CAT Strat
Comments 27

How to and not to evaluate your first SIMCAT performance

The response to the first SIMCAT was great and it was nice to see so many students jump into the fray from the word go. But the plunge as most of you would know is similar to jumping off a diving board for the first time — the moment of impact, the bewilderment when you are under the water, and most importantly the desperation towards the end to somehow get back to the ground again. (I have never jumped off a diving board but was once caught under the waves on the beach when I was quite little, thankfully my dad managed to rescue me).

Just like you would not bother too much about the score given to your first ever dive, do not think too much about the score you got. This is neither an engineering exam nor a blood test. So what is it and how should you evaluate your performance?

The four cornerstones of aptitude testing

The four cornerstones of aptitude testing are concepts, application, test-taking strategy and mental toughness.

On a scale of 100, the weightage given to each of these depends on the pattern of the test but on average they would be 25%, 30%, 30% and 15% respectively.

Concepts, Application and Mental Toughness need no defining but what most test-takers do not understand is the key role by test-taking strategy that has two parts

  • Question Selection
  • Time Allocation

Choosing the right question

Question Selection becomes very important on a test where you do not need to answer a question before you move ahead and you can navigate to and fro between questions.

On the GMAT, for example, you HAVE TO MARK an answer before you go ahead and you cannot return to that question again so there is no question of choosing or leaving a question.

On the CAT and the GRE, you do not have any such compulsion. So your task is to identify and solve the easiest questions or sets first, mark the medium-level questions later and never attempt the really tough questions.

How many of you chose questions wisely in the first SimCAT?

  • did you answer questions in serial order as they appeared?
  • did find that you ended up wasting time on tough DI or LR sets only to find out too late or after the test that there were easier questions or sets?
  • did you have unread questions at the end of each section?

If your answer to any of these questions is YES, it means that this first SimCAT is simply an eye-opener for you with respect to your test-taking strategy.

Can you develop this ability to identify the right question to do immediately, mark the right question for later and leave the tough question by the next SimCAT? The answer obviously is NO. You will develop that skill only after solving quite a few SimCATs. Also, we will dedicate an entire 3-hour session to it later in the season.


The CAT has always been doing flip-flops on the question of where it stands with respect to time-allocation. Over the last decade, they have alternated between having sectional time-limits and having no sectional time-limits.

I for one am not in favor of sectional time-limits since it allocating time plays a crucial part in evaluating a candidate’s ability to strategize — use the resources at his/her disposal (relative skills on various sections) to maximize the outcome — clearing sectional as well as overall cut-offs.

When you have to divide your time properly, choose the right questions and solve them correctly, you have to play three roles those of CEO, Manager and Worker respectively.

With sectional time-limits you end up playing only the latter two roles — Manager and Worker. Most you by now would have realised that for the better part of SimCAT 1 you were doing only one role — Worker.

We do not know what changes this year’s CAT will ring in but if they remove sectional time-limits things will surely get infinitely more interesting (or tough depending on the way you view it).

How many of you let your performance on the second section affect your performance on the third section? I am sure quite a few would have. This is where the fourth stone — mental toughness — comes in.

Of the four cornerstones, most of you will be still in the work-in-progress stage on first two — concepts and application. The other two stones you will lay by taking as many SimCATs as possible.

You are not going to see your best scores till September

Those of you who haven’t prepared for an entrance test that is taken by so many people, might be tempted to view your SimCAT 1 like you view engineering exam. If not in the mains, then definitely in the supplementary! Once I finish the concepts I will start scoring well. Yes, your scores will go up but so will the scores of others!

So accept the reality that you will take time to develop expertise in all four areas — concepts, application, test-taking, and mental toughness.

In all probability you will not see your best scores before September.

Who are those people scoring 170s and above!

I am sure you would have seen that the scores and percentiles of toppers will be in a different range and obviously that will set you wondering if they are from a different planet.

Well, most of them will be test-takers who gave a serious shot last year but could not make it for some reason.

There will also be a handful of people from a different planet such as a student of mine last year who scored a 180 in his first SimCAT after attending classes only for a week and having never prepared or appeared for the CAT before!

But not everyone needs to be like that. Many greats have made modest starts. Some food for thought:

  • Number of matches SRT played before first ODI century — 78
  • Number of years it took Djokovic to win his 1st Major – 5

When you are taking a SimCAT you are competing against the most serious aspirants among the approximately 2,00,000 people who register for the CAT, so you really need to be on the top of your game to hit the higher percentile ranges.

How to analyse a SimCAT

Back in the day when I was preparing for the CAT, I spent as many hours if not more hours analyzing a SimCAT as I spent taking it. So the first half was spent taking the test, the second analysing it and only then would I go to the beach to meet friends (that is what I would do every day in the evening in the small beach-town where I grew up —Vizag).

What are the things that constitute a great analysis?

What is the best score you could have got?

Irrespective of what you current level is you should look at

  • the mistakes you should have avoided
  • the questions you should have avoided
  • the questions should have solved

to arrive that the best score you could have got. You need to get that number after every test to know what you are capable of, what was within your reach.

What are the things on which you succeeded but you could have succeeded better?

You should look at the questions you solved correctly and see if you could have done them faster.

  • could you have cut down on solving that DI or LR set if you had spent more time at the beginning trying to understand the set?
  • could you have solved some questions/problems faster by not writing so much, by approximating or looking for an alternate approach?

Use this to make a  list of the process improvements you can make in the next SimCAT.

Solve all the unsolved questions in the SimCAT

Yes, I know you have not yet touched that Geometry book yet but your learning need not be linear. Use every unsolved question to learn concepts from topics you have not yet covered. So if there is a trapezium problem then you can at least learn the formula for the area of a trapezium by learning to solve that problem.

People keep asking for tough problems, especially tough DI and LR sets. The SimCATs will always have the best sets. So spend enough time trying to solve them on your own before looking at the solutions.

If you consistently do these things over the next few months after each and every SimCAT, be it a take-home one or a proctored one you will start seeing results.

If you stick to only solving the books and not doing this part of the job then you are really not preparing for the CAT but for a college exam.

Developing a skill takes more time than learning a concept

As I have mentioned many a times before, cracking the CAT is a skill and it will take time to develop. But the reason I keep repeating this is that one needs to view the whole process with the right mindset.

So think of the first SimCAT as the first time you took a car out after learning how to drive a car in the driving school — one will be overwhelmed by the enormity of the task and the pressure of driving in real-time traffic. But by repeatedly taking out the car all by oneself, one learns, one will bang the car, make a dent in it, but one will get better for sure.

All you have to do is take as many SimCATs as possible, spend enough time analysing the tests you take and stay patient, the results will show.

In case some of you haven’t enrolled for the SimCATs – you can do so here

All the best for the next SimCAT!



  1. Utkarsh says

    Very useful post sir. Waiting for you to take some VARC analysis in future and would like to thank Amit Panchmatia sir for beautifully explaining the LRDI and QA section. Although had a lot of memories attached to the old UI of ims but trying to get on with the new one. Also, what happened to the roll of honour? (was trying to get into it but it disappeared this season).


    • Hi Utkarsh,

      I’ll be doing the VA feedback but only once things are operational and our studio is re-opens.

      The new UI takes you to your scorecard faster 🙂

      There are a few missing elements in the Analytics — top 10 percentilers data and Roll of honour — they will also be ready by SimCAT 2. The pandemic came swinging right into the middle of our plans and we had to divert resources to move all our onground teaching operations online.

      Conveyed your message to Amit Sir via a screen shot 🙂

      Al the best for the season!


  2. Ritam Sharma says

    Sir please advise me.

    While attempting LRDI sets , entire one hour wasted . Tried 4-5 of them but ended up with a mess .

    Yes , I proceeded a bit in the right track(realized when saw solutions) but couldn’t complete any sets in the stipulated time .


    • Hi Ritam,

      DI-LR in the first SimCAT will be torture, it cannot be otherwise.

      I suggest you keep your goals simple to start with — identifying and solving the 2 easiest sets only (20+ marks will fetch you a very high percentile) for the first 4 SimCATs.

      Then push it to 3 sets for the next 4 SimCATs and 4 for the last 4. On the actual CAT, solving 4 sets correctly will fetch you a percentile in excess of 99.

      Also, watch the DI-LR videos in the LEARN Module of the IMS, they cover all the concepts required to solve DI-LR

      Going through these posts can help —

      All the best!


  3. Ayush Srivastava says

    What has gone so different from the school days that now i find it very difficult to develop And build over the QA concepts that i learned in high schools. Even though i learn new and better ways to solve a question i seem to forget them and find myself back on my traditional methods while giving the exam. please help me regarding this issue.


    • Hi Ayush,

      The thing with what happened in school is that you were always memorising solutions not solving, even though it might have not seemed so, the predictable papers meant that you were learning solutions to types that appeared.

      From there you have to make a switch to solving new questions all the time and it will take time, you cannot undo 15 years of schooling in the span of a few months especially in a test situation, you have to change your approach during practice.

      This post can be a good starting point –

      You have to prepare as if you are preparing for the first time, relearn concepts for what they actually are, watch the concept videos in the LEARN Module of myIMS or LEARN them from this blog —

      All the best,

      Keep Prepping


  4. shanaya says

    Thank you very much sir for giving us such a wonderful explanation that how much important analyzing a simCAT is. We will look further for your guidelines to keep us in track.


  5. archana yadav says

    Hi Sir
    What if someone scores lesser marks than what they had expected in SimCat? Does that mean we cannot score good in CAT?


    • Hi Archana,

      The CAT is in November, a long way away, you have 14 more SimCATs, they will be of varying difficulties and thus your scores will also fluctuate. As I wrote in the blog you will not see your best scores before September, so instead of judging your ability to crack the CAT based on the first SimCAT and instead of expectations, focus only on analysing a test and making the right plan to work on between tests.

      Keep Prepping!


      • Hi sir,
        Although I understand it’s after a gap of 4 months and being completely out of practice that we’ve taken a mock, I managed a 93.XX in CAT’19, but the SIMCAT-1 score was way off!
        Since it’s my retake this year, it’s put me under even more pressure and self-doubt. What advice would you have for bouncing back from this or should I take it as a reflection of my capability to crack the test


      • Hi Archana,

        You just cannot walk into actual match play after a 4-month layoff and expect to do well right off the bat, these are not college exams with standard questions so unless the machine is fully sharp, switched on, and warmed up you cannot expect to even start at the same percentile.

        Sportsmen who have played a sport for their life cannot come back from a break directly and score!

        A cricketer’s feet won’t move he will play away from his body, a tennis player will make unforced errors.

        I would be lying if I say I have the solution to pressure and self-doubt.

        But all I can say is that it is not about YOU, it is about the question and the technique and precision you exhibited with every single question, you answer 15 questions in non-actual CAT mode and that enough for your score to be a disaster.

        All I know is that I will always look at what I did wrong and get better and not wonder whether I am good enough, it is always about — was what I did in those 180 minutes not just good enough but the very best.

        And it is your outlook that will determine whether you can become a business leader in the future.

        All the best!


  6. Hi Sir,

    I only started studying this week using the IMS online classes. I haven’t done math since 10th grade. Should I be taking a SIMCAT or a mock test to assess my preparation yet or should I do it only once I’ve had a chance to go over the topics at least once? I’m afraid that my score might demotivate me.


    • Hi Rushana,

      If you feel that you cannot handle a bad score at all then do not take a full-length test, else it does not hurt to take a TAKE HOME SimCAT at the least.

      Focus on watching the videos and solving questions in the LEARN Module of your myIMS starting with Arithmetic to get your concepts right.
      Since Arithmetic comprises the maximum number of questions you can start taking SimCATs once you feel confident about Arithmetic since even solving only all the Arithmetic questions in the Math section and not even reading the rest can give you a decent score.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!


  7. Vaibhav says


    I feel like my quant preparation is not moving along the right track. When I solve module based questions at my own time, I do okay. But in the test setting, the onslaught of different concepts being tested feel overwhelming. I am not sure how to move to rectify this.


  8. Manash Biswas says

    Hi Sir
    While solving VA-RC most of the time i got confused between 2 options particularly , i have a habit to go with my intuition and take such risk, eventually i end up getting -1, But if i leave those questions then i would not be able to solve the no. of questions i have targeted. So What course of action i should take in situation like this,please guide me.


    • Hi Manash,

      You have more or less identified the problem — going with intuition instead of following a process. Take a look at how Punit Sir solved the RCs in the first SimCAT. The most important thing is to pause after reading the question, framing a shadow answer, check with the relevant part of the passage if necessary and eliminating or keeping each option as you read it.

      If you do not consciously pause and do this every single time, and jump from question to option this is what will happen — on easy questions, you will face no problem, on medium to tough questions you will sometimes get lucky and sometimes fail, your scores will be up and down and you will be facing the same problem 6 months from now.

      So all you need to do is consciously solve RC using the technique demonstrated in the solutions of SimCAT 1.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  9. Nidhi Sinha says

    Hi Sir,
    The analysis of SIMCAT 1 was of great help as it make my preparation far better that I used to prepare it for earlier. But the problem with me is that I am not gaining confidence while solving few of the questions. In VARC I’m like okay but while solving Quantitative Ability I always feel like something smart I need to do rather using traditional methods of solving.
    And as yesterday was your webinar and I was a minutes late in joining it. As I heard it was a fruitful session for all the students who didn’t get much confidence in QA. Sir would you provide me the link of that webinar’s recording?Because it is much needed to me. It will help me out in various aspects.
    Please guide me!!


    • Hi Nidhi,
      Good to hear that you found the analysis useful and that you have heard good things about the webinar.

      The recording will have to be edited and uploaded since the session got disconnected a couple of times due to poor internet issues. This will take a couple of days, so you can expect it by Tuesday-Wednesday.

      All the best!


  10. Nidhi Sinha says

    Hi Sir,
    The analysis of SIMCAT 1 was of great help as it made my preparation far better that I used to prepare it for earlier. But the problem with me is that I am not gaining confidence while solving few of the questions. In VARC I’m like okay but while solving Quantitative Ability I always feel like something smart I need to do rather using traditional methods of solving.
    And as yesterday was your webinar and I was a minutes late in joining it. As I heard it was a fruitful session for all the students who didn’t get much confidence in QA. Sir would you provide me the link of that webinar’s recording?Because it is much needed to me. It will help me out in various aspects.
    Please guide me!!


  11. Shreyas Agrawal says

    Hello Sir,
    This year is my second attempt of the CAT. I had scored 75 percentile last year but was determined in my preparation this year. I revised all concepts from the Learn portal and solved all the questions of learn as well as practice. I took the SIMCAT-1 and scored 65 percentile. What should i possibly do to improve my scores?


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