At this stage, I realise that all of you are suffering from a different set of problems that occur at different score-levels. It is quite tough to come up with posts for the specific score ranges that different people are in and it is absolutely stupid to come up with a do-this-everyday-for-the-next-30 days sort of a thing (if you even think that is possible then you are preparing for the wrong exam). This post is intended to help you devise the best plan for yourself over the next thirty days.
Fix your desired set of colleges, tests, and percentiles
While everyone should and still aim to get into the old IIMs, each of one of you should also have a clear idea as to what the good colleges are for your profile for you apart from the IIMs.
When I say a good college for you, you should measure it in terms of the outcomes that will be commensurate with your profile at this stage.
An MBA primarily amplifies your current profile, this means that it will multiply whatever is your current earning potential by 2-2.5.
If your current potential is 6 or lower multiply it by 2.5 if it is between 6 to 7 multiply it by 2.25, 8 and above multiply it by 2.
If you are a fresher or studying in a good college, top 5 in your state, and have a good academic profile, you should get a job that pays at the least 6 LPA. This means that you need to look at an MBA college that has an average of around 14 LPA.
If you are a fresher or studying in a college, that will give you a salary of 4 LPA, you need to apply to colleges that will give you a salary of at least 10LPA.
The same applies to working professionals as well, irrespective of number of years of work-ex you need to look at your current salary and do a multiplication by 2-2.5.
Those who are in the higher pay scales should do a multiplication by 2 and also note that in the top-tier colleges the average might be 17-18 but the number of jobs with salaries above the average will be good enough to get you the desired jump.
Based on this list of colleges you need you to fix your desired tests and the respective target scores and percentiles.
The desired list and percentiles though cannot be looked at in isolation, the elephant in the room is your current potential on the CAT and other tests. So, you have to choose the colleges both based on your profile and the percentile you are likely to score.
If you have a really high potential on the CAT and other tests as demonstrated in your SimCAT scores, you should aim much higher than your current earning potential. (More than a decade ago, I had a 2.5 lakh job out of campus but I was sure my aptitude on the CAT was good enough to get me a call from IIM-A, which eventually did happen, so I applied only to 2 schools apart from the IIMs)
Estimate your actual percentile from best Mock percentiles
On the actual CAT, if you perform at the same level as you perform in the Mocks, your percentiles will be much higher.
The simple reason is that the Mocks are taken by the most serious CAT aspirants.
While more than 2,00,000 register for the tests, the Mocks are not taken seriously by more than 25000 students. On test day, out of the registered students around 30000 do not even turn up.
So the fraction that is percentile, x/y, will increase on test day since the denominator and numerator will become 6-digit figures and the rest of the crowd that shows up on test day is not going to do better than those who are preparing (India does not have that much bench strength that people who do not even take mocks can show and perform better than those who are).
What happens to the value of a fraction less than 1 if the numerator and denominator keep increasing — 2/3 < 3/4 <4/5 — it keeps on increasing. The question is how much will it increase by?
By half of the difference between 100 and your current percentile. If your current percentile is 80, it will become 90, if it is 90, then 95 and so on.
If you feel that you can increase your current mock percentiles by 5 more, then estimate your actual percentile after adding 5 to your current percentile.
On the CAT the scores correlate with the percentiles as follows:
95 percentile – 85-90
99 percentile – 100-105
99.5 percentile – 115-120
100 percentile – 140 and above
In short if you cross a score of 100 you are very likely to cross 99 percentile.
Now that you know your target scores, set incremental scores towards reaching them.
You are at 75 and have to reach 105, start with a target of 85-90.
For some of you, this increase might be evenly spread across sections and for others, it might be lop-sided, you have to do the break-up of the sectional increase
This is not easy to do. For example, if you are scoring 80 and are scoring above 30 in two sections and below 20 in the third, then your first area of focus should be on the one below 20 since the maximum scope of improvement lies here.
A good way to ensure that you prepare optimally is to execute the plan below.
Don’t get spooked by dropping percentiles in the last 5 tests!
CAT Prep is no different from a marathon while quite a few people start it very few people finish it. So, in the last two months, we see a significant drop in the number of people taking the SimCATs with quite a few people giving up altogtehr or post-poning the prep for another year. Thus, after SimCAT 10 the fight is only between the super-serious students who are doing well.
It is thus but natural that percentiles will drop. Do not let this affect your confidence in any way. If your scores are at the same level or better you you will do well on test day.
A plan for the last 4 weeks
If this is your second attempt and you have cumulatively taken more than 40 Mocks, take only 8 tests in the last 4 weeks, 1 test every three days.
Everyone else should take 15 tests in the next 4 weeks, 1 test every alternate day.
Take-Home SimCATs are actual SimCATs from the last 3 years they are authentic or difficult as the current SimCATs, they feel different because you do not take them under any pressure.
After the tests and during the days between the tests focus solely on one area per week in whatever order is necessary for you, W1— DI-LR, W2—VARC, W3 — QA, W4 — Overall.
Obviously, this cannot apply to everyone. For those who are doing really well on QA and VA-RC and have a problem only with DI-LR, work for two weeks on DI-LR, you have to customise this plan.
What should you be doing during these weeks?
The four levers to higher scores
The four levers that you have to use to propel your scores are — Selection, Accuracy, Concepts, and Speed
No matter what your score the first thing you have to get right is selection.
Why Selection matters?
When you are consciously selecting the right questions to do you are taking the test and the test is not taking you.
All of you want to (or rather should since you are spending 20 lakhs for an MBA education) become a CEO or Founder in the future. What is fundamentally involves is to decide where and how to invest your money.
If 100 people come to you asking you to invest 2 crores each in 100 ideas and you have 200 crops at your disposal, what will you do?
- will you give everybody 50 or 100 each and then depending on how they do will you give the rest or will you first do a quick evaluation of the soundness of the idea using some strong first principles and then decide to invest?
- will you give money to ideas that are in industries you like or will you give money to ideas that will definitely generate money (if the goal is to make the most of your 200 crores)
During the CAT, you are investing money. So by not selecting questions and spending some time on each question you are investing money without evaluating ideas.
During each section, you are first supposed to play the role of CEO, deciding whether to do the problem or not, then be the worker solving the problem, and in parallel play the manager who is aware of the clock.
If you select and solve the right 75 questions and leave the remaining 25 by spending less than 20 minutes you will end up with a percentile above 99.
So the first task before anything else is for you to go and watch all the videos on how to select the right questions in the CHANNELs section of the new myIMS, just go there and watch the LMTC videos in the recorded tab. If you have already watched this or attended LMTC sessions and are successfully implementing the methods then you can skip this part.
If you select and solve the right 50 questions and leave the remaining 20-25 by spending less than 10 minutes you will end up with a percentile above 99.
But this, as you would have realised, is contingent on you solving at least 80% of the questions right.
If I am guessing right, accuracy, is the biggest problem in VA-RC for almost all test takers and that is solely because there is in the way of a technique that test-takers apply.
While a lot of students have told me that the methods I suggested in RC-1 have been useful, they have also told me that they still are getting tougher questions wrong. They have seen RC-2 but they feel the methods are time-consuming. Yes, they will seem time-consuming to those who do not think in English.
But there is no way you can answer the questions correctly by reading passively all through and waking up right at the climax when you are caught between options.
All of the gyaan about eliminating extreme options, skimming and scanning, and their ilk are pure quackery, nothing more than candy to children.
There are no shortcuts to crack VA-RC, set a realistic target and solve questions in the technically correct way, else attempt more and be happy with a 60 per cent accuracy as long as you clear the cut-off, do not expect to boost your overall score through
If you have an issue with accuracy in VA-RC, go to the CHANNEL section on the Masterclasses and watch the RC-1 and RC-2 Masterclasses and the VA Masterclasses.
If you have an issue with accuracy in QA, go to the posts on this page — https://thecatwriter.com/category/quant-strat/
Once you are selecting the right passages, sets, and questions, and solving 4 out of 5 you pick correctly, you need to be able to solve a wide range of questions.
In QA, if you are only attempting questions from a few areas and are still not attempting questions from Logs and Geometry, then do so at your peril, there were 10 do-able questions from the two areas last year.
To quickly master concepts and application, go to the LEARN Tab in the new myIMS and watch all the videos there to get a good grasp of basic concepts and application.
If you are facing troubles in higher-level application in a particular area, then do all the problems from the e-MAXIMISER module.
For the DI-LR week or two weeks, the task is clearly cut out — approximately 200 sets — 17 SimCATs + 6 Actual CAT Sections (2017, 2018, and 2019 both slots)
If you need to learn to how to solve DI-LR sets better —https://thecatwriter.com/category/di-lr-strat/
And yeah, at this stage, honestly, I have no tips to increase reading speed in general except to say that concentrate harder and read faster (if only we could embed the Blinkist app in our brains).
To increase solving speed I have no tips but to ask you to stop writing entire solutions on your paper, you do not need to show homework to your teacher. The test-takers scoring above 135 are not writing equations and cancelling out terms on both sides.
Where should I solve questions from
Irrespective of your level you should know how to solve every question in each of the proctored SimCATs and the e-Maximiser.
You can practice executing strategies between tests by solving Section Tests (apart from Section Tests in the Application Builder, you also can use the Take Homes as Section Tests by using exit section option).
You are really weak in an area and need to practice basics then solve the Concept module.
A quick summary
- 10-15 Tests every alternate day.
- 1-2 weeks dedicated to one section depending on where you are.
- For each section move from selection to accuracy to concepts to speed.
Have a plan for each SimCAT
For every SimCAT you need to have a section-wise target score and a plan to reach that score.
- VA-RC — I am going to get more marks from VA by solving them before RC and applying the right technique
- DI-LR — I need to select sets better, I am still choosing one wrong set.
- QA — I am going to get more marks from Geometry
To do this you should analyse a test well. When you analyse a test, especially the incorrect questions ask yourself — should I have attempted this question or set, did I follow the process of solving correctly (VA-RC), did I not read the misread or miscalculate (QA-DI-LR).
When you analyse a test, look at the skipped questions in QA and figure out the areas you need to strengthen and go to the LEARN Module videos.
I want to do well, I will kill this test — these are not plans they are dreams and feelings.
How to manage your feelings
In short, taking a test is not about feelings.
Getting disheartened when you see a low score, starting to feel pressure, anxiety attacks, all of these are things have nothing to do with solving a question.
The only questions to always ask are — Why did this happen, what did I do wrong, did I select the right set, did I pause after reading the RC question frame a shadow answer and then go to the options?
If you cannot get rid your feelings and get the job done when the task involves you and a piece of text on a machine, then you can forget managing others and leading firms. Honestly, you should consider another profession where someone else will handle the pressure and tell you what to do.
If you want to increase your concentration levels and manage work as well go through these posts:
I usually refrain from giving our set prescriptions like a doctor does, do these things every day because I do not think such things exist for test prep. I can only name problems and solutions, the better you are at diagnosing your problems the better you will be able to tailor a solution.
I feel this is an important part of the test itself — if you cannot maximise your own performance using all the resources at your disposal, how will you maximise a company’s resources later in life!
Even an MBA will give you all the insights of what successful firms did and some technical knowledge specific to certain areas but when it comes to your first job post your MBA, you cannot cut, copy, paste anything that you learnt at business school, you have to tailor a customised solution using the resources you have.
Cut the flab and the feel-good
I hope you have already deleted all the social media apps on your phone. If you have not then all I can say is that you are not committed to achieving your goal.
I hope you have nothing other than CAT and other tests till the end of the first week of Jan. If you have other plans are then all I can say is that you are not committed to achieving your goal.
And the most important part of the last four weeks — get off all online CAT groups and CAT forums. Do not waste precious time discussing any more prep strategies with peers and finding out how much they have scored and commenting on the great scores someone else is getting.
As far as I know, back when I was preparing to take the test and right now when you guys are preparing to take the test, the goal was the same — squeezing every drop out of oneself and the test.
Everything was IRL then and I never went up to the guy who was topping my city (despite knowing him from college and being in the same test-prep institute) and told him — bhai tu toh phod raha hai.
Even today I would not look at top 10 percentilers attempts and accuracy on specific questions, since my ability is unique — I have solved the question and I have seen the solution. The questions I ask myself are
- could I have solved this faster, irrespective of others’ data, were there any wasted steps, I myself try to look for shorter methods (should I have substituted answer options), or
- should I have left this.
I am the batsman, the question is the ball, there are no others since remember during the test I am not chasing, during the test everyone is batting first, everyone is facing the same bowling, every one has to decode how the pitch is playing and score as many runs as possible.
I do not remember even discussing one thing about my prep with my friends who were preparing with me, we hung around after classes for some banter but that was it, I did not think there was any need to discuss anything with my peers since it was just me and the test.
It takes a village to raise a child, the saying goes, I do not think it takes a community to get a score, it takes a lot of brains to figure out where one is going wrong and more importantly why one is going wrong, and a lot of mental stamina and drive to push oneself to just max out.
Only two things should exist in the world for the next 9 weeks (till the XAT is over) — you and your test-prep material — no one else and nothing else.