How to Use And Analyse your Mock CATs – A Detailed Guide

As you read this, the news that the CAT 2015 exam, is going to be conducted on a single day, would be all over the place.

The significance of CAT getting conducted on a single day can be seen on two counts.

  1. No student will have an advantage over any other student who is writing the exam. At best, students writing in the second slot of the given day would know whether the paper (given in the first slot) was easy or difficult. Even that is suspect as one man’s difficulty could be another man’s strength!
  2. No more normalization (save between two sets of papers ; they can give the same paper in the morning and evening too(theoretically)) issues would plague the student.

I still expect people to ask whether it would be advantageous to write in the first slot or the second slot!!

But, all that for later!

What is of importance at this stage is to use the Mocks that one is writing and get the most out of the same.

Here are some ideas that one can use to improve upon on the performance in the Mocks!

In this article, I am not going to delve on the Test Taking Strategies (which will be coming in the coming week!). This article is to look at Post Mock activities to be done to improve for the next Mock and subsequently for the CAT!

 

Analysis of your Mock Scores

There are two important aspects of your Mock Score Marks : Attempts and Accuracy!

The objective would be to increase both! However, you have to make an analysis of the increase in attempts over a period of three to five mocks. The trend for three to five mocks will give you an idea as to the state of your preparation.

For eg: Here is a small chart/table one can maintain

  SmartCAT1 SmartCAT2 SmartCAT3 SmartCAT4 SmartCAT5
Attempts 40 55 60 64 71
Accuracy (in %age) 50% 55% 58% 61% 57%

*SmartCATs are the Mocks CATs from VistaMind

While the illustration is given for the overall paper, it may be a good idea to have the Attempts and Accuracy percentages measured for Section I, Section II and Overall Test, separately.

Ideally, the trend in each of the sections and overall exam should be increasing.

 

Issues affecting the performance across Mocks

a) Difficulty level of the paper: If an exam is pretty difficulty, then automatically the attempts and perhaps the accuracy will go down.

b) Mood in which the paper is written/given.

c) Change of test taking strategy

d) Your own expectation from yourself : Whenever you write a paper with huge expectations, the result is more often than not contrary to your expectations.

e) Silly errors : Simple calculation mistakes or overlooking a part of the problem/question can reduce your scores by a significant number.

 

Perform Trend Analysis

Divide each section into areas, sub-sections and sub-topics and check the trend in each area, sub-section and sub-topic.

Analysis should be based on the same parameters as the overall test viz., Attempts and Accuracy.

For example : If one were to analyse Section I, then the areas are Quant and DI. Within Quant, you can sub-divide into Arithmetic, Algebra, Number Theory, Geometry, and Pure Math. In turn Arithmetic can be subdivided into the sub-topics such as Rations, Percentages, Profit & Loss, Averages & Mixtures, Time & Work, Time Speed Distance, SICI.

A similar division is required for each of the main areas – Quant, DI, Reasoning & Verbal.

 

Strengths and Weaknesses

From the above trend analysis one can come to know ones real strengths and weakness.

While there is no empirical evidence to prove such and such score is good OR bad, you can categorize your strengths and weaknesses by analyzing your latest FIVE mock scores

Strength: For a topic, if you have attempted around 8 out of 10 questions (say in the latest FIVE Mocks) and have got an accuracy of 75% or more, then you can safely say that that area is your strength.

 

Weakness: For any topic, if you have either not attempted or got less than 50% of accuracy from the number of questions given over the five marks.

All other areas/topics would come under a ‘Grey Area’ where a little more effort can get that topic into a Strength area!

You will notice to your chagrin that the areas you thought were your strengths could actually prove to be your bête noire.

The obvious remedy would be to spend time on the weak areas and improve upon the strong areas.

 

Time Analysis

Immediately post writing the Mock CAT, you are expected to check the following metrics.

  1. Average time spent per questions attempted :

Since we have 170 minutes to solve the paper (assuming no change of pattern) your ideal time spent per question should be 1 min and 42 sec.

However, you would see that if you have attempted only around 60 questions, then you are spending close to 3 minutes for each question attempted.

Over the next 100 days, the time taken for each attempted question should be close to the ideal time!

  1. Average time spent on Correct Questions :

The average time spent on questions that you get correct is always going to be less. Make a note of the time spent on the  total correct questions

  1. Average time spent on Incorrect Questions :

In areas such as Verbal (Grammar) or RC, you will observe that the more time you spend on a question the less likely that it will give you a positive mark!

There is an urge among all of us (call it ego) that we tend to spend time on those questions on which we have already spent considerable time. It appears to be a good proposition that – since you have already spent some time, a little more time would get you the right answer. This reasoning is a flawed reasoning. The time you have spent on a question is a SUNK COST. Don’t waste more time on such questions once the time spent has crossed the average limit you set for yourself.

  1. Average time spent on Questions that are left Unattempted :

The IIMs test your decision-making skills by throwing in some googlies. However, the student keeps trying the question and at the end has to skip the question.

This happens more in Quant and Logical ability questions. Here again, the cutoff time has to be adhered to.

Your ability to quickly decide on skipping a difficult OR lengthy question (s) will make or mar your final score!

 

ACTIVITY Immediately POST MOCK

After checking your marks and the above metrics for the Mock CAT that you have taken, follow the steps given below.

STEP 1 : Figuring out your Potential Score

  1. a) Take the Mock again (Second time) for another ONE hour. Give 30 minutes each to both the sections.
  2. b) Attempt the questions that you have gone wrong in OR if you have more time, attempt the questions that you have previously NOT seen/read during taking the Mock.
  3. c) Strictly stop after ONE hour (30 minutes each section)
  4. d) Check the marks you would have got for the ABOVE ONE HOUR Test.

Your POTENTIAL Score

If you replace worst ONE hour of time that you spent on the FIRST sitting of MOCK with the new marks that you have got for the SECOND sitting, you will find your real potential score in the Mock.

You would see that if you replaced the time spent (one hour) on wrong questions and/or unattempted questions with the time spent the second time around and then calculate your marks, the marks that you get would be your real potential

 

Illustration

  No of Corrects No of Wrongs Un attempted SCORE
First Sitting 35 20 45 85
Worst One hour 2 10 15  
Second Sitting (One hour) 8 7 12  
Replaced scores 41 17 42 106

 

Potential score : Your old score would have improved by at least 20 marks had you been able to choose wisely in the actual exam.

If you start doing the above for TEN Mock CATs then you will also get the knack of choosing the right questions and over a period of time the incremental increase in marks for the extra one-hour would reduce.

 

STEP 2 : Solving all questions

Now solve all the questions that you have made mistakes in OR the ones that you have still not attempted after the second sitting.

For any question, give about 4 to 5 minutes to solve. If you don’t get the answer, then go ahead and see the solution.

Write down the solution/steps in a notebook again so that you would remember the same.

Many students just read through the solution and are happy to understand the solution. But, in due course you will forget that. Make it a point to write the solution or redo the problem after going through the solutions once.

 

STEP 3 : Improving for the next mock

Once the mock analysis is over, it is time to look ahead. You have to improve in at least two topics in Quant and probably One type (PI, BAR, TABLE etc.) of  sets in DI and One type of set in Logical Ability.

Go back to the basics of these topics that you have decided to improve for the next mock

Solve the exercise in those areas and take individual tests in those areas.

For RC and Vocab, continue to spend at least 30 minutes to improve your reading speeds as well as diction.

Take individual sectional tests in Verbal Area and RC area for improving the Verbal section.

 

Plan for the Next Mock

Check the strategy you have used in the previous mock and decided whether you want to continue or change the strategy of attempting the paper for the upcoming mock.

Stick to the new plan and post the exam, do the entire analysis of the Mock as laid out in this article.

 

Happy writing Mock CATs!

 

Join us for our weekly InsideIIM LIVE Chat on this topic at 6.30 pm here

 

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VistaMind Education is based out of Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata and is run by alumni of IIM and who have trained over a lakh students over 15 years.

To subscribe to the various ONLINE LIVE CAT classes or SMARTCAT Tests Series visit cat.vistamind.com

ARKS Srinivas

ARKS Srinivas is an alumnus of IIM Calcutta and has been the All India CAT Director at TIME. He is currently the National Head for MBA Prep at Career Launcher.

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