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A timing strategy for the IIFT

 

I never thought I will be doing a timing strategy post since the CAT has gone with fixed sectional time-limits for a long time now. But a since IIFT does not have one I thought it might not be a bad idea to do a short post on the same.

I have always preferred a test without sectional time-limits since it tests a crucial quality required for management — optimizing resources to achieve maximum return on investment. In this case, the resources are your own skills and the investment is your time. 

So how does one go about using the 120 minutes on the IIFT?

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What after a horrible CAT?

Be it the day of the CAT or be it when the final admits results come out it is not easy to be a mentor — on one hand you are happy for students who crack the exam and get an admit and on the other hand you are also tinged with sadness for those who have a bad test day or fail to convert. The toughest thing was always to meet a student who is happy, knowing that the one waiting outside is sad. So with the years one develops a certain equanimity since one cannot be so happy that one is not able to empathise with the ones who are having a hard time and one also cannot get so bogged down by sadness that one cannot partake in the joy of the successful.

In some cases students just disappear, somehow they take it very personally, that they have failed, they have failed even after reading all the blogs and all attending all the sessions, they feel almost as if they have let me down. And I am left wondering, whatever happened to that guy. The others thankfully come down to meet me or reach to me through the blog comments even if it is just to feel lighter instead of heavy and burdened.


There are two things about cliches — they are dead boring since they have been repeated so often but at the same time, they are also true, so are all the cliches about failure, I won’t repeat them but I will attest that they are true.

In one of the recent posts, I spoke about how every one has to face a test and how heroes in myths are defined by overcoming obstacles. The thing about myths is that they rarely show heroes failing at a task spectacularly — they only show heroes’ failings or weaknesses (Rama in the way he treated Sita post his rescuing of her).

But if we look at real life successes, almost every spectacular success has had a a big failure or inability as well. I am not linking failure to success or calling it a pre-requisite.

All I am saying is, everyone fails, so do not go beating yourself about it.


There is nothing to be gained from self-flagellation

The first reaction understandably is to hit oneself with an emotional sledgehammer and of these the worst one is — I am useless, I am not smart enough, I suck, I do not have the skills to crack this exam, no matter what I do it will not change a thing.

Firstly, I will be happy if you are telling yourself all of these in anger rather than through a bucket of tears since anger with oneself can be a very good motivator.

But whether you are telling yourself these things through anger or through tears you need to quickly move from “I suck” to I suck at this particular aspect of CAT, from being emotional to being strategic.

  • This was the first time I took an entrance test and I was overwhelmed by it
  • My reading speed was the biggest hindrance when the paper became tough
  • Before the test I did not talk myself through what I was going to execute during the three sections
  • Before the test I did talk myself through things but everything went out of the window once the test started
  • I did not hunker down and solve 2 DI sets but flitted from set to set
  • I could not solve tough QA questions from Arithmetic, my level plateaued at easy and moderate questions
  • My technique to solve evaluative RC questions was not really upto the mark

My favourite story when it comes to dealing with doubts about one’s ability is Brian Lara’s answer when questioned about being McGrath’s bunny (he has got him quite a few times), Lara did not talk about the number of centuries he scored against Australia or the single-handed manhandling of a peak Australian team over an entire series, all he said was — someone from the opposition has to get me out some time, right?


Evaluate the extent of damage and your options and view things in proportion

The right lens to view things should not be through your success or failure at CAT 2020 but in terms of your prospects of doing an MBA from a premier b-school.

Just like the extent of damage in a war varies across the various battlefronts, the damage, if any, to your MBA dreams, varies across different profiles.

Who are the aspirants who are worst hit?

Those who already have 4 years of work-experience and had a horrible CAT 2020 are the worst hit since another shot at the CAT and the 2-year MBA is effectively ruled out; they only have the rest of the exams in this season to make it count. (It is not that you will get rejected, you can still get an admit into a 2-year program but the number of recruiters looking at a 5-year profile will be fewer; you will still be able to get the career growth you are looking for in your domain)

Those who have three years of work-ex will still have a marginal shot at the CAT next year but to stay close to the average profile in a b-school (having 4 or more years of work-ex will make the profile a bit of an outlier) they should crack one of the remaining exams in this season.

Those who have 2 years or fewer have work-ex have nothing to worry about as far their MBA dreams go, they are well and truly alive, you can still get there, not when you wanted to and in the way you wanted to but you can still get there.

Some of you might wonder whether you have it in you to take another shot. We you do not have another option.


Roger Federer played from 2012 Wimbledon to 2017 Australian Open, 17 Slams, without winning a single slam, being stuck at 17, losing to players who were not in the same league as him. At every single slam during those five years my friend and I would talk, just before the semis or finals, about how well Fed was playing, the new things that he was inventing — the SABR (Sneak Attack By Roger) — and as usual the crazy points in the matches until then, only for him to lose again.

There were articles asking why he was still playing. I was supporting him saying that it need not be #1 or nothing, as long as he is easily making finals and semis and believes he can win he should play since he is still ranked in the top 4 and since unlike in a team sport, he is not delaying a transition or eating into the prime years of a youngster. In effect, even I had ruled out the chance of him winning again, I was happy that he was competing well.

Federer is great not because he has won 20 Slams but because he believed in himself so much, believed in himself through four years of heart-breaking failures, four years of aging and his body breaking down in 2016, while others were catching up with him.

I am sure no victory tasted sweeter to him than the 2017 Australian Open when he finally won a Slam again. (I have never felt more elation at the end of a sports match than while watching him win the 2017 Australian Open)


All of you are so young, this exam season is still young, you have enough time to acquire the skills your skills to crack the CAT at another shot (if required).

Cut all the negative voices out of your head, your own voice, that of your parents as well, if necessary (since all most Indian parents seem to care about is the timing of your wedding and how another shot affects that).


They will release the paper with your response in a day or two and we will release a tool to calculate your score — this can cause another meltdown, it is never easy to actually see the marks, if you know you did not do well do not try to find out, let the results come out when they come out.


Some of you might be raring to go smash the other tests to smithereens, and some of you might be feeling out of gas and motivation to pick yourself up.

The latter, please give yourself a break, do the things you like to do, eat the things you like to eat, and relax for the rest of the week, restart on Monday.

There is little you can do right by pushing yourself without a break or good rest and being a bunch of ragged nerves.


Getting ready for the next event

It is not easy to crack the test on your first or second attempt unless you are on the top of your game for at least 10 to 15 mocks with additional reserves to handle a tougher paper. I cleared the test on my second attempt.

Even those of you who have set your sights firmly on the old IIMs will be taking a few more tests, at least the IIFT exam and the XAT. Now that you have the CAT monkey off your back go ahead full-throttle on these other tests.

Even if you have decided on another shot at the CAT and IIM-A, give the other tests you have registered for seriously, crack a final admit to IIFT, NMIMS, SIBM, or even XL and then reject it. — achieve something this season and set yourself higher goals for next year.


Some of the comments to this post are very good and some of you might find an echo of your performance, current state, and questions in them.



P.S: The picture with this post is not of Federer but of Marin Cilic (crying) after he lost the 2017 Final to Federer.


“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

Getting ready for CAT D-day

You have about 3 days left and some of you might still be awaiting answers  to some questions such as should you listen to what happened in the earlier slots, what should you do if you know you might not get sleep Saturday night etc.

Last year I made audio clip (initially shot as a video) that answered all of these queries, queries that deal specifically with the three days leading up to the test and all the pending questions.

As promised I am also taking a stress buster session — Anything But CAT — along with my colleagues this Friday.

We will host five rooms where we will discuss specific non-CAT topics of interest: Cricket & Tennis, Football and other sports, Harry Potter & Fantasy Books, Music Room, Quizzing.

I’ll be handling the Cricket & Tennis room along with Amit Sir and Param sir (and all of our other stalwarts will also be there in each of the other rooms).

I am looking forward to evening sessions and interacting with all the cricket, tennis and sports fans among you. We will discuss the Tennis GOAT Debate, MSD, and sports heroes, and answer/discuss all non-CAT things in the Q&A!

All IMS students will receive a link for the same.

A plan for the last leg

At this stage, I realise that all of you are suffering from a different set of problems that occur at different score-levels. It is quite tough to come up with posts for the specific score ranges that different people are in and it is absolutely stupid to come up with a do-this-everyday-for-the-next-30 days sort of a thing (if you even think that is possible then you are preparing for the wrong exam). This post is intended to help you devise the best plan for yourself over the next thirty days.


Fix your desired set of colleges, tests, and percentiles

While everyone should and still aim to get into the old IIMs, each of one of you should also have a clear idea as to what the good colleges are for your profile for you apart from the IIMs.

When I say a good college for you, you should measure it in terms of the outcomes that will be commensurate with your profile at this stage.

An MBA primarily amplifies your current profile, this means that it will multiply whatever is your current earning potential by 2-2.5.

If your current potential is 6 or lower multiply it by 2.5 if it is between 6 to 7 multiply it by 2.25, 8 and above multiply it by 2.

If you are a fresher or studying in a good college, top 5 in your state, and have a good academic profile, you should get a job that pays at the least 6 LPA. This means that you need to look at an MBA college that has an average of around 14 LPA.

If you are a fresher or studying in a college, that will give you a salary of 4 LPA, you need to apply to colleges that will give you a salary of at least 10LPA.

The same applies to working professionals as well, irrespective of number of years of work-ex you need to look at your current salary and do a multiplication by 2-2.5.

Those who are in the higher pay scales should do a multiplication by 2 and also note that in the top-tier colleges the average might be 17-18 but the number of jobs with salaries above the average will be good enough to get you the desired jump.

Based on this list of colleges you need you to fix your desired tests and the respective target scores and percentiles.

The desired list and percentiles though cannot be looked at in isolation, the elephant in the room is your current potential on the CAT and other tests. So, you have to choose the colleges both based on your profile and the percentile you are likely to score.

If you have a really high potential on the CAT and other tests as demonstrated in your SimCAT scores, you should aim much higher than your current earning potential. (More than a decade ago, I had a 2.5 lakh job out of campus but I was sure my aptitude on the CAT was good enough to get me a call from IIM-A, which eventually did happen, so I applied only to 2 schools apart from the IIMs) 


Estimate your actual percentile from best Mock percentiles

On the actual CAT, if you perform at the same level as you perform in the Mocks, your percentiles will be much higher.

The simple reason is that the Mocks are taken by the most serious CAT aspirants.

While more than 2,00,000 register for the tests, the Mocks are not taken seriously by more than 25000 students. On test day, out of the registered students around 30000 do not even turn up.

So the fraction that is percentile, x/y, will increase on test day since the denominator and numerator will become 6-digit figures and the rest of the crowd that shows up on test day is not going to do better than those who are preparing (India does not have that much bench strength that people who do not even take mocks can show and perform better than those who are).

What happens to the value of a fraction less than 1 if the numerator and denominator keep increasing — 2/3 < 3/4 <4/5 — it keeps on increasing. The question is how much will it increase by?

By half of the difference between 100 and your current percentile. If your current percentile is 80, it will become 90, if it is 90, then 95 and so on.

If you feel that you can increase your current mock percentiles by 5 more, then estimate your actual percentile after adding 5 to your current percentile.

On the CAT the scores correlate with the percentiles as follows:

95 percentile – 85-90
99 percentile – 100-105
99.5 percentile – 115-120
100 percentile – 140 and above

In short if you cross a score of 100 you are very likely to cross 99 percentile.

Now that you know your target scores, set incremental scores towards reaching them.

You are at 75 and have to reach 105, start with a target of 85-90.

For some of you, this increase might be evenly spread across sections and for others, it might be lop-sided, you have to do the break-up of the sectional increase 

This is not easy to do. For example, if you are scoring 80 and are scoring above 30 in two sections and below 20 in the third, then your first area of focus should be on the one below 20 since the maximum scope of improvement lies here.

A good way to ensure that you prepare optimally is to execute the plan below.


Don’t get spooked by dropping percentiles in the last 5 tests!

CAT Prep is no different from a marathon while quite a few people start it very few people finish it. So, in the last two months, we see a significant drop in the number of people taking the SimCATs with quite a few people giving up altogtehr or post-poning the prep for another year. Thus, after SimCAT 10 the fight is only between the super-serious students who are doing well. 

It is thus but natural that percentiles will drop. Do not let this affect your confidence in any way. If your scores are at the same level or better you you will do well on test day.


A plan for the last 4 weeks

If this is your second attempt and you have cumulatively taken more than 40 Mocks, take only 8 tests in the last 4 weeks, 1 test every three days.

Everyone else should take 15 tests in the next 4 weeks, 1 test every alternate day.

Take-Home SimCATs are actual SimCATs from the last 3 years they are authentic or difficult as the current SimCATs, they feel different because you do not take them under any pressure.

After the tests and during the days between the tests focus solely on one area per week in whatever order is necessary for you, W1— DI-LR, W2—VARC, W3 — QA, W4 — Overall.

Obviously, this cannot apply to everyone. For those who are doing really well on QA and VA-RC and have a problem only with DI-LR, work for two weeks on DI-LR, you have to customise this plan.

What should you be doing during these weeks?


The four levers to higher scores

The four levers that you have to use to propel your scores are — Selection, Accuracy, Concepts, and Speed

No matter what your score the first thing you have to get right is selection.

Why Selection matters?

When you are consciously selecting the right questions to do you are taking the test and the test is not taking you.

All of you want to (or rather should since you are spending 20 lakhs for an MBA education) become a CEO or Founder in the future. What is fundamentally involves is to decide where and how to invest your money.

If 100 people come to you asking you to invest 2 crores each in 100 ideas and you have 200 crops at your disposal, what will you do?

  • will you give everybody 50 or 100 each and then depending on how they do will you give the rest or will you first do a quick evaluation of the soundness of the idea using some strong first principles and then decide to invest?
  • will you give money to ideas that are in industries you like or will you give money to ideas that will definitely generate money (if the goal is to make the most of your 200 crores)

During the CAT, you are investing money. So by not selecting questions and spending some time on each question you are investing money without evaluating ideas.

During each section, you are first supposed to play the role of CEO, deciding whether to do the problem or not, then be the worker solving the problem, and in parallel play the manager who is aware of the clock.

If you select and solve the right 75 questions and leave the remaining 25 by spending less than 20 minutes you will end up with a percentile above 99.

So the first task before anything else is for you to go and watch all the videos on how to select the right questions  in the CHANNELs section of the new myIMS, just go there and watch the LMTC videos in the recorded tab. If you have already watched this or attended LMTC sessions and are successfully implementing the methods then you can skip this part.

Accuracy

If you select and solve the right 50 questions and leave the remaining 20-25 by spending less than 10 minutes you will end up with a percentile above 99.

ATTEMPTS CORRECT SCORE
60 48 132
55 44 121
50 40 110
45 36 99
40 32 84

But this, as you would have realised, is contingent on you solving at least 80% of the questions right.

If I am guessing right, accuracy, is the biggest problem in VA-RC for almost all test takers and that is solely because there is in the way of a technique that test-takers apply.

While a lot of students have told me that the methods I suggested in RC-1 have been useful, they have also told me that they still are getting tougher questions wrong. They have seen RC-2 but they feel the methods are time-consuming. Yes, they will seem time-consuming to those who do not think in English.

But there is no way you can answer the questions correctly by reading passively all through and waking up right at the climax when you are caught between options.

All of the gyaan about eliminating extreme options, skimming and scanning, and their ilk are pure quackery, nothing more than candy to children.

There are no shortcuts to crack VA-RC, set a realistic target and solve questions in the technically correct way, else attempt more and be happy with a 60 per cent accuracy as long as you clear the cut-off, do not expect to boost your overall score through

If you have an issue with accuracy in VA-RC, go to the CHANNEL section on the Masterclasses and watch the RC-1 and RC-2 Masterclasses and the VA Masterclasses.

If you have an issue with accuracy in QA, go to the posts on this page —  https://thecatwriter.com/category/quant-strat/

Concepts

Once you are selecting the right passages, sets, and questions, and solving 4 out of 5 you pick correctly, you need to be able to solve a wide range of questions.

In QA, if you are only attempting questions from a few areas and are still not attempting questions from Logs and Geometry, then do so at your peril, there were 10 do-able questions from the two areas last year.

To quickly master concepts and application, go to the LEARN Tab in the new myIMS and watch all the videos there to get a good grasp of basic concepts and application.

If you are facing troubles in higher-level application in a particular area, then do all the problems from the e-MAXIMISER module.

For the DI-LR week or two weeks, the task is clearly cut out — approximately 200 sets — 17 SimCATs  + 6 Actual CAT Sections (2017, 2018, and 2019 both slots)

If you need to learn to how to solve DI-LR sets better  —https://thecatwriter.com/category/di-lr-strat/

Speed

And yeah, at this stage, honestly, I have no tips to increase reading speed in general except to say that concentrate harder and read faster (if only we could embed the Blinkist app in our brains).

To increase solving speed I have no tips but to ask you to stop writing entire solutions on your paper, you do not need to show homework to your teacher. The test-takers scoring above 135 are not writing equations and cancelling out terms on both sides.

Where should I solve questions from

Irrespective of your level you should know how to solve every question in each of the proctored SimCATs and the e-Maximiser.

You can practice executing strategies between tests by solving Section Tests (apart from Section Tests in the Application Builder, you also can use the Take Homes as Section Tests by using exit section option).

You are really weak in an area and need to practice basics then solve the Concept module.

A quick summary

  • 10-15 Tests every alternate day.
  • 1-2 weeks dedicated to one section depending on where you are.
  • For each section move from selection to accuracy to concepts to speed.

Have a plan for each SimCAT

For every SimCAT you need to have a section-wise target score and a plan to reach that score.

  • VA-RC — I am going to get more marks from VA by solving them before RC and applying the right technique
  • DI-LR — I need to select sets better, I am still choosing one wrong set.
  • QA — I am going to get more marks from Geometry

To do this you should analyse a test well. When you analyse a test, especially the incorrect questions ask yourself — should I have attempted this question or set, did I follow the process of solving correctly (VA-RC), did I not read the misread or miscalculate (QA-DI-LR).

When you analyse a test, look at the skipped questions in QA and figure out the areas you need to strengthen and go to the LEARN Module videos.

I want to do well, I will kill this test — these are not plans they are dreams and feelings.


How to manage your feelings

In short, taking a test is not about feelings.

Getting disheartened when you see a low score, starting to feel pressure, anxiety attacks, all of these are things have nothing to do with solving a question.

The only questions to always ask are — Why did this happen, what did I do wrong, did I select the right set, did I pause after reading the RC question frame a shadow answer and then go to the options?

If you cannot get rid your feelings and get the job done when the task involves you and a piece of text on a machine, then you can forget managing others and leading firms. Honestly, you should consider another profession where someone else will handle the pressure and tell you what to do.

If you want to increase your concentration levels and manage work as well go through these posts:

I usually refrain from giving our set prescriptions like a doctor does, do these things every day because I do not think such things exist for test prep. I can only name problems and solutions, the better you are at diagnosing your problems the better you will be able to tailor a solution.

I feel this is an important part of the test itself —  if you cannot maximise your own performance using all the resources at your disposal, how will you maximise a company’s resources later in life!

Even an MBA will give you all the insights of what successful firms did and some technical knowledge specific to certain areas but when it comes to your first job post your MBA, you cannot cut, copy, paste anything that you learnt at business school, you have to tailor a customised solution using the resources you have.


Cut the flab and the feel-good

I hope you have already deleted all the social media apps on your phone. If you have not then all I can say is that you are not committed to achieving your goal.

I hope you have nothing other than CAT and other tests till the end of the first week of Jan. If you have other plans are then all I can say is that you are not committed to achieving your goal.

And the most important part of the last four weeks — get off all online CAT groups and CAT forums. Do not waste precious time discussing any more prep strategies with peers and finding out how much they have scored and commenting on the great scores someone else is getting.

As far as I know, back when I was preparing to take the test and right now when you guys are preparing to take the test, the goal was the same — squeezing every drop out of oneself and the test.

Everything was IRL then and I never went up to the guy who was topping my city (despite knowing him from college and being in the same test-prep institute) and told him — bhai tu toh phod raha hai.

Even today I would not look at top 10 percentilers attempts and accuracy on specific questions, since my ability is unique — I have solved the question and I have seen the solution. The questions I ask myself are

  • could I have solved this faster, irrespective of others’ data, were there any wasted steps, I myself try to look for shorter methods (should I have substituted answer options), or
  • should I have left this.

I am the batsman, the question is the ball, there are no others since remember during the test I am not chasing, during the test everyone is batting first, everyone is facing the same bowling, every one has to decode how the pitch is playing and score as many runs as possible.

I do not remember even discussing one thing about my prep with my friends who were preparing with me, we hung around after classes for some banter but that was it, I did not think there was any need to discuss anything with my peers since it was just me and the test.

It takes a village to raise a child, the saying goes, I do not think it takes a community to get a score, it takes a lot of brains to figure out where one is going wrong and more importantly why one is going wrong, and a lot of mental stamina and drive to push oneself to just max out.

Only two things should exist in the world for the next 9 weeks (till the XAT is over) — you and your test-prep material — no one else and nothing else.

How to crack the DI-LR section of the CAT – I

Just like I keep getting queries on how to increase RC accuracy, despite the Masterclasses and the Last Mile To CAT sessions, I keep getting queries around the DI-LR section as well.

In this series of series of posts  I’ll dive really deep down into actual CAT DI-LR sets and see if I can come up with some kernel of truth beyond just the solving of the set that can help aspirants approach the solving of the sets better.

Read More

How to select the right DI-LR sets

After the previous posts, a few of you had commented saying that you are eagerly awaiting the post on the DI-LR section. The earnestness is understandable since most of you who are facing the SimCATs will know that the DI-LR section is one that will make or break your CAT.If it goes well, you will take that confidence into the QA section finish strong. If your performance on the DI-LR section goes south then you will start feeling the fatigue and will fade away in the last section. The latter has been the case with most test-takers over the years. Read More

How to increase your VA accuracy on the CAT

One thing that has always bothered me a lot whenever I interact with students, is that they seem to be very reluctant to let go of their playing-the-percentages attitude to tests. Throughout school and college, we tend to study by playing the percentages — giving importance to topics as per the number of questions that appear from that topic in the exam. While this might be a great strategy for school and college exams, as far as aptitude tests go, this strategy is suicidal purely because of the fact that the difficulty level and the number of questions across areas do not follow a fixed pattern.

How is this related to Verbal Ability in the current pattern of the CAT? Read More

Why your actual abilities might not be as good as you think they are

The purpose of this site has been to examine the problems that students keep bringing back to me over the years, and as the important ones get addressed I keep getting other questions that depending on how one looks at it are either simple or hide more than they reveal to the casual observer.

One such conundrum is this one, a paraphrase of a problem that I have answered in many comments:

I do not know what happens to me during the test — I do pathetically, sometimes I am even ashamed to mention how much I score — but when I sit after the test, I find that I can answer all questions easily.

How do I deal with this nervousness, how do I tackle this?


You are looking in the wrong mirror — your post-test performance does not really count

The biggest thing test-takers discount is that they are solving the whole paper for the second time!

  • You have already spent 40 or 60 minutes with the 25 to 35 problems.
  • You have already tried half of the problems for atleast 2 to 3 minutes each
  • You attempted all the rest of the questions at least for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • You have understood all the superficial aspects of the question
  • You have already tried the obvious methods

When you read it for a second time

  • your brain registers what it missed or took for granted the during the exam
  • your do not draw the same table or represent the information in a DI-LR set the same way that you did during the exam
  • you actually understand the anchor condition because in the exam you did not give it enough thought
  • you thus start correctly solving the questions you spent 2 or 3 minutes on during the exam
  • you gain confidence and then correctly solve the questions you spent 1 or 2 minutes on during the exam
  • you conclude that your problem is nervousness

You completely and conveniently ignore the fact that in reality you spent, on average, 4-5 minutes on every question, or in other words you took twice the time to solve the same section.

You took two stabs at the question.

You are adding the score of first and second innings into a single score!


Estimating your capabilities by post-test performance creates a vicious cycle

In your head your actual capability on a section is 45-50 marks because of the way you ace it post-test whereas your actual scores are in the 15-25 range.

After every successful post-test solving you approach the next test with the same mindset — I am awesome at this section, this time I am going to score 45-50.

What happens when you go in with this thinking?

  • To score a 45-50 you have score attempt around 20-22 questions and get 17-18 right or attempt 4 sets or all RCs
  • This means that you going to attempt almost 2 out of 3 questions
  • More importantly, this means that you have just about 2 minutes per question
  • You feel under the pump right from the beginning
  • A few questions go wrong in the beginning and the downward spiral starts
  • You desperately try to keep your head above the water for the rest of the section — everything but your head is still
  • You come back home, pick yourself up, resolve the section, and feel good
  • You think my level is 45-50, next time I will nail it
  • The cycle, unfortunately vicious not virtuous, continues

And another thing also happens because of these misplaced targets

  • All the question-selection strategies and solving techniques that IMS mentors, including me, keep going on and on about in Masterclasses and other videos are thrown out of the window
  • You think that all of these strategies & techniques are not practical in actual test conditions
  • You relegate the processes to the background and go back to being you and doing you.

Accept your true ability and set realistic goals

I am not saying that you can never score a 45, you sure can, but not right now! Right now may be your ability is somewhere in the middle — not 15-25 or 45-50 but 30-35.

This might be tough to accept —

  • you think you are good at VA-RC since you read a lot
  • you think you are good at QA since you like Math a lot and have done well in the past

But the fact is that this exam and the question types and the format have nothing to do with your capabilities in general.

It has everything to do with performing in the format of the test. The only true indicator of the ability is your performance on the test. You are a good test cricketer does not mean you will be an ace at T20 and vice-versa! You play exceptionally well in India does not mean you will play exceptionally well in England!

So, this is what you should do.

Set your ego aside completely, put the test above you.

Set a target of your current average score plus 10. If you are currently scoring around then do not aim for more than 25.

Solve only as many sets/questions that you need to solve to reach this score.

If you are used to aiming for 4 sets out it is okay to aim for only 2 of the easiest and get them right.

What this does is that

  • the pressure of the timer disappears
  • you have enough time to execute the selection correctly
  • you have enough time to execute the processes correctly
  • you are more likely to achieve your target

Once you achieve a 25 for 2-3 tests, add another 10 marks, let your score stabilise at 35 and then add another 10.

Some papers might be damned difficult but if you are selecting right then you will clear the cut-off and get a good percentile despite a lower-than-target-score since your targets were realistic to start with.


Your problem is nervousness only if

Nervousness is a valid problem only if you are scoring exceptionally well in the TakeHomes and tanking only in the Proctored SimCATs

Your performance in sectionals are not a valid indicator of your ability since you are not comparing apples with apples; the comparison is valid only in VA-RC since it is the first section and you have as much energy in the SimCAT as in the sectional.

So, if you fall into this category — great TakeHome scores but drastically reduced scores in Proctored Sims — then, yes, nervousness is a problem. I will be doing a session about the same later in the season.

But in the meantime you will not do badly to set reduced expectations, that in itself will decrease the pressure.


There is enough and more time from now until the end of November.

Enough time for you to set the right targets and slowly work your way to higher scores, provided you do not slave mindlessly but work strategically

  • identify the your problems with test-taking correctly
  • set the right targets, and
  • sit down to prepare, be it practice or testing, every single time with a clear goal — I need to select better, or I need to execute processes better, I need to cut down on errors due to misreading and miscalculation.

The goal is not to score hundred but to score a good 35-40 during which

  • only the right deliveries were played at,
  • every shot played hits the centre of the bat,
  • every shot is played right into the gap and
  • gets you as many runs as the ball deserved

Walk, jog, run, and finally, fly.