Hi! I am posting on the blog after a long time. I hope you are safe and the preparation is on track. The 2020-21 test season has begun and some of you have already appeared for the NMAT and will be taking CAT on the coming Sunday. I recently appeared for the NMAT and as there is no detailed account of the test available on the web, I thought of penning it down. Here is my straight-from-the-heart debrief of this year’s NMAT attempt.
Backstory: I had scored a 270 on the NMAT last year which was possibly the highest score ever in its present format (as some of you might be aware, NMIMS used to conduct NMAT earlier which became NMAT by GMAC in 2015). Why possibly? Because NMAT scores aren’t published anywhere so there could be people who scored higher but never shared their score publicly. I had shared my experience in a Quora post wherein I had mentioned that I had framed my strategy after a single official mock and hadn’t done any specific prep.
This year, I wanted to take it on the first day itself as the pattern had changed but as I wasn’t sure of the COVID situation, I booked an online proctored attempt from home. The first day of the test itself, I got to know that my record was broken with a Mind = Blown score of 278. Later, there were reports of students getting 274 and that made me a little nervous about my attempt.
I’ve always maintained this philosophy that if I don’t do reasonably well in a test, I won’t find it comfortable to mentor students for that specific test. We definitely have nothing to prove but we don’t want to be obsolete either. Do read this post where Shashank also resonates with the same thing and has shared his take on consistent topnotch performance. As we don’t prepare for tests the way aspirants do, we sometimes do well and sometimes don’t. We rarely take mocks and even when we do, it’s for analysis videos or live practice with students. So when my record was broken, I decided to take things a little seriously and did the unimaginable: I signed up for official NMAT paid mocks and decided to take at least a few IMS + official mocks.
The first IMS mock that I took, I got a score of 290. But not sure if it counts as I had reviewed the LR section of it and I knew all the questions. With a few days to go for the test, I took the official mock 1 and scored a 317. I don’t know how the NMAT scaling works (I still don’t know) but the score told me two things: (1) I have the potential to do well and (2) if the difficulty of the actual test is similar, I will do well. As you’re allowed to take the test again and you get a different set of questions, I took the second attempt at the official mock and luckily the score came down to 286. If I had scored higher, I would not have taken another mock. Anyway, to cut the long story short, this is how I did on the mocks:
I kept an IMS mock for the end because our tests are slightly difficult. The mock exercise made me understand what the students go through. It’s difficult to take mocks again and again and experience sadness, frustration, boredom, disappointment, stress, and anxiety. But putting in regular practice is the most important thing because you can’t get better at test taking overnight. Thanks to this experiment, my empathy quotient has improved and let me put it out there: If you’re reading this and have taken a lot of mocks (considering all entrance tests) this season, you have my respect. Coming back to the story, the last two official mocks showed a 290 and 291 and the IMS test showed a 252. I was all set to take the test and secretly hoped to crack it.
Test day: I got up at 8 am for my test at 12. As I had scheduled an online proctored attempt and was experiencing an actual test from home for the first time, the first thing that I checked was if my internet connection was fine. The previous day, my connection wasn’t functional for an hour or so and I was afraid that a similar episode during the test would pretty much destroy whatever ambitions I had. My recommendation to candidates is to go for an attempt at the test venue (if it is safe) simply because then you don’t have to constantly worry about internet connection.
I could barely eat and told my family that I wasn’t confident enough. The thought of a score in the 270 range kept bothering me. Not that it’s not a great score but I kept thinking whether a 5/10 point improvement will feel anything special or will do justice to the small effort that I had put in. The stress was too much to handle so I meditated for half an hour (trust me, it helps). I had recurring flashes of Feliks Zemdegs at the 2013 Rubik’s Cube Championship video which I’ve seen countless times and it helped me calm a bit. I was ready.
Test experience: With about 15 minutes to go for the test time, I started the sign in process. The proctor was pretty helpful and she guided me through the whole thing. I was at my desk with ID proof, admit card, two A4 size sheets, pencils, and my laptop with inbuilt webcam. please note that you have to give a 360 degree view of the room to the proctor and show them area under the desk.
After all the setup was done, I started the test at about 12:10. My personal preference for section order is QA-LR-LS because I can manage verbal even when I am tired but I start making silly mistakes in QA if there is too much mental fatigue.
My first quant question went wrong. I didn’t read the question carefully, spent nearly 1.5 minutes on it, marked something in a hurry, and I realized that it was wrong. Nevertheless, there was no point crying over it and I started focusing on the task at hand: Read-solve-repeat. The quant was pretty straightforward and didn’t vary much from what you typically experience in the mocks. The first DI set was a line graph (easy affair) and the second DI set was a table with 4 columns and 7 rows (moderate). The third set, however, was remarkably painful. It could have also been because of the way I had responded to earlier questions but the set looked similar to this:
I had saved enough time for such eventualities by solving the first half quickly. On one of the questions from this set, I took a half chance because the clock was ticking and completing the section was more important than solving that specific question. By the time I was done, I had 4/5 minutes to go on the timer and felt pretty good about the overall attempt. I later realised the mistake that I had made in that first probability question. Didn’t pay attention to the ‘2-digit number’ part of the question 🤦 and kept hitting the wrong answer.
Most of my mock performances had a low accuracy on the CR/Deduction part of the section (refer the screenshot below from one of the mocks) and I decided to cross-check all the options properly before marking. The extra cautious strategy slowed me down significantly and I had to be really fast with other question types. What stumped me was two sets of input output questions (apparently if you start doing well, you get two sets but it doesn’t happen to everyone so it’s just a conjecture) but I was able to solve both of them nicely.
There was an arrangement question with very little information and it had several possibilities. In the interest of time, I didn’t write down all the possibilities in the beginning and went question by question. Again, I had to take a call on one of the questions whether to solve or random mark. I narrowed down to two options and marked one of them. Overall, I found it pretty lengthy and with about a minute to go, I completed the section.
I had done quite well in the mocks and I was getting a fairly consistent accuracy across the areas that are tested by NMAT (refer the screenshot below from one of the mocks). During the test, I found some of the parajumbles tricky. The RCs were pretty lengthy but the questions weren’t that difficult to solve. I was able to arrive at the right answer in most of the cases. Analogy questions had a few close options and at a couple of places, I wasn’t sure of my answer. Time management becomes extremely important in this section. Though the questions on prepositions or analogy can be answered quickly, others consume more time and one has to strike a balance to finish the paper.
The end result:
I had a look at my score and quickly memorized it. I informed Shashank and some of my colleagues at IMS. The official scorecard mail arrived within half an hour and the scorecard showed:
My two cents:
- Analyze your mocks well and search for gaps. If a particular question has gone wrong, the reason behind it is of prime importance
- When people say that they can’t do DI, I ask them a random question: what’s 29*7 or what’s percentage equivalence of 1/16. If the foundation is shaky, the building isn’t going to be strong
- Practice intelligent guessing and understand whether it makes sense to take risks or not
- The good thing about NMAT is that it sticks to the structure. You won’t find random surprises on the actual test if you’ve taken mocks. The question could be difficult but it’s never out of the world
- 2 A4 size sheets should be enough for the entire test. My strategy here was to keep 1 sheet for QA and the other for LR + LS
- Don’t waste too much time sharpening one specific area beyond what’s required. Rather, increase your exposure in other areas so that you will be able to solve more questions on the actual test
- I am not an expert on the Language Skills section. Practice speed reading and skimming techniques to get better. For CAT RCs, we employ a different strategy, for NMAT kind of RCs, the strategy should be different
- Make better decisions. Don’t fall in love with a question. Mark something and move on if you think it will be too time consuming
- Don’t limit yourself by your mock scores. At the same time, don’t get overconfident by your official mock scores
- Experiment with the section order in the initial few mocks. Once you find what works for you, stick to it and take it to perfection
After the initial excitement, I returned to my normal self where I thought of the questions that I had missed, googled the words that I wasn’t aware of. I still feel that I could have done better and on a good day, the scorecard would have showed a 300+ but I also know that it:
Someone asked me if I will take the test again this season if my 291 gets beaten. The answer is No. Because it doesn’t matter. The mock tests and the actual test shattered my own notions about what I could and could not do and that matters for far more than a particular score. I hope the post motivates a few people to aim higher and do better in life. Thanks for reading! I wish you guys all the best for the test season ahead. May things work out for everyone soon!
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