CAT exam is the Common Admission Test conducted by the IIMs for admission to various postgraduate management programmes and is accepted by most of the top b-schools in the country. Though the exam is widely accepted, there is no fixed syllabus for it. CAT syllabus is very wide, based on the current affairs and previous year questions, which makes it an obvious reason to solve previous year questions.
Though one can argue that “solving or giving mock test based on previous question paper” is only helpful when you are done with the syllabus, it does make sense to study and practice CAT question papers simultaneously to identify and understand the current topics that IIMs are concerned about.
It is important to set realistic expectations while including CAT Previous Year Question Papers in your preparation plan.
Parameters that can be judged by the previous year question paper:
Whenever any cricket team tours other country, the touring country have the practice matches scheduled to get used to the conditions. Similarly, practising the previous year question paper gives you the gist of the D-day experience.
Also, it gives you the idea about what really to expect from the examination and on what topics student needs to work on to excel the CAT exam.
Parameters which cannot be judged by the previous year question paper:
Each year, CAT question paper is set by a different IIM and that institution is solely responsible for the importance of any topic/section in the question paper. Last year (2019), the examination was conducted by IIM Kozhikode and the Reading Comprehension section (RC) and the Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning section (DILR) were tougher when compared to the Quantitative Ability (QA) section. Thus, the difficulty level of any section cannot be predicted simply through the previous year question papers.
The same reason is also applicable to the marking scheme. Students cannot really be sure of the distribution of marks in any topic. There is never a drastic change in the marks distribution over topics from the last year question paper. However, expecting the questions from any topic should be an educated guess.
Aspirants should at least study last 10-year question papers while preparing for the examination. CAT question paper is generally set on the similar lines. Also, giving mocks help a lot. The mocks are generally based on the previous year question papers and solving them gives you hands-on experience of the CAT exam. Students should give a minimum of 40 mock tests, offered by different institutions, to get to know their position and level of preparation based on ranking and familiarise with different type of questions.
Along with taking multiple mock tests (based on previous year question papers), another important tool for CAT exam preparation is the analysis of the question paper solved in the mock test.
Analysis makes the understanding of the topics clearer which sometimes cannot be achieved while studying. Retrospection of the solved question paper gives the aspirant understanding of what technique they should follow while approaching any question. It also helps to formulate the strategy for the examination and reduces the nerves to attempt any question.
However, replication of real-time environment is not equivalent to real examination and an aspirant is bound to feel butterflies in there stomach about their level of preparation. On exam day, students need to remember the CAT question papers that they had solved over last one year of their preparation.
The only thing students should keep in mind is that they must not flinch with their strategy while giving the CAT exam, stick to how they had prepared while giving the mock tests, irrespective of the difficulty level of the question paper and back themselves.