CAT Strat
Comments 39

Setting the right targets on your way to a 99 percentile

A few years back, I attended the Chennai convocation function for aspirants who cleared the Company Secretary (CS) exam (a relative of mine had cleared the exam). The Chief Guest was Padmishri awardee T.N.Manoharan, who is a pre-eminent figure in the Banking and Accounting sector in the country with his book being a must-read for all CA aspirants. He was part of the government-appointed team that cleaned up the Satyam mess and paved the way for the transition to Tech Mahindra. His keynote address was leavened with wisdom and had too many punchlines for me to recount here but one of the things he said is spot on when it comes to the way we should deal with success and failure. He said…

celebrate success with all your heart but do not let it get to your head and do not let failure enter and break your heart, use your head to find out the causes and deal with it

The first few SimCATs are done and handling these initial results, which can seem pretty demotivating, is not easy. Aspirants usually start off full-steam, thinking 99-plus percentile — IIM-A — and then when faced with these initial disappointments tend to lose heart and start going through a phase of self-doubt.

This post is about how you should use your head to deal with phase.

Setting the right attempt, accuracy and score targets

In a previous post, I had mentioned that you would need to be patient and wait till around the end of September to you see your best scores and percentiles. But how do you set mini-targets till then to ensure that by the time you are about a month away from CAT, you are performing at your peak?

On average, scores correspond percentiles as below (the range takes into account the variability in difficulty levels)

  • 99 and above percentiles – Above 150
  • 95-99 percentile – 135-150
  • 90-95 percentile – 120-135
  • 80-90 percentile – 95-120
  • 70-80 percentile – 65-95

Those of you who have a percentile below 70 and are feeling bad about same, try viewing what 70 percentile means from a different lens.

On average around 75 marks should fetch you 75 percentile and ideally, these 75 marks should get spread equally across the three sections.

What do 25 marks in a section mean?

  • Approximately 12-13 attempts with 9-10 questions correct.

So, on average to get to the 75th percentile you will be leaving more questions than you will be attempting or in other words, you will be attempting very judiciously.

A reasonably reliable estimate of how many questions you should be attempting in each section on the SimCATs to scale different percentile levels is given in the table below.

  • 80 percentile – 10/13
  • 85 percentile – 13/16
  • 90 percentile – 16/20
  • 95 percentile – 18/22
  • 99 percentile – 20/25

If you speak to previous years’ CAT-takers they might say that these numbers are on the slightly lower side but SimCATs have always been tougher than the actual CAT. If the actual CAT is easier your attempts and accuracy have to naturally go up.

Setting the right percentile targets over the next three months

I know that the readers of this blog will be a varied lot — from re-takers who are already at a 95 percentile to first-timers who fared poorly in their initial SimCATs. The percentile targets I am going to suggest are strictly for those who are currently at or below 80 percentile irrespective of whether they are re-takers or not. Given below are the percentiles you should target to reach in the coming months. Please note that you need to touch these percentiles sometime during these months, not necessarily at the beginning or the end.

  • 85 percentile – July
  • 90 percentile – August
  • 95 percentile – September

So in these initial SimCATs, you should set modest milestones to start with in terms of attempts accuracy and percentiles and slowly work your way up the ladder.

One rule of thumb can be to aim at increasing your percentile by 3-5 points every month from now on.

Learn to leave the right balls before you are ready to despatch every ball to the fence

One of the big psychological barriers when it comes to test-taking is not very different from what batsmen face when they come to the crease — the eagerness to get off the mark.

So right from the start of a section, test-takers are always desperate to somehow score and get some marks under the belt. Given this desperation what do they do?

Like batsmen who tend to play at every ball, test-takers tend to attempt every question. What happens when batsmen tend to do that at the beginning of an innings, they tend to get out caught in the slips, usually playing away from their body.

So like it is in cricket, the key in test-taking is also shot selection or rather choosing which questions to take a shot at. I know this is easier said than done.

Protect your time spent, the way you are supposed to protect your wicket

In cricket, they say that the best batsmen place a premium on their wicket. If you remember the big problem with Rohit Sharma at the beginning of this career was his inconsistency and most of it was because of the manner of his dismissals. He would more or less gift his wicket away. This was true of many great players at the beginning of their careers and it was more likely to be true of the more talented players. Aravinda D’Silva had more than one shot that he could play to a particular ball! This meant that in the early stages of his career he would throw his wicket away to a wrong choice of shot. The Aravinda who destroyed India in the 1996 semi-final was fully in control of his shot-selection.

As test-takers what you need to learn to do is to place a premium on your time. When you attempt a question you should be getting three marks for it more than 8 out of 10 times, the rest of the questions should be left alone. Most of the time you will find that a lot of your time was spent on questions that gave you no return.

Now, later or never

When you read a question or a set, you should be wearing the CEO hat and take a decision — should I do this question NOW, LATER or NEVER!

Given the amount of practice all of you would have so far, this choice is not going to be an easy one.

The more questions you have solved, the better your ability will be to gauge the level of a question and classify it for NOW, LATER or NEVER.

This is most true in the case of the DI-LR. In the case of the Verbal section people attempt as many questions as they can, based on their reading speed — if they have read a question, they take a shot at it.

In the case of Quant depending on whether they have covered that concept and also the length of the question, test-takers make a choice whether to solve or leave. Those who have covered all questions on the Quant and are good at it, face a different problem — every question will seem solvable.

In the next three posts, I will take up each section and outline a question selection strategy for the same based on the old SimCATs.

In the meantime set the right targets and approach your 180 minutes in a way that you reach those targets.


  1. Vatsal Mehrotra says

    Hello sir,
    Sir in the recent Simcats and Pre-Simcats, I am consistently getting more than 92 percentile in both QA and VARC sections but my score in DILR is very inconsistent ranging from 70 to 90 percentile.
    What should I do in order to improve my score in the DILR section? (I am a first-time test taker).


  2. Vatsal Mehrotra says

    Hello sir,
    Sir in the recent Simcats and Pre-Simcats I am consistently getting above 92 percentile in both QA and VARC sections but my score in the DILR section is very inconsistent (anywhere from 70 to 90 percentile).
    What should I do to improve my score in the DILR section? ( I am a first-time test taker)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rashid ali says

    Hello sir ,
    I had given 3 pre SimCAT and i got only 20 marks . in next month july i’m looking for 60%ile to 70% .please suggest some better approach or plan how should i study .what should be my plan .


    • Hi Rashid,

      For a better score, you will need two things: Concepts & Application and Test-Taking Skills.

      Test-Taking Skills are covered in detail on SimCAT Test-Taking Strategy Pack on the Channel TAB of myIMS.

      For concepts and application, you would need substantial practice on all of the nine areas — RC, VA, DI, LR, Numbers Arithmetic, Geometry, Algebra and Modern Math.

      You can Learn the concepts from the videos on LEARN Module of myIMS

      For all set based areas — RC, DI and LR — you would need to solve at least 100 sets each before you get some competence on the same.

      You can start by watching this webinar which puts in perspective about the skills required and how to make a plan —

      All the best!


  4. aashi says

    sir can you also guide about some work and study balance .Just started working ,not even a proper job just 8-10 hr internship after final sem . My percentile was around 85 but due to this i am worried it will go down .


  5. Hello Sir,
    I am currently solving RC 100 and I noticed the passages seem quite easy to read but I end up scoring less accuracy than expected most of the time (around 50-60% in a set of 4), while my accuracy usually stays between 70-80% in my mocks (RCs only) and other sources. Is it the book that is above par or is there something I need to work on?


    • Hi Jwalin,

      I think the RCs are more or less on par as far as difficulty level goes; if anything they are a tad easier than the RC on this year’s SimCATs. I do not know about other sources.

      So, it is a bit tricky to comment on why you are accuracy is lower on RC 100.




  6. Abhishek Arora says

    Hello sir,

    Abhishek here! Hope you remember me from the Kanneda wali story in another comment from a previous post. I had converted IIM Nagpur and been waitlisted for IIFT Kolkata (will most likely convert). If selected, should I go for IIFT K over IIM Nagpur? Your opinion matters a lot for me sir 🙂 Hoping for a quick reply kyuki time kum hai :S



    • Congratulations on the converts.

      If you convert IIFT-K then go for it over IIM-N, the gap in placements is way too huge and by the time the baby IIM brand become big, you will have reached a stage where you no longer need it!

      All the best!

      P.S: Glad to know that India and not Kanneda gets to keep you!


      • Abhishek Arora says

        Thanks a lot sir! Will really miss you and all other IMS mentors. You all have played a crucial role in my life even though we never met in person. Thanks for all your tireless efforts. Good luck for the future.

        Jai Mata Di let’s rock now!


        Liked by 1 person

  7. Hello sir,

    My average score in SimCATs is 85 percentile but my average score in the VARC section is a mere 63 percentile. Trying everything you had mentioned in the First mile to CAT video (solving 2-3 passages every day for a month, at least) but still no luck. How do I go about it?


  8. Hello sir,

    My average score in SimCATs is 85 percentile and my average score in the VARC section is a mere 63 percentile. Trying everything you had mentioned in the First mile to CAT video (solving 2-3 passages every day for a month, at least) but still no luck. How do I go about it?


  9. Renuka says

    Sir this new initiative of doing SimCAT analysis in four videos (Overall, VARC, DILR, QA) on myIMS Channel section is only for SimCAT 1 or will it be for all Proctored SimCATs in future.
    Till last year IMS was doing only an overall analysis video of ~15 Min on its Youtube Channel. (majorly by Amit sir)

    This is a great initiative for us and I want to know whether it will continue or not because the overall analysis video by Amit sir for SimCAT 2 is out, but VARC, DILR & QA isn’t there on myIMS Channel.


    • Hi Renuka,

      Glad you appreciate the effort.

      We wanted to demonstrate question selection and thus made the long videos for the same.

      Since it is a huge task in addition to all the solution videos, we will be doing it only for a few select SimCATs — 1,4,8,12,16.

      All the best!


  10. Ridhima says

    Hello sir,
    My percentile in VARC is lying between 80-85 percentile.It has stagnated to this score. What should I do increase it gradually? Also sir my reading speed is hindering my performance especially in 2 hrs format( i take around 10 min to read and solve) and because of this I start to panic which results in low accuracy. I am doing time bound reading to increase my speed but that is not helping much. How should I tackle this problem?


    • Hi Ridhima,

      I’ll be doing a VA Masterclass in a few months but one of the things that you can try in the meantime as far as your core process speed with respect to content is that you leave everything aside and solve RCs only for a fortnight, that is the only way you can put on some reading comprehension muscle in a short span of time; else you will do a bit of reading every day and that way it will take a year or more for you to reach somewhere. Two weeks only RCs, as many as you can.

      All the best!


  11. Vishal says

    Hello Sir,
    Greetings for the day!
    I am a repeat CAT taker for 2021. I didn’t score well in 2020 CAT. I have currently 42 months of experience and working at an intensive job for an MNC. I am feeling that, I should quit the job and fully focus on my studies. Considering as of today there are 150 days remaining for CAT 2021, when should I quit the Job? Or should I continue to work and Study? I would appreciate it if you answer this query. Thanks a lot!


  12. akshay thite says

    Sir, my scores have improved but they are fluctuating I got 96-98 percentile in some tests and there have been tests where I have struggled to cross 90 or even 85 percentile for that matter, how do I manage this?


    • Hi Akshay,

      The fluctuation is a clear sign that your skills have not stabilised, what you need to identify is which particular skills and which particular sections:

      1. Problem-Solving Skills: You are able to solve only up to a particular level of difficulty, beyond that you cannot handle things. So, when the paper moves even by a bit — say 5 questions more — beyond your level, your percentile drops. You need to figure out which sections this is happening on.

      2. Test-Taking Skills: You are consistently using the question/passage/set selection strategies; you might have gone through the SimCAT Strategy pack but do not apply all the strategies to the fullest; so, when paper becomes tougher, you do not have the requisite skills to select the right questions. Again, you need to figure out which sections this is happening on.

      To consistently score above a particular level you need to get every aspect of your prep right.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. akshaythite says

    You are absolutely right sir, being an engineer I consider quants to be my strength and when it’s easy I solve almost all the questions leaving 3-4, but when its a bit tough my attempts drastically reduce (wasting time on extreme difficult questions or taking too much time) so my scores too collapse dramatically. The same goes with DILR here selecting the right set is many a time an issue for me.
    My VARC scores are on the lower side but a lot stable.
    please suggest some methods to deal with this.
    Thanks a lot!


    • Hi Akshay,

      My SimCAT Strategy videos on the CHANNEL myIMS deal in detail with question & set selection. I will be taking sessions on the same as well later in the season.

      All the best!


  14. Mantavya Agarwal says

    Hello sir,
    I want to know what should be my target percentile to get a call from IIM A,B,C, L, I & K.

    My acads are 91.2/93/82.3 (graduated from IIT Patna). GEM with 2 years of experience in ZS Associates (consulting firm). I know I should aim as high as possible, but I wanted to know what should be a safe bet for me.


  15. sanju says

    I have scored 26percentile in my the 1st simcat mock(2hrs)test with 33 score and 50-60% accuracy which i had attempted on July 4th 2021. I have Semester exams for one whole month(August) in between.
    I have no clue about, will i be able to crack the CAT21 exam with above 99percentile and how to do so. But i am willing to crack it and give it my best.
    Please do Help me.


  16. dinesh yadav says

    yes ok sir .if you want to get big succese you
    should have double failer rate


  17. Siddharth Rajkumar says

    Hi sir,
    i have taken around 6-8 mocks over the last 2 months, my percentile has more or less stagnated in 95 (+/-2) . I have scored poorly in quants in most of the mocks, although i feel most confident with quants among the three sections, even when i analyse quants post the mock i end up solving all the questions well under 3-4 mins with an exception of around 5-6 questions. i feel this might be due to the exhaustion after VARC/LRDI sections, do you have any tips apart from practicing by giving multiple mocks over the next few months?


  18. Shweta says

    Sir without timer i am able to solve all lrdi question but with timer in mocks i am only able to solve 3-4 sets how to increase speed in lrdi


    • Hi Shweta,

      If you are able to score above 30 in the DI-LR by solving 3-4 sets then it is quite good.

      If you are scoring below it then the first thing you need to focus on is selecting the right sets, since in all sections the three easiest sets should give 36 marks and the fourth set at least a 9 that will make your score a 45, which is exceptionally good for DI-LR. For selection please look at the SimCAT Strategy videos on the CHANNEL Tab of myIMS

      Solving more than 4 sets should be a priority since you are hitting 45 marks consistently.

      Even those who score above 99 and are exceptional end up scoring 50-60 on average. It is only a handful of people who score above that in test conditions and they end up being the 100-percentilers.

      We will be doing a set of DI Masterclasses by our own 100-percentilers, which if you are an IMS student will have received the schedule for if you have enrolled for a learning program and not a test series only program.

      I will be taking a Last Mile to CAT session for DI-LR as well in August using last year’s paper.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!


  19. ria says

    sir my marks in SIMCATS are fluctuating from 75 to sometimes scoring 93+ also my percentile in VARC section is between 50-60 can u suggest me some strategies and also some good practice material for that
    thank you


    • Hi Ria,

      The reason for fluctuating marks is that you do not have a clear cut technique to solve and test-taking strategy to execute.

      So, what happens is that when the paper gets tough and in ways that you do not like it — tough questions from your favourite areas and the easy ones from areas you do not like and are likely to skip — your scores and percentiles fall.

      The first thing you need to do is to watch the SimCAT Strategy videos on the Channel TAB of the myIMS. This covers the question selection and time-management strategies in detail. Watch the video solutions and detailed analysis videos of SimCAT 1 and SimCAT 4, I have done the solutions for the VA as well demonstrated question selection in a separate video.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!


  20. Bhavya A says

    Hi Sir,

    I had taken ims simcats last year , will it be feasible to buy ims mock series? wont the questions be repeated , I need a suggestion on this sir.

    Thanks and Regards,
    Bhavya. A


    • Hi Bhavya,

      If only we had the luxury of repeating questions! We know a lot of our students retake over the course of many years. So, every single year Proctored SimCATs are made from scratch and cater to any changes in the previous year’s CAT.

      All the best!


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