CAT is one of the most competitive exams in the world. The race to secure a seat at one of the top IIMs is fierce – IIM A for example selects around 400 students from over 2 lakh CAT aspirants (0.2% success rate), while the Harvard Business School selects around 1000 students from just 10,000 applicants (10% success rate). So, statistically, you could say that making it to IIM Ahmedabad is nearly 50 times tougher than making it to the Harvard. That, though not really true, indicates how competitive CAT is.
Given this context, what is the ideal time to start your preparation for CAT?
There are 3 factors you should consider to arrive at a close-to-ideal duration for yourself.
One, CAT does not require you to sit and home and slog away mindlessly. You can prepare for CAT along with your college or your job. Infact, that generally works better from the interview angle and it also allows your prep to be more productive and positive. But then, being in a college or job does limit the number of hours you can invest into your CAT Prep daily and has an impact on the ideal duration for which you need to prepare. A comprehensive prep for CAT usually requires around 1000 hours. This number could be a little higher incase you are weak in more than one of the areas (English, Quant, DILR) being tested or a little lower if you are above a threshold. So, depending upon the number of hours you can look to invest daily given your college/job schedule, you can estimate the ideal time for beginning your CAT Preparation. For someone who can put in 3 hours daily, a 10-11 month kind of a prep period is ideal.
Two, assess if you are uncomfortable around numbers, logic or language. For example, if you are weak in an area such as English which, being a language, takes more time to improve, a longer duration prep will give you a better shot at success. That’s because developing certain areas, or overcoming our fears, is not simply a function of the total number of hours. It needs a certain duration to happen. Similarly, if you have a phobia of Maths (Quantitative Ability), then you may need to spend additional time building the basics from sources such as the NCERT books of Grades 7 to 10 and overcoming your fear in the process.
Three, you need to keep in mind is your intensity. If you are not a sincere CAT aspirant, then you may not sustain your focus and intensity over a long period of time. In such a case, a shorter duration of say 5-6 months would perhaps be better suited to you. In that case, you will have to put in 6-7 hours daily in your CAT Prep unless you have an innate aptitude for the areas being tested. On the other hand, if CAT is a priority for you, and you want a better balance between your CAT Prep and your college/job requirements, a longer duration of 10-15 months (which would mean a daily investment of 2-3 hours) would be more suited to you.
Most of the students who succeed finally, figure out a duration and intensity that best suits them.
It is advisable to plan your duration of your CAT Preparation around these 3 factors: the daily time you can invest, weaker areas that you may need to develop comfort in, and your likelihood of maintaining intensity over the duration of your preparation.
The author of this post, Deekshant Sahrawat, is an IIT-Delhi and IIM-Calcutta Alumnus and Founder, Director at MBAGuru.