Mocks and strategies

In the mocks that I took recently, I've ended up with single digit scores in QA, DILR or VARC in different mocks, though I would have performed decently in the other two sections. Also, I manage to clear the cutoffs in only one or two sections maximum, any two among the above three ( it's not like I clear only, say DILR and VARC, in all papers. There is no set trend) 
As a result, I do not know where my weak areas lie, and I feel very demotivated looking at my single digit score in a particular section. Any suggestions on the direction my prep should take?

6 months ago

2 Answers

Sucharitha Subrahmanyan
2 Answers
Chirag Shukla

Hi, so the fluctuation of mock test scores was a huge problem for me too. Till the very last mock test I took before CAT '18, my scores formed an erratic line graph. But all of that stopped because I completely changed how I took my tests.

Based on the information you have provided and my experiences, here's what's probably going wrong. I am not an expert since I am a CAT '19 aspirant as well, so do refer to other sources as well -

1. You definitely need to work on your accuracy. Assuming that you have an average of 70% accuracy across all three sections, you're getting only around a maximum of 40 questions out of 56 right, which means that out of a potential score of 168 (which would be a 98+%ile score), you are down to about above 100-105 marks, which is around 90-91%ile. Improving your accuracy is the only way to prevent single-digit scores.

There are two things that you need to do to improve your accuracy:

a) In the VA-RC section, aim for a minimum of 80% accuracy. You cannot afford to have anything less than that. For this, reduce your attempts if you must but don't mark an answer (except TITA) unless you're at least 90% certain of the answer. If there is even an iota of doubt in your mind, move on to the next question. Don't sacrifice accuracy for the number of attempts.

b) In the DI-LR and QA section, you cannot aim for anything less than 100% accuracy. My QA is very poor, but in just the last mock that I took, I scored 90%ile simply because I focused on 100% accuracy and achieved just that. Even if you solve 10 questions, ensure that all of the 10 answers you mark are 100% correct. You ought to, since you have 6 minutes per question, which is more than what you'd probably take while solving questions at home.
There is a very good explanation around this concept by Rajesh sir, who's a CAT 100 percentiler and a fantastic CAT coach.

2. Your weak area is the Quantitative Ability section since you have cleared the cut-off in only 67% of the mock tests you have taken. The next area of focus is DI-LR, where you have cleared the cut-off in 75% of the mock tests you have taken. Neither of those two figures is enough to get a 99%ile score in mock tests or CAT 2019. Once again, whether or not you meet the cut-off for a mock test is a function of how accurate you are while solving questions.

Also, 'weak area' doesn't mean you lack (or only lack) concept clarity. It again tracks back to your accuracy and strategy in the section as well. Perhaps your test-taking strategy is not optimal. Perhaps you're attempting seemingly easy questions that turn out to be ridiculously tough, or perhaps you're skipping easy questions too often. Maybe you're spending too much time per question, which is why you're not being able to increase your number of attempts.


Maintain an Excel sheet to track your performance. Right now, the information is right in front of you but you're being unable to process the data to analyse your mock test trends.
Also, I get the feeling that your mock test analysis is not as thorough as it should be since you're more concerned with meeting cut-offs and getting a specific percentile.

Percentiles don't matter! Not in the way you think, at least. I learnt this the hard way. After a series of 70%ile scores and never moving beyond 90%ile, I absolutely gave up on mock tests and would hesitate to even open the TIME or IMS website, let alone sit for a test, take it and analyse it. But I realised that that just cannot be my approach to mock tests.

Listen, mock tests are not a competition. It's a rehearsal. Think of it like this - you are practising for a dance competition, and there are 15,000 of you rehearsing your dance on a single day every week. Let's say, 14,999 of those dancers performed better than you during rehearsals. Now, would you develop a saturnine mood and be upset about why you didn't do better, or would you rather learn from all the mistakes you made, forget how everyone else did, and focus on improving your performance for the D-day?

To reinforce my point, here are some points to remember -

1. There are veterans who take the test with you (including the coaching centre mentors) who score ridiculously high (in the last test I took, someone scored 260 out of 300). These are individuals whose minds are trained to take the CAT in their sleep and crack the exam out of shape. It'll take time to reach their level, so be patient.

2. In the world of mock tests, even a 99th percentile score is not even remotely a guarantee of a similar performance on the D-day. About 20,000 people enrol for mock tests, which is less than 10% of the total number of applicants that register for CAT. Therefore, you cannot extrapolate and say that because I've scored 99%ile in mock tests, my projected score in CAT 2019 will also be the same. I personally know of someone who went from 98%ile in mocks, to 91%ile in CAT 2018. And this individual also had a 97%ile score in CAT 2017. The opposite is also true, sometimes.

Therefore, think of your percentile as a metric to understand where you need to improve. That's it. Don't overthink it.

A last important point to understand is that you must never take a mock test before analysing the previous one. Analysis takes about 3-6 hours (some even take 10 hours), but this is the real extraction of value from mocks. Note down shortcuts, note down mistakes (even the silly ones), note down specific formulae you might have missed, and solve the entire section in which you scored the lowest, without a timer.

Spend 3 hours on Saturday to take a test, spend 3-4 hours on Sunday to analyse it, and the same day, start focusing on the areas that emerged as your weaknesses.

I hope this helps! If you're looking for detailed information around mock test analysis, this guide should help.

6 months ago

2 Votes

  • Sucharitha Subrahmanyan

    Thank you for this! I'll definitely rethink my strategy and prep pattern :)

My overall percentile has ranged around 89-90, with 93 bring the highest. Sectional accuracy around 70%.
VARC- around 26 attempts, DILR- 10-16, QA- 10-14
I cleared VARC cutoffs in 10 out of 12 mocks, DILR 9/12, QA 8/12.

6 months ago

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