CAT 2021 – Focus on the Process

Dear Students,

CAT 2021 is less than 24 hours away and hopefully you are not desperately going through your books/notes trying to mug up formulas for solving difficult questions.

This is the time to relax, to forget about all the preparation issues and; either watch a senseless Bollywood movie or read a book or do something that relaxes you. You have put in your best in the last few months and now need to be fresh for the D-day. Even if you have not done enough for the test, you really cannot do anything in the last one day. In any case there is no point worrying, as it will not solve anything. You have to be relaxed and fresh for the paper so that you can do your best. One performs (with or without preparation) the best when one is relaxed and not worried about the outcome. The more you worry about the outcome the less are your chances of focusing on the process which would mean a poor outcome.

A favourable outcome is a function of not focusing on the outcome.

German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke, the architect of Germany’s Wars of Unification (1864-71) once said “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” The most brilliant plan is still a plan based on assumptions and it would be stupid to assume that all assumptions will hold in the battlefield. In the battlefield one needs to take a hard look at the situation, validate which of the assumptions hold, re-plan and then again implement the revised plan.

Napoleon once said, “I have never had a plan of operations” and on the test day I too forget about all the plans that I had thought of while preparing. “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable,” is a commonly used statement in management circles which possibly explains Napoleon’s view. And to underscore the point further, Muhammed Ali once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”, which, humorous as it is, should convey you the message- “As a future manager, you have to learn to think, strategize, plan and act on the spot”

In the CAT 2021 test, do not allow your plans to restrict your thinking and instead rely on the planning process to create an appropriate plan for the situation (paper). In any examination the instructions are important but many of us just glance through them and miss out on important information. It is important to understand the rules of the game and hence the 15 minutes given to read the instructions should be utilized to:

  • Check the number of questions in each section
  • Understand the marking scheme
  • Understand the usage of various buttons – eg Mark for Review, Question Paper etc.
  • Practice Reading Comprehension – since VARC is the first section.

 Similarly, once you are allowed to start the test, take a few minutes to:

  • Go through the section using the Question Paper button to understand the structure of the section
  • Decide how to allocate time (between RC & Verbal or DI & LR etc)
  • Get down to work.

When reading the passages/data or attempting the questions, work at a pace that you are most comfortable with, both speeding up and slowing down are harmful and will only lead to poor scores.

Similarly, do not go with “cast in stone” target attempts, if the questions are easy, the number of attempts will go up and they will go down in case of a difficult paper. The only target that you should have is to ensure that you attempt the easy (or do-able) questions and leave the difficult or time-consuming questions. In cricketing language, I want to dispatch the easy deliveries for fours and sixes and leave the unplayable ones.

If it is a difficult pitch to bat then the number of playable deliveries will be low, and you should assume that others too will find it difficult to score, after all it is the same set of questions for all of you.

Most importantly, don’t let your past burden you. Your scores in Mock CATs are history and this is a new chapter. A good performance in Mocks CATs or NMAT should give you confidence but not make you overconfident and a poor performance in these papers does not mean that you are out of the race. Remember Boris Becker was an unseeded player when he won the Wimbledon singles championship for the first time in 1985.

In short, take the 2 hours of CAT 2021 as a 3 stage game and have fun in the paper, else CAT will have fun at your expense. To find out who has had the last laugh, you can join the Career Launcher team for CAT 2021 analysis, Score Calculator, Percentile Predictor, IIM Call Predictor and B School advisory  after your slot. The details are available at

All the best.