Mock CAT – How to select the right questions?

Knowing how to traverse through a paper is an important skill-set in the CAT. This is particularly true of the computer-based version, as in the paper-based versions one has to luxury of  choosing the order of the sections, sub-sections etc while attempting a paper. Let us look at a few aspects in this post

1. Question selection has to be dynamic: A student does not have the luxury of saying “let me look at the questions in different categories and figure out which ones work best for me.” The decision-making will have to be on the fly. This is why sections like DI and LR work as ‘fillers’. If quant is tough, one has to look at cracking DI to anchor the section. Similarly, if 2 RC passages are vague, one needs to get all 9-10 correct in LR.

2. One needs to have an intuitive sense of each section: One should have a particularly clear idea of questions by sub-category. For instance, if you are at question number 20 in quants, you should know the exact number of DI questions that have gone by.

One of the more common (and  stupid) exclamations of surprise after CAT is usually along the lines of “I got a stinker. The last 10 questions were from RC”. You did not see an RC passage till question number 20. What did you expect the last 10 questions to be?

I am going to use a cricket metaphor here. Taking CAT is like chasing in a ODI match. Think of all the good chasers there – Javed Miandad, Dhoni, Bevan. You can bet your bottom dollar that these guys would have known exactly how many overs were left for the first/second bowlers and the fifth bowler. You can take it for granted that by over no 30, a batsman like Dhoni would have already ‘alloted’ n runs to be taken from the 6 overs from the non-regular bowler.

Imagine  a post-macth interview where Dhoni says, we could have got 40 off the last 5 overs, but unfortunately three of those were bowled by Dale Steyn.

3. You should be able to gauge the difficulty level of the paper and plan accordingly: I am going to continue with the cricket metaphor here. If you are batting first, it is silly to plan for 300+ score if it is a very tough track. Equally important to not ‘play’ for 220 runs on a 280 track. A great many students end up being conservative with their targets when the paper is too easy. In some sections in CAT, you will be in a position to attempt 26-28 questions. In these you should be setting the bar high. As a simple rule of thumb, one should hit the range of ~21 questions per section to hit 99th percentile. (It goes without saying that there are lots of caveats to this rule). And when in doubt assume that the paper is easy.

4. Leave well, leave early: Carrying on with the cricket metaphor here (suddenly realized that there are quite a few parallels 🙂 ). As for the first round of attempts is concerned, if you do not get the method straight away, skip the question. When you are taking mock CATs and analyzing them, have a good luck at questions that took you spent more than 4.5 minutes on and figure out how you got suckered into these. If you take 8 minutes for a question, it hardly matters whether you got it right – its a bad call. Beat these time-sinks down aggressively.

5. Everyone needs the odd confidence-booster: Lets face it, skipping all dicey questions is good in theory, but it does make one nervous. And sometimes, every now and then you will find yourself in a position where you have skipped 4 in a row and then you face a time-consuming, boring question in linear equations. In order to get your confidence going, you might have to set aside 4.5 minutes to crack this. This is ok.

6. Start well:  Lots of guys start sluggishly and then start sweating by the end of 10th minute. Plan to fly off the blocks with feverish intensity. You cannot go much wrong with that strategy.

To complete with a cricket metaphor. Start like Sehwag, finish like Dhoni. Go berserk in the first few minutes, turn savvy (calculating) half way through the paper.

Best wishes for CAT 2012.

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