5-Step-Process to follow in a CAT Mock (For best results, repeat at least 5 times)
There are just 15 weeks to go for CAT 2019.
Additionally, for a student in Delhi University, the next few weeks will also see placements kick off in most colleges and students across years will get busy with CV building and preparation for interviews, guess-timates and case studies.
All of this means that there is a heavy premium on a student's time - the need to manage classes, Project-work, Society / Club activities, Placements and CAT preparation can leave the student gasping for breath. The challenges for a working professional are of a similar nature if not more severe.
The ability to manage time well is as much about setting clear goals for oneself and devising a specific plan of action, as it is about having the discipline and diligence to execute such plans. At this juncture, it is critical to manage the Mock-taking process in a manner that ensures that the student copes with the exam-pattern (varying difficulty levels and new question types) and crafts a personalized-strategy that leads to constant improvement in mock scores.
The 5-step process outlined will help a student focus on the critical areas of an aptitude exam such as the CAT and derive the most out of the CAT Mock-taking process:
1. Set clear goals for each mock (like attempts by section or topic, what to leave, time goals etc)
Identify your individual needs
Each student is different so his/her needs would be different. If you need to attempt more questions, a possible goal could be to identify questions from selected topics and attempt them. For those who make too many mistakes, the goal could be to increase accuracy to 90% in identified topics.
Make your goals as specific as you can
The more specific the goal is, the easier it is to measure your performance against the same. Open-ended goals such as “I will increase my attempts in the Quant Section (or even Number Properties)” are difficult to execute and equally hard to analyse. Instead, a precise goal such as “I will attempt 80% of the questions from remainders, factorials and LCM-HCF in the next mock” will allow for a clear plan of action, and also allow easy measurement.
2. Take mocks during actual time slots (9 am to 12 pm & 2.30 pm to 5.30 pm)
Doing well in the CAT is a test of question-selection, maintaining a high level of accuracy and solving problems quickly. It is important to be alert, agile and purposeful (just like a tiger before a kill), and this can be incredibly hard, especially during the afternoon slot. Taking mocks during this time will accustom your mind and allow you to perform to the best of your ability. It goes without saying that once you are aware of your exact slot, take all your mocks then!
3. After a 2 hour break, spend 2-3 hours trying the un-attempted questions
It is important to take a second look at all the questions you left, and attempt them again before seeing the solutions. Doing this not only helps you identify the easy questions that you missed out, but also gives you cause to consider why you did not attempt these. On the other hand, the other unattempted questions that you still find hard should boost your confidence in your ability to leave the tough questions!
4. Next day, check solutions for ALL questions. Compile notes on new methods, tricks and approaches
The key word here is “NEXT DAY” – do not make the cardinal mistake of postponing this step. Your thoughts while writing the test (including your reasons for attempting / leaving questions) and the manner in which you reacted to the difficulty level of the exam or new question types will only stay with you for a day or two. So check the solutions and analyze your performance within a day or two of writing the test!
- Check solutions for each question, whether you got it right or not – there might be a new trick or a better method (that saves time) to be learnt even on questions that you got right.
- Collect all these learnings in a separate notebook (call it your “Book of Tricks” if you will) and also include the basic formulae and common approaches here. Revising these notes before each mock test will ensure that you are better prepared for each new Mock!
5. Measure your goals & key parameters (accuracy, attempt quality) & set newer goals
Analyzing your performance is not rocket science – keep it very simple. However for each metric you track vis-à-vis your performance, there must be a clear way forward.
There are 3 main parameters to measure:
(a) First check the % of questions you attempted (Attempts) at overall Section level and also at Chapter and Topic levels. Topics or Chapters where attempts are high are those that you are confident in. Conversely you are not confident in areas where these are lower. Clearly you need to devote more time on some of the latter areas to understand the concepts better and gain confidence.
(b) Next check your % of questions you got right (Accuracy). One can designate as strong those areas where either both attempt % and accuracy % are high or where attempt % is low but accuracy % is high. On the other hand, if attempt % is high and accuracy % is low, then these are your weak areas and require more practice. Finally, areas where attempt % as well as accuracy % is low must be considered as tough areas that must be the last priority for special attention.
(c) Measure the quality of your attempts by comparing the difficulty level of each question against the time spent on it. Some important points to keep in mind are:
- Be harsh on yourself regarding easy questions on which you spent a lot of time (Include easy questions that failed to attempt to this category!) Most amount of practice time must be devoted to chapters or topics that contain the easy questions (the ones you either did not attempt or took a lot of time to solve). These should also be areas where you set most of your goals for the next Mock Test.
- Tough or medium questions, where you spent over 3 minutes but could not attempt must be clearly identified as a "cautionary" variety – you need to learn to identify these quickly and leave them. As the famous quote goes 'Sometimes attaining the deepest familiarity with a question is our best substitute for actually having the answer'.
- Medium or tough questions where you spent 1-3 minutes, but got wrong are probably areas where you were clearly caught napping. Exercise your judgement here, as the ones that your consider as manageable are the ones where you need to practice a greater variety of problems!
- Look for broad patterns in attempt quality on your weaker areas and try to reason them out – are you consistently spending more time on some topics/chapters because of recent practice work done on them, or because you didn’t choose your questions smartly?
- From all of the above devise clear action points for the next Mock - What kind of questions to attempt and what kind to leave.
Above all be patient! Remember great things are rarely accomplished in a day, so continue to be thorough with your plans and diligent in following due process before, during and after a mock and you will surely see the results!
All the very best!