CAT Strat
Comments 10

Why your actual abilities might not be as good as you think they are

The purpose of this site has been to examine the problems that students keep bringing back to me over the years, and as the important ones get addressed I keep getting other questions that depending on how one looks at it are either simple or hide more than they reveal to the casual observer.

One such conundrum is this one, a paraphrase of a problem that I have answered in many comments:

I do not know what happens to me during the test — I do pathetically, sometimes I am even ashamed to mention how much I score — but when I sit after the test, I find that I can answer all questions easily.

How do I deal with this nervousness, how do I tackle this?

You are looking in the wrong mirror — your post-test performance does not really count

The biggest thing test-takers discount is that they are solving the whole paper for the second time!

  • You have already spent 40 or 60 minutes with the 25 to 35 problems.
  • You have already tried half of the problems for atleast 2 to 3 minutes each
  • You attempted all the rest of the questions at least for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • You have understood all the superficial aspects of the question
  • You have already tried the obvious methods

When you read it for a second time

  • your brain registers what it missed or took for granted the during the exam
  • your do not draw the same table or represent the information in a DI-LR set the same way that you did during the exam
  • you actually understand the anchor condition because in the exam you did not give it enough thought
  • you thus start correctly solving the questions you spent 2 or 3 minutes on during the exam
  • you gain confidence and then correctly solve the questions you spent 1 or 2 minutes on during the exam
  • you conclude that your problem is nervousness

You completely and conveniently ignore the fact that in reality you spent, on average, 4-5 minutes on every question, or in other words you took twice the time to solve the same section.

You took two stabs at the question.

You are adding the score of first and second innings into a single score!

Estimating your capabilities by post-test performance creates a vicious cycle

In your head your actual capability on a section is 45-50 marks because of the way you ace it post-test whereas your actual scores are in the 15-25 range.

After every successful post-test solving you approach the next test with the same mindset — I am awesome at this section, this time I am going to score 45-50.

What happens when you go in with this thinking?

  • To score a 45-50 you have score attempt around 20-22 questions and get 17-18 right or attempt 4 sets or all RCs
  • This means that you going to attempt almost 2 out of 3 questions
  • More importantly, this means that you have just about 2 minutes per question
  • You feel under the pump right from the beginning
  • A few questions go wrong in the beginning and the downward spiral starts
  • You desperately try to keep your head above the water for the rest of the section — everything but your head is still
  • You come back home, pick yourself up, resolve the section, and feel good
  • You think my level is 45-50, next time I will nail it
  • The cycle, unfortunately vicious not virtuous, continues

And another thing also happens because of these misplaced targets

  • All the question-selection strategies and solving techniques that IMS mentors, including me, keep going on and on about in Masterclasses and other videos are thrown out of the window
  • You think that all of these strategies & techniques are not practical in actual test conditions
  • You relegate the processes to the background and go back to being you and doing you.

Accept your true ability and set realistic goals

I am not saying that you can never score a 45, you sure can, but not right now! Right now may be your ability is somewhere in the middle — not 15-25 or 45-50 but 30-35.

This might be tough to accept —

  • you think you are good at VA-RC since you read a lot
  • you think you are good at QA since you like Math a lot and have done well in the past

But the fact is that this exam and the question types and the format have nothing to do with your capabilities in general.

It has everything to do with performing in the format of the test. The only true indicator of ability is your performance on the test. You are a good test cricketer does not mean you will be an ace at T20 and vice-versa! You play exceptionally well in India does not mean you will play exceptionally well in England!

So, this is what you should do.

Set your ego aside completely, put the test above you.

Set a target of your current average score plus 10. If you are currently scoring around 15, do not aim for more than 25.

Solve only as many sets/questions that you need to solve to reach this score.

If you are used to aiming for 4 sets out it is okay to aim for only 2 of the easiest and get them right.

What this does is that

  • the pressure of the timer disappears
  • you have enough time to execute the selection correctly
  • you have enough time to execute the processes correctly
  • you are more likely to achieve your target

Once you achieve a 25 for 2-3 tests, add another 10 marks, let your score stabilise at 35 and then add another 10.

Some papers might be damned difficult but if you are selecting right then you will clear the cut-off and get a good percentile despite a lower-than-target-score since your targets were realistic to start with.

Your problem is nervousness only if

Nervousness is a valid problem only if you are scoring exceptionally well in the TakeHomes and tanking only in the Proctored SimCATs

Your performance in sectionals are not a valid indicator of your ability since you are not comparing apples with apples; the comparison is valid only in VA-RC since it is the first section and you have as much energy in the SimCAT as in the sectional.

So, if you fall into this category — great TakeHome scores but drastically reduced scores in Proctored Sims — then, yes, nervousness is a problem. I will be doing a session about the same later in the season.

But in the meantime you will not do badly to set reduced expectations, that in itself will decrease the pressure.

There is enough and more time from now until the end of November.

Enough time for you to set the right targets and slowly work your way to higher scores, provided you do not slave mindlessly but work strategically

  • identify the your problems with test-taking correctly
  • set the right targets, and
  • sit down to prepare, be it practice or testing, every single time with a clear goal — I need to select better, or I need to execute processes better, I need to cut down on errors due to misreading and miscalculation.

The goal is not to score hundred but to score a good 35-40 during which

  • only the right deliveries were played at,
  • every shot played hits the centre of the bat,
  • every shot is played right into the gap and
  • gets you as many runs as the ball deserved

Walk, jog, run, and finally, fly.


  1. Aditya Arora says

    Feels like this article was just written for me.
    Almost everything which you mentioned, I can relate to that.
    Thanks for the heads up sir.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Aditya,

      Well, given that I have been interacting with students for a very long time, I kind of know what exactly goes on in their head!

      Hope your scores go north soon.

      Keep prepping,

      All the best!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Shobhit Suryavanshi says

    Thankyou sir for this powerful post! Could relate to most parts of it. Hopefully the next 50-55 odd days are enough to closer to a 98-99.

    Also, on an unrelated note to the post, any tips on what could be the best course of action to tackle the LR sets over the next 2 months considering I am average in solving them.

    Thankyou 🙂


  3. rahul8668 says

    Hello Tony Sir. I have filled marks of top 5 main subjects of 12th class in my CAT form and have missed out on the 6th additional subject. My percentage of 5 subject is 91.6 while including the sixth one it’s 88.1. Is that too big an issue? Is there anything I can do about it now?


  4. TheMenonguy says

    Hi Sir, couldnt get your contact to connect through hence using this as my last resort
    In the RC Masterclass, you had mentioned after CR to solve the RCs from the IMS RC 100 can you please me where can I find it?


  5. TheMenonguy says

    Hi Sir, couldnt get your contact to connect through hence using this as my last resort In the RC Masterclass, you had mentioned after CR to solve the RCs from the IMS RC 100 can you please me where can I find it?



    • Hi Ganesh,
      I just checked the Amazon site and RC 100 by Sujit Kumar is out of print. I am sure you will be able to find a PDF online on some forum!


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