Unlike in several other entrance examinations, in CAT, General Knowledge (GK) is not a direct component for testing. Yet, its importance cannot be downplayed. It has long been a key component for other career options at both postgraduate (UPSC, Bank PO, SSC) as well as under-graduate levels (Law, BBA, Hotel Management). Possessing holistic understanding of national and international issues remains a key part of any CAT student’s preparation toolkit. Following are some of those key reasons:
1. Exams such as IIFT, CMAT & XAT
GK is particularly important component in non-CAT exams such as CMAT and XAT, plus for selection to IIFT. All these exams have a segment where questions are asked on current affairs as well as static general knowledge. XAT opens the doors to selection to top institutes such as XLRI, XIMB, GIM and Loyola, while CMAT can do likewise for several mid and top- ranked institutions. At IIFT, there is even a sectional cut-off for the GK portion.
2. Soft skills Rounds like WAT, GD & PI
A better-informed person will be in an enviable position when it comes to the soft skills round which happens immediately after the CAT results get declared. Doing well at the written exam is only half the game, as students then need to sit for the soft skills round that all IIMs and other elite colleges conduct. This is because managers in real life need to be good at speaking, leadership, and writing. So, a Personal Interview (PI) is compulsory everywhere, plus a combination of either or both of Written Ability Test (WAT) and Group Discussion (GD). Any topic can be aced if one has a good GK, as more erudite points can then be put forward. Specific facts are always preferred as opposed to rhetoric. For an interview, one especially needs to be well-informed on topics he/she claims to be good at, or interested in.
3. Specific tests at certain colleges like TISS and IRMA
While the CAT is a necessity to breach the minimum, several sectoral colleges such as TISS, IRMA or MICA also conduct their own exams as a 2nd round post the general exam. As the name suggests, TISS has a section on issues of social concern. For this, the aspirant needs to prepare thoroughly on national and international socio-economic issues. IRMA has one segment for rural and social awareness, where questions of agricultural data forms a key component. MICA meanwhile conducts a creativity test, which no doubt gets bolstered when one is better informed of business and social issues around.
4. Better understanding of RC Passages
A Reading Comprehension (RC) passage can be selected from different topics. It can be from business, sports, philosophy, economy, science, literature, history or something else. RC has become a fixture at the CAT exam, with passages being tested each year. Of course, no candidate can be proficient in all the topics mentioned. Someone may be good at literature and bad at science, while another may be good at philosophy, but not so much in sports. Enhanced reading can only be good for a candidate, as it lessens the pain of any alien topic. Good command over a topic will ensure more attentive reading of such passages, and correspondingly an improved rate of success while attempting the section.
5. Preparation for Managerial Life
A modern-day manager must read a lot, period. From business reports to technical papers and minutes of meetings to proposal documents, he/she needs to do it all. So, it is better that one starts straight away. With automation and digitization wreaking havoc will the older ways of working, future managers would be well-advised to hone their creativity and emotional intelligence, as these are aspects robots can never take away from human beings. So, a thorough reading of social sciences can help bridge the gap towards this end.
Now that the importance of GK for CAT aspirants is well-established, let us understand the ways in which it can be best executed. GK can broadly be divided into three segments- Current Affairs, Business Awareness and Static Knowledge. There are several sources to prepare from namely newspapers, books, magazines, TV news and the internet. Let us see how to tackle each resource to the best of results:
- Newspapers can be one’s best friend while preparing for such exams. For entrance exams like IIFT and CMAT, newspapers might be a somewhat slower route as one need instant facts and figures. But a thorough reading of any general paper like The Hindu or The Indian Express, plus business papers like Economic Times or Business Standard, is a must during the soft-skills rounds as one will garner a holistic understanding of national and international affairs.
- Magazines such as Competition Success Review and Pratiyogita Darpan can be ideal handy tools while preparing for entrance exam GK.
- Books such as Pearson’s Concise and the Manorama yearbook are wonderful assets for static GK preparation.
- For TV News one ought to stick to Door Darshan (DD News) as it is the best for precise facts and figures.
- The Internet can be one greatest source of information, but also could emerge as the villain in the room if not handled carefully. There is a lot of fake news out there. So, instead of random Google searches, one must zero down on specific websites providing authentic news. The most reliable websites are those that are the official sites of various ministerial bodies, top education institutions or even commercial publications, with well- established credentials. The last category could include the web articles from the likes of Forbes, Fortune, The Economist, Harvard Business Review, Business Insider or Bloomberg.
The CAT paper is not far off, so students must get down to the grind immediately. There is still some breathing space for SNAP and more so for XAT, plus the second-round papers like those of TISS and IRMA. IIFT has historically concentrated more on business and current affairs as opposed to more of static in XAT. So, candidates must prepare accordingly.