How to bounce back from the unpredictable blows of mock tests
Mock tests – the words that every aspirant should have started uttering very often on a daily basis. However, as the name suggests, ‘mocks’ could be tricky. They could keep mocking at you as you score low. One day you face a spectacular triumph, and on another, you face a scenario that makes you feel completely baffled. The latter one certainly makes you feel like the world has stopped for the worse.
In this article, we will talk about how do you bounce back and recover from these unpredictable blows of uncertainty that a mock test can lay on you. But before we get to that, let me reiterate the importance of taking a mock test first. If you haven’t taken mocks yet, now is the time to take one. Mocks form a vital part of your preparation. Mocks tell you how to go about staying focused for 3 hours ( or 2 hours ), how to tackle pressure etc. But the real problem lies in getting a bad mock score in your very first mock test itself and pulling yourself together to take another mock.
1) Don’t take the percentiles scores too seriously!
I know, I know, I know it is practically impossible to ignore. So, go ahead, knock yourself out. Check the section-wise percentiles, stare long and hard at the numbers, extrapolate the percentiles from the last 3 mocks and see where they are going, imagine how high your overall percentile would be if only you could produce your best section performances in the same mock, give in to curiosity, triumphalism, and envy by figuring out others’ percentiles. Do all this to get the damn thing out of the system, but then ignore it and focus on something that can be useful.
The percentile you got in the very first mock CAT of a particular mock test series counts for pish tosh. So, chuck that. 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, so don’t take it too seriously.
2) Mocks and learning to learn!
Think of mocks as the process of knowing how to walk, and transitioning that into the skill of running a race, and your cat exam is the actual race.
When you are learning, it is equivalent to watching videos and learning techniques on how to walk, jog, run etc. Practicing lots of questions after learning is equivalent to beginning to walk and jog. While you learn to walk and jog, you are on the right path to running a race. You know how to walk but will fall a few times when you learn how to run. Feeling winded, dehydrated, and tired is natural.
You could have seen tons of explanatory videos on how to walk and run, still, the actual experience of running for the first time is tough. It is very reasonable to fall. If you are afraid of falling, you are never going to get back on your feet, and eventually learn how to run. The same goes for aspirants who hesitate to take more mocks because their bad scores hurt them. You’ve got to pick yourself up, dust yourself, and try again. That’s how you reach great places.
3) ‘The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows’
It may sound brutal, but the earlier you understand this, the faster you can adapt to the reality of mock tests. Mock tests are not designed to ensure that every weekend you feel like the queen ( or king ) of the world. In fact, the exact opposite is true – mock tests are created to ensure that before you actually enter the examination center to appear for actual CAT, you have dealt with the worst of the worst, and have a solid strategy that you know will work for you. So at the end of it all, you can come out as the queen ( or king ) of the world, from the examination center on D-day.
There is no point in getting angry or vehement about the nature of questions of a particular mock test provider. If someone had lamented last year that the VARC section in the mock tests of provider X was highly unsolvable, they would have been pleasantly surprised when their VARC scores in CAT 2019 flew out of the park, while others wept over the level of difficulty of the passages. Your mock test provider is neither your friend nor your foe. And, you are simply giving too much importance to a test whose scores would hardly matter in the long run. The takeaways from that particular test would be obviously staring at your face once you analyze the paper (not right after the test) and understand your SWOT.
4) Your mock test score cannot decide your sense of worth
Once a mock goes bad, there are only two kinds of CAT aspirants (I fall in one of the two kinds, and I am not telling you which one).
i) Those who get false comforts by looking at parameters they know are not useful.
ii) Those who decide CAT is beyond their grasp and they are not “worthy” of cracking CAT.
Neither of these is useful. Confronting the reality that your scores are not upto the mark is important. At the same time, and this is most important, you are NOT “unworthy” of anything. An exam – a mock exam at that – cannot decide your sense of worth. If your last mock went to the south, go ahead and tell yourself you scored bad (with no justifications) but also assert yourself that you will analyse the paper, learn from mistakes, focus more on the weaker areas and improve your accuracy in the stronger ones.
5) Unwind and relax
After sitting a bad exam, it’s fair to say that you will be very stressed and agitated. It’s important to distract yourself. If you prepare extremely hard at a stretch, you run the risk of burning yourself out and perhaps, giving up on preparation altogether. Every time you get a low mock test score and begin to question why you’re doing any of this in the first place, drop your books, order ice creams from Haagen Dazs ( it always works 😛 ), and do whatever relaxes you the most. You deserve some form of fun to get over this mood. So take time out for yourself and when you’re ready, get back to the grind, because there’s a tremendous reward at the finish line.
6) Get refocused
You need to bounce back after a bad exam. Do not step back from your mock regime because you had one or two or three or six or ten bad mocks. It may sound cliche, but remember resigning from taking mock is easy. Bouncing back from the arduous ‘mock blue’ phase and continuing your preparations is not. As Winston Churchill once said, ” Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” If your first mock went to the south, then do not fret too much about it. It’s alright. It happens. Cry if you must but after that pick yourself up and hit back!
Stay positive. Always remember you can, you will, and you must. Best wishes for CAT folks!
Abhishek Mukherjee works for 2IIM. Apart from solving interesting math questions he likes to eat biriyani and watch movies.