time you try for it.
  • The reservation of seats is up to 50% for OBC/SC/ST/Female etc. you might not know where you land.
  • They treat students from all backgrounds equally, whether they are from the State Board/CBSE/ICSE/SSC, etc. There is a wide difference in how exam evaluations are done on these different boards. 
  • It usually takes a gap of around 1 year, 6 months for CAT preparation, and another 6 months to apply for WAT/GD/PI at various desired institutions and visiting the same for processes further. This means that you will be out of work for around 1 year. Will you be able to survive for this long on your own funds?
  • It's human tendency to put things aside instead of prioritizing them. We wait for the last moment, till the time when it becomes a necessity and can no longer be put aside or ignored. In the case of the CAT exam, a lot of candidates aren't serious enough for the exam until the last 2-3 months before the exam. However, this often backfires and candidates get too nervous or anxious about their performance that their concentration starts deteriorating.
  • Leaving a job for these exams will give an impression that you cannot multitask, and this is the impression the interview panel will have upon you being selected for any college. They will try and trick you with questions around your ability to manage time if you couldn’t even manage CAT studies and jobs side by side. They might also question you based on other candidates, stating that others could crack CAT with a job and why couldn’t you?

Fret not. This is not to dishearten you or your aspirations. However, these are some practical things one must consider before deciding to quit their job for CAT prep. If your reasons to leave your job is not compelling enough, and you lack confidence in your skills, then you might want to reconsider. However, any disciplined effort—whether you have a job or not, can make you crack this exam. 

How to prepare for CAT while working

Manage your time

Make sure that you start—whether it’s from scratch or not, make the first move with all you’ve got. Whatever free time that you have, make sure you make something productive out of it. Whether it’s free time in the office, or time traveling back home, you can always use this time to revise and relearn a few things that will help you in the long run.

When you do succeed in managing your time appropriately on weekdays, utilize over 10 hours at least during the weekends to lay the hatch. You can try and take help of online tutorials to prepare and you can even take help of audio notes that you can listen to on the go. 

Weekends are important

Weekends, while preparing for CAT, are a goldmine. If you manage your time right during the weekends, they can give you the boost that you need. For those with a job, weekends are the only time when you can allot a significant amount of time in studying. That’s what makes them so important.

You can subject yourself to practice tests and time them to track your progress. That way, you can build on your weaknesses after identifying your strengths. Weekdays are always a hassle to allot time to, but the weekends make up for the time lost. 

Go professional

Practice exams and online exams for CAT, and later analyzing them to identify what you’re good at and what you’re not is a key tactic that students use in trying to crack CAT. For working people, practice exams play a crucial role in helping them track their progress levels without having to make a compact schedule. 

However, mock exams do fall short over one other thing. Professional advise from someone who’s been there and done that will allow you to gain access to how things actually work from the perspective of someone who’s done it before. Have them go through your mock papers, and have them guide you on where you need to improve. 

Familiarize yourself with how CAT exams are, and try to cover up the entire syllabus before you even attempt the mock tests. 

Stay headstrong

One of the most vital aspects of taking the CAT exam is your own self-confidence. This is not something that’ll just help you during your exam, but it will help you prepare for it as well. When you’re confident, you don’t allow room for doubt to creep in. 

Complete the syllabus, finish through with your basics, complete several mock exams and stay headstrong. Some of the only ways to finish an exam sometimes are merely through how well you keep your head above water. 

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