Mocks – the mere mention of the word connects us to a lot of things mentally. Weekends. Low scores. Percentiles. Comparisons. Self-doubts. Inspirations. Mocks can create quite a bit of a self-impression, giving you an idea about where your CAT 2020 preparation stands.
The question then that arises naturally is: If mocks are an integral partof the CAT prep, especially in these last 85+ days, how can one make better use of the mocks? Is it possible to handle mocks in a better way than where you might be at this point in time?
Let me break this down to various common issues/problems that are usually associated with the mocks and their outcomes. We will see how each of these can be tackled effectively over the course of this last mile sprint.
1) Missing out on easy questions in Quant
This is easily the most common roadblock that most, if not all, CAT aspirants face at some point in time. The prevalence is high among the people who are preparing for CAT for the first time and those who have started taking mocks recently.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep
Some questions, especially in the Quant section, are enticing to the core. Either you seem to have gotten the knack of solving it right, OR the topic seems familiar to you. You go about solving it, and enter the rabbit-hole.
Since you have started solving it, you do not have the mindset to skip the question. Hence, you end up continuing with the same question for too long – sometimes more than 3 minutes, in worst cases up to 8 or 10 minutes.
But, I have promises to keep
There are 34 questions in Quant. You have got 60 minutes in your bag. Most importantly, it is crystal clear that you NEED NOT attempt all of them. The aim should be to see how much you can attempt with a 100% (or close to 100% accuracy).
And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep
When you start with Quant, tell yourself you will complete one round of 34 questions in the first 35 to 40 minutes. Whenever you get stuck in a question, skip it. Remember, you have many questions to answer; in all likelihood, the topics you know and the questions that you find easy would come at a later part of the question paper.
Your SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for Quant section should be as follows:
- Complete one round of visiting all questions in the first 40 minutes.
- In this first round, attempt those questions which are easy. These are questions that can be solved in under 1.5 to 2 minutes. Questions for which you know the formulae to answer also fall in this bracket.
- These questions need not necessarily from the topics you are very strong at. So, choose these questions wisely.
- Save the questions that are in the difficulty level of medium to hard for the second round.
Make this your SoP (Statement of Purpose) when you attempt your mock. With a couple of iterations, you should be at a great place. Of course, this comes with experience.
You have to get slapped on your face with the reality that this does not come easily. However, once you get the hang of attempting questions in the fashion mentioned above, you will see your Quant score increasing incrementally to exponentially.
2) Answering 34 questions in VARC
Quite often, I hear from several CAT aspirants telling me they are not able to attend all the 34 questions in VARC. They also lament about the fact that this keeps happening in almost all mocks.
The simple, honest, direct answer to this is: “You DON’T attempt all questions in VARC. The rule obviously applies to two other sections, so why should it be true in the case of VARC as well? At least, you DO NOT HAVE TO attempt all the questions in VARC.”
Case in point
I attempted around 25-26 questions in VARC in CAT 2019, and got around 23 right. This fetched me a 99.2 percentile in the section. Of course, it does not mean you should not aim to push towards 99.9 percentile. But the point is that just because you attempt all questions, it does not translate to a great score or a percentile.
Another caveat to take into account is the fact that CAT 2019 VARC was definitely tougher than its predecessors. So the ballpark attempts and percentiles need not be true for, let’s say, CAT 2018.
3) The elimination conundrum
Getting confused between the last two options in VARC is quite a bit of an irritation. And, this is commonplace. There is no one fixed way to go about rectifying this problem.
There are two kinds of questions in VARC:
- Those where two answer choices can be eliminated easily. Out of the remaining two, one can be found to be wrong or out of scope of the passage.
- Those where out of the two answer choices, both are closest to the correct answer, out of which is one is NOT THE BEST answer choice.
The battle within, and how to overcome it
Sometimes, there is a constant confusion that keeps ringing within your head. This is not because you left a question and moved on. On the contrary, this is because you CHOSE TO answer a question. The thought, “Maybe, it was option B; I chose option C. Would I be wrong?” keeps hitting you consciously, even as you try to focus on the next question.
This is true with all CAT aspirants. That is exactly how human brain works. The easiest and probably the best way to overcome this constant pressure in the back of your head is by going to the question. I can hear you scream, “What… Seriously?” Wait for it.
Go to that particular question, UNMARK the answer choice, mark the question for review and proceed. Trust me, this saves a lot of mental pressure and precious time during the examination. This comes in handy for mocks as well. After all, mocks are the preface to the actual CAT, right?
4) Answering more DILR sets in mocks
DILR and RC have one thing in common. These are chunks of questions, as against the individual, stand-alone questions of VA and Quant.
This peculiar nature of DILR means that taking the scores one notch higher requires two components.
- Preparing hard and getting familiar with the various types of puzzles and question sets
- Knowing which set to choose, and which not to
Maximizing resources for optimal results
Getting 4 sets fully right is a huge challenge in CAT DILR. If it were easy, what is the need for a competitive examination, right?
For starters, if you are able to get two sets right, get them right. Make sure you are flawless in those eight questions. How this should look like in a mock CAT setup is that, you should solve that one puzzle set even if takes 20 minutes (or 30). The same applies for the second puzzle.
Stating the obvious
If you get to complete two sets in 40 minutes, by choosing the right puzzles, give yourself a pat. You are at a good place. Now, do not loiter from one question to another out of the remaining six sets. Make sure you get one set and even if you solve two questions there and get both right, you have gotten 2.5 sets with you. That is 30 marks already.
This will slowly move ahead to 36 and 48 marks over the course of several mocks. You have to trust this process and give it the time it deserves.
5) Mocks and actual CAT performance
The worry about the mock scores gets amplified when it is extrapolated to the actual CAT results. Aspirants tend to get bogged down, thinking, “I am scoring 80 now. How can I score 180 in the mock? It is not even close.”
You still have 85 days. Three months is enough time for a patient with an open-heart surgery to get back to routine with all fervor. CAT preparation is definitely not close to a surgery.
Forget others. You are all you have got.
There are going to be those people who score phenomenally in the mock that is tough. Then, there are others who are able to score well because this is the fourth or fifth attempt for them. Quite a few others also score because of sheer practice and hardwork. Do not compare yourself with anybody else.
If you score the percentile you need and convert an interview call, you will have no time to even think about who scored what in which mock or in the actual CAT, for that matter.
The importance of teaching
Teaching and clearing doubts of others helps you indescribably in terms of your CAT exam preparation. Be it a mock or a sample question from the question bank or any rudimentary doubt, clarifying it for others will only strengthen your preparation.
Even if there is nobody to teach, just imagine that you have someone to teach and start explaining the concepts. You will be surprised at the level of understanding you have on that particular topic. Needless to say, this will work wonders in the successive mocks you take.
Stay safe, register early, and best wishes for CAT 2020!