CAT Preparation

Should you quit your job for CAT Preparation?

Common Admission Test (CAT) is the gateway to IIMs and other prestigious business schools in India. But at the same time, it is regarded as one of the toughest exams to crack due to very high competition.

A lot of aspirants prepare for CAT after their graduation while on a job. And if you are in a hectic job, you may find it very difficult to concentrate on your studies.

So what should one do in such a scenario? Is it a wise choice to quit the job and start CAT preparation with full dedication? Or, is it possible to prepare for CAT while working full time? Let’s find out.

As a business manager, in life, you will have to make difficult decisions. Consider this decision as one of them. And to take any important decision, you need to sit calmly and think about what options do you have and what would be the outcome of each option.

CAT is not a knowledge-intensive exam. It is a conceptual exam which needs a lot of practice. The syllabus of CAT is very limited. One can easily cover the basic concepts in a couple of months. The time taking part is to practice as many questions as you can. And practice needs discipline and sincerity.

It does not matter how many hours a day you study. What matters is that you do it every day, even though it is only for one hour each day. This kind of regularity is needed to master the concepts. Another aspect is mock tests, which you should take very sincerely.

If you are preparing for CAT or planning to start soon, you can read my detailed article here: How to start preparing for CAT

The complete list of books and material you will need for your CAT preparation can be found here: List of Important CAT Preparation Books

Now lets come to why people quit their jobs to prepare for CAT. Most of the time it is a bad manager, less salary or disillusionment with the current job. It makes sense to leave something for something much better. But you have to decide the right time to do it.

Having a job has multiple advantages for your CAT preparation as described below.

1) Without a job, you are in a do-or-die situation

If you have a job, no matter what happens, your career is not ruined. A jobless preparation becomes a do-or-die scenario because one has to have a career no matter how they perform in CAT. This puts undue pressure on the candidate and many times they are not even able to concentrate as much as they could if they prepared along with their jobs.

2) Job gives you a routine

This may seem trivial, but when you are working, you have a fixed routine everyday. You wake up on time, go to office, eat on time, sleep on time. Your efficiency is very high and you try to utilize every free minute you find during the day to prepare for CAT. When you leave your job, you have no compulsion to follow this routine anymore. And that’s where you lose focus. Without a routine, without discipline, you unknowingly waste time and your efficiency gets low. Combined with the first point above, it is a disastrous situation to be in.

3) Pre-MBA experience matters in campus placements

If you left your job for preparation and got into your dream B-School, your pre-MBA job experience will still play a role in your campus placements. It is usually easier to answer job based questions in interview compared to academics. Many companies count this experience to calculate offered CTC and designation. Even a few months of extra experience may get you a higher position at a better salary compared to your classmates.

4) A gap is a negative point in your CV

Quitting job to prepare for CAT puts a gap in your CV which is hard to defend in any job interview. No matter what you say, you are seen as a quitter who could not handle job pressure along with studies. This may not be true for you, but for an interviewer, this matters and it can ruin one’s chances to get the job.

5) A job is your plan B

Job acts as a plan B in case things do not turn out as you wish. A lot of aspirants argue that thinking about a plan B is doubting their capability even before they start. This thinking is wrong, as it does not consider the unpredictable scenarios. One may be perfectly capable of cracking the exam, but life is full of uncertainties and it does not harm to have a backup option.

6) Your savings will help you pay your bills

This may not look like a critical point, but it does have its own importance. If you are selected into multiple B-Schools, sometimes you need to pay booking amount for multiple colleges in case you are waiting for your dream college convert. Your savings from job will help you pay these. Also, with each passing year, MBA is getting more expensive. Even if you get into an IIM, you will have to pay more than 20 lakh rupees just in fees, accommodation, food etc. Add your personal expenses to this, and the amount will increase even more. Though you will easily get collateral free education loan as this is a risk free loan for banks, it will definitely ease you if you have some savings from your job which you can use either to pay first installment of fees or for your personal expenses.

All these factors are important and should be considered while making the decision.

When I was preparing for CAT, I was working too. I was tempted to leave my job based on reasons similar to most other CAT aspirants. It was a very hectic job coupled with many other factors. But I did not. And it was a good decision.

I always advise against leaving your job for CAT preparation. However, there may be exceptions and one should take this decision based on their own circumstances.

I hope my experience and views will help you make the right decision.

CAT Preparation

List of Important CAT Preparation Books

A lot of candidates ask me about the important CAT (Common Admission Test) Preparation books to be referred while preparing for CAT.

In this post, I will give you complete list of important books for CAT Preparation. Also, I will share some good resources/material which will help you a lot in your CAT preparation.

I have included links to most of the books & resources. This list is the latest list of books updated for CAT 2019 preparation.

If you are preparing for CAT or planning to start soon, you can read my detailed article here: How to prepare for CAT

List of Important CAT Preparation Books

The All-in-one

If you are not willing to go through multiple reviews for CAT preparation books, you may go for this bundled package of 4 books for complete CAT preparation by Arun Sharma And Meenakshi Upadhyay.

Continue reading below for topic-wise list of books from multiple authors as well as some additional books.

Quantitative Ability

There are two good books for Quantitative Ability. Practicing only one of these is enough for your preparation.

How to Prepare for Quantitative Aptitude for the CAT by Arun Sharma

This is the most popular book for quant preparation. It is a very good book with questions segregated into different difficulty levels.

Quantitative Aptitude Quantum CAT For Admission into IIMs by Sarvesh K. Verma

This is another good book. It was suggested to me by a friend and I referred to this book for my Quant preparation.

Verbal Ability

This is the most important section of CAT which becomes the reason for unexpected CAT scores. Following books should be referred for this section.

Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis

This is the most important book of your entire CAT preparation. Read it from end-to-end as per the instructions in the book and your vocab would never be the same.

How to Prepare for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for CAT by Arun Sharma & Meenakshi Upadhyay

This is a good book for Verbal Ability and can be used as the base reference.

Wiley’s ExamXpert Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for CAT 2019

This is another popular book for verbal and reading comprehension preparation. You should go only for one of these two books.

Apart from these, for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension section, you must have excellent English language skills which can be developed through regular reading. I have written a detailed article about this which you can read here: How to Develop the Habit of Reading

Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning

DI & LR are very scoring sections of CAT and should be handled very efficiently. I have listed three books here- two individual books for DI & LR each, and one book for both DI & LR. Do not get all three. Either get first two books, or the third one.

How to Prepare for Data Interpretation for the CAT by Arun Sharma

This book by Arun Sharma is a popular choice for DI.

How to Prepare for Logical Reasoning for the CAT by Arun Sharma

This is a book on Logical Reasoning by Arun Sharma.

Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation for the CAT by Nishit K. Sinha

This is a good book which covers both the Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning. You can practice DI & LR questions from this book.

Previous Year’s Papers

Once you get through the basics, start practicing previous year’s papers. It will give you a good idea about the exam. You can choose any book as the questions are going to be the same. The following is the latest available book containing last 24 years CAT solved papers.

24 years CAT Topic-wise Solved Papers (2017-1994) with 6 Online Practice Sets 11th edition

Study Material

If you complete these books, you may also refer to the study material of any one good coaching institute. No need to collect material from multiple institutes. You can even take someone’s old material which may be equally useful.

For quant, study material may not be of much use to you as you will get a lot of questions in various books. But the study material may prove beneficial for Verbal Ability, Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning. Try to practice all the questions from these topics.

I hope this information would prove useful to you and you will crack the CAT and secure a seat in an IIM.

All The Best.

CAT Preparation

“New IIM” vs “Old” Private B-School

The new IIM dilemmaEvery year, a lot of students get confused between getting into a “new IIM” or established “non-IIM private” B-schools. I hope this article will help them in making a choice.

In last 8 years, we witnessed 13 new IIMs which brought the total number of IIMs to 19 in India. CAT aspirants, who are unable to secure admission in older IIMs and get selected in new IIMs, find themselves in a huge dilemma whether to join these new IIMs or some already established premier non-IIM B-School.

With a lot of opinions of so many so-called “experts”, it is obvious for a prospective B-school student to get confused. So, lets try to find a solution to this problem by analyzing some facts.

Let us first look at what is the current general perception. I heard many people say that new IIMs are not good. They swear by other established non-IIM B-Schools. The sole reason for them is good placements in those colleges compared to new IIMs. Other than that, old established colleges have good faculty, thus good education, good infrastructure and finally good alumni base (which is again good for placements). I do not think there is any other reason due to which these people prefer other B-Schools over new IIMs.

Now lets see what it actually means to be a “good MBA”. As per my understanding, apart from classroom teaching, MBA is mainly about “peer learning” while performing different tasks together in teams. Unlike technological courses, it does not require any sophisticated infrastructure/laboratories other than decent classrooms, auditorium, seminar hall, computer lab, library and faculty/staff cabins/offices. Other than that, any good college will provide some sports facilities and a decent residential facility (hostels).

As per my knowledge, all new IIMs, though operating in makeshift campuses, provide decent level of all these facilities through various means. So, good infrastructure may not be a differentiating factor.

Then comes the learning part. First we consider peer learning which means we need to have good students. As we know, the criteria for getting into IIMs is CAT which is considered one of the most difficult exams of the world due to its very low conversion ratio. For less than 4000 seats in IIMs, 2,00,000+ students are competing every year. This means that the conversion rate is less than 2% which is very low compared to top B-schools of the world.

Even for new IIMs the general cutoff has been near 97 percentile which is higher than or equal to cutoffs for most of the non-IIM B-schools. It means no general student of new IIMs has got percentile less than nearly 97. If good CAT percentile is indicative of hard working, sincere, intelligent and talented students, most of the students admitted to new IIMs are good and thus facilitate good peer learning.

Same is the case with faculty. In most premier colleges, there is a tradition of employing visiting faculty who are experts in their respective fields, along with permanent faculty. As a part of a new IIM with 15+ permanent faculty and 150 students in a batch, I have seen visiting faculty from old IIMs, other top B-schools and industry veterans for various courses. I do not think that I missed any superior kind of learning which I could have got in any non-IIM B-school.

Regarding the course structure, the pattern in new IIMs is almost similar to the older IIMs with similar subjects, electives and exam criteria.

The spirits of students are high in new IIMs as well. They organize events/fests, take part in (and win) various national/international competitions, celebrate majority of festivals, write research papers, attend conferences etc. I did not find anything significantly better in the description of such things happening in premiere non-IIM B-schools from people studying there.

Till now, we saw that when compared to premiere non-IIM B-schools, new IIMs does not have any significant difference or disadvantage in terms of infrastructure,learning, environment, and student spirit. Then where is the actual difference.

This brings us to a very interesting and highly controversial topic of placements. I do agree that old IIMs and a couple of non-IIM B-schools provide excellent placements. Apart from these, I find good placements in some other colleges, but not excellent.

And this is the case even with their huge alumni base. A new IIM without any alumni base getting placements comparable to long established non-IIM B-schools is a huge indication of the excellent quality of an IIM. It shows that the quality of students in IIM makes them not overly dependent on alumni for placements and industry is ready to offer them good profiles.

Moreover, the source of information of placements of any college is the placement report prepared and distributed by that college. There has been a history of highly inflated and misrepresented placement figures by many colleges. Can we actually believe the placement report of any college? I think, it would be better to consider more than just numbers. Though, in case of an IIM, you can try filing RTI to get true information.

May be the new IIMs are new, may be their inception (in 2010) coincided with the world-wide recession which caused them to begin with somewhat less but still decent placements. But is this slight “apparent” difference, the reason to miss the opportunity to study in an IIM?

Also, most of these non-IIM B-schools are expensive than new IIMs in terms of fees. Is it really worth it?

I have shared my viewpoint. You have to take your own decision while considering realistic facts and avoid getting influenced by irrelevant hype and rumors.

After all, an IIM is an IIM and its equally difficult to get into a new IIM.

CAT Preparation

CAT vs GMAT- Dilemma of every MBA aspirant in India


There is a lot of confusion in the life of a student. One thing is, should they study further or join some company. Once they make a choice, a plethora of further sub-options emerge and the person has to decide again. Now, for the sake of our topic, suppose the person chooses to study further, and that too MBA (lets ignore the Post Graduation in Science/Engineering vs Business Administration vs some other field to be taken on a later date).

Now, in the context of India, MBA again has many sub-options- Whether to take CAT (Common Admission Test) and similar Indian exams to go to top B-Schools of India, or take GMAT and plan for MBA in abroad. Both exams are similar though very different from each other and it is quite difficult for a student to take a decision.

First of all, we should understand that there cannot be any fit for all, generic answer to this question. Everyone has their specific set of circumstances based on which one of the above decision may prove to be a better option for them.

CAT vs GMAT is a tough choice and a lot of factors should be considered to make it a good one.

GMAT is considered easier to crack than CAT based on very low conversion ratio in CAT. However, GMAT is much more expensive than CAT, both in terms of application as well as college fees.

Also, Indian B-Schools are more inclined towards lesser work experience of candidates. In contrast, B-Schools abroad have minimum work experience requirement.

I personally feel that IIMs, XLRI, FMS etc. are more suitable and make more sense if you want to remain in India in the initial years of your career.

So, based on the above scenarios, you need to make a choice as per your circumstances.

Just sharing an interesting fact. Many of my friends who could not clear CAT even after 3-4 attempts finally took GMAT and got into some decent colleges abroad.

For preparation, the content of both the exams is mostly similar however exam pattern is quite different. So, basic preparation can be same for both the exams but you need to subscribe to different test series to practice for the actual exam.

I would suggest to identify your situation based on the scenarios I mentioned earlier and choose to take only one of the two exams. No need to ride in two boats. Going for both the exams will only distract you.

However, if you want to take both the exams for the sake of keeping a back-up, you should first go for CAT because it is a fixed date exam. Once you take CAT, immediately start preparing for GMAT. Having already prepared for CAT, you have little to study and just need to practice a lot as per the pattern of GMAT. Once you get your CAT result, schedule a date for GMAT giving a time gap of about 4-6 months.

Meanwhile, if you clear CAT, you will have to devote a lot of time for interview preparation. So, you can plan your GMAT preparation and date of appointment as per your interview schedule.

Below is information about good resources for preparation of both the excams-

For CAT Preparation, you can refer to my article here- How to start preparing for CAT (IIM)

List of most important books for CAT Preparation- List of Important CAT Preparation Books

Here are some good books for GMAT Preparation-

CAT Preparation

How to start preparing for CAT 2019

How to start preparing for CAT? CAT (Common Admission Test) is one of the toughest exam to crack. It is the gateway to getting into prestigious IIMs and other top B-schools of India. A lot of CAT aspirants ask me how to prepare for CAT. Here I am sharing a few tips which I feel helped me in cracking this exam and score 99.41 percentile.

Understand the syllabus

This is a useful tip for almost any exam. Understand the syllabus by going through past year’s papers and official guidelines. CAT can be segmented into four broad parts-

  • Quantitative Ability
  • Data Interpretation
  • Logical Reasoning
  • Verbal Ability

The concepts used in this examination are broadly of class 10 level. However, the questions are little bit tricky to solve and require good amount of logical thinking. But it can be developed by practice.

Begin with the end in mind

Start your preparation with sheer determination. Whenever you feel demotivated, you can dream about the day when you will crack the exam and it will definitely motivate you. March-April is a good time to start preparation for the exam which will be held in October-November. However, if you are starting late, say 3 months before the exam, you still have a decent time to prepare and crack this exam. It all depends on how efficiently you can utilize your time.

Should you join coaching?

This is based on a lot of things. If you have a lot of time, you can go for coaching. However, if you are into a hectic job and get very little time to study, you can prepare on your own without wasting that time in going to coaching. Coaching will only give you guidance. Rest depends on how sincerely you practice.

Also, the syllabus of this exam does not require any special training. Most of the things we already study in our school. There are few concepts which can be revised from books and other material. Rest is a lot of practice.

Books and material

I have prepared complete list of books and material you will need for your CAT preparation which can be found here: List of Important CAT Preparation Books

First of all, get CAT preparation material of some good coaching institute.

For Quant, there are two good books- Arun Sharma & Sarvesh Varma. You can refer to any of these. I referred the latter one as suggested by one of my friends. However, I think the former is more popular with the students. Both the books are good. But don’t buy both. No need to unnecessary collect a lot of books & material. If you have limited time, solving one book is enough. Go for the second book only when you have finished the entire syllabus.

No special book for concepts of Data Interpretation, Logical Reasoning and Verbal Ability. You can rely on the coaching material for all the concepts and can solve all the practice questions. However, you should refer to more books on these topics only after you finish the entire syllabus.

For verbal, you also need to read “Word Power made Easy” by Norman Lewis. It is a very good book which helps in increasing vocabulary not by memorizing stuff, but by understanding the ideas behind the words. It is distributed into 45-47 sessions meant to be read one at a time. It is a must-read book and should be completed within two months of starting your preparation.

You also need to read a few good story books as explained in the next point.

That’s it. Yes, you do not need any other book for concepts. This much is enough.

Reading, reading & reading

Many students, specially engineers are already good at quant but perform badly in verbal. Earlier, CAT was heavily based on vocab and grammar concepts. But these days, it is more of a general English exam which tests one’s command over English in common usage. You should be very much familiar with English.

The only way to improve your verbal score is to read a lot of good books written in standard English. These can be fiction, non-fiction or anything, just written in good English.

I have already written a detailed article to help you develop your reading habit. You can find it here: How to develop the habit of reading.

In the article, I have also mentioned the example books. Reading 4-6 books during your preparation would increase your familiarity with English and you can easily score good.

Test Series

This is like the Holy Grail of CAT preparation. Subscribe to one good Test Series and write all the tests very sincerely in simulated environment. Fix a day, say Sunday, fix a time, say 9 AM, and give the test every week at the same time. Sit in proper position while attempting the test and tell all your roommates or family members not to disturb you at that time.

Once you write 15-20 such tests, CAT will no longer be a stranger to you. When you will sit for actual CAT, you will feel as if you have done this a lot of times and it will help you to remain confident during the exam.

Most coaching institutes try to set the Mock Question paper to be as near to the real exam as possible. Subscribe to a test series which is more difficult than actual CAT. You may find it difficult to score good in the mock tests. But it will boost your confidence when you will find the actual CAT to be easier than the mock tests. Many good test series are available.

News coverage for post-CAT preparation

Once you clear CAT, you need to qualify the Personality Test rounds of various colleges which include Group Discussions, Written Tests and Personal Interviews. Qualifying CAT makes you eligible to attend this stage and its your performance in these rounds which finally help you getting selected. Preparing for this stage immediately after CAT result can be difficult. Try to follow the basic news in your daily life from today itself. This will ease down the load of preparation for Personality Test rounds and boost up your confidence as well.

And that is all. I followed these things and I feel it helped me to get through this exam. I hope these tips will help you in preparing well for CAT. All the best for getting into an IIM!

CAT Preparation

How to develop the habit of reading

From our childhood we are told that reading is a very good habit. Specially, if you are preparing for any competitive exam like CAT, GMAT, GRE or even UPSC (it now has a paper with questions on reading comprehension), you must read a lot of books written in English. In this context, from here on, by reading I mean reading books written in English language.

Why Reading is a good Habit?

Reading improves our comprehension as well knowledge. Reading a lot of good books makes us familiar with English language and we no more need to memorize grammar rules to find out if any sentence is wrong. It is the same way as a child learns her native language just listening to her parents and not by learning grammar rules.

Once a respected gentlemen rightly said that to write well, you need to read a lot. So, apart from helping us to understand what others write, reading is also essential to express our thoughts in good words and proper language.

But what if someone doesn’t read at all? What if mere thought of reading a book makes you yawn? Is there any way to develop this habit, easily?

Well, all big things in life require some amount of work. However, there are few ways to do it the right way so that you get maximum benefit in minimum amount of time. And obviously, you need to be motivated enough and self-determined to maintain a disciplined schedule, atleast when you begin.

I was not exactly a reading buff. Though I read books every once in a while, I was not the kind of guy who reads scores of books every month and asks for even more. Every time I finished a book, it used to be an achievement for me. But during my CAT preparation, I realized that I need to read a lot and I was actually able to read a lot of books during that time. How? I followed a simple approach.

Pick the right book

First of all, reading here does not mean reading “anything”. I am no one to criticize Chetan Bhagat for his books. He writes books in simple, lucid language to be easily understood by anyone. But for the kind of competitive exams mentioned above, those books may not help you. You need to read something with a higher level of English. Books of famous English authors written in standard English is a good point to start with.

Pick a book from a famous author, an interesting one. You can pick J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books or Dan Brown’s books like DaVinci Code, Angel and Demons etc. There are many more authors like John Grisham, Jeffrey Archer, Stephen King, you can pick any of their books based on your interest. This is because once you get involved with the story of the book, you would like to continue reading it, even if you find the language difficult or boring.

Stick to a simple schedule & Take it easy while reading the first book

Now make a schedule to read for 15-20 minutes every day before you go to bed. Yes, this much is enough to begin with. No matter what, read for some time everyday before you go to sleep. Slowly your reading time will increase as you will get involved with the story. Don’t worry even if you do not understand many words. No need to look them up in a dictionary. Just try to understand the meaning from the context and move ahead. Referring dictionary continuously will obstruct the flow and make reading boring. Completing a book is more important at this time.

Level up once you cross the milestone

After 1-2 months of this when you finish reading your first book, you will definitely feel accomplished. You would also have developed at least some interest in reading. Now you can refer to difficult words while reading the next book. You can also read using an ebook reader as it is very easy to look-up words in these devices without breaking the flow of reading. You just need to touch the word and its meaning pops up.

Finally, keep it going

Slowly and gradually you can read more and more books. Finishing each book, will boost your confidence and as you go on, you will get familiar with more words making it easier for you to understand and time to finish a book will keep on decreasing. If all goes well, by this time, you would have developed the habit to read books. It will be no longer a far-fetched dream.

The method described above may not be the best way to develop this habit but it worked pretty well for me.

I hope you too find this useful. Feel free to leave feedback or suggestion in the comments section below.

You may find following links useful:

If you are preparing for CAT or planning to start soon, you can read my detailed article here: How to start preparing for CAT

The complete list of books and material you will need for your CAT preparation can be found here: List of Important CAT Preparation Books