Test Taking Strategy for CAT & other MBA Exams

Unpredictability is the very nature of MBA exams like XAT & CAT. Amidst this unpredictability candidates are expected to demonstrate excellent time managements skills. In exams like XAT & CAT along with logical and analytical skills candidates are silently evaluated on their ability to cope up with pressure. Below are some of the simple tips which would be useful while writing the CAT and other MBA Exams:

1. How to do Smart Selection of Questions?
Read a question for few seconds, if it appears very familiar to you then only go ahead and attempt it. Remember marks allotted to each question are same. So there is no point in attempting a complex question by spending 7-8 mins whereas in the same time you could have had attempted 3 simple questions.

Tips for smartly selecting the questions:
1. Try to skip questions which are more than 6 lines long.
Reasons: Merely Reading such question will take a lot of time
2. Try to skip question from topics in which you are not too confident.
3. Avoid questions which you already know will consume a lot of time.

4. Avoid questions in which options go to two or three decimal points
E.g. A question where options are:
a.) 4,324.234
b.) 4,324.233
c.) 4,324.243
d. 4,324.235
Here you will waste a lot of time in finding the correct decimal point.

2. What Order of Sections should you attempt?
a. You should always start with a section you are most comfortable with,
Reasons: The initial few minutes of test matters a lot and you should always
try out with something which you are comfortable with which in turn will
boost your confidence level for rest of the test.

b. Don't leave a section in which you are least confident for the end.
Last few minutes of the test are generally nerve testing ones. So it won’t be good idea to attempt something you are not that that confident with in the last few minutes.
E.g.: If Ram is very much confident in DI, Good in Quantz but Ok in English
His order of attempts should be:
Practice through mock test's to find out what order works best for you.

Note: With the current online format of CAT this is no longer directly applicable. While attempting Section 1 or Section 2 of CAT candidates are advised to quickly move to the sub sections which they are mostly comfortable with and ensure that they attempt as many question as possible in their strong area. Though this still holds good for other exams like XAT, SNAP etc.

3. Do’s & Don’ts in last 5 minutes....
Never start attempting a comprehension or Logical Reasoning question(with lots of inputs) in Last 5 minutes. In last 5 mins, try to attempt questions which are short in description.

4. Always Keep sectional Cut Off in mind.
Currently exams like XAT & CAT are divided into sections like:

a) Quantitative Ability & 
b) Data Interpretation
c) Verbal Ability &
d) Logical Reasoning.

The concept of cutoff is never fixed. Also XLRIs, IIMs have not disclosed whether they have a sub sectional cut-off or not.

Knowing the facts its advisable to have while attempting a section avoid getting over enthusiastic and spend too much of time in one sub section alone. Along with the time limit also set a limit on number of question you would be attempting in a sub section.
Reasons: Many a time’s merely having a time limit doesn't helps. This is due to the fact that you never know how complex the other sections are.
You may clear the cutoff of a particular sub section in 35 mins but for other section may require 40 minutes depending on its complexity. Also if you have not planned your time well you may end up spending more time in a sub section which you are not that strong at.

E.g.: Looking at his speed  and to ensure he clears sectional cutoff RAM decides to attempt 25 questions in Section 1 (15 questions in DI & 10 in quantitative) and 25 in Section 2 (10 in English & 15 in LR.)
He also sets a time limit for each sub section: 

In Section 1: for DI 30 & 40 mins for Quantitative
In  Section 2:  25 minutes for English & 45 for Logical Reasoning. 
He was able to solve 25 questions of DI in 50 mins only.
Now instead of spending more time in DI Ram should stop here and move ahead to the next section. This will help Ram as he is not sure about the difficulty levels of other sections (and which may require more time to clear the cut-off).

Utilize mock tests to apply the above tips and find out where you need to work more.

Also read:

For any queries post a comment here:


  1. Thanks For Share... your Blog is Really informative. and I found Lots of Good CAT Exam Tips. I am Going To Appear in CAT 2009

  2. Thanks for the share.. can you please share what should be the ideal attempts to clear cut-offs in each section ??

  3. Dear Dreams Unlimited,

    Cut-offs depends on level of questions asked. Also from this year on wards there is a major change in CAT pattern:
    There will only be two sections this year –
    1. Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation, and
    2.Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning.

    In general from past analysis of CAT I can suggest you that ideal attempt for :
    Quantitative Ability would be 55-65% of questions
    Data Interpretation would be 75-85%
    Verbal Ability would be 50-60%
    Logical Reasoning would be 80-90%

    This is assuming all correct attempts which means you are scoring the above mentioned percentage in these sections.



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