How to Analyze Mock CATs to Improve your Scores and Percentile?

Saturday, September 29th, 2018

A large number of CAT aspirants try their hand at anywhere from 5 to 50 mocks before the actual exam. However, a lot of them do not realize the fact that what matters is not the number of mocks that you take but what you learn from it. Analyzing a mock CAT is perhaps even more important than taking a mock CAT because that is where you learn and improve your scores and percentile. In this post, we will discuss some of the rules that you should keep in mind while doing mock CAT analysis.

Rule 1 of Mock CAT Analysis – Focus on the number of errors made

A much better thing to look at instead of scores and percentiles is the number of errors made.

In Quantitative Aptitude, a number of questions that you answered incorrectly in a mock CAT should be 1 or 2.

In Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation, a number of questions that you answered incorrectly in a mock CAT should be 1 or 2.

In Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension, a number of questions that you answered incorrectly in a mock CAT should be < 20% of the questions you attempted. This does not include Parajumbles / Jumbled Paragraph questions.

The reasoning behind the above data is actually quite simple. If you are making more than 1 or 2 mistakes in the Quant / LR DI sections, clearly you are attempting more than you should. With the new Type-In-The-Answer type of questions, it is still possible that you make some errors but it is really difficult to do that in Quant / LR DI sections. Most probably you won’t be to solve a question and if you do, it is unlikely that your answer would be incorrect. A lot of CAT   aspirants unnecessarily guess and input/mark answers that they are not sure of because they think about ROI a lot. It is quite common to feel that if you have invested 3 minutes to solve a question, leaving it would be a waste. That is the wrong approach. Please do not make it an ego issue. Cut your losses and move on as soon as you realize you are not able to solve a question.

As far as the Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension section is concerned, it is quite understandable if two options look really close to you. You mark one of them and it turns out to be incorrect. That is the reason I believe that a CAT aspirant should be a little lenient when evaluation errors in this section. Having said that, I would like to reiterate that you should not attempt a question based purely on ROI. If you are not able to decide between two options it is best to leave it. It shows that you have not understood the question properly and the chances of getting it right are not 50% but much lower than that. Once you analyze your mocks, you will often come across questions where you were 100% sure of the correct option but it still turned out to be wrong. So, if that is the case when you are 100% sure think about what will happen when you are 100% sure.

Rule 2 of Mock CAT Analysis – Look beyond scores and percentiles

Scores and percentiles are vanity metrics. They might make you feel good about yourself or they might make you feel bad about yourself but that is where it ends. They do not offer any actionable insights. I have often seen CAT aspirants who just keep attempting mock after mock and see how their scores and percentiles are moving. When I have a conversation with them, they give me this data and my one-word response to them is “So?”. The smart ones realize their mistake then and look deeper into the data. I suggest you do the same to look beyond scores and percentiles in mock CATs. Scores and percentiles in itself do not have much meaning but what got you there – that is what you should be looking at.

Rule 3 of Mock CAT Analysis – Attempt the entire paper again

An average CAT aspirant is able to look at 50-60 questions properly in the allocated 3 hours of a mock CAT. This way, they miss out on a large number of good questions. I suggest all our students to re-attempt the entire paper without the pressure of time including the questions they got right the first time around.

It should not take too long because you would already know a majority of the paper but this would give you a good insight into the various kind of questions that were asked. Before you try your hand at Rule 4 given below, it is important that you follow this one. Ideally, this should be done within 48 hours of attempting the actual mock.

Rule 4 of Mock CAT Analysis – Analyze your question, set, passage selection

This is perhaps the most important rule of Mock CAT analysis.

Once you have gone through the entire Mock CAT again, you should try and evaluate your performance on these parameters.

1. Did I attempt the correct questions in Quant?
2. Did I pick the right sets in LR/DI?
3. Did I pick the right passages in RC?

The goal of this exercise is to make you better at question selection. Please understand that you do not need to attempt all questions to do well in CAT but you need to attempt all easy questions if you wish to beat the competition. More often than not, CAT aspirants get stuck in a question and waste precious minutes on it before moving on. This has become even more frequent in the Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation section over the last two years. In CAT 2016 and in CAT 2017, if you attempted 3 sets correctly you would have scored a 90%ile in the section and that would mean you would have cleared the sectional cutoff for most of the top Business schools in the country. The difficulty level of LR-DI section was a lot higher than Quant or VA-RC in CAT 2016 and CAT 2017 but even then, the LR-DI section had couple of easy sets. Doing those and perhaps one medium difficulty level set would have taken you over the dreaded cutoff. Sadly, majority of CAT aspirants were not able to do that because they were not able to pick the right sets. Please understand you will not be able to do that magically on the exam day unless you practice it before hand. So, analysis of the questions / sets / passages that you have picked becomes even more important if the paper is on the harder side.

Rule 5 of Mock CAT Analysis – Identify the strategy that works best for you

Let me begin by saying, there is no right way to attempt a mock CAT or even the actual exam. However, there might be a way that is right for you and you need to work to identify that path. Experimenting with mock CATs and analyzing them is probably the best way to do the same. Here is a strategy that I would recommend to most CAT aspirants. It might not work for you but there is no harm in trying it out and I would suggest that you give this a shot in the next couple of mocks.

Quantitative Aptitude – Attempt this section in two rounds. In round 1, if you see a question and you know the concept behind it or if you have solved a similar question before, attempt it then and there. These sort of questions should, ideally, take 1-2 minutes to solve. During round 1, if you encounter a question that you have a rough idea about but you also know that it would be time-consuming, mark it for review. Solve these ‘marked questions’ in round 2. This way, you will be able to go through all the questions in the section and you would not miss out on an easy question.

Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation – Very similar to what we discussed for Quantitative Aptitude section but in the LR-DI section, please take a call on whether you should attempt a set or not in roughly two minutes. If you think it is on the easier side, attempt it and solve it in 10 minutes. If not, make a mental note of its difficult level. I suggest you name the difficulty levels as – medium, hard, and crazy. ‘Crazy’ is something you would not even look at again. You should try with medium / hard after you are done with the easy sets. Often, your categorization would be wrong but it will get better. It will be difficult at first but if you are able to master it, you will be able to crack the LR-DI section with ease.

Reading Comprehension and Verbal Ability – Attempt as many passages as you can in the first 40 minutes. No need to mark anything in the VA-RC section, just attempt anything that you consider ‘doable’. More often than not, you would have gone through all passages in the first 40 minutes. If not, perhaps you can allocate another 10 minutes to it and then move on to the verbal ability part.

I understand that the above suggestions might not work for you but give them a shot. Analyze the mocks after you have implemented these suggestions. If your performance improves, stick to it. If not, figure out your own strategy. It is good to be flexible but it is not wise to walk into the examination hall without having any idea about how you are going to attempt the paper.

Rule 6 of Mock CAT Analysis – Figure out the number of mocks you need

There is no right number of mocks but every mock that you attempt should be with some agenda in mind and mind you – the agenda should not be to attempt more mocks.

Here are some guidelines:

1. If you have taken 0 mocks till now – attempt 5 before the exam
2. If your average percentile / median percentile is less than 80 – attempt 5 mocks before the exam
3. If your average percentile / median percentile is between 80 and 95 – attempt 2 mocks a week
4. If your average percentile / median percentile is more than 95 – attempt mocks and analyze them all the time. Just allocate two days a week to other stuff.

Rule 7 of Mock CAT Analysis – Identify your weak areas

This rule is especially important for those CAT aspirants who are not doing so well in mock CATs. Please remember a mock CAT is a test and much like a medical test – it is supposed to identify the problem you are facing. It is not a solution to the problem. It is not a treatment.

With that ideology, you should analyze your mocks to identify the weak areas. Figure out if you are consistently making mistakes in questions based on Similar Triangles. Once you are done analyzing two / three mocks, you should know if you are never able to solve Logical Reasoning questions based on an arrangement. Once you have identified your weak area, work on it before your next mock CAT and the next one after that. Hopefully, you would improve in that period. Identify the problem is only the first step and analyzing mock CATs can put you on the right path with the correct first step.

Rule 8 of Mock CAT Analysis – Check if you are slipping in your strong areas

This is not as important as Rule 7 but it is something that should be on your mind while analyzing a particular mock CAT. Suppose you have always been good in Parajumbles but over the last two mocks, you got most of the questions wrong.

Is this happening because you are getting complacent?

Is this happening because you are not giving those questions enough time?

Is this happening because you are attempting those questions towards the end when you are tired?

A thorough mock CAT analysis would make you capable of answering the above questions and hopefully will guide you on the right path so that you can stop the slippage.

Rule 9 of Mock CAT Analysis – Plan your next mock

This rule is essentially a summary of all of the rules given above. After a mock CAT analysis you should be absolutely clear about not only what strategy you are going to use in the next mock CAT but also with what you are going to do in the time period before the next mock CAT.

Please keep in mind that the goal of the entire analysis is not to make useless PPTs and fancy excels (you will have your 3rd Semester of MBA for that) but to get actionable points. I highly recommend that after you are done with a mock CAT analysis, send yourself an email with at least three key things that you learnt from the analysis. Forcing yourself to write those three things can do wonders. Just writing down your goals significantly increases your chances of achieving them.

Okay! I agree I am pushing my luck with this one. When I started writing this post I thought I would go with a post title that sounds similar to Lucky Number Slevin but I overshot that number and at the risk of sounding like Nigel Tufnel, 10 is maximum and better than 9.

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