CAT Strat
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CAT 2020 Changes: Are you ready for a sprint?

Beware of what you ask for, it may come true, a saying goes. All of you who felt a 3-hour test was too long and wanted a shorter test have now got what you want but going from the stories about the way test-takers have felt and performed in the latest SimCAT in the new format, most seem to be ruing the change.

Whenever there are major changes happening all around you, what is paramount as that you who are the centre of these changes be still. More importantly you need to be very clear about the things you can know, the things you can never know, and the things there is no point in knowing. Most importantly, you need to be able to calm, strategic (or tactical), and ruthless, to navigate the changes.

The reason behind the changes

It is more than obvious that the reason behind the changes is not any sort of dissatisfaction with the pattern that has remained unchanged more or less the last 5 years but or the need to test newer or different skill sets.

Long before even the notification was out, I thought that they would go back to holding the test over two days with four slots or even a week to account for social distancing requirements but when the convener announced that it will held in one day as it has been over the past few years, it did come as a surprise. I remember thinking to myself that they are either winging it or we are in for a surprise.

Their way of managing has been to increase the number cities to six and the slots to three and it was the latter that caused the reduction in the duration of the test. The CAT has never been a test-taker friendly exam — so those who will end up with an 8:30 slot in the 6th city of their choice (a city they probably have never been to, not to mention travelling in the midst of the pandemic) have no other option but to do as well as those who get their preferred slot in a centre in their hometown — it is a lottery and citizens of a poor, developing country that we are, we are used to accepting our fate, grinning & bearing it, and fighting. I do not think anyone ever paused to think what will be good for the test-takers — take it or leave it seems to be the message.

And yeah, I would not be surprised if they revert to the old format next year.

The impact of the changes — fewer questions

It does without saying that the number of questions will come down proportionately — the Math says it has be 66 or 67. Beyond this everything else is speculation since we do not have any idea of figuring out what is going on in their head.

If I have to take a bet in terms of number of questions, I will take a bet on the higher side since they do not lose anything by giving more questions, it is not a test of completion anyway. If they have been giving 8 sets in 60 minutes of DI-LR for the past so many years, then I do not think 24-26 questions per section and 75 questions in total with 4 marks each is perfectly feasible.

My highest bet would be on 26-24-25 — VA-RC: RC — 16, 4 Passages, 10 VA; DI-LR: 6 Sets, 4 questions each; QA: 25 questions

My logic for the same is CAT unlike the GMAT, which seeks to differentiate in the middle, since it is a benchmarking test, seeks to differentiate at the top since it is an elimination test — they do not want scores bunching up at the top — having more questions will differentiate the 99 from the 99.5 and 99.5 from the 99.95.

We can indulge in endless speculation over all the options that the test-setters have in mind but they would remain just that — speculation. I would rather follow good ol’ Kipling’s dictum — If you can keep your head when all about you are losing their

Also since the change is primarily a logistical one they will try to go about things without changing much else, or to put it differently I do not see a necessity to change anything else — question types or areas tested — so I won’t be worried about Grammar and freak out about it (I will be worried about something if most of the others are good at it barring me, I don’t think 200000 Indians , including the top 1 percentilers, are going to develop expertise in Grammar and become champs at it in the next few weeks, no way) but if freaking out is your forte, go ahead and howl out to the skies.

The impact of the changes — Are you ready for a sprint?

The biggest impact of the change is in the way we have to perceive the duration we have for a section.

When we have 60-minutes for a section, I think most people will experience it and perform into the four parts (the parts in the brackets indicate what happens to those who do not well):

  • Slot 1: 0-15 Minutes: Settle down and get a hang of the paper, solve a few sitters (do not even know how 15 minutes flew by)
  • Slot 2: 15-30: Consolidate and get going (start to get hang of things)
  • Slot 3: 30-45: Consolidate, go past the cut-off (have the cut-off in sight)
  • Slot 4: 45-60: Mop up the left overs, maximise (panic, panic, panic)

I have stated the extremes and I am sure many of people will fall somewhere in the middle.

In the 60-minute format as you see there is enough and more room for you to

  • settle in get comfortable
  • inefficiently go back and forth between sets
  • waste time scratching around RC passages, DI-LR sets, Type Bs in QA, realising they should be left alone and moving on

In 60-minute format the difference between the 80-percentiler on DI-LR who solves 2 sets and the 99.95 percentiler who solves 6 sets is not that the 80-percentiler needs 30 minutes to solve a set but that the 80-percentiler wastes a lot of time unproductively across sets before finally getting hold of two sets.

Basically you can be inefficient, you can choose a wrong set, and still manage to clear the cut-off since everyone else is in the same boat.

In the 40-minute format you do not have the luxury of the first 15 and the last 15 minutes. It is a sprint from start to finish you have to bat for the entire 40 minutes the way Kohli and Dhoni bat and run as a pair (or used to rather), pushing hard each and every time — no time for dot balls at the beginning, no scope for crazy slogging at the end.

More importantly you have no room for error as far choosing sets and questions is concerned — one wrong passage or set, and be ready to welcome CAT 2021.

So set and passage selection is of utmost importance. Investing 5-minutes and selecting decisively is much better than risking 10-minutes. I covered selection procedure in detail in the Last Mile To CAT series that is available on myIMS.

But this does not mean that you need to front load the selection there are different time management strategies that you can apply.

Time Management Strategies

Given that selection becomes so important, the time management strategies should also be revised to maximise your scores in the shorter format.

For QA, the A-B-C approach discussed in the LMTC and in my QA posts, does does not change at all.

For VA-RC and DI-LR, there is more than one approach that you can try out.

All the strategies outlined below assume that you are familiar the Rating Process I discussed in depth in the LMTC Sessions as well the number of questions you need to answer for different percentiles.

VA-RC Time Management Strategy

STRATEGY I – Rating on the go

If you are a slow reader, will take more than 5 minutes to read and rate the passages, and do not want to feel panicked then Rate on the go

You can apply this strategy in three different ways depending on the percentiles you are targeting

Lower percentile targets mean you need to solve fewer RCs, you can afford to leave the worst ones.

STRATEGY IA – Rating on the goRC-VA-RC

  • Start with RATING RCs
    • If an RC is rated 7 or above solve it then and there
    • If an RC is rated below 7 leave it for the time being
  • Solve all VA questions in 10-12 minutes
  • Return to the RCs rated below 7 and solve them in decreasing order of rating

This will works for all percentile targets, especially those targeting 80-85 percentiles, since you are not going to get stuck on the bad RCs and can score of VA as well.

STRATEGY IB – Rating on the goVA First

  • Start with VA and solve all questions in under 2 mins per question
  • Proceed to RC and rate each RC
    • If an RC is rated 7 or above solve it then and there
    • If an RC is rated below 7 leave it for the time being
    • Return to the RCs rated below 7 and solve them in decreasing order of rating

This works for all percentile targets, especially for those targeting 90-95, since you have a chance to take a shot even at the painful RC. It is easier to execute since you are handling the two areas VA and RC in chunks.

STRATEGY IC – Rating on the go — RC First

  • Start with RATING RCs
    • If an RC is rated 7 or above solve it then and there
    • If an RC is rated below 7 leave it for the time being
    • Return to the RCs rated below 7 and solve them in decreasing order of rating
  • Solve all VA questions in the end, ensuring that you have around 2 minutes per question

This works best for those who are already scoring above 95 and have a decent reading speed.

STRATEGY II – Rating First

If VA-RC is your strength, you have a pretty good reading speed, you know how to vary it, and are comfortably crossing 99 percentile always, you can do the rating first

You can apply this strategy in three different ways depending on what suits you.

The reason why this works for the 99-plus percentilers is that you are anyway going to solve all questions, this will ensure that you gauge the difficutly of the whole paper in the first five minutes and can plan your section accordingly.

If your find the RCs are all easy or medium, you can go with IIA.

If you find that a few of the RCs are going to be tricky, you can go with IIB

If VA is your strength you can go with IIC

STRATEGY IIA – Rating FirstRC First

  • Start with RATING RCs
    • Rate all the RCs and solve them in decreasing order of rating
  • Solve all VA questions in the end

STRATEGY IIB – Rating First — RC-VA-RC

  • Start with RATING RCs
    • Rate all the RCs and solve only the ones rated 7 and above in decreasing order of rating
  • Solve all VA questions
  • Return to the RCs rated below 7 and solve them in decreasing order of rating

STRATEGY IIC – Rating First — VA First

  • Start with RATING RCs
    • Rate all the RCs, assess the level of difficulty, and decide the sequence
  • Solve all VA questions
  • Solve all RCs in decreasing order of rating

DI-LR Time Management Strategy

Strategy I – Rating on the go

  • RATE a set
    • Solve it straight away if it is rated 8 or more,
    • If not leave it for later
    • After you solve all sets 8 rated and above return to solve the remaining sets in descending order of rating

Strategy II — Split Rating

  • RATE Sets 1 to 3
    • Solve all sets rated 8 or more
    • If there are no sets rated 8 or above rate the next 3 sets
  • RATE Sets 4 to 6
    • Solve all sets rated 8 or more
  • SOLVE all remaining sets in descending order of rating
90 Percentile95 Percentile99 Percentile99.5 Percentile99.95 Percentile
SET SELECTION8 mins.8 mins.6 mins.6 mins5 mins
Easy10 mins.10 mins.7 mins6 mins.6 mins.
Easy10 mins.10 mins.7 mins6 mins.6 mins.
Moderate12 mins*12 mins10 mins.10 mins.8 mins.
Moderate/Tough11 mins*12 mins10 mins.
Tough5 mins*
* Indicates sets that need not be solved fully to reach the score targets

You need to experiment to find out what works best for you

I often find students very scared of changing their test-taking strategies. As if changing their strategies is going throw everything haywire.

I have a different take, unlike cricket where attacking from the get-go is a high-risk strategy since it means you might lose crucial wickets, here you are not taking any extra risk.

Whether you solve VA at the beginning, middle, or end, should have no bearing on how you do on VA since your technique on VA is what will help you answer a question correctly. Again unlike cricket where opening with a spinner with a new ball is different from bowling when the ball is older.

So in order to find the strategy that for you results in maximising your scores you have to experiment with different strategies.

Do not forget, someone once experimented and sent a young SRT to open in New Zealand.

The highest score in SimCAT 10 was 200, so despite everything the topper maximised in the shorter format as well. Do not be surprised towards the end of the season more people start scoring in excess of 180.

Back in the day when VK, Scrabbler and I were preparing the pattern was 4 sections with 50 questions each in 120 minutes. I remember that in one of the mocks I scored 136 (1 mark, -.25) and thought surely this I will top, only for a friend to score 150-plus.

On average, intelligence does not increase or decrease over generations so I am sure after taking some time to adjust, test-takers at the top will push themselves to go for maximum in every section and toppers’ scores in the 120-minute format will start edging closer to the scores in the 180-minute format (If T20 cricket has taught us anything it is this one thing)

Whatever the format the three pillars do not change

  • one should always have a strategy to choose questions
  • one should have a time-management strategy
  • one should be able to solve with good accuracy

Do not forget, you are taking the test, not vice-versa


  1. Hi Sir
    I have been scroing aroung 65 percentile in SIMCATs. What should be the best strategy to implement for the coming days. Please guide as it gets demotivating. Not even sure if it is worth applying to colleges.


  2. Anjali Pitroda says

    After about 6-7 mocks in the 180 min time slot, I was scoring above 95 percentile consistently. However, with the change in the exam pattern, my percentiles have dropped to 86 and 80 in SimCAT 10&11 respectively. VARC- accuracy issue, DILR- set selection, QA- lack of speed. I am confused if I’ll ever be able to get back to scoring above 95 in 120 min exam pattern.


    • Hi Anjali,

      It is expected that the changes will cause some havoc with the score.

      You can either indulge in feeling and emotion-based speculation or figure out exactly what happened in the last two tests:

      If accuracy is an issue then you need to really diagnose how good your technique is — do you execute the techniques I have outlined for all question types in the 3 Masterclasses for each and every question?

      If set-selection is an issue, you need to execute the strategy I have outlined as well go through the LMTC session in detail.

      If you lack of speed in QA is an issue then take a look at all the QA strategy posts.

      You need to measure the gap between what I have prescribed and what you execute when faced with a section and a test.

      All the best!


  3. Ananya says

    Thank you so much for this article sir. The things that I liked is I’m getting 2 and a half sets right in DILR, which is clearing the cutoff for DILR. However, in VARC, I’ve gone very low, especially I’m now getting super panicky about the RCs I’m attempting, what more have I left. Over the top SIMCAT 10 & 11 VARC were difficult, there’s a constant fear that I have been developing towards the VARC section from my performance in the last two simcats, which was my strengths in the previous paper pattern. QA is still decent, but VARC seemed demotivating. Solved all GMAT RCs and CR questions which did boost a lot of confidence in me and helped me understand how to approach, strengthened identification of arguments, but Sir after Simcat 11, I felt disheartened with my VARC marks. Sir, another request could you please do a Simcat Analysis in the next simcat especially VARC in the revised pattern please? Please Sir, a lot of other friends I have at IMS want your input in the video explainations.


    • Hi Ananya,

      The only thing you can do is to check which part of the process you are making mistakes in:

      1. Selection & Time Management
      2. Technique & Accuracy

      Poor selection will lead to a botched up time-management and poor technique will lead to accuracy issues.

      I have covered everything in the Masterclasses and the LMTC sessions, you need to see if you are actually executing things I discussed every single time or just broadly imbibed the spirit of the same 🙂 The devil is in the details.

      I will be doing VA-Rc feedback of a few more SimCATs, 13 and 15, it is not possible for me to be at all places all the time — LMTC, Masterclasses, Blog, and the needs of the role that I do at IMS!

      But this is what I believe, I have shown what needs to be done in 1 SimCAT, 3 Masterclasses, 1 LMTC, and blog posts, me doing all 16 SimCATs also will make no difference, since the passage will keep changing, the process is what you need to master.

      All the best!


      • Ananya says

        Thank you so much, Sir. I’ll watch the recording again for the devil in the details 😄, will be waiting for your Simcat 13 analysis too.


  4. Marathons ,or as the past year CAT’s have been, aren’t as sassy as short sprints, but putting some amount of practice and maintaining optimum level of endurance, one can get around it. Sprints, on the other hand, are more glamorous and basks in more cheers and applause.

    While the preparation remains much the same, i think the dimension that gets added is “INTENSITY”. Since VARC will determine the initial acceleration in the race, its imperative to have the best coach onboard, guiding us with the valuable tips to start with full throttle.

    As the game gets near, hoping to see you guide us through SIMCAT Analysis .In the meantime, putting up my spikes from the shoe rack.:-)



    • Yep, 3 hours of effort gets packed into 2 hours, so intensity definitely goes up.

      Will be taking the analysis of 2 or 3 forthcoming SimCATs.

      All the best!


  5. Lucky Kaul says

    Very informative post. I agree with you saying that the skill sets tested will not change despite the format of the test.

    It will take some time of course to get used to this (in the light of which I appreciate that few more simcats were added).

    While I don’t think things will change a lot in terms of DILR and QA strategy and attempt style, I believe VARC might be hampered a bit especially for those who aren’t very quick was still possible to attempt 34/34 (though this year with the difficulty level even that was a challenge for me)..but with reduced time I think attempting all might be a challenge – therefore will either need to read quickly or solve quickly (both of which aren’t a cakewalk)


    • Hi Lucky,

      I think you are right, the 60-minute format gave people a bit of buffer to warm up since reading text first up when the brain is cold is not easy at all.

      I think people should try a VA-first strategy, to work around the tendency to start slow, you can lose 15 minutes in an RC and not know.

      Even when I take the GMAT, despite my out-sized ability on the VA, I will choose the QA first, just to warm up, instead of doing VA first.

      Hope this helps and you see that the new pattern is just a minor adjustment when compared to the major upheaval that the pandemic has caused — as long as one is healthy, and the brain is in fine fettle one doesn’t need to ask for more.

      All the best!



    Honestly speaking, I am a fan.
    If CAT was the game of Cricket, then you are it’s Harsha Bhogle.
    Every single time you come up with some analogy and I’m simply awestruck. (the F1 Car is stuck in my head right now!)
    So succinct, to the point and more than anything else, such crucial information conveyed nonchalantly.
    Thank you so much for these blogs & webinars, always look forward to them.
    While this blog has helped us understand how to manage time in the exam, please help us with some ideas/strategies as to how we should be managing our time and preparation efforts in these crucial leading up to the exam, because just like you often say, ‘it’s about having a process and technique’ and we’d love to focus our energy towards the right processes.


    • Hi Yash,

      Thanks for the effusive praise and the comparison but there is a small catch – unlike Mr.Bhogle I am not only a commentator but also a successful player, who still plays 🙂

      As a prospective manager and business leader, the one thing you should demonstrate before an MBA itself is your ability to manage your time and your resources.

      The reason I cannot give general plans is that each person has a very specific skill set and performance cycle and after a point it does make any sense.

      Even b-schools teach you only strategy 🙂

      I will do a post on plateauing scores that might be of use.

      All the best!



    HI sir,
    How to improve the score/accuracy in VRC? I am reading daily editorials and sometimes novels and spending alot of time to analysis. But I am scoring less marks. How should my preparation has to be change sir? could you please.


    • Hi,
      I have covered all of these issues in the VA Strat category of this blog. You should access it through web, it’s easier to navigate than mobile.

      I have also covered these things in the VA-RC Masterclasses and LMTC sessions that are available on myIMS.

      All the best!



    HI sir,
    I am not enrolled for the course, I just taken the SIMCAT paper, for me is it accessible to attend LMTC or Mater classes ?


      • Sir, I had a look at the link mentioned above for Masterclasses. However, I could not find the sample videos. Could you please help with that.


      • isha verma says

        Sir, i had a look at the link provided above for masterclasses. However, I could not find the sample videos.
        Could you please help in locating that.
        Thank you.


      • Hi Isha,

        Are you a test-series student? And are you talking about access to sample videos of Masterclasses before purchasing or watching the full LMTC videos?

        All the best!


      • isha verma says

        Yes sir, I am test series student. I have access to LMTC videos. I am talking about the sample videos of Masterclasses


  9. Jyotheeswar Reddy A says

    Hi sir,
    I didn’t found any masterclass sample videos, as earlier specified link by you sir.


    • It is a program for purchase that has the recording of all the Masterclasses that were conducted and access to the forthcoming ones as well.


  10. Jyotheeswar Reddy A says

    Hi sir,
    I have one more doubt sir, some SimCATs Take home mode are 3 hrs.Is it good to attempt those 3hrs exam now but D day exam is 2hrs only.


    • I do not see any reason why we should not take 3-hour tests to improve one’s skills — selection, time management and solving.

      All the best!


  11. Shashwat Sinha says

    Hello sir,
    Just finished watching your LMTC session for DI-LR. A very exhaustive and at the same time very enjoyable session. Just had a small doubt. While rating the sets should we try to Interpret the graph/data given and relate it to the questions given( eg I will do this and that and I will arrive at the answer) In other words Should we form our approach to the solution(very basic) or should we rate the set strictly on basis of the 3 parameters as quickly as possible?

    I ask this on basis of my experience in Mock tests so far wherein I might have rated a set as easy seeing the simple chart/graph and CLOSED questions but found it otherwise(Too calculative in many cases). Such sets then tend to eat up some extra time at the start(instead of 8-9 might take up 12-13 minutes) and after the test during the analysis I find many sets maybe not as simple as this one(on the basis of rating) but doable in lesser time(specially LR sets as they don’t involve much calculation and if you get hold of the anchor condition quickly).

    The downside of trying to interpret graph/data(not all but some of it) I realised is that then rating of sets itself takes more time.(say 15 mins for a 1 hour paper instead of 10 mins) and thus I probably miss out on some extra question of 4th/5th set. Would like to hear your perspective on this
    Thanks in advance.


    • Hi Shashwat,

      Glad you found the DI-LR Masterclass helpful.

      Well, if I look at all the 9-10 pure DI sets — graphical reasoning and calculation that have turned up on the CAT over the last three years — none of them had complex calculation.

      I feel calculation skills have been neglected over the past few years since people incorrectly feel that it is all about reasoning but great calculation muscle helps not only on DI but also on QA.

      So what you should work on is your ability to knock off a pure calculation/graphical set in under 10 minutes, the way I demonstrated with the states and crimes and the vendor rating sets.

      The reason I say this is that the LR sets always hinge on an IF — cracking the anchor conditions under test conditions, calculative sets have no uncertainty, which is why I would always knock them off first.

      I think trying to analyse beyond what we have discussed is there can result in you getting drawn into solving a set as well not to mention the extra time.

      So yeah my take would be to embrace and get better at calculation (as well as applying the first few commandments) that you will see that the problem you discuss will disappear.

      All the best!


      • Shashwat Sinha says

        Thanks for the advice sir and I have been implementing it successfully in next mocks. While solving more mocks and sets, I had one more doubt regarding the rating process for DILR –

        How should we rate questions starting with “IF”. Will they be closed or open as they provide some condition(additional data). As per now, I have been rating them as OPEN and not giving points but mostly these are to take one of the many cases formed in the set and are absolutely straightforward once we have figured out the cases. Also since we have provided 0 to the question say of finding max people for whom everything can be figured Shouldn’t these IF questions be given 1 if they just provide something like this-
        If A is in house B, who is in house C?
        This is the only area where I am having problems related to Rating otherwise I mostly avoid the tough sets and am able to identify the low hanging fruits.
        Thanks in advance.


      • Hi Shaswat,

        On the super-standard LR arrangement sets, the additional information does not add to the complexity of the set, like the condition you have suggested.

        Over the last 48 sets of the last three years, I have seen very few such sets. Even if one of the questions has such information, the set as a whole is not so simple. So if you get a super-standard arrangement sets and questions, you can give it a 1.

        All the best!


  12. Jyotheeswar Reddy says

    Hi sir,
    How to decrease the potential gap in Current score and Potential score?


  13. Ayush says

    Hi sir, I’m a student of IMS SimCat 2020 series, and am very much satisfied with the quality of mocks and solutions provided by IMS and the frequent online sessions.

    However, there’s an issue which has been bugging me with the ‘Take-home Mocks’ of IMS, and it’d be great if this suggestion is incorporated in these mocks.

    The ‘Question Statistics’, i.e. the attempt %, accuracy% and P-value of all students and toppers provided in the proctored SimCats are one of the most important and crucial data used in effectively analysing our mocks. It let’s us know whether the question was genuinely tough and has a low attempt% and accuracy or it was just us who did this easy question wrong. It’s of much more importance in the LRDI section where we can use the data to determine if our set selection was appropriate or we selected the tougher sets. It’s equally useful for evaluating our RC performance.

    What has been bugging me is that these statistics are NOT provided in the take-home mocks. I don’t know if this is intentional(which would be a bit surprising) or accidental. I don’t think it would be a technical challenge to provide those statistics since one of those mocks: SimCat-103 does provide those stats(others do not). The only reason I could think of behind not giving those stats was that maybe lesser number of students have attempted those mocks, but since the take-home mocks are past year’s proctored simcats, IMS would definitely have that data from previous years OR maybe at this point of time, significant number of students have attempted the take-home mocks so the current year’s data could be used as well.

    It would be really helpful to the students if you could start providing those statistics for the unproctored take-home mocks, just like the usual SimCats

    Warm Regards


    • Hi Ayush,

      I obviously know the importance of the stats for analysing performance.

      We are working on it, the data is not uniform across all tests and questions but I have asked the team to make data available wherever possible, even if it is blank on some questions it should not be a problem.

      You should be seeing more stats on them soon.

      Good to know that you are happy with the rest of the stuff.

      All the best!


  14. Rahul says

    Sir please suggest if current sectional test are useful or not because these questions are of very old pattern and questions are not very clearly written or readable. According to me, the quality of sectional is not at par compare to simcat and sectional solution just not so clear
    Shall I instead focus on homecat?


  15. Hi Sir,

    First of all, the passages of RCs in Simcats are just out of the world, at a whole different level!
    Don’t know whom to give compliments to, for the selection, please pass on to the right person/ to the team.
    Be it psychology or science, abstract or art….Never felt so excited in the middle of mock tests!
    Easy to get immersed in the learning within the passage itself.
    === ===

    Great to see you in SimCat-13.

    But seriously sir?! No Triskaidekaphobia?! hehe..
    (Please Watch Apollo-13, if you haven’t already, I count in the top 10 movies of all time, especially since while being a Hollywood drama, it has been inspired by actual transcript recordings of the team, & it doesn’t feel like it was produced in 1995 at all!)
    === ===

    Sir I joined Simcat quite late, the first simcat i gave during the scheduled release was simcat-9.
    (Blessing in disguise, having barely taken any tests in the 180 min format?)

    My (best 3) VARC scores with near zero preparation were the following:-

    Simcat 101 take home:- 74/102 99.30 %ile VARC
    Cat 2017 Slot-2 (pristine attempt as test):- 79/102 (Not appeared for actual exam in ’17)
    Simcat 11:- 30/60 96.31 %ile VARC

    (was a pleasant shock, but voracious reading for last 10 years, ~5 hrs daily must be yielding results.)

    Needless to say, if that was my near zero-prep performance, I’m banking upon VARC to maximize.
    === ===

    In simcat-9, I started with VA first, which was a bloodbath, I gave first 25 minutes out of 60 min to VA, (and all my emotions to VA too I guess), but the scores were a disaster in VA itself what to say about RC, so I’m without doubt in the RC-first camp.

    Simcat 9 (strategy experiment):- 41/102 88.7 %ile VARC (sad face)
    === ===

    The reduction from 60 to 40 min has been feeling like a disproportionate shrinkage of time…relatively..( physics pun.. ?)

    When it was the 60 minutes test, it felt like I have all the time in the world, to read each passage TWICE, consider each option of each question for 2 entire minutes (felt so within the test), and still be almost 100% sure of what I’m marking as the answer choice.
    === ===

    However in the 40 minutes format, no matter what I do, I’m not able to let go of the first passage before 12 minutes.

    It is feeling now, as if given the 40 minutes, even if I do 2 passages fully and confidently, it’s more than sufficient for the time at hand, & just forget about VA.
    ( I still give 6 minutes to Odd sentence questions, since I can’t lose marks there, but the summary questions- I miss those last I read them was when we had 60 minutes mocks, para jumbles NEVER touched them, thanks to you !)
    === ===

    With little math, we can see

    For 34 questions the ratio used to be:-
    24/10 = 2.4

    For 23 to 25 questions, the ratio is somewhat:-
    ~16/8 ~= 2.0

    So, CAT no longer is the same RC heavy test now, which it had been till 2019…?
    === ===

    I have even tried to compulsorily force myself to leave the first passage, at the 33:00 minutes mark, at 7 minutes, no matter what. (I give less than 1 minute to selection, since anyway I read down the entire passage in less than 4 minutes, minus the time spent within questions)
    But even that failed.

    Tried leaving the first read passage- after answering only half the questions, which did nothing to reduce my time per passage, if I have to come back to remaining questions later.

    Whatever I do, I end up devoting 12+ minutes to first passage, EVEN 18 MINUTES AT TIMES, especially if the answer choices are deliberately designed to create a dharm-sankat (choice crisis).

    Is CAT VARC now approaching the XAT’s?

    Or is it that the Simcat RCs have way more tough option choices, compared to the actual CAT??

    I’m not sure if many people relate to this, but the %iles suggest that everyone’s VARC attempts have fallen disproportionate to the time reduction..

    (didn’t realize how long this post became, but my anxiousness is both evident, and obvious by length of this post…)

    Is it even possible now to knock 3 passages in 25 minutes?

    Any focused tactic you suggest that I practice within 40 minute standalone sectionals of VARC?

    Sir, what could be a way out?

    Really anxious…


    • Hi,

      Glad to know that aspirants appreciate the contents of the RC above and beyond the travails of the test! Will pass on your compliments to the team; I occasionally pitch in when I find an article too irresistible to leave without making some questions on it — the Data-ism passage and questions from Sim 13 are my handiwork.

      These are my observations on your queries:

      1. Since you have just done 3-4 SimCATs, it is too early for you to have developed a solid technique on RC.
      2. If you have the capability to read in 4 minutes then you should be able to solve the questions in 6 minutes, essentially your technique on question-solving needs to get very, very refined
      3. So watch the RC Masterclasses 1 and 2 (if you are only a test series student then you will have to get the Masterclasses separately or make do with the RC Posts on the blog) to execute the Passage to Questions approach and the Five Pauses Technique.
      4. You need to divide your time into 4 slots of 10 minutes each — 3 Passages + VA.
      5. Go through the VA Masterclass, learn the techniques on the three question-types and master the same.

      The initial scores while comforting can be a mirage since natural skills have to be harnessed and maximised and that takes time and focussed practice. So I would want you to no think of yourself as a beginner in VA-RC, at whatever is you starting percentile, and not expect miracles in the next Sim through some test-taking strategy since technique and time-management strategies go hand in hand. Use the area tests and section tests for practice (the task is not to manage 40 but to get the average time per RC to 10 minutes)

      For someone who reads as much as you do it should be possible to knock off 25 questions in 40 minutes not to start with but eventually, which is nothing but a strike rate of 125 if your look at 2 minutes per question as a strike rate of 100.

      Also, after a point, it should not matter what you do when VA first or RC next, it should be a choice based on comfort and not weakness — I cannot aim to be a premier batsman (which seems to be your goal with VA) and say I will not face spin bowling in the beginning — I will keep the good balls out, make the most of the moderate ones, and knock the stuffing out of the easy ones, it does not matter whether it is pace, spin, or Anil Kumble.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!


      • Hiii sir,

        Thankfully I did not give complements; that would have been punny.
        (Oh I disinform) would’ve been funny. HaHa…
        === ===

        Will update you on the progress after 21 days of solid prep.

        I feel that, for the Cat 2020 to be a near exact replication of Cat 2019 format wise, it would need to have-

        17 RC ques + 7 VA ques, as

        17/7 = 2.43 which comes closest to the 24/10.

        Let’s see what it turns out to be, what they have in mind.
        === ===

        A few realizations happened at the back of my mind, after I posted the long one above.

        I try to resolve Every single confusion, Every single time, within the RC questions.

        [Regardless of the fact, that LESS THAN 85% of even the top Ten percentilers taking the test might eventually end up attempting the given question, AND also attempting it accurately, (as indicated by the the p-value) which is a much higher bar.]

        At times I get the question correct, which was answered by most people wrongly, but at the expense of ~3 minutes. But not correct ALWAYS.

        It’s a habit I picked while attempting questions which have 3 wrong options that are such blatant blunders, that someone even half-serious about the exam would not pick any of those 3 wrong options in even half-sleep. The very-easy questions mainly, sprinkled here and there.

        It’s analogous to the habit of rechecking every calculation within quant questions, twice.
        The urge to keep 95%+ accuracy. Rarely touches 95% though, in VARC in tests.
        === ===

        Also, I keep no gauge-reading whatsoever, of the difficulty of the given question that’s there, particularly for the toughest 1 or 2 ques of the given RC. I feel the urge to not move on from a passage, or its toughest question before eliminating the 3rd wrong option successfully. Feels almost as if to move on will itself be a defeat, as if letting the ship sink, you get the reference.

        A habit which might come handy or may have positive payoffs, while taking the GMAT later, I might add.

        Unlike in quant where iterations of the complete section are instinctive, in VARC the iterations seem not just unnatural, but almost futile.
        === ===

        As mentioned by you few times, and also as realized by me now,
        my worst test performances were when my mind was a drenched sponge, when I attempted the tests last thing before sleeping.
        Also the best performances were when the test was the first thing done after waking, immediately after bath, or even before bath.

        Will work around schedule with that in mind more often.
        === ===
        Haha.. The fear of 13 is real.

        In the spider DI, I overlooked the phrase “all values in multiples of 50” and took the smallest value as 40 rather than 50 since it seemed to the eye to be closer to 40. All 4 questions wrong, first time in an attempted DI !

        (The test was taken just before sleeping.
        How could I miss such crucial detail? Must be the effect of being the 13th test) hehe..
        === ===

        Any quick fine-tuning advise visible to you with this additional information above?

        Thanks for the help. Will get back to you when going for GMAT, too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi sir,

        Sorry to get back to such an old post.

        For the sake of completion of story,
        I got a 99.92 %ile in VARC in CAT 2020. As it’s known, that’s among ~150 top candidates all India this year.
        Was quite happy that the tireless efforts for so many years of comprehension-reading skill building paid off.

        I didn’t see my answer key, but it’s evident that my accuracy was spot-on.

        Then I appeared for XAT 2021. Couldn’t prepare at all, due to some reason, really wanted to. Gave only one mock in around Sept, just to get to know the pattern.

        So the XAT 2021 scorecard says I got an
        87.7 %ile in VALA, and
        58 %ile in Decision Making.

        This was a big shock of my life. (Don’t like to view answer keys)

        I had attempted 23 out of 26 VALA question,
        and 19 out of 21 DM questions.

        I took entire first 2 hours for these 2 sections.
        Each attempt was after careful grasping of all the question’s options.
        === ===

        Just in case I don’t clear a college that I’d be happy to join,
        and especially since this was my nearly unprepared attempt,
        I’m certainly going to repeat attempt XAT 2022.

        Any idea sir what could have gone wrong?
        I did try to take a solid sleep the night before..
        Was it the severe chilled rain on the exam day?! 😦

        I do have vague memories of my attempting questions at the center.
        Since, when I attempt, I almost always feel overwhelmingly sure that I’m going for the right option, else I leave, no guessing, no matter attempts shortfall.

        And what could be a way out for me to be an accuracy champion in XAT 2022, in case I have to write it?


      • Hi,

        Something seems amiss here — you seem to have done quite well in CAT — I do not know the situation with the calls and anyway ti is too early.

        You seem to have had a bad day at the office as far as XAT goes, and it is very much understandable given that you did not prepare much since XAT has nothing to do with CAT barring the Math, so honestly it should not come as much of a shock.

        There is no other explanation for it given that people have left comments on the XAT DM posts that all they did was follow the XAT DM Masterclasses and they scored above a 99.

        So yeah, prepare for XAT the next time, watch all the Masterclasses and read all the posts.

        All the best!


      • Hello..!!

        So I’m the “Freedom Liberates” username,

        I was in IMS test series for CAT 2020,
        I had 99.92 %ile in VARC.

        At this point I have to make a decision between joining IM Lucknow PGP-SM, and IIM Udaipur.
        I’m in first convert lists of both..!! (quite a happy point in my journey..!)

        Can’t I have both, why do I have to pick one..!! Such tricky choice..

        I’ll almost be of 30 years of age, when I’ll be graduating with my PGP/MBA two years from today.
        (by which I’m indicating that to commit to study alongside a giant batch of 320 students, at this age, would be a big commitment, while of course the peer learning is the essence of everything, but if one can’t cope the competition, what use of peer learning..?
        There will be endless number of 22 year old energetic freshers, ready & willing to beat me at the game, without blinking an eyelid.)

        Also, I’ve read the PGP-SM article on your blog more than 4-5 times by now.
        Also, my work had been in energy sector, entrepreneurial nature.
        ESG compliance reporting voluntary for now, about to be mandatory by 2023..another input I found in news.
        (Also, since in India, we get a MIM masters in Management, regardless of whatever they’re called, I’ve plans to pursue a proper European MBA later.. but for now it’s just wishful thinking, since the strong Tier-1 international firm’s experience is the limiting point, which is uncertain as of now. I’m not underconfident about performing great in the GMAT, after a solid prep though.)

        So, I’ve got in touch with many current students at PGP-SM..

        After so much soul searching, I had almost made up my mind to join PGP-SM.

        The latest career-report of the just graduating batch has been up on the official site of Lucknow 2 days back. Quite optimistic outcomes, despite the (pandemic) times.
        Many new recruiters too, growth too.

        Now the only thing that is preventing my dilemma to come to a closing end, is that the newer firms, recruiting in this pandemic times at PGP-SM are unheard of.
        Which won’t even be a issue for me as long as the work is high impact, actual hardcore SM work.

        But the report somehow/partly indicates uncertain outcomes, in terms of the firm’s missing legacy that is recruiting the outgoing students at PGP-SM at least of of those this year. (maybe I’m not paying close attention, the report is tiny anyway, just like the batch size..)

        On the other hand, the IIM Udaipur has many many big name well known big brand firms.
        Not sure if the roles will be equivalent in seniority, at IIM-U, when compared with IIM L PGP-SM..

        Also not even sure someone (i.e. myself) coming with a little weaker/ above-average “profile” would even be able to reach to the biggest firms recruiting from IIM-U, will I even have a standing chance at the best 20-30 firms that will recruit from IIM-U.
        (essentially the weakness being UG score between 6.5 to 7 CGPA, AIEEE %ile was above 95 %ile.. so my UG campus was at the top end of tier-2 Engineering campuses of India similar in standing to NIT/BITS.)

        Lastly, I’m quite moved by the concept of sustainability, and I’ve gone through the curriculum of PGP-SM, in depth, and I like it..!

        Kind request to address this dilemma, how it affects my career outcome, the firm size which is recruiting straight out of PGP-SM,
        any other inputs, or relevant details worth sharing with me at this crucial decision point..
        insights from your experience…since I’m unable to gather a foresight about the career at this time, unlike the hindsight that you may have, to share..
        How things may pan out in the journey ahead at either of PGP-SM & U and where do I seem to be a greater fit, if you can contrast, I’d be really grateful.
        Regardless I’m excited for the journey ahead, at either.

        Please help me in picking one out of PGP-SM & U..

        Can’t I have both..?!!!

        (In case it may be easier to communicate via phone rather than via a reply, please do let me know, I’ll share my contact detail..)

        One final thing, since you’ve yourself graduated from Lucknow, you may be able to address it, I read few student reactions, where students were quite disappointed by the horrible student politics/ interpersonal culture they underwent at the campus..
        any way to cope it..?

        Kind Regards.


      • Hi FL,

        If only you could have both and this is not even a situation where such a possibility exists (say, unlike big brand-affordable price, beauty-brains, and many more examples that we can leave out :-)) So, why can’t I have both is a no-sequitor!

        Given your profile, work-ex, and interest, you will be a better fit in the SM course than the regular PGP. Your placements given your work-ex are likely to be as tough in a 2-year program despite the overall placements at IIM-U being far superior since you might not get shortlisted for many of the roles.

        Choose SM, things will definitely look up two years from now when you graduate (assuming COVID ends fully by 2022-December).

        As far as the culture at IIM-L goes, if you go by the supposedly inside news at any of the major schools, you will find many such stories.

        I graduated in 2004 and remember it as a good place where I had a very good time.

        I was speaking to a student who graduated this year and got placed in BAIN and he seemed to have a very good time as well.

        A b-school at some level is like a reality show with really competitive individuals fighting for a handful of prestigious brands and this is bound to result in a highly competitive/cut-throat environment with some people getting the things they want and others missing out and this leads to a discussion around campus politics, RG culture, and this and that on the part of some students who will feel that the world and everyone else should have conspired to give them what they want when they want it; and there are others who are at peace and you will not find them on the forums. You should ignore it and anyway the SM campus is a different one and has its ow history.

        Hope this helps,

        All the best!


  16. isha verma says

    Hi sir
    This is in reference to SIMCAT 13, first passage.
    Last sentence of the second paragraph states that Benjamin was the last thylacine alive in captivity.
    Thus, it would clearly invalidate the first option of the first question.
    “Benjamin was the last thylacine that was ‘captive’; we do not have sufficient information to conclude that Benjamin was the last one alive” (as mentioned in the text explanation)
    However, in the third question, how can third option be the right answer when we are not sure if he was really the last one alive.

    Please explain. Thank you.


    • Hi Isha,

      The third question has been removed from marking, the correct option should have read last captive or last known thylacine.

      All the best!


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