In this issue’s article, we focus on a very crucial matter, which if adequately dealt with, can help you improve your test scores.
Latest Update: IIMs has announced the CAT 2018 exam date on Sunday, November 25, 2018. Detailed notification for CAT 2018 may be released in July / August 2018.
It is understood that it is extremely important to be dedicatedly taking practice tests at this time. In fact, it is imperative that you realise that the CAT prep is actually divided into two parts. Remember: Each part is as important as the other -
(a) Conceptual development
Through conceptual development or, a student can focus on developing a strong theoretical background in each of the three sections of the exam.
(b) Test taking
Any preparation for CAT cannot be complete without a significant number of tests taken by the student. The minimum recommended number would be around 30 to 40 tests. The more, the better.
In fact, while there are a lot of aspirants who are able crack the CAT and acquire admission to the IIMs or other good management institutes without doing (a), it is extremely rare to come across someone who has cracked the CAT and made it to the IIMs without doing (b). Thus, look at it this way. Ideally, a student’s CAT preparation should be about (a) and (b) mixed in a proper fashion, but if you are only doing one, (b) is compulsory, especially if you are good with the basics.
Obviously, a lot of students out there have already started to take tests. It is also very obvious that many of these students will be very concerned about the range in which they might be scoring in these practice tests. The key question students will be facing at this point of time, would be:
“What do I do in order to develop my test scores?”
Also, if you are scoring, say, 50 percentile in your tests now, does it mean that you are on your way to a third-level BSchool? Does it mean that the cherished dream that you have always had of getting into the IIMs is going to remain exactly that - a pipe dream?
Absolutely not. Contrary to popular perception, taking a jump from 50 percentile to 99 percentile need not be related to how much you study. You could easily do it with some smart working on your part.
So what must you focus on?
A critical issue in CAT preparations is the ability to overturn errors. In the current context of the CAT (last two years), where individual questions have carried four marks for a correct answer, and -1 for an incorrect answer, the net result of an error was five marks. As we have already mentioned in our previous articles in this series, just five errors overturned would give you an additional 25 marks, taking you from 60 percentile to 90 percentile levels.
We had defined your score improvement potential - viz by defining three types of questions:
a) How many silly errors did you make in the exam? Let the number of such silly errors be A.
b) How many questions did you read in the exam for which you remembered the answers only after you left the hall? Let the number of such questions be B.
c) How many questions did you not read in the exam, but knew the answer when you saw them after the paper? Let the number of such questions be C
An individual’s total score improvement potential would be given by A×5+ B×4+C×4.
So the obvious question would be: How do I achieve this score improvement?
Let us focus on the first of these categories - taking care of silly errors. The first thing you should realise is that silly errors can further be defined into three broad types
i) Errors of calculation: One of my students (an IIT alumnus) committed the error of calculating 3x3 = 6 in his CAT. The result? A drop of five marks in net scores, leading to a crucial percentile drop. Obviously, these errors would be committed in the QA and DI sections only.
ii) Process-based silly errors: A single-step error in solving a question. Again, obviously an error that would be committed in the QA and DI sections only.
iii) Over reading errors: Questions you get incorrect due to the fact that you did not read it properly. This error might occur in any of the three sections, including English. Your preparation plan should include processes to overturn each of these three categories.
Issue 1: Tackling calculation errors - How do you explain an IITian making an error like 3×3 = 6? Does he not know this? Obviously, there are explanations outside the ordinary, which induce such errors. This is what makes the CAT tough (If you recollect, in the last few articles, we have been concentrating on demonstrating why the CAT paper is actually easy).
When an IIT topper can be induced to make such errors, what would happen to a normal student?
The first and foremost thing you should realise while preparing is that when you are taking the CAT, the entire potential of your brain will not be available to you. Your mind will be in such a state that you might be forced to even check 2+2.
So remember, the basic principle is that if in your normal day to day preparation, you can do something by using an excess of 80 to 90 per cent of your mind’s capacity, you would not be able to execute that thinking in the CAT paper.
What you need to realise is that unless you train yourself to be able to execute your thought processes under intense unrelenting pressure, any preparation for the CAT, by and large, makes no sense.
The above Article is written byArun Sharma – CAT Mentor, Mindworkzz
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