40 Days to go for CAT: using mocks as effective strategy tools
We all know that to perform well in CAT we need to focus on two areas on prep – concept building and test taking. We often hear, "Analyze your performance in the Mocks" and keep wondering what exactly does this mean. Here we look at the areas to look for while writing the tests and how to get the most out of the exercise in terms of prep planning.

 How to Write a Test?

 While there can be several approaches to test-writing in general, in the case of the CAT model (30Q per section to be answered in 70 min) the following is a method that would be more effective for most students:

  1.  Solve the paper in iterations. Try and finish the first iteration in about 40 min. Then go the summary screen and click on the "view unattempted" tab. Since you know that you need to reach the 30th question by the end of 40 min, you tend to keep the pace high. Therefore, you do not get stuck on any question for long, skip the difficult questions and thereby solve the easiest questions first. 
  2. As long as you stick to the idea of completing the first iteration within 40 min, it doesn't really make much difference whether you do DI first or Quant first. Similarly the exact order of RC, VA and LR would not make a lot of difference. 

Common problems related to test analysis

 A lot of students approach us with questions regarding how to analyse performance in the mocks, what areas to look for and how to convert them into action items. Here are a few frequently observed issues and the possible reasons: 

Too many fluctuations in your score: This could happen because you have been undertaking unwarranted/not well thought out experiments with your strategy, have been writing mocks when you are tired or not in a position to concentrate, there are undue disturbances around you while you are writing a test etc., you rely on your accuracy in the language section which seems to fluctuate at will etc.

 You get stuck midway into the questions: Sometimes we tend to vaguely remember the concepts we had studied and get stuck while solving the questions. You need to solve questions to be able to apply them. Merely having seen a solution/concept is not sufficient. At times it may happen simply because you are unable to figure a necessary condition/equation from the question.

 Inability to increase attempts: Question Selection. Try the following – Look for questions that you left during the test because you were not sure of your answers and see how often you tend to be right. This will help you decide if you are being overly cautios and can afford to take a few chances. 

Too many incorrect answers in the tests (lower than 80% accuracy in general): This could happen for a variety of reasons including not having read the question carefully, misinterpreting it or marking wrong answer choices, a tendency to mark answers without getting an exact answer (as a rule of thumb if you are not getting an exact same answer unless the question itself is asking for approximate values, you need to review your solution), not having understood the concepts or overlooking certain cases/perspectives in your solution, a tendency to get over stressed during the test and hurrying through the questions. Identify your reason – the solution is obvious.

 Stagnent percentile scores: This could be because you have forgotten the concepts from chapters you solved a long time back or because you have stopped learning in general. Solving study material is slightly different from learning in the sense that you can very well be solving the study material without actually learning. Therefore it is suggested that you keep preparing notes on how to solve a particular problem type (frame rules) and then update them as you learn the nuances/exceptions to them. It is all right to make mistakes in your tests. Just that do not repeat them. 

Area wise suggestions for analysing your performance:

  1. Verbal Ability: You will often find that you are able to eliminate 2 of the 4 answer choices. And then get the question wrong. Please understand that the answers in the language section are as clear and logical as any other section. You need to master the concepts by going through the solutions and closely observing how the answers have been arived at. Prepare your own rules as you go through the solutions and tweak them every time you see an excetion. 
  2. Quantitative ability: Look for topics/areas you tend to make more mistakes in. This will help you decide the questions in a test where you need to vary your approach, for e.g. Going slow with reading a question (typically arithmetic), looking for the value of the variables (numbers), calculation mistakes (geometry), comfort level with math (algebra) and various possible scenarios (modern math).
  3.  Data Interpretation:
  4.  The first thing that you need to observe is your familiarity with percentages, ratios and calculations (speed and mistakes)
  5.  DI can broadly be divided into data intensive DI and logical reasoning based DI. Which type are you more comfortable with? 
  6. Your ability to handle complicated data representations increases with practice. 
  7. Logical Reasoning: Look for your comfort level with various types of LR questions and see if you need to revise your concepts in them. 
  8. Reading Comprehension:
  9.  Often we get the question wrong in RCs because we go by the option that seems familiar to us from the set. Look for the cases where you get a question wrong because of a part of the statement having been changed.
  10.  Having an idea of the types of RCs you are comfortable with and NOT comfortable with helps. If you are comfortable with RCs in general but struggle with lets say Philosophy based sets, it would be a good idea to read a book on Philosophy. 
  11. Similarly look for question types that bother you (fact based verses inferential). If you are not comfortable with Inference based questions, you should go slow with these questions. Read the relevant para one more time before marking an answer.
  12.  In the end, strategy or planning is only as useful as the committment to implementation. Have a plan. Follow it through.   
  13. Wishing you all the very best for your CAT and other exams.