Comments 24

CAT 2019 Miscellany: Afternoon slot, test pattern, and diet blues

The super-long Diwali weekend has been a good break and I thought for a change I’d use my desk at home to do a post on the all the small niggles here and there that keep popping up through the comments. I hope you guys used the break well πŸ™‚

An afternoon slot for a morning person!

The admit cards are out and I once again I have gotten a city other than Mumbai, this time it is Pune and not Nashik like it was the time before, and it is an afternoon slot. It goes without saying half of the test-takers will have got an afternoon slot so, as Sheldon would say, it should not have come as a surprise.

But the question is what do we do now that you are supposed to be in prime test-taking mode from 2:30 to 5:30 and until now you have been taking tests in the morning? How do you beat the usual sluggishness in the afternoon and is it possible to go from sluggishness to full alertness?

The reason for our sluggishness is not as much as time slot as much as the fact that we have lunch around between 1 and 2, post which the whole body is focussed on one thing β€” digesting your food, your body is also heavier because you have just eaten and it is also satiated, all of these things put together are giving you a signal to relax and close your eyes for a while β€” a 180 minute test is the last thing on your mind (Those of you who attended my LMTC workshops would have noticed that I did not eat anything during the day except having copious amounts of black coffee, the main reason was that I did not want to feel sluggish even for a bit)

So there are a few things that you can do to ensure that you are switched in the slot.

  • Firstly, do not have a heavy breakfast, eat some fruits and nuts or a light breakfast (idli/poha as opposed to paratha/dosa) in a slightly smaller quantity along with a (morning) beverage of your choice, 60 to 90 minutes after you are up or whenever you feel slightly hungry
  • Have a big meal between 11 to 12, it should have sufficient protein, and a certain amount of carbs as well β€” for vegetarians (given my limited knowledge) something like rajma-chawal will work best, for non-vegetarians nothing better than rice/roti with some egg curry and veggies (two eggs along with the yellow) since it is the lightest protein. This meal should hold you till 5:30, you can figure out the right portion size in a week. of experimentation.
  • All of you should get the Brahmi capsules as it is excellent for alertness and immunity at the same time (I do not sleep well and wake up groggy, that is when I started taking it). Carry a capsule or two along with you and pop before you have to leave your bag and go into the lab.
  • In the lead up to the test, take as many tests as you can in the afternoon slot while following this schedule
  • Those of you who are working might find it tough to execute the mealtime but am sure if you really use put your head to it you can make it happen (just tell your colleagues you are doing intermittent fasting.

What diet should I have?

I was surprised to get a query around the kind of diet one should have but then I also remember that on Saturday I was talking to my colleague about physical fitness for test-taking, so in a way, the question is very relevant.

I will try to answer the question from whatever little reading I have done and whatever experiments that I have done with respect to diet and I will try to keep it really simple. This is something that everyone can take up irrespective of the slot.

Food can help you feel two ways, one β€” extremely happy, satisfied, heavy, and ready to hit the sack, which is what happens when you have food that you and maybe most people really like such as biriyanis, desserts (you get the drift). This state after this is perfect to watch something silly while lying down and going off to sleep, I have done and still do my share of this.

The other thing that I have also done is have phases where food made me feel another way β€” nourished and light, exactly the way one feels after eating some fruit.

Afternoon Slot .jpg

Given that all of you want to crack the third or fourth toughest test in the world (JEE, UPSC, Gaokao) I suppose you know which one of the two options you are supposed to choose.

So just eat a certain amount of fresh foods (fruits and nuts) and food that is not fried, overtly spicy, and oily (the non-vegetarians, please savour the meat and eat smaller portions), basically whatever your mom made in moderate quantities.

Also, stop eating when you are just about three-fourths full do not crave for the feeling of heaviness.  I have found that even milk makes me feel heavy or rather makes me aware of my gut and I hence cut it out of my system, you should try it as well.

And yeah, no snacks, at all, nothing out of a plastic packet, they don’t just make you feel heavy but bloated and make you crave strong flavours.

Give fasting a shot

One of the things you should try out is fasting once a week over the weekend since you would be needing energy for studying just skip two consecutive meals (dinner & breakfast or breakfast & lunch, the former is easier since you sleep through most of it).

The reason I like fasting is for two things β€” the body goes into specific phases that are very useful (do not waste time googling this, I have done it) and more importantly it forces you to gather all your will power and make it one-pointed, it makes you go into monk-mode. I will never preach what I do not practice, so it is safe to try, but do no force yourself or be harsh on yourself if you are unable to.

I just read yesterday that the surest way to destroy a person is to give him everything he or she wants. The corollary to this is that constraints are good. Things like fasting once a week are constraints that helps us reset and get more out of ourselves.

Exercise and if you need to shed some kilos, shed them

One thing that is least talked about is the importance of exercise for mental activities such as test-taking and I cannot vouch for this more. Whenever I sit at my desk for a long time, after a point I feel stale as if my brain is not working, all I need then is a good short walk and get the blood flowing through the body again. Movement is what gets oxygen into our system and makes us feel fresh.

It has been now proven that sitting for long period of time has many harmful effects and I know professionals who have desks that can be adjusted for height so that they can stand and work. You do not need to get one now but you need to counter the effects of sitting for a long time on your desk to prepare long with college or work.

All you need to do is a  light exercise at an intensity that only at the end of 30 minutes will make you breathe from your mouth. You should not be panting, your t-shirt should not be drenched. I would suggest a walk or a jog early in the morning or late at night or Yoga or (light) weight training for those who are already doing it.

As I have said before I cannot think of a better thing than adding a few breathing practices to your day.

Those who are slightly on the heavier side will do well to lose a few kilos and feel lighter if you do the things outlined so far, you should be able to (do not start any special weight loss program and start wasting time researching the same, just do what we discussed so far)

Some of you might be thinking, is all of this really necessary?

Well, yes and no.

If you are my friend who is a 10-time 100-percentile or one of his students who had a 100 last-year and scored just a mark or two fewer than him, you do not need any of this. These guys are at a level way beyond the test and the test doesn’t need them to stretch. If these guys have to compete on a different exam with many more people at their level I am sure they would also benefit from being in prime physical shape. But everyone else, including yours truly, can get better by being really fit.

Magnus Carlsen, the current world chess champion and the player with the highest ELO rating ever,  does a lot of exercise work as well, he works out every single day, basically a lot of aerobic training. He says it crucial to be able to sit and think for hours at a stretch, so yeah, if Carlsen does, you and I sure should.

Is there going to be pattern change?

The CAT as an exam has a penchant for getting something or the other wrong every single time. Sometimes the things that go wrong are for poor test-takers at a venue level never get reported. Sometimes, it is the kind of errors that we saw on the demo software they launched. There is no reason for me to elaborate on the same since and discuss it in detail. I think there will be no change in structure.

Even if there is, it changes absolutely nothing, it just makes things easier.

Keep prepping.


  1. Mayank Anand says

    Hello Sir,
    As usual, a fabulous article ingrained with suggestions that can be practically implemented.
    I have an afternoon slot and two quite silly questions to ask!
    1. In CAT17 & 18 section-wise and overall question level and the pattern was almost same. Is it good to see the updates about these, that usually comes up by many sources by 12:30, and then make a mind-frame as per?
    Because in my case, specially in VARC, it happened in few simcat, that when I watch the first 2 min of video analysis before attempting and get to know okk the VARC is like CAT last year so I will solve 30-32 questions or ohh so VARC is quite difficult so I will solve 20-24 with devoting quite more time per question, and it actually increased my varc overall score in that particular SIM obviously! Unfortunately, I am not able to judge the overall difficulty level of VARC while attempting or scanning. So now I have a simple formula, attempt all 5 passages then all 3 OOO then summary, if time permits PJ. This works fantastic when the difficulty level is of CAT, last 2-3 years, but not so good when section level is like XAT.

    2. As suggested by you I am taking a Brahmi tablet every day for the last 2 months, surely I will take before the test too. Is it good to eat a dark chocolate bar at the time of leaving bags? Many articles I read that state dark chocolate give a boost to the brain for a short time, should I eat that too?

    Thank you


    • Mayank Anand says

      One edit in first question. In CAT17 & 18 section-wise and overall question level and the pattern was almost same in both slots respectively.


    • Hi Mayank,

      I would say that before the test one should be as calm and collected as possible, any sort of anxiety and trying to find out always derails things because people will be giving all sorts of analysis, some will say it is easy, others that it is tough and we also know that there is at least a slight change in difficulty level from slot to slot as well. So as far as trying to find out what happened, it is best avoided. Also, in the video-analysis the analysis is done by experts, you cannot say the same about all of your peers taking the test.

      Finally, one cannot work around the fact that you have to you analyse the pitch and bat accordingly since the paper will be different, one tough RC than the other slot and it can throw a spanner in the works. I would say a better strategy is to solve the 4 easiest RCs, Summary and Odd Sentence Out and PJs and come back to the worst passage of the lot.

      2. As far as dark chocolate goes, try it and see, if it works use it!

      All the best!


  2. Abhishek Arora says

    Hi Sir. I really found this article helpful.I have an afternoon slot and I am currently working as well. So is it better to give mocks after coming from office or should I give only 5-6 mocks on weekends at the respective time (2.30 – 5.30) and analyze them only since there are only 3 weeks left for cat?

    Also if you could help as to what i should do after coming from office for the next 3 weeks since I have only 3 – 4 hours in the evening and dont have much time to prepare for the entire day.

    Thank You!


    • Hi Abhishek,

      You should use the weekends for SimCATs and take mocks during the weekend if you need to work to improve stamina and selection. If both of those are not an issue and you have taken more than 15 tests already then take tests only on weekends, else, throw in a few tests on the weekdays.

      You should analyse the tests well enough to make a list of things that you need to work on during the week, say β€” executing processes for VA, better selection of DI-LR or resolving all DI-LR sets from SimCATs and previous years’ CAT, Geometry etc.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  3. bikash ray says

    sir i gave simcat 125 , i sc0red 123 still i got only 82%le.. was the paper so easy or very less no. of students gave mock, please clarify sir,as i found the paper little difficult,


    • Hi Bikash,

      It is primarily a function of the number of takers, a lot of students do not take so many SimCATs, the average number of SimCATs taken per student is only around 5, so it might be one of those SimCATs.

      Do not worry too much, hope the percentiles on the Proctored SimCATs are fine.

      All the best!


  4. Sumanth S says

    Hi Tony…
    As usual, a great article having the required Gyan.

    I am Sumanth.
    I have got the morning Slot, which is in all ways good since I am a morning person, however, the issue is I don’t get sleep on the previous day of the exam, or in fact even the previous day of Proctored SIMCATs. It is completely due to anxiety.
    I still remember the night before CAT 2017 I could hardly sleep, for that matter even yesterday night I hardly slept since I was giving my AIMCAT today.
    I have to force myself to concentrate in the last 15 mins of the paper.
    I am starting the brahmi capsule course from today( hope 1 before the exam is sufficient & taking it every day wouldn’t affect me in another 20 days).

    Help me get out of this.
    One last thing,
    Thanks a ton, dear Friend.
    Earlier I would hardly attempt 18-20 questions in verbal with an accuracy somewhere in the 60s.

    Going through many of your articles I have improved.
    Now I attempt about 28-30 Qs but with the same accuracy, the scores have managed to increase though.



  5. Kartik says

    Hello sir,
    I have been following your tips from LMTC and my scores in VARC and Quants have gone up since then. I am scoring a total of around 100-110 from these two sections. But LR-DI scores are stuck at 20-25.
    In the last 4-5 SIMCATs, I was able to find 5-6 doable sets (scored them above 7 during the selection) but while attempting them I was not able to crack those one or two crucial conditions, which are generally not direct, deduction type condition and hence end up attempting only 2-3 sets.
    When I watch the solutions, I find that I was only one or two steps away from solving the whole set, only if I had solved that one condition or statement.
    With less than a month remaining, I don’t know what I can do to solve these sets.
    Can you please suggest me some strategy to counter this?
    Thank you.
    P.S.: I also wrote this comment on your article about improving the LR-DI percentile but did not received a reply. Hope this time you will answer.




    • Hi Kartik,

      I don’t know how I missed your comment, it happens once in a while.

      The only reason behind the problem I can think of is the that you are rating 5 to 6 sets 7 and above and hence moving away from a set just when you are close to cracking it. I feel your set rating can improve since I myself never find 6 do-able sets!

      I do not think, based on the last few years’ CAT papers, that there will more than 5 solvable sets. A perfect test will be 10 minutes to rate and then solve 5 sets in 50 minutes, that would be a 99.95.

      So start by telling yourself that 4 sets, a score of 40-48, is the goal to start with and give yourself the 10 minutes per set. And when you are solving that set tell yourself that you will dig deeper and wrestle with that one condition, tell yourself that that is where the set is really starting. Also, instead of just looking at the solution look at the kind of reasoning that you are not likely to do or rather the type of approaches that do not come naturally to you, that might help you turn to them when you are actually solving it.

      You have come to that crucial turn after which you have to go at it alone no one can help you, me or anyone else can just point out the direction, you can to climb the last steep portion of the mountain.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  6. Sumanth S says

    Dear Sir,
    I am Sumanth, I have been alotted the morning slot.
    It is good in all ways except for someone like me. The issue being I experience sleeplessness the night before the exam.
    I face this while writing SIMCATs as well since I take them as if it was an actual CAT.

    This happened on the previous night of CAT 2017 as well.
    I am sure it’s the anxiety that causes this agony.

    Suggest a way to get out of it.



  7. Hi Sir,
    Your posts are really helpful. I am not a morning person but got morning slot and I am scared of how do I change my pattern. It would be helpful if you could post something like this for morning slot people.


  8. Ishaan Deva says

    Hi Sir,
    My problem is the exact opposite of your post: I am dreading the idea of a morning slot. My house is in Pedder Road which means leaving home by around 630 am in the morning. The earliest I have been waking up is 8am, anything before that seems to me a sure-shot guarantee to not be able to perform at my best or worse, fall asleep during the paper. Could you please suggest a manageable solution


  9. Pingback: CAT 2019 Miscellany: Morning Slot, Nervous Insomnia | The CAT Writer

  10. Sai Teja Repalle says

    Which brand of Brahmi capsules are safe to use without having any side-effects.


  11. Sir, i have the afternoon slot and query that has been nagging me is should i ask the morning slot test takers about the difficulty level of the sections?
    last year it would have helped afternoon slot test takers immensely for the quant section but i also feel it might create a bias in my mind and affect my test performance?



    Hello sir,
    Will it be okay if i take strong coffee before the exam, just like hour before an exam.
    Will it give me boost in exam. I am not also able keep brain fully awake till quant section.
    Will coffee prove to be good choice.


    • Black coffee is always great to switch on the lights inside the brain, will it help you last through to the QA section, I am not sure about that, usually the effects last only for about 90 minutes.

      Do not double your intake since it makes you jittery and anxious in large quantities.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


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