How many mock tests should I attempt for CAT 2019?
I have seen videos on InsideIIM and others where CAT toppers say that they have taken 50+ mocks. How many mock tests should I target to score well in CAT?
Also, if you have any tips for mock test analysis, please share.
Well, it is not the number of mock tests that you take but how you analyse each mock test. CAT toppers have taken 50 mock tests and spent 150 hours doing just that, but they've also spent 200+ hours on analysing those mock tests, which is how they've reached where they are right now. It is not a 'fact' that taking more mocks increases your chances of cracking CAT.
I am no expert because I have only scored a maximum of 91%ile in CAT 2018, but there are some similar 'facts' around CAT mock tests that I have realised are really myths that I would like to share with you:
Your mock test percentile is a true reflection of what will happen in CAT
Not true. Only seldom did I score above 90%ile in all of my AIMCATs, and usually my percentile range was 80-85 percentile, majorly due to DI-LR. I scored 91%ile in CAT 2018, which was not a desirable score but was much more than what I expected with my level of preparation. There are countless other examples, such as mock test 99%ilers scoring below 95%ile in the real test, and 90%ilers pushing their score beyond the 98%ile mark. I know of one person whose score went down from 98%ile in CAT 2017 to 91%ile in CAT 2018.
Mock tests are not mystic balls, and test-makers are not prescient. They cannot predict what your score will be but instead, aim to help you maximise your scores during the CAT exam. This is why the biggest CAT coaches always recommend that you take your mock test scores with a pinch of salt, rather than spiral into anxiety.
The more mock tests you take, the better your chances of cracking CAT
This is a partial truth. The complete truth is that the more mock tests you take and analyse, the better your chances of cracking CAT. 'Mock test analysis' is thrown around quite often, but rarely does anyone understand what it really means. It is not just sitting and repenting your mistakes, and holding your breath when you realise you made a silly mistake, or indulging in self-deprecating thoughts and undermining your intelligence. It is about sitting down, creating a process, and following that process to improve your preparation. One example of this is Excel sheets.
For CAT 2019, I have created three Google Sheets (one for each section), and in just three mock tests, I have seen a big difference in how I take tests and analyse them. My weak areas are now very clear to me, and I have almost confirmed where my strengths lie. Each mock test has an overall and in-depth performance analysis. It is not dissimilar to rehearsing and re-rehearsing a speech that is to be given in front of a large crowd. Any mistakes that surface need to be eliminated in the rehearsal round itself, and not during the actual event.
Excel sheets have also allowed me to take important notes, pin-point the exact mistake made per question (too much time taken, lack of conceptual clarity, calculation error, etc.), and analyse my strong and weak areas per section. Currently, I am focusing majorly on QA, since my VA-RC and DI-LR are relatively stronger, and my QA performance (especially accuracy) has tremendously improved!
Mock tests are important, but the analysis is so much more important. Spend 3-4 hours to analyse your weakest section, and an hour to analyse your strongest sections. Weak sections are those below 80%ile, and strong sections are those above 95%ile (at least for me).
You can't start taking mock tests till your syllabus isn't complete
This is a mentality that board exams have instilled in us, and it is difficult to shake-off and unlearn. We are so used to memorising an entire Organic chemistry book and regurgitating it in the actual exam, that we have forgotten (or rather, never learned) to learn from mistakes. When you take mock tests, you may not have completed your syllabus. However, test-makers make it a point to give out video solutions that clearly explain the concept, the formulae used, and mistakes to avoid. Essentially, the solution to each question turns into a lecture in itself, and you learn through that!
I maintain a note-book where I take down important shortcuts and formulae that I have learned from mocks, and trust me, each mock is a goldmine. Just start taking tests, keep solving questions apart from mocks, and you'll see the benefits of it.
For mock tests analysis, there are some excellent resources on InsideIIM, such this article on How CAT 99%ilers Analyse Mock Tests - A Compilation.
In fact, you can join this webinar with Rajesh Balasubramanian - a four-time CAT 100 percentiler and the CEO of 2iim - for some amazing tips on mock test analysis for CAT.
All the best! Hope this helped.