CAT : The Managers Way


So the big bad CAT is round the corner. This is it! The ultimate test of your mathematical, communicative and managerial skills!Yes, you read right. CAT does happen to challenge your managerial skills, and if you aren't applying any in the test, chances are that you're performing way below your potential. This note seeks to explain why.

Let's begin with a few examples of what has happened over the years.

1. In 1990, for the first time in its history, CAT did away with time limits for each section. In an unprecedented move, the test asked candidates to decide how much time they wanted to spend on each section, instead of the usual way of pre-decided time limits. A bit like practising cycling all your life only to discover that on the day of the race, one wheel has been removed!

2. In 1996 and 1997, there was a one-hour time-limit imposed on the communication and the maths parts. You had to do RC/VA in the first hour, and the PS/DI in the next. Those who followed unequal time distribution had to forego the liberty of self-timing: harder to adjust than you think!

3. In 1999, CAT moved from being a four section test to a three section one. VA and RC seemed to be have been clubbed. People happily assumed that the second section would be PS and the third, DI/DS. They didn't realise that towards the end of the third section, there were 24 questions related to syllogisms (the ones you would learn in verbal reasoning). These were sitters, but unfortunately, by the time most people got to this part of the test, it was too late. They had missed out on sitting ducks.

4. The following year saw the same pattern, except that the difficulty level of the test went up a few notches,and that took most by surprise. Mid-way through the test, many people gave up, since things were just not going as planned: only to come out of the hall and realise that it was tough for everybody. They, of course, had a full year to regret. Those who decided to carry on nonetheless, won.

5. Last year, the same pattern featured, but suddenly the difficulty level nose-dived. It was, as I keep saying in class, a slow ball from the fastest bowler in the world. Those who quickly realised it immediately raised the bar on their ideal score, and went about taking CAT with the newfound perspective. Some wasted time and energy looking for a catch: there was none.The examples could go on and on, with specific instances of how the questions appear in varying order of difficulty, how the instructions can try to bamboozle you, et al. The point is that we need to learn from them.These examples are screaming from the rooftops and saying one thing: TAKE CAT LIKE A MANAGER.But then, first questions first. Who IS a manager? How do you define one? Knowing who a manager is will doubtlessly lead to what he is expected to do.

CAT is all about: CONTROL. Legend has it that if you don't control CAT, it will control you in much the same fashion as a wild horse. If you can't stay on top of it, it will topple you.So if the definition is so simple, what's the catch? What prevents us from being in control of the test, if it's all so easily understood?The answer is simple, yet startling. In business, there are managers, and then there are workers. The manager's job is to tell the worker what to do, and to make sure that the work given is being done. He has the overall picture of where the company is heading, and will take important decisions affecting the future of the company.The worker's job, on the other hand, is to execute instructions. He simply does what he's told. What's more, he will continue doing his job until he receives instructions from above to do otherwise.You see, the worker's job is to execute tasks as efficiently as possible. But to be in CONTROL is the manager's job. And to control CAT, you must don the manager's hat: something you may not be doing.Most poor scores in CAT boil down to lack of PLANNING and SELECTION: the primary tasks of a manager. Candidates tend to go after the test, question-by-question, expending all their energies on moving through this maze of questions as quickly as possible. Little do they realise that only a bird's eye view of the maze (meaning the test) would tell them which direction to take, without which they might as well go in blindfolded.The catch, therefore, is that while taking CAT, YOU ARE A MANAGER AS WELL AS A WORKER, rolled into one. You MUST play BOTH these roles if you wish to do well.Let's get more specific. The tasks of deciding which sections to attempt first, how much time to devote to each section, how many attempts you are likely to make, which passages you decide to attempt, et al, are the tasks of a MANAGER. Actually going about reading, solving and answering the questions are the tasks of a WORKER. It is important to distinguish the two tasks and make sure you're doing BOTH.In fact, I would go further and look at THREE roles that you must play in order to take control of CAT. You'll find that it isn't very different from managing a factory or an office, after all.

1.The role of the CEO.Imagine you're the newly appointed CEO of CAT, for the next two hours. It is 10.30am on the 24th of November, and your job has just begun. Here are some things you could look at, right at the beginning of the test.- Is the test familiar, or different? If different, how is it different, and how is it going to impact time to be spent on each section? Are there any big surprises? What is the overall assessment of this test?- How many sections are there, and what seems to be the difficulty level? How much time should I devote to each section? What should be my order of attempts? WHAT IS MY PLAN FOR THE NEXT TWO HOURS?As you can see, the CEO's role is vital, but he has the least time to take his decisions. Perhaps the CEO needs to spend no more than three to four minutes to plan the order and set time limits for each section. This is PLANNING.Having done that, he must hand over the baton to the next level.

2. The role of a SECTION MANAGER.Here, your task is to make sure you make the most out of the section, and strictly adhere to the time limit given to you by the CEO. You are like a departmental head. Your job is to tackle these issues.- What seems to be the difficulty level of this section? What could be a good score?- Which questions should I begin with, and which ones should I attempt only at the end? What is the order? (Since you're a section manager, you, of course, have the specific expertise in that section on how to tell the easy ones from the difficult ones. Your practice will help you here.)- While attempting the section, am I getting too involved with one particular question or passage? Should I junk it and move on? For example, a good assembly-line manager would ask his worker to ignore a mistake and carry on with the assembly, because in the time he takes to repair one product, the worker can make three new ones.The section manager decides which questions to solve and which ones to omit. this is SELECTION.

3. The role of the WORKER.Now that you've got instructions from your section manager on what to attempt and what to leave, it is your duty to execute the instructions. This is clockwork, and the more you're familiar with it, the more you'll enjoy it. You objective is to GET MARKS, and NOT just attempt as much as possible. Your section manager will have given you a target. It is your job to attempt as few questions as possible to achieve that target. Consider this: would you rather have a worker who makes 10 cars (4 of them faulty) or 5 cars (none faulty)? What makes more business sense? While both strategies may yield the same net score (10 attempts with 4 mistakes would give you a score of 5, assuming a -0.25 negative), what about the time wasted in making mistakes?Consider this. If you attempted 100 questions and made 50 mistakes, you actually spent one hour in increasing your score, and one hour in decreasing it! Even 60 attempts with 10 mistakes would have been better!Also, from time to time, it will be the worker's job to report the progress to the manager. In other words, this means that you must keep a tab on where your attempts are going at an overall level, and not get bogged down by the operative task of solving questions.

Remember that for any task to be successful it must be done EFFICIENTLY and EFFECTIVELY: It is the worker's job to make sure it's efficient, and it is the manager's job to make sure it's effective. You can't have one without the other. During the test you need to constantly change roles: from CEO to manager to worker, and the other way round.

So every time you take a practice test, ask yourself this question: how well do I perform these roles? Chances are, if you do well, you will maximise your score. Of course, that does not mean that you will DEFINITELY make it. Your score may still not be good enough for that year. But at least you'll know that you did your best. And that's a far better deal than saying "if only I had managed the test better..."So are you taking CAT like a manager?


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Vocab Power Updated Daily

  • COBBLED - Repair or mend
  • ABHORRENCE - Hate coupled with disgust
  • INCUMBENCY - The term during which some position is held
  • MITIGATE -Lessen or to try to lessen the seriousness or extent of
  • dubious - Open to doubt or suspicion
  • FOSTERING - Encouragement; aiding the development of something
  • ELICIT- Call forth (emotions, feelings, and responses)
  • PLAUSIBLE - Apparently reasonable and valid, and truthful
  • FORGE - Move ahead steadily
  • BOLSTER (V)-Support and strengthen
  • ECCENTRIC- A person with an unusual or odd personality
  • PATRONAGE - The act of providing approval and support
  • IMPERVIOUS - Not admitting of passage or capable of being affected

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