CAT Strat
Comments 35

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. Sir, I got a 132. With 62 in VARC(attempted all questions, I think VA part went haywire in accuracy), 40 in DILR(solved 4 sets, picking the right sets took a lot of time though), and 30 in Quants (I actually found myself knowing a lot, but my mind just froze and I ended up half-solving most of the questions and moving on to the next- ending up just solving 12 questions).

    Are there any specific improvement strategies you could give me?


    • Hi Sandhya,

      I do not know if you are a retaker but 132 is quite a good score for SimCAT 1. DI-LR scores are very much about selection, if you desert selection for more sets you will find that your scores dropping.

      As far as freezing in QA goes it can be a case of fatigue after two sections or a lack of confidence in QA.

      It is still the first SimCAT and you have done well, you need to take a few more SimCATs to get a clearer picture of your strengths and weaknesses:

      1. Can you handle a higher level of RC?
      2. Can you handle calculation-heavy DI sets or math-heavy LR sets?

      In the meantime spend enough time to figure out the questions/sets you have could not solve and work on the areas that you know are your weaknesses. The first step is to have no weak areas — you need to pick off Easy/Medium questions across all nine areas: VA, RC, DI, LR, Numbers, Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and Modern Math.

      There will be detailed posts on each of the sections and well as test-taking strategy over the course of the season, which has barely begun.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sandhya Varadharajan says

        Thank you very much for your reply, sir! I am a fresher (law student), and you were right- the mind freeze could be a general image of math and QA when it is bound by a time limit for me, although concept wise and generally I feel pretty confident. Verbal has always been a confident section for me (with absolutely no time issues, though accuracy goes for a toss sometimes).

        Thank you again, and I shall work on the areas you specified, and looking forward on trying those strategies in SIMCAT-2!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Shreyashkar Lal says

    Sir, I got 75 only in SimCAT 1. 39 in VARC (most of the incorrect attempts were from the Verbal Reasoning part), 22 in DILR, and 14 in QA. I found myself struggling a lot in the DILR part and it subsequently affected my performance in QA too. Also, I was able to attempt very few questions in QA and ended up not being able to even check 15+ questions.

    Any specific improvement tips by you? Also, when will the Analytics tab show the percentile for this test? So far only the scores are visible of SimCAT 1.


    • Hi Shreyashkar,

      Everything you should be doing in the short-term you can learn from

      1. Watching the Essential SimCAT Strategy Videos (5 of them)
      2. Watch the SimCAT 1 Analysis Videos (not solutions) which will be available later today.

      Percentiles are always released the day after the proctored window ends (13 if the window is from 8-12)

      This blog will cover things one by one as the season progresses.

      All the best!


  3. akshay thite says

    Sir, whenever i solve the DILR section, firstly it takes me a lot of time to select the right sets and even when I do so it takes me another 10 mins to figure out the right approach. After having consumed so much of time I start panicking which hampers my performance in DILR. Again when I go back to see the video solutions of those I really feel they were quite doable on my part but I am not able to reflect it in the mocks.
    My score for simcat 1 was 101 (with only 21 in LRDI)
    also my accuracy for VARC for a toss constantly in 70s.
    I feel demotivated after my scores dropping from 148 ( in PreSimcat ) to 101.
    Can you please suggest me strategy to overcome this and any improvements to enhance my prep would help me a lot.


    • Hi Akshay,

      101 is not a bad score on SimCAT 1.

      Taking a SimCAT is like playing a match and not like taking your college exam — scores will vary based on the pitch and the opposition.

      Just like playing matches will make you more aware of your weaknesses since it is only after playing different teams on varying pitches that you will know which balls, bowlers, and pitches you are susceptible to.

      So treat the first 3 to 5 SimCATs as a learning exercise.

      As far as DI-LR goes, set selection is something that will take time to master and execute quickly so you have to stay patient.

      Do not look at the video solutions passively but to see the wrong first steps you made while solving — did you start drawing tables before understanding the set properly, do you draw the wrong tables, do you try to fill the whole tale instead of looking at what the questions are asking, do you crack the anchor condition?

      You need to figure out the process mistakes you made while solving instead of looking at the solution.

      I will be doing multiple posts on all sections as well as Masterclasses as the season progresses.

      In the meantime,

      1. Watch the Essential SimCAT Strategy Videos (5 of them)
      2. Watch the SimCAT 1 Analysis Videos (not solutions) which will be available later today.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!

      Liked by 1 person

      • akshay thite says

        I will surely analyze my upcoming performances keenly, focus on knowing my strengths and weaknesses better and strategize accordingly!
        Looking forward for more such awesome content.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Shubham Agarwal says

    Sir, I got a score of 123 on the test, it is not the score which concerns me, in fact, it is my accuracy and confidence in VARC, I tried giving scores to the various passage and then followed the order, but while solving I am stuck between last two options and since I am not sure about the answer, I skip it, this consumes a lot of time

    Also for the VA part what is the optimal time range for the 10 questions in VA?


  5. Dheeraj Gupta says

    I do not know the reason behind not providing the number of test takers. It would be great if you could let me know as it helps in analysis.


    • Hi Dheeraj,

      On average during the 4-5 day proctored window about 8000-14000 students take the test; the number varies based on the time of the test-taking — the number is on the higher during the first 10 SimCATs and the Open SimCATs and on the lower side during the last 6; another 2000-5000 people take the test after the window.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!


  6. Snchit singh says

    Sir, i am a fresher. i have taken the pre-sim cat and got 42 score which is not good, i know but have done my best in that test but after sim cat 1 i am totally demotivated as i got only 2 score. In VARC i attempted only limited ques with high accuracy but didnt get result in it . In DILR i find the 2 easy sets but unable to solve them i got confused and panick and i think i have very little practice in this section. And finally in QA i am able to attempt only 2 ques, i dont know what is happening but read the question and unable to interpretate in the mind that how to solve it. Sir please give some tips for a fresher who preparing for a competetaive exam for the first time with not so much guidance. I think this is the situation of 20-30% people who attempted sim cat 1, but no has can share their thoughts with you. Thank you


    • Hi Sanchit,

      I can understand what you must be going through given that it is your first time preparing for a competitive exam.

      I do not know when you started preparing and how much preparation you have done so far (at home apart from just attending classes online, if you have taken up classes; if you have not taken up any classes and are preparing completely on your own it might not be easy at all).

      Either way what you should do is watch videos number 7, 6, and 2 in that order from this playlist.

      The videos will give the required perspective about preparing for Aptitude tests such as the CAT as well as an insight into preparing for the Math on such tests.

      Take the next SimCAT only after you feel you have gained some expertise in each of the three sections through practice.

      I will be putting up posts on each section as we progress.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!


  7. Pushkar Shukla says

    Hello Sir,
    I got a score of 71 in the test. I had done pretty well in the PreSIMCAT with a score of 165 and a 97 percentile. I know that it was very easy as compared to SIMCAT 1, but I think I should have performed well. QA being my forte, I scored 45 in that section, 10 in VARC and 16 in DILR. The main reason behind not being able to concentrate was that I was famished. But I still think I could have performed well in VARC and DILR. I was confident about my answers in VARC, but I ended up getting many of those wrong. One set from DILR was actually easy but I made mistakes in that set too. Please suggest me ways to overcome these mistakes.
    Also, could you please tell, how many students am I and will be competing with in the SIMCATS.


    • Hi Pushkar,

      It is just the first SimCAT and there is still a long way to go.

      I hope you saw the Essential SimCAT Strategy videos on myIMS before taking SimCAT 1; if you did not ensure that you do that before the next pre-CAT.

      For analysis and learnings from the first SimCAT for each of the sections do watch the detailed sectional analysis videos that we have put up, you will find them on the Channel TAB of myIMS.

      I will be putting up a detailed post on score improvement for each section as well as taking Masterclasses we go forward.

      On average during the 4-5 day proctored window about 8000-14000 students take the test; the number varies based on the time of the test-taking — the number is on the higher during the first 10 SimCATs and the Open SimCATs and on the lower side during the last 6; another 2000-5000 people take the test after the window.

      It does not matter even if you take the test after the window, what matters is that you take the test in perfect test-taking conditions with respect to mental and physical space.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!


      • Pushkar Shukla says

        Thankyou for replying sir. I hadn’t watched the videos before. Are you talking about the Maximising VARC, DILR and Quant; and the Time Management videos. I am watching those videos now, and I now know the strategy to be adopted during SimCATs.


  8. Hello Sir,
    I have been preparing for CAT since mid-February. I have completed the topics on arithmetic. For DILR I have been solving past year sets (not consistently though) for a month. I have been a voracious reader since childhood. Now I devour a variety of articles from different sources, The Hindu and novels every day.

    I scored a meager score of 54. Most of which, I was disappointed in the VARC score as that was the only section where I thought my preparation was subpar. In case of DILR, I wasted time in the wrong set and thus couldn’t select the relatively easier one. Quants has always been a hurdle for me. I freeze when I see questions and tend to forget even easier steps.

    It feels like all my efforts of two months have been for none. Could you please tell me where I’m going wrong? What do I do to improve my VARC? How could one gain confidence in Quants?


    • Hi Siddharth,

      Two months of basic prep is nowhere enough to be competitive on a test such as the CAT, which is possibly the third toughest entrance test in the world (the first two being the UPSC and the JEE in my opinion).

      So there is no reason to be demotivated by SimCAT 1 treat it as a first step.

      Also, if you have not taken up any classes and are preparing completely on your own it might not be easy at all.

      To start off what you should do is watch videos number 7, 6, and 2 in that order from this playlist.

      The videos will give the required perspective about preparing for Aptitude tests such as the CAT as well as an insight into preparing for the Math on such tests.

      Before the next SimCAT ensure that you watch the set of 5 Essential SimCAT Strategy Videos and the sectional analysis videos of SimCAT 1 — the first set outline the question selection and time-management strategy and the second demonstrate the execution of the same on SimCAT 1.

      The road is going to be a long one not just for you but for everyone — getting into the best schools will demand every single drop of what you have inside of you and it will be unlike you have anything you have prepared for so far in your life.

      I will be there all along the way putting up posts on each section as we progress.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!


  9. I gave pre sim CAT with a score of 38 and sim CAT-1 with a score of 49 please help me in my road ahead for the CAT preparation please!!


    • Hi Umang,

      Everything you should be doing in the short-term you can learn from

      1. Watching the Essential SimCAT Strategy Videos (5 of them on IMS Channel)
      2. Watch the SimCAT 1 Analysis Videos (not solutions) that will cover the execution of the Strategies

      This blog will cover things one by one as the season progresses.

      All the best!


  10. Hello Sir ,
    I am a repeater who gave his first trial in 2020 just for the sake to see what’s it all about and I got 86percentile ,but now that I studied ,and made a full proof strategy from your 5 essential tips ,I did horrible in SIMCAT 1 ,I got a total of 54 marks here ,I don’t to what to do and how to go about it now.
    Also last year I did nothings and this time when I started reading newspapers and stuff my VARC score just depreciated like anything ,I got 11 marks .


    • Hi Manas,

      Given that the CAT is not a very standardised or adaptive test, there are chances that people luck out and score what seems to be a decent score in their first attempt. But unless one has consistently scored well through the season one cannot take one’s last year’s percentile as a benchmark (since the test is not a standardised one).

      This year you have just started your prep and taken one SimCAT, I am sure it might seem disappointing but maybe you are looking at prep in terms of the quantum of prep you have put in for exams previously, say your semester graduation exams etc. This is possibly the third toughest exam in the world and it means that it will demand enough and more serious prep. Reading newspapers is good but unless you solve at least 100 RCs one can’t say that one has really practised RCs. Also, the strategies have to come together with conceptual clarity, an exceptionally good solving technique for each question type, and speed for the marks to be really consistent.

      So stay put with your prep and I mentioned, scores will yo-yo based on the difficulty of the section, so be prepared for a fairly psychologically demanding ride over the next 9 months.

      All the best!


  11. Ashish says

    Hello sir,
    Sir, I am a repeater. In cat 20 I performed very badly at varc(67 percentile) but was comparably good at quantz(98) & dilr(94). I am starting to repeat the same mistakes in varc in simcats(confuse between two option) . So my score in varc is still the same. How can I improve it?


  12. Niket says

    Hello Sir,
    I feel like I am stuck in RC, no improvement is seen and I am loosing confidence.
    Other than that Lrdi and quant is not constant sometime 95% percentile sometime 80% percentile.


  13. Shubh Desai says

    Hello Sir,
    I am a final year engineering student and started my prep recently. My scores in Pre-SimCat 1 and 2 were 189, 211 but SimCat-1 (139) was an eye-opener for me. I was let down by Quant (42) where I felt my question selection was poor. Also, I had felt relatively confident while attempting VARC compared to the Pre-SimCats but only managed to score a meagre 50 with 32 attempts. I went through the essential strategy videos prior to the test so I was expecting an improvement in VARC and DILR; instead, a marginal increment was accompanied by a major hit in Quant. What should be the next rational step ?


    • Hi Shubh,

      Firstly, the scores in the pre-SimCATs show that you have a lot of potential.

      This is very much like playing well on the tour matches before the actual Test Series starts; of course, the tour matches are of importance, but the first test will always be a level up from the tour matches. So, you should not be surprised by the fact that you were not able to plunder as many runs in the first test!

      Test-taking strategy, especially question-selection strategy in QA is not easy to master since those who are good at QA think they can solve every problem or rather that every problem is solvable and those who set papers know how to exploit that weakness. So stay patient you do not need to anything different, it will take you at least 5 to 7 SimCATs (difficulty across sections) for you to master the application of these strategies.

      Think of yourself as a debutante and give yourself the time to get used to the international circuit and you will do well.

      To give a different analogy, one used by Ramakrishna Parahamsa’s wife, to his disciples — the fruit has to ripen before it falls — in the case of all aspirants, they are both the fruit(their mind) and the person waiting under the tree (the one aspiring to enlightenment or to great marks)!

      All the best!


  14. Piyush Gupta says

    Hello sir,
    I have started preparing for CAT 2021 from January and I have got 77,81,84percentile in the first 3 Pre Simcats respectively. But sir my score in VARC section is not improving that much and I always score less marks in this section particularly as compared to other two sections. So sir, Can you please help and tell me what can I do to improve Varc section?


  15. Rahul Verma says

    I scored 80 in my simCat1 with only 19 in quants, 31 in Varc and 30 in DILR. Quants i underperformed because of some silly question selection and also did 3-4 silly calculation mistakes. But still, i could have got 95-100 atmost. I have never prepared for Cat. Do I even have chance of getting 99percentile plus this year or should look at cat22? Your input is highly valuable to me.


  16. Pingback: Setting the right targets on your way to a 99 percentile | The CAT Writer

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