Mock test analysis is an enigmatic topic of discussion in the CAT aspirants' circle, and the process of sitting down to take mock tests and then analysing them can be quite confusing. Should you finish your syllabus first before even attempting mock tests? What is a good strategy for each section? What is a good number of attempts in each of the CAT 2019 mock tests that you take? Should you focus on the number of attempts or accuracy? Rajesh Balasubramanian, a CAT veteran, a mentor, and a four-time CAT 100 percentiler answers all your questions around CAT 2019 mock tests analysis!
To answer all your queries around mock tests and their analysis, we conducted an hour-long webinar with the CAT master - Rajesh Balasubramanian, who is an IIM Bangalore alumnus and has been taking CAT for around a decade. From the highly insightful webinar, we extracted some of the most important bits of information and strategies that Rajesh had to share with CAT 2019 aspirants, which have been presented here.
Important note - It is recommended that in addition to going through the FAQs, you also watch a recap of the actual webinar with Rajesh to get an even better understanding of the mock test analysis process. Click here to jump to the webinar recapitulation.
Should I finish my syllabus first and then take CAT 2019 mock tests?
There is no such thing as finishing your preparation. Don't defer mock tests. Jump in and take mock tests as soon as possible.
How should I analyse CAT 2019 mock tests?
The value that you can extract from mock tests is from their analyses. Mock test analysis has three major components:
1. Learning component - Every mock gives you something to learn. Mock tests have the best questions with elegant, as well as long-form and brute solutions. To analyse begins analysing mock tests, focus first on the questions you got wrong, followed by the questions that you skipped.
Important tip - Don't delay analysing mock tests as questions won't be fresh in your mind. So don't take a mock test and analyse it weeks later. This is an ineffective and inefficient way of analysing mock tests.
2. Question selection - While taking each mock test, identify three questions that you should compulsorily leave. Have a bad question strategy instead of a good question strategy, i.e., be clear about what you're going to leave and not what you're going to attempt.
Important tip - The most important thing is to become comfortable with leaving questions, which will happen if you have not completed your syllabus and sit to take mock tests. Don't focus too much on your overall and sectional percentile or the sectional cut-offs; none of that matters.
3. Overall Test Analysis - This includes an analysis of your score, which type of questions are you not getting right, what kind of strategy works for you, and a general overall analysis of your mock test.
If you're preparing for CAT 2019, you may also be interested in reading this 100 Day Plan To Crack CAT 2019 by Rajesh Balasubramanian!
What are some other important points to keep in mind while taking CAT 2019 mock tests?
"Taking mock test is not a sprint; it's a marathon."
It is recommended that you keep the following points in mind while taking mock tests:
- Have a well-defined schedule for mock tests. With three months to go for CAT, start taking one mock test per week as soon as possible and amp it up to two or more mocks in the later stages of your preparation. On average, most CAT 99%ilers take 40-50 mock tests before attempting the actual exam.
- Maintain the discipline of taking mock tests. Don't postpone taking your mock tests and just have the resolve to solve at least one mock test every weekend.
How can I know how to attempt the right questions?
You can never know this before you take the test. The best thing to do is to keep your temperament with you. Everyone, including CAT 99%ilers, makes question selection errors. How you recover from such errors is what matters.
Important tip - Sometimes, test-takers will put beguilingly close choices to tempt you to give the right answer. Be very careful in answer selection, and don't simply go for the delicious option.
What should be my strategy for question selection?
There are two popular strategies that students employ while solving tests, and these are:
- Attempt in the order of appearance, i.e., solve questions as they appear and get everything right wherever possible. Whichever question your timer stops on, you stop there. Students who follow this approach break down if they have to leave a question, and therefore try everything. If the test questions are easy, they can sail through the test but if questions are tough, they burn out fast.
- Go through the paper and select questions, i.e., spend approximately 10 minutes analysing the paper. Students spend a lot of time taking a look at each and every question, and may erroneously mark tough questions as easy after a cursory glance.
Neither of these two strategies is a winning strategy. In CAT, question selection has to be dynamic. While attempting the exam or mock tests, make adjustments as required and re-align your strategy and decision making as per the difficulty level of the paper.
Looking for mock test analysis tips? Here is a complete guide on CAT 2019 mock tests analysis by CAT toppers, CAT coaches and experts!
What is a good number of attempts to have in CAT?
The number of reasonable attempts is a function of the paper. If the paper is tough, increase the amount of time per question, even if you reduce your attempts.
My percentile has plateaued and will not move beyond a certain mark. How do I break this barrier?
Percentile improvement is never a straight line, and it can plateau. It's normal to have that. What is important is that you have a clear sense of what works for you, and don't randomly go for speed and increase your number of attempts just to break the percentile barrier.
Important tip - Automate processes, i.e., familiarise yourself with basic concepts and run to the solution the moment you see a question. For instance, for specific questions on, say, right-angle triangles, concepts such as the ratio of sides of 30-60-90, 90-45-45, and 120-30-30 right-angle triangles should pop in your mind.
My CAT 2019 mock tests' scores constantly fluctuate. Why does this happen, and how can I become more consistent?
To prevent volatility in scores, reduce your number of attempts. Your mock test scores fluctuate because you don't have a handle on accuracy. You suddenly want to increase your score, so the obvious decision is to increase your attempts. So it is important to not chase a number of attempts. The moment you chase a number, your accuracy goes for a walk. You are going too fast for yourself. If you have volatile scores, dial down your attempts. Don't be frantic; be quick.
Important tip - Intensity and speed of thought have to come from a place of calmness and not a state of frenzy. Between the test, if you feel pressurised, take 5 seconds off, take a deep breath and jump back into the test. If you don't do this, you are likely to kill your accuracy.
I am constantly scoring low in one section. How do I increase my score?
If you're scoring low in any section, that is because you have not anchored on your strengths. Identify your strengths and harness the advantages you can get from that.
What accuracy percentage should I aim for in the CAT 2019 mock tests and the exam?
Aim for 100% accuracy in DI-LR, QA, and 80+% in VA-RC. You cannot aim for 80% accuracy in the QA and DI-LR section, which implies you intend to get 20% questions wrong. Aim to be completely accurate while solving questions in CAT. When it comes to VA-RC, answering questions can be dicey, so aim for a minimum of 80% accuracy.
You may also be interested in reading - How I Scored 99.3 Percentile In VA-RC Section of CAT 2018, And How You Can Too!
I am constantly scoring below 50%ile. How do I reach the 99th percentile score?
First, don't focus immediately on a plan to get to the 99th percentile score. Aim to get a 70 percentile score first. It is very easy to reach the 70th percentile score, as it is only a function of your strengths. You need to identify your strengths and ensure that you have each question from your strength area in the bag. From there on, tweak your test-taking strategy and amp your percentile upwards.
I am constantly scoring low in the DI-LR section. How do I improve my DI-LR scores?
DI-LR is a fabulously tough section and question selection in this section is also difficult. So, the most important thing is to swiftly recover if you've selected a tough question/set. Don't think of DI-LR as 8 impossibly tough sets. Think of it as solving two puzzles (8 questions) with 100% accuracy, which will fetch you a raw score of 24, which translates to a 90th percentile score.
I am getting single-digit scores in the QA section of my CAT 2019 mock tests. How do I improve my scores?
If your QA preparation is all over the place, narrow your focus and start by improving on Arithmetic, and then move on to other topics in Quant. It is important that you practice as much as you can to reduce the amount of time spent per question. Don't try anything gimmicky. The art of solving is not time-consuming, but the process of finding the right method is time-consuming. Have mental cues for various topics and question types.
How many mock tests should I take?
Target approximately 25-30 mock tests, and take mock tests from at least two providers. Don't take any mock tests in the last 4-5 days to CAT. Also, solve four previous years' CAT questions - CAT 2017 (Slot 1 and Slot 2) and CAT 2018 (Slot 1 and Slot 2).
What is one rule of thumb that I should follow while attempting CAT 2019 mock tests?
When in doubt, leave the question. This is applicable for all the three sections of CAT. Additionally, don't constantly evaluate your performance during mock tests or the actual exam. Just focus on solving questions with high accuracy.
How do I improve my speed in the VA-RC section?
To increase speed in VA-RC, read a lot. Don't read RCs from the point of view of an exam, as the crux of the RC will pass you by. It's similar to evaluating a movie while watching it. Read with genuine interest. The more automatically you can read, the better you get at picking up nuance.
I have very low accuracy while solving RCs. What's going wrong? How do I improve this?
The most likely reason for low accuracy in RC is that you're reading too fast. Read more deliberately and don't be in a rush. Increase your accuracy as much as possible.
Important tip - Try attempting one mock with a ridiculously low number of attempts but 100% accuracy. You will find that your mind will wire itself differently towards errors, and your immediate focus will shift towards a higher accuracy.
How do I stay motivated after a poor mock test result?
Preparing for CAT is more about belief than motivation. Remember, don't set yourself a percentile target. Rather, set yourself effort topics.
Important tip - Switch off from the pressure of getting a particular result. When you switch off from the pressure of a result, motivating yourself becomes easier and discipline comes naturally.
How To Analyse CAT 2019 Mock Tests - Webinar With Rajesh Balasubramanian, CEO of 2iim
Preparing for CAT 2019? Take a look at our Ultimate CAT 2019 Preparation Guide that includes section-wise tips, test-taking strategies, mock test analysis strategies and more by IIM students, CAT 99%ilers and CAT experts!