First of all, wish you all a happy new year! Hope 2019 went well and the beginning of 2020 has brought some good news in the form of CAT and NMAT result. It’s around a month since I started this blog and I am really grateful for the response and comments that I’ve received from all of you. A big thank you for making this initiative successful!
Based on the feedback and comments on my past posts, I thought of covering the entire approach towards a SimCET or a full-length mock test.
What’s the objective?
Every test that you take has to have an objective. Are you taking it just because it’s there? Are you taking it because you have worked on the content and want to see whether you’re able to apply it real time? Are you taking it to try some new order or strategy of attempting the test? It could be any of the above or something entirely different. But without objective, you will not be able to derive the maximum benefit from the exercise. So before you take the next test, frame an objective for yourself based on your past performances.
Chase small goals
Students often make the mistake of setting difficult or irrational targets for themselves. For example, if one takes a mock and gets 70/200, one can’t set a target of 100/200 in the next one. Instead, try to cross 75 or 80 in the next mock. Because setting high targets that are beyond one’s means with the current level of preparation is bound to disappoint. The same applies to number of attempts as well. If one attempts 120 in a test, expecting anything more than 130 genuine attempts in the next test doesn’t make any sense. Chasing smaller incremental goals and working towards your dream score is better than targeting your dream score in every single test.
What’s your strategy? What’s your plan-B?
Before you start the test, decide your strategy. For example, I am going to start with the abstract reasoning section and do it for 20 minutes. After this, I am going to solve the quantitative section for 40 minutes. I am targeting a total of 60 attempts in this first hour. For the next 25 minutes, I will solve the verbal section excluding Reading Comprehension and for about 35 minutes, I will solve all the non-arrangement/puzzle questions from the Logical Reasoning section. In the final half an hour, I will solve RCs and try to crack a puzzle or two or go to quant or DI to see if I’ve missed anything.
At the same time, think of a backup plan as well. If Verbal section is difficult, can I instead do RCs in the same time frame? If DI is difficult, can I survive by cracking some quantitative sitters and compensate? If the paper is overall difficult, can I rely more on genuine attempts and accuracy than speed? Think of all the things that can potentially go wrong during the test and then work on your approach to those situations, or through meticulous planning, avoid those situations altogether. Essentially, perform what’s called a Pre-mortem!
Once all this is in place, some pointers on the test setting:
- If you’re taking a test at any of the IMS centres, reach half an hour before your scheduled time. If you’re taking it from home, sit for half an hour in front of your computer/laptop and do nothing! This is to simulate the test environment as much as possible.
- Get used to using A4 size rough sheets for rough work and don’t use a notebook. Use a simple ball point pen for all your rough work and restrict yourself to a few rough sheets.
- Avoid taking water/bio breaks during the test and be in the zone throughout. Keep your phones and other gadgets on silent mode so that there is no disturbance. Especially if you’re taking it from home, isolate yourself and take the test earnestly.
Every student is different and a particular strategy might work well for a few students, but the same strategy will yield substandard results for the rest. Toppers typically rely more on their speed than their accuracy to get more questions out of their way as quickly as possible. But that won’t work for students who have fewer attempts as chasing attempts and increasing speed will reduce their accuracy. Based on the difficulty of the test and the number of attempts that you need to get to a decent score, the ideal time allocation range looks like this:
Abstract/Visual Reasoning: 20-25 minutes
Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension: 35-40 minutes
Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation: 35-45 minutes
Logical Reasoning: 45-55 minutes
Please note that the reason why I’m offering a range is because there is always a possibility of variation in the difficulty of a section. Also, based on individual preference one can further change these values by plus or minus 5-10 minutes but anything more than that becomes difficult as one ends up spending disproportionate time on a particular section and might miss easy questions from another sections.
However, this is not sacrosanct. It may happen that the Abstract Reasoning section is so easy for you that you end up cracking it in 15 minutes itself with 90% accuracy. Now figure out where you can use those 5-10 minutes that you had initially budgeted for that section. Some students also have a different strategy where they approach the sections in rounds and do easy questions from each section in the first half of the test and then move to the moderate and difficult ones. Though there is some merit in that, I’m yet to come across toppers who do it. It works as a decent strategy if your attempts are sub-100.
The section order depends on individual preference. There is no fixed order and one should go purely by speed-accuracy-energy balance to decide. For example, one might have AR-QA-LR-VA order if one considers VA to be his/her absolute weakness. But for anyone who is reasonably good at VA, finishing it off in the first half of the test is crucial as it will increase one’s attempts in shorter span of time.
Though CET and NMAT are structurally different tests, let me use the example to show how one goes about deciding section order. I took the official NMAT mock a day before my test where I attempted the test in the VA-LR-QA order and scored a 243. I learned three things from it: (1) I get extremely tired towards the end of the test and it affects my Quantitative section which is my strength. (2) VA isn’t so difficult that I can’t knock it off towards the end even when I am mentally exhausted. (3) I don’t want to risk LR in the beginning as it might throw surprises, at the same time, I don’t want to do it at the end when I am tired. Based on these three observations, I immediately decided to move to QA-LR-VA order and it paid off in the actual test where I scored a 270.
Don’t give up!
Lastly, it’s extremely easy to give up during a mock test. If things aren’t moving your way, don’t lose hope. Check if you can identify the easy questions and focus on those. If something is time consuming, leaving it for the end is the best strategy. You don’t get extra marks for solving the most difficult questions of the test but you can squeeze in extra marks by fixing your test taking style. You can always make a comeback in the test as long as there is time available to take corrective action.
I hope I’ve given you enough points to think over and I hope this helps in your next mock. Let me know if I’ve missed anything. I will try to cover it in the future. If there are any queries, please leave them in the comments below and allow me a few days to get back. Share this with your friends and co-aspirants. Happy prepping! 🙂