When I was preparing for CAT 2017, I faced a similar issue. I always scored between 100-120 (raw) and after a point was unable to push the score up. So, in this post, I'll share what I did, taking an example of the Quantitative Aptitude section. One month before the CAT exam, I was scoring 150-180 marks.
Score or Percentile?
First things first, let me share that marks are not a reliable measure to track to evaluate your performance in the CAT exam. I used two mock test series during my preparation - AIMCAT and Career Launcher. I often scored 120 marks in an AIMCAT and 150 marks in a CL mock and landed a 99 percentile in each case.
The percentile depends on difficulty level of the mock. So. if you're tracking mock scores alone, they might not show you the real picture.
How to Cross the 99 Mark?
Having said that, if you feel your percentile is stuck at any particular number, especially between 95-99, here's a good news - you can increase it with slightly more strategic effort before your next mock.
Before you start strategizing, you need to pick one section in which you performed the least impressively in your last couple of mocks. I often used sectional percentile to arrive at that section.
Why to work on one section?
Focusing on one section at a time helps you measure your progress after a mock. Sectional balance is important, most IIMs have sectional cut-offs. Moreover, your weakest section will have the most scope of improvement which in-turn which fetch you more marks.
Once you have that weak section pointed out, the next step is to check the following:
Attempt Rate - How many questions do you attempt in that section on an average?
Accuracy Rate - How many questions do you get correct in that section on an average?
I. Improving Attempt Rate
Now, if your attempt rate happens to be low (and we will discuss ahead what's low), then you need to stop right there. Irrespective of how your accuracy rate is, you need to work on your attempt rate first.
I used to consider <28 questions in VARC, <20 questions in DILR and <25 questions in QA as a low attempt rate. If you're attempting significantly lower than these numbers, then you need to improve your attempt rate.
Depending on your weak section, you can refer to the following:
VARC: To improve attempts, the best strategy is to focus on RCs and attempt them first. Reading speed goes a long way in increasing attempts. You can read the complete VARC attempt strategy here.
DILR: For DILR, one of the IIM-A converts once shared a strategy which called for attempting the sets after due selection. You can read her advice on DILR attempt strategy here.
QA: I was particularly weak at QA, so I had to search a lot for the right strategy to attempt more questions. That is when I figured that most toppers use a technique called Rounds. You can read about the Rounds Technique.
II. Improving Accuracy Rate
Once your attempt rate improves, consider the battle to be half won (actually, more than half). Now, all you need to do is to get the questions right.
First of all, for your weaker section, check what the important topics are and start with them. I'm listing down the major topics basis their order of importance in each section:
All Charts, Graphs
Now, whichever section you're working on for the next mock, check against each topic what your performance in that mock (and in the previous mocks) is. Basis whichever topic you're missing questions from or getting them wrong, spend the time till the next mock on the following:
If your basics of that topic are not done yet - solve questions from practice material. If you need an extra resource apart from your study material, I'd recommend Arun Sharma's books.
If your basics are done but concepts still not clear - then you should try solving the sectional and topic-wise tests offered by coaching institutes. If you don't have any, use these free sectional tests.
If your concepts are clear yet you're making mistakes - the reason could be that you're not able to recall the formula or apply it correctly during the mock. In that case, revise your formula book.
From 80 to 95%ile in QA
On an average, I used to score around 80-85 percentile in the QA section, which was my weakness. There were some lows around 65-70 here and there, but I knew I could score 85-90 in the finals. I had to push it to 95 at least. So, I analyzed my mocks.
After the analysis, I figured that my attempts averaged 15 questions. This was particularly so because I couldn't see all the questions in the hour given. So, I started using the rounds technique.
The rounds technique took my attempts to 20-22, but I was still not able to cross the 25 mark. Moreover, I often got 8-10 questions wrong. So, the accuracy rate was also poor.
That's when I delved further into the topics - I realized that I was not able to attempt the Geometry questions and was getting the questions on Number System wrong most of the times.
My basics for Geometry were weak, so I started watching Takshzila Shikshak videos on YouTube which certainly helped clear my basics. And for Number System, I started revising the formulas more often.
After that, I made it a point to take topic tests for the topics I was weak in. In my opinion, that helped me a lot.
With this much effort, my scores in this section improved considerably. The accuracy rate was up to 90% and the attempt rate was often around 25 questions.
Eventually, I scored 95 percentile in this section.
So, if you're also facing this issue wherein your marks (or percentile rather) is stuck and you'd want to push it further, try this strategy of analyzing the attempt and accuracy rate of your weakest section.
Hope that helps. If you have any follow-ups or questions, feel free to comment below. Will create a post on your query, if needed.
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