CAT Strat, Motivation
Comments 33

CAT 2019: My scores have plateaued, how do I push them north

We have about 40 days left for the CAT and the queries I am getting are reflecting the same. Aspirants have written to me saying that they have fixed the selection problem using the A-B-C approach and set selection approach for DI-LR and VA-RC and right now they have a different problem — scores have hit a plateau at their respective levels — 120, 135, 150. And most are facing the same dilemma —  I don’t want to increase my speed and go below the current scores and get demotivated, but if I don’t increase my speed my scores will not go up, what do I do.Well this post a more or less a summation of a long chat answering the same question that I had with an old student of mine today morning.

Are you squeezing every drop out of your brain cells

One of the things I know about test-taking is that your best scores will take everything out of you, you will not be doing it comfortably. All of us, including me, have two modes of solving, one is solving comfortably knowing that we will do well enough, this is the autopilot mode — you are driving the car at 60 and you can do it without having to concentrate very hard — the second is when you are fully on and are smashing your best times — you are driving the car at 80, you are aware of every turn, every bit of pressure you are applying on the accelerator and the on the brake.

When I solve a Sudoku puzzle in the autopilot mode, I do it comfortably in 5 minutes, I am okay wasting a few seconds here and there, my eyes are not wide open to figuring out the missing numbers, when I am on, I shave off a minute at the least and in the odd case even 2.

So to cut a long story short, you need to up the intensity during the 60 minutes of a section. But intensity is only half the battle, how and what do you direct the intensity towards?

Taking your VA-RC scores to the limit

The first question to ask is how many marks are you scoring from the VA question. Can you push it to a consistent 21 for every test from now on and how do you get there?

  • Does your intensity and focus to absolutely get the question right stop at RC?
  • Do you get complacent and mark answers in VA knowing that you haven’t locked them in the way you are doing on RC?
  • Are you happy finding a couple of links and quickly marking a combination for Parajumbles?
  • On a summary question, do you always stop to summarise the three things about the paragraph, after reading the paragraph and before proceeding to the options?

You will find that sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t. The intensity with which you approach RC might be missing. So tighten that bit and focus on getting a 21.

On RC questions, you are getting all the direct/specific questions right but the moment it comes to inferences or indirect questions such as which if the following will add least depth to the author’s argument, you either make a mistake or are okay leaving it since you are getting the other questions right.

If you need to squeeze out more from the RC questions, you have to thread the needle on the tougher application questions. You have reached that stage of the match where you need to make the big shots, you can’t be comfortable taking a single, so ask yourself,

  • Do you pause at the end of the passage to paraphrase the main idea?
  • Do you pause at the end of a question and before going to the options to frame the function that the right answer should perform in other words the shadow answer

If you are not doing these things then you will always be stuck at these scores in VA-RC.
If you are already doing these things and have good accuracy, there is only way up, read faster, do not be scared, all you have to do while reading faster is concentrate deeper. Remember, it will not be comfortable, if you want comfort make peace with your current scores.

The best revision for VA-RC, go to the Channel tab on the new myIMS link that is there on the current myIMS, you will find the recordings of the all the Masterclasses, if you haven’t, watch RC the Masterclass 2. You can also solve SimCAT 10 and watch the solutions to the VA-Rc section the same that I have recorded.

Can you teach your brain new approaches to get hold of a slippery DI-LR sets

With DI-LR, aspirants say that they seem to have got hang of the selection to reach scores above 40 but then something like SimCAT 11 puts them back in the 20s.

A student had reached out to me about SimCAT 11 and did what I always do — solve the damn paper! I absolutely loved the paper, every set seemed do-able and there was that easy time-zone set right at the end that will elude even the classification that I have proposed. Ask yourself,

  • were you able to solve the first set on weighted averages, mathematical reasoning, in under 10 minutes?
  • Did you solve the super-easy DI-Calculation set, the spider graph, that only looked tough but was nothing but plain numbers (the set can be solved with one less a condition)
  • Were you able to crack the exquisite analytical reasoning sets that were the grocery sets and the conference set — one went into pure Sudoku space and another into a really good P&C and LR logic.

So much did I like the section that I walked over to my colleague who made it and told him that it was one of the best DI-LR sections I have taken since it was so slippery.

Like SimCAT 11 there will be other SimCAT DI-LR sections that have some awesome logic going on.

In the next 40 days, resolve the 16 SimCATs and 4 sets from CAT 2017 and CAT 2018 again. Select the right sets at the beginning, spending 10 minutes and then try to knock off 4-5 sets in 50 minutes.

Sit for an hour or more to analyse this:

  • Are you good at making number combinations of totals based on ratios given?
  • Are you able to figure that an equation such as 31x + 2y = 1025 can have only one pair of values that satisfy them and if x and have to be multiples of 25 then you can start by substituting multiples of 25 for and quickly find the value of x?
  • Do you realise that if 5 cells have the possibilities P/Q/R, R/T/S, P/Q/T, P/T, and P/T then P and T can be eliminated from the first three?

You will find that you are currently limited to a few approaches. When faced with Mathematical Reasoning sets, your brain does not throw up such suggestions to make number combinations or write equations.

If you spend enough time with the solutions of the 20 DI-LR sections that I mentioned earlier then you will teach yourself newer mathematical reasoning pathways.

I will do a video later in the month on the best DI-LR sets in terms of learning specific kinds of reasoning.

Do you step out of the crease to QA questions

Then there is a lot of you who like QA and score a comfortable 55-60 in QA. Can you do better in terms of core QA ability, yes, but are you doing it no. May be right since the beginning of the SimCATs you are scoring in roughly the same range, 22-25 attempts with 18-22 right. Are you happy with QA, yes, but then you also see people with similar ability attempting 30-32 and getting 27-29 questions right and wonder what they are doing.

Increasing intensity on the QA section means that you are solving at a faster pace than you normally solve and that happens in two ways. The first, writing fewer steps, never writing whole equations, to put it simply if people look at the solution to a question on your sheet they should not be able to understand a thing — it should just be a few numbers written here and there.

The second is by using shortcuts such as substituting the answer options and backsolving, approximating and eliminating, using ratios instead of equations to solve Arithmetic.

You will not be able to solve many questions by these methods but you should be able to pull out at least 4 to 6 questions in a short time, this would mean about 15-18 marks in 6 to 8 minutes. It is these questions that will propel your attempts and score.

Isn’t this exactly what England did to India in the World Cup — four of their batsmen, Jason Roy, Bairstow, Root and Stokes, hit six unconventional hits to the fence, primarily reverse sweeps. This not only accelerated their score but also put a lot of pressure on the bowlers.

Now some of you might say — Sir but if Virat Kohli can’t do it, can we? The fact is that if a batsman as staid and traditional as Joe Root can do it then anyone can. Indians did not try not because they couldn’t but because they felt they needn’t. Our high scores were a function of a couple of batsmen going big and not a function of an entire team having the array of unconventional strokes that have become common in the modern game.

Some of you might ask — Sir, but are they not high risk? Some of the shots in T20 cricket such as the upper-cut or the scoop or the ramp shot were shots that were started by an individual player but now they have become commonplace with everyone mastering it. Ben Stokes hit a reverse sweep for six in the recent historic chase during the Ashes, it means that it is no longer a high-risk shot for him, he exactly knows which balls to do it on, just like good solvers know exactly the question on which to use answer options. So start stepping out of the crease and go big.

Another thing that might be stopping you is that there still are one or two areas that you do not like to solve questions from, you might end up spending more time on a tougher question from your favourite area than do an easy one from an area you do not fancy. Revise the QA section of the SimCATs to go through them to look at easy questions from areas that you do not like.

We have given alternative solutions wherever possible on the SimCATs, go through them. We will later do a video with the best of these questions.

Around this time last year, a student had called saying the was from IIT-D and was scoring around 99.5, he needed a percentile above 99.7 to get a call from C and he was scoring around 60 in QA. And he said he was doing everything I said above. The only thing left was for him to increase his reading speed, not by much but by 10%, he was reading well within himself since he was scared of losing accuracy, I just asked him to concentrate harder and drive faster. He hid and scored a 99.89.

What to do in the last 40 days

You have reached a particular level, the last jump will mean that it will take more out of you mentally, but there is no way out. 20 tests, one every alternate day, with full intensity and in the days in between the things that I listed above.

You need to get used to performing at your optimal level. Optimal does not mean a number in terms of score, it means that if the test is really easy you hit it out of the park and if it is tough to still manage to clear the cut-offs. And yeah, a Sudoku puzzle every day with the goal to lower your best time.

And if you drive on your way to work or college, drive at your normal speed :-).


  1. Hello Sir,
    Your blog posts have been of immense help 🙂
    Just had a question for you, What would be the best way to utilize the 40 days to CAT, for someone who is stuck in the 50-70 range in SIMCATS?


    • Hi,

      Glad you find the posts useful.

      At your score range, I would advise you to first set the target score for your desired b-school. Let us say you want to score above 90 percentile, which means a score of around 100-120.

      You need to set small targets towards this, with the first being 90, 30 in each section and a further split, so many from VA, so many from RC, 3 sets in DI-LR, 15 questions in QA.

      What you need to do between tests is to use the right tools depending on the problem you are facing.

      If your VA-RC accuracy is low, then watch the Masterclasses on the CHANNEL tab of the new myIMS.

      If you are unable to choose 3 DI-LR sets then watch the recording of the e-LMTC DI-LR webinar session on the CHANNEL tab of the new myIMS. Question selection for other sections as well is covered on the eLMTC.

      If you are unable to solve questions from particular areas in QA watch the concept and application videos in the LEARN tab of the new myIMS..

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  2. Abhishek Arora says

    Hello Sir.

    I have been consistently scoring in the range of 85-95 in all proctored simcats and I am only able to attempt on an average 53 – 58 questions. I am analyzing each and every mock, question by question but somehow i am getting stuck in these range of scores only. VA is major issue because of which i am attempting lesser questions because of higher accuracy. Any specific thing i need to do in these 40 days so that my scores can cross 120+. Thank you in advance.


    • Hi Abhishek,

      If you are attempting 55 questions on average it means that you are getting about 35-38 questions right on average and thus a score of 85-95.

      This means that your accuracy is still barely touching 70%. So your first task is to push it upto 80-85%.

      The first step is the right selection of questions, so please watch the e-LMTC webinars uploaded on the Channels TAB of the new myIMS, the link to which is on the current myIMS. This is absolutely crucial on DI-LR and QA.

      To improve accuracy on VA, watch the Rc and VA masterclasses on the Channel and the SimCAT 10 VA-RC feedback to see if you solve using the same processes. Once your accuracy on VA-RC is good then the only option left is to increase speed, start by increasing it slightly, 10%, and increase it eventually by about 25%.

      All the best!


      • sneha says

        Hello sir, on the channel, the videos titled logic masterclass 1 only opens the logic masterclass 2 video. Even the video e-LMTC DILR opens the logic masterclass 2. Therefore, I am unable to access the logic masterclass 1 video.


  3. Karthik Nayak says

    Bookmarked this post! This was what I was waiting for.

    Thank you, Mr. Xavier!


  4. Vedant Gupta says

    Hello Sir,
    I have been scoring in the range of 80-85 consistently. I have been scoring around 40 in Verbal where I attempting 23-24 questions consistently.I always face an issue in the VA section due to time constraints thereby making my accuracy low in verbal ability how should I ensure I am maximizing those 21 marks in the last 6-8 minutes.
    In the DI-LR sections while following the process of set selection which we were taught in the LMTC I feel I waste too much time in start thereby having only around 50-52 minutes due to which I am able to only solve 2-3 sets at max.
    My score have been consistently low in the QA section. I have been stuck between the 25-30 range for a long time. Sir please could you give us a road map for the next 38 days for the students who are weak in the QA section and who are looking to push their score further in this section.
    Lastly, in every 4-5 mock tests I give there is always one mock i always score very low purely because of a dip concentration which often happens. How should i ensure this dip of concentration does not happen on D-Day.

    Thank you in advance.


  5. Tausif Tufail says

    I really liked the post and the way you discussed all the three sections separately, it revised the strategy and methods one needs to apply while attempting those sections, while also suggesting methods to increase the scores. I also went through the comments and that answers most of my questions as I am also stuck in the 80-90 range.

    Also very happy that you are coming to LMTC, Patna.

    Thank You Sir.


  6. Another Random CAT Aspirant says

    Sir, I’m stuck in the 110-125 range in SIMCATs and 140-160 range in AIMCATs. Every passing mock is demotivating me more and more. I had a 86%ile in SIMCAT 12, the lowest that I have ever got. I need (yes, need, not want) to cross 99%ile in CAT anyhow, what should be the plan for the next 38 odd days?


  7. Rohit says

    Hi sir,
    Thanks for the post. I am a student scoring regular 99.5 or thereabouts in AIMCATs but in SIMCATs specifically because of LRDI, I am lagging by about 20 marks to reach the same percentiles in most SimCATs. I have also scored a 99.9+ in SimCAT 5 but that was a long time ago and I feel like the LRDI of the SimCATs is a particular pain point. I invariably choose the easiest sets but mess up because of a high target in my head, which has come due to the desire of wanting to be in those Top 50 or so ranks. Apart from this, QA is also stuck at around 98%ile, and I seem to make my mistakes not in conceptual areas but in addition/subtraction or even simply reading the question.. What would you suggest I do in these last 40 days to go significantly north of 99.5?


    • Hi Rohit,

      You seem to have identified the pain points pretty well.

      Firstly, get your sights off the top 50 ranks since they do not really matter in any way as long as you get calls from the top schools and just the old IIMs give calls to around 6000 people! I never even topped my city (was in the top 5) but got calls from A,C, L and K, so yeah, do not bother about the ranks.

      The issue seems to be that in your desire to reach the top 50 you are making mistakes, most of which are silly.

      Overall I feel you need to be more steady and go into machine-mode of solving rather than having a lot of mental energy bouncing around during the 180 minutes.

      How to achieve this? I do not claim to be an expert on this but can suggest a few things that I feel usually lead to a calmer disposition, as well as faster and more accurate solving.

      1. Solve the QA section of Take-Home tests by not a holding a pen in your hand, keep a pen and paper handy but solve as much as possible mentally ny concentrating harder. Trust me, even I do better this way because I force myself to focus more and my concentration is more one-pointed and not scattered when I am moving pen on paper.

      2. Solve the DI-LR section of take-home tests setting yourself a goal of solving only 4 sets cleanly. Focus on solving them without too much back and forth wasted calculations and so on that arise from the hurry to move on. Focus again on cleanly meeting the ball with your head over it fully and not rushing through the stroke. Tell yourself that if you solve 5 you will cross 99 on DI-LR (which is true from last year’s data, watch the e-LMTC recorded webinar and the cut-offs are mentioned there).

      3. Shift your energies and thoughts in between tests to solving smoothly from start to finish and do not waste any time on any of the forums discussing scores or anything else with other aspirants. Focus only on how smooth your process of solving is. If you perform to the same ability you will cross 99.75 on the actual CAT, and that will give you the 6 calls.

      4. Ensure that you get in at least a few breathing practices into your routine, they will help you focus your energies.

      5. Start taking organic Brahmi capsules, the herb is great to have a steady and clear mind.

      Try these things out.

      All the best!


  8. Aditya Chaudhari says

    Hi sir,
    Thanks for the post, my pain point is a verbal section as there I am able to attempt 20-24 but from that only 10-12 right and others wrong which will make my score to 75-85 range. Any suggestion on verbal especially attempts because now my accuracy is around 40-60.


    • Hi Aditya,

      Unless you are marking in haste, do not have sufficient time and thus making errors, there is no point in dropping the attempts deliberately.

      What is crucial though is that you work on the processes of solving that you are using.

      Please go through the RC Masterclass 2, the VA Masterclasses (all available on the Channels TAB of the new myIMS) and the feedback of SimCAT 10 VC-RC. Change your processes of solving to those discussed in detail in the Masterclass. If applying the newer processes reduces the attempts, so be it, you have to reach an accuracy of 80%, and once you are used to the new processes attempts will go up. Your first target should be to score above 40 marks and then slowly increase it.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  9. Parthvi says

    Hello sir, I am scoring in the range of 50-60 in SIMCATs. My scores are fluctuating depending upon the SIMCATs. Sometimes I am scoring 30+ in VARC and sometimes not , same is the case for DILR and QA. I have started watching all the IMS PREVIEW videos. What you would suggest to do in these 37 days so that it will help me in my preparation.

    Liked by 1 person

      • sir, one post on late started students. please . i am scoring in range of 40 – 60 marks only.

        what should be my best schedule in next 30 days . and from where i should practice , from brm or c test or A test or should i write mocks on alternative days ,

        i am a crash course student in ims delhi .
        i hope , you will write for same ASAP.

        TIA .


  10. Hello Sir! Please let me know how to improve my VARC Marks. I am consistently scoring in 20s in this section. Would you suggest reading articles daily or solving RCs daily?


  11. rishi says

    Hi Sir,

    My score ranges in 40-50 VA; 40-50 DI; 30-40 QA: so able to score between 110-120 ( with 64-67 attempts) most of the times. But I always felt while going through the review, that I could have scored 30-40 marks more in the overall test- specifically in the VA section where I felt short of at least 20 marks.
    What should I do in this last 40 days to improve?


  12. Eashna says

    I scored in the range of 110-120 and now it seems i am stuck.No matter how much I analyse there is always one set in lrdi and 5-6 questions in quant which I could have definitely solved.How to tackle this?How to push it to 130-140 marks?Please help


  13. rishi says

    same has happened to me also, i usually run out of time in quants ( score 30-40). But for VA-RC i was constantly scoring percentile in the range of 93-96, but from last few mocks i am underperforming- my usual attempts are 26-28 with 70 percent accuracy.


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