Although completing portion & practicing a ton of questions constitute the building blocks of CAT prep, it is particularly important for any serious CAT aspirant to take Mock CATs & analyse them to get exam ready. And today’s blog will focus on questions of the kind – When do you start taking Mock CATs, how many Mock CATs do you take, how do you analyse your Mock CATs, etc.
Guidelines for Mock CATs
If you’re only now going to take Mock CATs or have taken just a couple mocks, there are some basic rules and guidelines that will be helpful for you in your CAT Prep journey.
Do not wait to complete the entire portion to start taking mocks.
If you wait to finish your potion to start taking Mock CATs, you will wait till even after CAT is over. Portion completion never happens. Start taking mock tests once you’re done with 50% of the portion.
Moreover, in the exam, you don’t end up looking to attempt 100 questions. So don’t look to prepare for 100 questions to merely start taking mocks.
Start taking Mock CATs today!
You need to take at least 15 to 20 mocks to get comfortable with evaluating different Mock CAT strategies, knowing what to do, what not to do, what works for you, etc. So start taking mock CATs asap!
Don’t take mocks back to back. Focus on analyzing your mocks. Analysis is what helps you improve. And ultimately, improving your score is the objective. So analyze.
Mock CATs are exhausting – Always!
3 years ago, in preparation for CAT 2017 – the director of 2IIM, and four time CAT 100 Percentiler, Rajesh Balasubramanian had taken 2IIM’s Mock test live on YouTube. You can watch it here.
I was the one moderating the session from the background to make sure that everything was running smoothly. What I saw at the end thoroughly surprised me.
He had taken the actual CAT, back then, around 6 times but was still sweating profusely and was thoroughly exhausted at the end of the 3 hours.
That’s what you have to throw into a CAT mock. You WILL feel wasted at the end of it. If you’re not, then you’re missing something.
Percentiles don’t matter
This is one of those things you have to write on a big chart paper and stick it on your wall, and you should look at it every time you start with analyzing a mock test.
Don’t get consumed on this. Percentiles don’t matter. It matters more to find out what mistakes you’ve made and what you should avoid doing in your next mock test – That’s what will help you improve.
The first 3 or 4 Mock CATs are for you to get whacked – get out all the rookie mistakes. Don’t worry if your third mock gets you a 65th percentile. Fix errors, get better. It takes time. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Accuracy over attempts
I cannot say this enough to the CAT taking community. In CAT, accuracy matters so much more than just attempting questions for the sake of it.
14 attempts with 100% accuracy is better than 20 questions with ~80% accuracy
Don’t gamble on MCQ questions – they have negative marking. In the above example, for instance, 20 questions with 80% accuracy mathematically gives you a better score. But if you’re gambling with an 80% accuracy, and get a couple extra questions incorrect, you’re quite possibly going to end up with a lesser score. Don’t do this gamble – It’s just not worth it.
Moreover, if you’re shooting for 14 questions (like in this example) – you have more time per question, thereby giving yourself a better shot at getting the answer correct. In essence, 14 attempts with 100% accuracy is always better than 20 questions with an ~80% accuracy.
When do you start taking Mock CATs? How many tests do you take?
Now. Take a mock test today. Start off as soon as possible. I have mentioned his before and I will say this again – You can start off with taking Mock CATs without having completed the entire portion. In fact, you can even take a mock test if you’re just starting your preparation – just to see where you stand.
So many students crib about lack of motivation for CAT Prep. What better to motivate you than knowing that you can solve 20 of the 100 questions without any prep?
CAT Mock Schedule
You can start off by taking one mock every 1 or 2 weeks in June & July, amp it up to 1 mock a week in August & September, and then take 2 or 3 mocks every week in October & November.
Three basic parts to Mock CATs analysis
You can add layers to your analysis and that comes with experience, but broadly, there are three broad components to Mock CATs Strategy.
Every mock has 100 questions that are of very similar difficulty level to the actual CAT exam. So once you’re done with your Mock test, make sure you have a go at every question individually. Try to solve them without the time constraint.
This process could very well help you pick up a couple of ways to quickly solve certain question templates from some particular topic. There are instances where a student says that they got a question in the CAT exam very similar to our mocks and that it helped them get to the answer quicker. So solve every question and understand how to solve them in the quickest way possible. Even for the ones that you got right.
Question selection – or – question elimination
A very standard advice that we give every student taking Mock tests is this. Be very choosy about which questions you want to attempt. Put this differently – be very liberal in skipping questions – find 3 questions that you attempted in the mock test that you should not have attempted. The same way, find out 3 questions that you should have attempted, that you didn’t get time to attempt.
In short, find 3 questions you should have skipped, but didn’t. Usually, when you do this, you free up enough time to have solved 4 or 5 questions. One more point in this – the questions you should have skipped need not be ones that you got the answer wrong to. Sitting for 9 minutes to solve a PnC question is just not worth it. You could have utilized those 9 minutes in solving 2 questions from TSD or Races.
People tend to look over this. Right after the mock is over, think over a few things – When do you get tired? When does fatigue set in? How energized are you in individual sections? Do you feel mentally drained only in DILR? Or do you feel mentally drained only during the RC part of the CAT exam? Are you performing at the start of every section? Or only toward the end of a section?
Solving questions in the NOW
This sounds like the very obvious thing to say, but it is funny how frequently I’ve heard students say that they thought they had a horrible time solving DILR in the mock, so they let go in the Quant section – But then they end up with a pretty decent score in DILR, but a messed up Quant section because they doubted themselves in the mock.
Don’t get stuck thinking about a question you solved 5 minutes ago. Do not worry about how you screwed up the last 12 minutes of your previous section answering only 1 question. Or worse yet, don’t carry over a bad performance in a section over to the next.
CAT 2019 had an abnormally tough VARC section. This meant that it was hard for everyone – not just for you. So don’t worry if you’re not able to solve the number of questions you usually solve in a mock test. Pick it up and push harder in the next section to cover up your bad performance.
Living with one bad decision
Often times, you get really cocky in a mock, or your ego gets bruised, resulting in you sitting in one question for far too long – and feeling the time pressure after you finish that question. Do not continue carrying the weight of that bad decision. Move on.
How you handle the 20 minutes after a bad decision matters more than the price of that bad decision. That maturity comes only with taking Mock CATs and getting whacked in the first few. Only after you let a bad decision affect your mind set for the next 10 minutes do you realize it’s pointless to do so.
Setting realistic targets for Mock CATs
Every where you go, you get that one bonus point, or a free add-on to something. This point is that add on to your Mock CATs strategy.
Unless you’ve already given the CAT before and you know what you’re doing, or you’ve written similar aptitude exams and gotten killer scores, you’re not going to get a 99.5 percentile in your first mock. Set yourself up for a target that you know you can reach.
Alternatively, if you’ve taken a couple Mock CATs and you’re not getting a score that you think you deserve, then try out this strategy – It will help you get perspective of where exactly you stand.
Ten in each section
It is likely that many of you might be able to cross this right away, even in your first mock, if you’ve decently covered your fundas & you’ve practiced a lot of CAT level questions across the CAT Syllabus.
This is a scenario where you’re looking to answer just 10 questions from each section of your Mock CAT (VARC, DILR, and Quantitative Aptitude). What you’ve to keep in mind is that you need to find those 10 questions that you’re dead certain about the final answer. Meaning, you’re looking at 100% accuracy.
This score is going to get you above the 90th percentile. That’s a good place to start. And every question past 10 is going to be bonus area.
Caveat – Be mentally ready for any of these plans to change when you start the Mock. If a mock test is abnormally difficult, keep in mind that it is probably because the questions are just tougher – which means it’s tougher for everyone, not just you. This means that the score required for a 90th percentile could be lower than 10 in each section. So change your plan accordingly.
Solve CAT 2017, 2018, and 2019 Papers
The CAT, in the last 3 years, has released it’s papers. We have compiled them all in one place and put them as downloadable PDFs. You can check them out here – 2017, 2018, & 2019 CAT Question Paper
Cheers & Best wishes for CAT Preparation.
Article written by Praveen Thankasala – A perpetual mis-match between what I want to do and what I actually do. Aahh.. I’ve got to go sleep again.