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 y have to be multiples of 25 then you can start by substituting multiples of 25 for y 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 :-).