Thursday, January 28th, 2016
Couple of days ago, I took a free class for CAT preparation on Republic Day. As a matter of fact, it was a promotional class for my online CAT coaching course in which I tried to answer doubts and queries of confused and often unnecessarily worried MBA aspirants. A recording of the free class is now available and you can watch that if you have the time. The most common question that I got was – “How to start my CAT preparation?”. To be honest, I think that till March – you should completely focus on improving your verbal ability. The three books that a large number of teachers / seniors recommend for this are:
1. Word Power Made Easy for improving your vocabulary
2. Wren and Martin for improving your grammar
3. How to Read Better and Faster by Norman Lewis for increasing your reading speed.
While all of the above are fantastic books, I personally do not find them much fruitful for most candidates. These often end up being too boring and something that students give up in the middle. How to Read Better and Faster by Normal Lewis might be an exception as it is not voluminous but increasing their reading speed is hardly something that CAT / MBA aspirants should be worried about. You get more than enough time in the CAT exam these days (at least for the last 5 years). The key to high performance lies in understanding the questions and the passages and not rushing through them. Rushing through passages helps if the passages are really simple and you have direct questions on them – it is not the case when it comes to the CAT exam.
So, the question then arises as to what should be done to actually improve in it? The answer is simple. You need to go back to the root of the problem. Most CAT aspirants have an issue with Verbal Ability / Reading Comprehension because they don’t really read books regularly. I have been teaching CAT aspirants for a decade now (Yay! – just realized that while typing this post. It will be 10 years in July 2016) and under extremely rare circumstances I have met someone who reads a book a month on average and is struggling with Verbal Ability. As a matter of fact, even if you read 5 books in a year, you should be more or less comfortable when it comes to Verbal Ability. You can and you should directly dive into CAT level problems and you would realize that you are still swimming around in your comfort zone. The problem, however, is for the majority of the CAT aspirants who don’t read regularly and / or the only books that they have read was written by Chetan Bhagat. I will not get into the merits or demerits of reading Bhagat as that would probably become a rather long rang. Be that as it may, if you are in the category of the majority CAT aspirants mentioned above – it is not too late. As a matter of fact, it is never too late. You can and should start reading books, novels, and magazines as soon as possible. Reading newspapers and editorials will also help but there are too many breaks when you read a newspaper and you need to keep shifting from one article to another. There is no ‘FLOW’ That is the reason I strongly recommend that MBA aspirants read as many books as they can during their preparation period. Not only it will help you improve your Verbal Ability, it would open up a whole new world for you.
If you are not a regular reader, I would suggest that you start with something simple and easy and then move on to books which are slightly harder to read. Some easy to read books that can start with and they would also motivate you:
Old Man and the Sea
Harry Potter (Series)
Sherlock Holmes (Series)
Lord of the Flies
Brave New World
Train to Pakistan
Once you are done with the above list, or may be even half of it, probably you should try out another list that is slightly harder.
Dealing with Indian issues:
The Great Indian Novel
India after Gandhi
The Last Mughal
Dealing with global issues and economics / management:
The Selfish Gene
Guns, Germs, and Steel
The World is Flat
The Black Swan
Thinking Fast & Slow
I am personally not a big fan of biographies / autobiographies but there are a few that you can give a try.
Losing My Virginity
Straight from the Gut
Steve Jobs (Walter Issacson)
Banker to the Poor
I am sure I have missed out on many great ideas but I am also sure that if you try and go through even half of the books mentioned above, you would significantly improve not only your Verbal Ability but also your chances in the Group Discussion / Personal Interview stage. These books will open your mind and expand your horizons. Do not think of it as a task that you need to do to increase your chances at cracking CAT, but think of it as something that will make you a better person.
Hope you liked the list and will put it to good use. Please share it on Facebook.
Founder & Mentor,
Handa Ka Funda