3 kinds of CAT Mock-Takers – which one are you???
As a CAT or
MBA aspirant, it is essential that you take stock of your general aptitude as well as current
preparation level for entrances, and adjust your goals and action plans accordingly. This is
especially critical now with just under 16 weeks to go for CAT 2019.
But analyzing mocks and performance can be quite tricky as most students oscillate at extremes when it comes to evaluating themselves. What is more, they fail to understand how their plans and strategies must differ with their score ranges.
At Eptitude, the mentors believe that understanding where you currently stand is a crucial step towards formulating plans and inch closer to ultimately cracking the CAT. Here are three 'broad' categories that Mock Test scores (and by extension students who take them) fall under:
1. THE NOVICE (Score less than 100)
Even as a serious CAT aspirant, don’t be surprised to find yourself in this score category – a majority of test-takers (even those who “prepare seriously”) start and end their journey here. It’s not all gloomy though – the journey into the IIMs for most students invariably begins from here. Your primary weapon to navigate this zone is your motivation and self-belief. Keep yourself focussed on your goals and don’t doubt your abilities; instead place your trust on good old ”hard work” (with a healthy dose of smart-work) to pull you through!
Another misleading thought that regularly occurs in this zone is “I will take the next CAT Mock Test 3 to 4 weeks later; after putting in some time into preparing the basic concept”. With CAT 2019 looming on the horizon (24th November 2019), every week that passes by is now a precious commodity and must be considered unproductive if it does not include a mock test!
What is the real problem: In most cases, the problem is one of question selection. Most students with a score under 100 end up there because of very low accuracy (under 50%) on attempted questions. This results in a high proportion of negative marks, and also dents the confidence of the student. The root cause is the lack of a plan – how many questions to attempt and, more importantly, how to find / choose the ones to attempt.
Immediate Goals: Learn to choose the "right" questions to attempt. Obviously the "right" questions are the ones that are easy! In other words learn to identify the easy questions from each topic and work hard to maintain high levels of accuracy on these attempts.
Are there any easy questions, really? Indeed there are. The problem is actually knowing which ones are easy! Ideally, a problem should be considered easy if one can solve it correctly in under a minute. For a serious aspirant though, “easy” is another word for “familiar”. In other words any question on the mock that you have seen (or a similar one) before, and are confident of solving quickly, must be considered as “easy”.
Now, there are broad patterns on what most students find “easy” as opposed to “medium” or “hard”. But then the opinion of others is hardly of use for you. So think of a topic or question type as “easy” only after solving a large variety of questions of the same type! Remember, each section in the CAT will have at least 5-10 easy questions, so attempting just these questions should guarantee a score around 50-70 and decent sectional percentiles.
Action Plan: Give yourself a 2-3 week window to up-skill yourself (Dont stop taking mocks - just dont stress out over your scores). Focus only on the commonly occurring problem types and try to get comfortable with the concept / approach by practicing many questions on each type. (In the VARC section, it is best to start practicing RCs on a daily basis, while also understanding the kind of questions you mostly make mistakes in. In the QA section, it is best to first concentrate on the common arithmetic problems such as Profit & Loss, Ratios, Averages, Mixtures, Work etc. Likewise in LRDI, make sure you spend as much time solving reasoning sets on arrangements, mapping etc as you do practicing data sets such as pie-charts, bar-graphs etc.)
Avoid focussing all your energy on a perceived ‘Weak‘ section. It is actually a sensible strategy to target a high score in sections that you consider your strength, so be smart and manage your preparation time across all the three sections. Remember, a good percentile in the CAT necessarily requires competence in all sections!
2. THE FIGHTER (Score of 100-140)
The bumpy, tumultuous journey of a Mock CAT Test-series will inadvertently bring you into the zone of “The Fighter”. As the name suggests, only those who put up a fight end up here. Or maybe those here are still here despite putting up a fight!
Like the hallowed “bench” in most IT companies, the fighter zone is where people don’t want to be – but only the select few lucky or genius types manage to avoid passing through this zone. This is where hope meets desperation, composure turns into confusion, and when you least expect it, frustration makes way for accomplishment!
It goes without saying that this is where the real battles are fought. Most 99-percentilers will reminisce about the days when they seemed to be stuck at the brink (the 90% percentile range). Your time here will feel like an eternity; almost like there is no method to this madness called Test-Analysis, with negative thoughts such as "Test Strategy doesn't really work". But successful people will also remind you that perseverance is what pays, and that if you need to put your money on something, it should be on strategy that is consistent!
There is no single problem! In getting to this zone, usually one is way past question selection and weak conceptual knowledge as problems. The issues you face in this zone are more refined and need detailed analyses. For instance, some students will be attempting the right questions (in terms of both the number and difficulty level) but will still be making too many mistakes. In fact “how to avoid making silly mistakes” is the most common dilemma. Others will realize that they just need to attempt more questions but will realize that doing so is very hard. Still others will be struggling to manage time and will rarely do justice to all the questions in a test. The bottom-line is that no two students will face a similar set of problems in this zone.
Immediate Goals: Just as the problems are individual in nature, so too are the goals. Some students need to target an increase in the number of attempts (choose a few topics such as Algebra, Geometry, or Mapping etc. for this purpose); others will try to reduce the number of mistakes (in RC, Paragraph Summaries etc.) while a few others will target a reduction in time spent per question.
So what is the right approach? Don’t you wish there was a magic formula to solve all these seemingly-little problems. The reality is that none of the problems you face here will be easy to identify, let alone solve in entirety. What you need is a strategy that will help you overcome and manage these problems over the course of the exam.
An experienced mentor, who has gone through this process before, can identify your problems, suggest the right metrics, modify your exam strategy to capitalize on your strengths and overcome any weaknesses, besides acting as the devil’s advocate to your thoughts and ideas. Additionally, keep in mind that a winning stategy will only emerge from consistent trial across multiple mocks. Your performance will seem unchanged for the first few mocks despite a good strategy and it will take a few mock tests before you actually start seeing a positive turn. As stated before, consistency is the name of the game here!
3. THE JITTERY PRINCE (Score of 140+)
Once you cross a score of 140 in a mock, chances are that you will be in the 99 percentile bracket. There is plenty of reason to congratulate yourself and the winning strategy that got you here. However, one needs to guard against complacency and must continue to take mocks and analyze them. Remember, success in mocks is often just a fleeting glimpse so don’t get jittery if you fall back into the previous zone. Continue to believe in yourself and your winning formula!
Problems faced: Once you land up in this zone, a big challenge is to repeat the winning performance, which can be tricky. Another common problem faced is the ability to react well to changes in the pattern and / or difficulty levels. Last but not the least, is the problem of overconfidence and complacency, especially if your journey here was a quick one. Most students who score above 140 in their first 3-4 mocks tend to assume that they have what it takes and all they need to do now is sit for the actual exam!
Immediate goals: The most important thing is to have a personal record of your strong and weak areas, with consistent work going into the weaker areas. Make sure you realize what worked for you in terms of attempt strategy and exam tactics. A comprehensive comparison of all mocks, in terms of difficulty levels and specific nuance, will reveal what was needed to score well in each of these. Also called 'exam sense', an awareness of the test difficulty as well as your reactive strategy is important for the exam situation. Lastly, the best way to beat complacency is to continue taking mocks. Any shifts in the score will automatically alert your mind to the dangers of over-confidence and bring you down to reality.
Action plan: Take mocks, but spend plenty of time revising past mocks and revisiting how you could have done better in each. Ensure that you are able to attempt most questions this time around and also that you are able to quickly identify the easy ones from the others. Keep at the process and success will surely find you.
THE FINAL WORD
An objective way of self-evaluation is to ask yourself the simple question: "If all questions in CAT 2019 were from the mocks that you have already given, how many will you be able to solve" In answering this question, anything under 80% attempts or accuracy is a sure sign of lack of motivation, so push yourself harder; And hurry up!
All the very best!!!