Updated: Jul 10
Yogesh Chordia, who has mentored over 10,000 B-School aspirants and students to-date, has taken out his valuable time to share the key strategies to improve mock CAT scores for the CAT'2020 takers who read this blog. Recently, I was being asked this question a lot, "I'm very demotivated by my mock scores, how can I improve them?" Understanding how important mocks are for the CAT exam, I thought it's best to get an expert's take on this matter. In this post, Yogesh has explained how you can improve your mock scores from less than 50 to 100 and take them all the way up to 150+. Hope this post helps you.
In Yogesh's Words:
How to increase scores in Mock tests consistently?
For every CAT aspirant May/June is the ideal time to begin preparation, as it gives them about 6 months to soak themselves completely into preparation. Irrespective of one’s preparedness level, 6 months of focused learning & practice can improve the chances of an individual significantly.
One must ideally spend the first 90-100 days working on their fundamentals in each topic while solving problems and taking several topic and sectional tests at regular intervals to keep a track of their progress with respect to each topic & section.
During the first 3 months of prep (assuming you start 5-6 months ahead of CAT), I would recommend not more than 3-4 full length mock tests as without working on your basics you won’t be able to assess your ability holistically. And if you cannot assess your mock test rationally there is no reward in taking too many mock tests.
Once your basics are covered and you have engaged sufficiently in topic and sectional tests, its the perfect time to go through the rigor of mock tests, as it will not only expose you to the test taking environment but also help you understand what kind of composure and focus is required on the D-Day.
A lot of people take tests very frequently but hardly analyse them, which I believe doesn’t help them realize the full potential of a mock test and it all ends up like a problem solving exercise with no actionable learnings for course correction. Analyzing a mock test is a mandatory ritual after each mock test and can be done in a variety of ways which I shall explain in detail on a case to case basis below.
There are a few key inputs one gets straight away after taking a mock test – Net Score, No. of questions attempted (attempts), No. of questions answered correctly (accuracy), time spent on each section/question (case to case basis) and how have peers performed in the same test (scaled percentile).
Based on the net score achieved in a mock test one needs to work on their progress appropriately. We shall divide the net score in 4 categories for the sake of further analysis and for scores falling in each category we will identify ways to improve.
Note: The above numbers & percentages are indicative/approximate and they represent a large sample.
Let’s analyse and begin with:
Category ‘A’ - Beginner
If your score is below 50, it would fall in the category ‘Beginner’, as you must have attempted less than 50 questions over all and answered less than 25 questions correctly. Your attempts & accuracy are both less than 50% which denotes that you haven’t been able to identify the easy questions in each section and have spent a lot of time on some questions/sets.
The first thing you need to do is to identify areas of strength in each section and focus on identifying those questions/sets in the mock to able to answer a decent number of questions. Once you have exhausted all the strength area questions, you must move to questions from other areas you are reasonably comfortable with. If you are not good at a given topic, you must not invest too much time in that question unless it’s a sitter (easy). I think with this strategy you can improve both attempts and accuracy.
Mock Test Analysis
The analysis of a mock test requires you to look at several indicators of your performance (these points apply to first 3 categories alike) -
Mark each question with respect to the topic that it belongs to.
Identify correct answers & observe if they come from a set of topics.
Identify questions that have been completely ignored & observe if they come from a set of topics.
Identify wrong answers & observe if they come from a set of topics.
Identify questions/sets you ended up spending too much time on.
Once these 5 points are established, you must note down all the inputs derived and adjust your prep plan accordingly. Once the analysis is complete, you must retake the mock test but without time limit (if possible). The idea behind this exercise is to help you realize if there are more questions you could have done correctly if time/stress were removed from the equation. The second purpose of this exercise is to help you compare the 5 points of mock test analysis and see if there is a significant improvement in your performance.
If your performance improves significantly (scores above 75), then it is a clear indication that you need to work on identifying easy/medium questions and focus on the topics you are fairly comfortable with while working on other topics to become comfortable with a larger pool of topics.
If the performance doesn’t improve much, then you clearly need to go back to the drawing board and work on the basics of most of the topics and spend time solving topic & sectional tests to be better prepared to face your next mock test. You can start by focusing on a few topics in each section and solve multiple topic tests to become strong at them so as to gain confidence and build your preparation with that base.
A majority of CAT takers, over 60% of them score less than 50 which clearly indicates that they lacked practice and focused preparation. But a lot of serious aspirants do progress from scores below 50 to scores above 150 with consistent effort and application.
Category ‘B’ – Amateur
If your score is in the range of 50-100 it will fall in the percentile range of 60 to 80 (Based on CAT 2019). You have a decent attempt to accuracy ratio, but you need to increase the number of attempted questions by at least 50% and simultaneously also work on building accuracy. You are able to identify the easier questions, which means there are some topics that you are comfortable with while there are some topics you need to work on (with respect to their basics & topic tests) to be able to attempt them confidently.
Mock Test Analysis
Like in the case of the ‘beginner’, you must analyse the mock test using the 5 points mentioned above and take a retest without any time limit (if possible), this exercise will help in identifying which section is helping you push your score significantly and for which section(s) you need to go back to the basics of certain topics to be reasonably prepared to face easy & medium level questions.
If in the retake of the mock test, you score above 125, it would indicate that your basics are fairly in place but you lack problem solving practice and with little effort on basics of those topics you can increase your attempts by 15-20%.
But if the score in the retake also doesn’t change much then you certainly need to identify areas of concern and work on both basics and topic tests to be able to diversify your attempted topics and make the most of the easy and medium level questions in all 3 sections.
Amateur to High Flier!
You need to invest considerable time & effort to move from amateur to high flier (that’s the ultimate goal, right?). You need to, not only work on your test taking skills, but also on the basics of several topics. You have a clear task cut out to work on the basics of weak areas, to practice more through topic & sectional tests on medium areas and most importantly to learn to identify easy & medium level questions and ace them. With just a little extra and focused effort your chances of moving into the top percentile bracket increase significantly.
Category ‘C’ – Professional
If your score falls in the range of 100-150, I have some good news for you. You are a high calibre candidate and with focused effort and consistent practice you have a good chance to secure a top percentile in CAT. You seem to have your conceptual clarity fairly in place in a lot of topics. Your major worry is that while you are doing well in at least one section, your performance in the other section is pulling you down in terms of your overall score.
Mock Test Analysis
A large part of your mock test analysis will be just like the ‘beginner’ or the ‘amateur’. The only difference in the approach will be your focus on identifying reasons for not being able to attempt 15-20 more questions and see if there is a pattern in the questions that you have skipped. You also need to identify questions where you indulged in silly mistakes and see to it that they are worked upon to avoid them in the future.
Your mock test retake can be a real eye opener for your course correction plan. If you are able to attempt 15-20 more questions or if you are able to answer 10-15 more questions correctly, then your focus must shift on more hours of practice, as you are capable of solving 65+ questions and with a little more practice that can be enhanced further.
If you are not able to improve your score much in your retake, you need to identify from which areas you can attempt another 15-20 questions and work on practicing those areas.
In either cases, you have to focus on your accuracy aspect very seriously, as just improving accuracy can most of the times take you to a 150+ score with a slight increase in attempts simultaneously.
Speed vs. Accuracy
Your key area of improvement considering all factors will have to come from the balance of speed & accuracy. Without a significant improvement in speed and a high level of accuracy at the same time, you may remain in this 100–150 score range irrespective of how much effort you put in. So work on building your speed by identifying better ways of approaching questions/sets. Also with consistent practice ensure that you are able to answer all sorts of questions correctly.
In your prep strategy try to strike a balance between time spent on practicing and time spent on learning simpler ways of solving problems and picking the art of choosing the right questions to answer first.
Category ‘D’ – High Flier
If you are able to score 150+ in 3 or more tests in a row I think you may fall in the trap called ‘complacency’. You are the most vulnerable candidate, as you are already too confident of your abilities while the real test of your abilities is still away. It is clear that you have your basics well covered and you are able to effortlessly identify easy and medium level questions. One of the concerns for you could be the inability to perform well in all 3 sections. For astounding success in CAT, you will need to ace all the 3 sections and a slip in even one section could do serious damage to your top percentile chances.
Mock Test Analysis
The approach for analyzing your mock test will be considerably different from the other 3 categories, as you are able to attempt around 25 questions from each section and are also able to answer around 20 questions correctly in each section. Your test analysis must be mainly focused on the 7-9 questions you weren’t able to attempt in each section to see if they come from specific topics. This should be followed by identifying questions you answered wrongly to see if they are minor errors or you need conceptual clarity/formulae revision/shortcut practice for the said topics.
Your mock test retake should be undertaken with a dual goal, first one to see if you are able to solve 85+ questions correctly when time limit & anxiety are not in the equation, while the second and the equally important goal will be to solve each question again and try to identify if there is a simpler way of solving every question.
It goes without saying that for you to be able to score 150+ confidently you need to build a few other skills that will be handy in helping you maximize your score. Your ability to calculate in your head without doing the actual multiplications & divisions on paper. Your ability to apply shortcuts & formulae’s without becoming too conceptual while solving a problem. Your ability to approach any set/question in the most simplified manner as a result of your conceptual clarity and last but not the least your ability to visualize and eliminate options after a little thought/analysis of the question/information.
Your chances of acing the test are the highest among all 4 categories but it’s important for you to understand that even the best of the architects wouldn’t have been able to build Rome in a day, which essentially means that, though you are a high flier at the prep stage, you need to consistently practice sectional and topic tests and you need to work on test taking strategies to identify what works for you.
Your ultimate goal should be to attempt 90% of the questions and attain 90% accuracy. If you can work towards this goal while working on your focus and composure, no level of difficulty in the test can deter you from doing well.
I have consciously not given any specific sectional example in the entire analysis as every aspirant has different strengths & weaknesses. Having said that, let me describe a few standard things to be taken care of in each section during your preparation.
CAT is generally dreaded because of the Quant section, but if you can work on Quant in a ‘divide and conquer’ way, you can do well in this section also. Quant has roughly 21 different topics, let’s first divide them into 7 each as easy, medium & difficult based on your comfort level. For instance, a lot of people find geometry, trigonometry, functions, permutations & combinations to be tough, so they will be classified as difficult and similarly classify all the 21 topics into these 3 categories. Once the classification is done, it becomes easy to dedicate time to each topic based on your clarity and preparedness. CAT covers questions from across these topics, so it is imperative to have functional knowledge in all these topics to be able to attempt sufficient number of questions.
This section can be divided into two segments basically – reading comprehension and other topics including para-jumbles, odd sentences, vocabulary & grammar based concepts. A large number of questions are a part of RCs and the rest are derived from other concepts. Since RCs make up for a large part of the verbal section it is imperative that you nurture a habit of reading. You must read at least 2 editorials every day from any leading national newspaper, you must pick up at least 2 business magazines a month and go through them cover to cover. These 2 activities will help you build the major skills required to ace RCs, while they will also help you improve your vocabulary and understand diverse issues, in turn helping you in your current affairs prep and opinion formation skills. You must also spend some time in understanding RCs from a conceptual point of view by going through types of RCs and ways to approach them. For the other parts of Verbal ability you need to intensely understand concepts and engage in practicing every concept related question regularly.
Data & Logical Reasoning
This section is important not only with respect to your CAT prep but also for your career. Throughout your career, irrespective of the field you choose, you will have to go through information and make your decisions based on interpretation & analysis of that information. To be able to ace this section you need to spend time on understanding types of questions that fall under Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning and learning the approach for each kind of data set/information. Once you are clear with the approach it’s time to practice as many sets as you can from each type of data set regularly.
CAT is a test of your conceptual clarity, problem solving ability, ability to think & act swiftly with limited information, your ability to approach complex problems in a simplified way while managing time and accuracy of your decisions. If you can approach CAT with the above mind-set, many problems will start looking simpler and easier to crack!
I'd like to share with all the members that this is by far the longest post someone has written on this blog. So, the amount of gratitude I have for Yogesh, on behalf of all the CAT aspirants, is immense. Would like to thank Yogesh again for taking out his time to pen down all his strategies to improve the mock CAT scores.
Yogesh Chordia mentors thousands of B-School aspirants and students every year. As an additional support for these students & aspirants, he runs a WhatsApp broadcast where he shares articles, research and opinions pieces on Business, Consulting, Strategy, Marketing, Self Development, Finance, HR, Economy and so on. He would be happy to add aspirants, students & professionals to this broadcast to share the same content he shares with his mentees. To get added to his broadcast or to seek mentoring, you can connect/message him on LinkedIn.
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