Mock tests – the words that every aspirant should have started uttering very often on a daily basis. One of the most important part in preparing for CAT is taking sufficiently adequate number of mock tests. However, as the name suggests, ‘mocks’ could be tricky. They could keep mocking at you as you score low OR mislead you with a low score – high percentile combination.
Here are three things to keep in mind definitely while attempting each and every mock test; some of these are applicable for the first few tests, while the others are general guidelines that one should always hold sacred. Irrespective of your level of preparation and confidence, most of the following will/must ring true.
1) Make sure you take plenty of mock tests
This is the first and foremost rule of thumb. You CANNOT rest in peace just after taking two or three mocks. If the results are coming good, you need to see if the succeeding mocks are equally optimistic. If the results are not as per expectations, mocks are a good way to do a SWOT analysis. Either ways, take a lot of mocks. I would not dare to give out a representative number, but anywhere between 30 to 40 it a good number.
2) Take mock tests as seriously as possible
Mimic exam setting well.
I know of people who pause mocks, take breaks during mocks, etc. Trust me, those mock tests are the worst possible means to measure the effectiveness of your prep.
- No breaks. Writing a 3-hour mock at a stretch vis-a-vis taking breaks and writing them would clearly provide different results. You are taking mocks to measure your progress, not to feel moral comfort over your scores.
- Perfect set-up. Everything from table-chair, filled water bottle, an environment that provides unwavering focus, etc. fall here.
3) Focus on building intensity
Make sure you reduce your concentration lapses as possible. Very often, we forget the intensity-building aspect of mock CATs. It just becomes a routine exercise because you are chalking up the numbers. Most students have 2 spells of 7-9 minutes where nothing gets done. You need to beat this down aggressively.
4) Analyze to death
Do not analyze percentile trends or some such artificial nonsense.
You should be able to answer the following questions after each and every mock.
- How many errors are from guesses, how many from ‘silly errors’ and how many from being caught out by the question. More importantly, how many errors were due to fatigue.
- What are my ‘strong’ topics/question types. How come I am making mistakes in these?
- Identify 3 questions in each section where you spent too much time on and improve question selection.
- Am I selecting the right questions
- How many questions that have been ‘skipped’ were doable?
5) Try out different strategies
The mock CAT series is to find a pattern that works for you. With the exam being online, going sequentially is the only strategy to approach. However, one needs to know how to prioritize RC passages, Sentence Rearrangements, “Central Theme” questions. Have a broad outline for yourself, and try out different strategies during various mocks to get a sense of what your strengths are.
1) Don’t take the percentile scores seriously
The percentile you got in the third mock CAT of a particular mock test series counts for pish tosh. So, chuck that.
This percentile is one of the most misleading statistic around. Very often, students get into a false comfort zone if the percentiles are going in the right direction.
There is no single mock test provider in the country who has managed to mimic CAT well. So, if you are doing better and better at Test Series A, chances are that you have cracked that series well. Go and try a few in Series B and C. The number of students who consistently score 99th percentile in a test series and find themselves in no man’s land when the actual CAT comes along is very high.
2) Do not depend on only one provider for CAT mock tests
Mix it up. Don’t fall into a comfort zone with one style of questioning. Make sure you are tested under a different setting. Friends can even pool together and get an ID from different mock test providers. This will help in getting a sense of variation in terms of question types and difficulty levels.
3) Do not take 2 mock CATs in a day in order to increase your mock test count
It is meaningless to take mock CATs when you are tired.
And you are definitely kidding yourself if you have taken a mock CAT, analyzed it and are not tired at the end of it.
Mocks have the capability to make or break a year’s CAT attempt. Don’t take mocks lightly, give them the respect they deserve, and definitely give about 30 mocks from now until the exam. All the best for your CAT!
Rajesh Balasubramanian takes the CAT every year and is a 4-time CAT 100 percentiler. He likes few things more than teaching Math and insists to this day that he is a better teacher than exam-taker.