20 Oct 2016 19:31 IST

Don’t mess with your mocks

Students should spend time analysing sectional and overall scores as well as percentiles

The process of cracking exams, especially competitive ones like CAT, includes how much a student can extract out of mock tests. Mock tests are considered trial runs, and attempting them will boost the student’s confidence level.

The candidate is familiarised with the test pattern and is expected to be aware of the strategies needed to tackle the actual test. Mocks are the most valuable tools students have at their disposal to fine-tune and hone their performance.

Developing the right strategy

More than learning concepts and formulae, it is always the preparation strategies and ability to strategise that help students clear these tests. The mocks are primarily intended to be a benchmarking tool and help students measure their level of preparedness for CAT. They also help them discover their strengths and weaknesses, and in developing the right test-taking strategy through a proper analysis of one’s performance.

Learning new techniques

The model tests are also intended to help one learn advanced techniques. Students may sometimes find new and useful ways of applying basic concepts. Each mock should be treated as if it is the actual CAT.

Such seriousness is a must if a student hopes to either perform well in the practice paper or gain any real benefit from them. They should look at it not just as writing a mock test but as an opportunity to learn and improve their performance. In short, always give your best but never let it make you over-confident.

Preparation and practice

Over the past few years CAT has emphasised the kind of problems that can be solved with a sound conceptual understanding rather than by resorting to and depending on short-cuts and speed. If the student’s preparation is below par at present, he or she should immediately plan for a complete round of preparation of the basics and then start applying these concepts in the next mocks as well as reviewing the previous mocks.

Post-performance analysis

After each mock, students should spend at least a couple of hours analysing each section of the paper. They should first try and work out every question in as many different ways as they can think of and only then look up the solutions for the same. It is in this phase of their preparation that they can expect to significantly improve their understanding of the basics and, more importantly, their ability to apply this in a test scenario. This analysis should be done in different steps:

Step 1: Students should attempt all those questions in that section that they didn’t attempt during the mock by allocating one to one-and-half minutes per question.

Step 2: They should try to solve the questions that may still be left over. Only after giving all the questions a good try, checking the answer key to find out which questions they answered correctly and re-attempting all those that they answered wrong will they be able to learn from the experience. This way, they will push themselves to think harder and find out where they made mistakes.

Step 3: Test takers should refer to the solutions and compare their approach with the latter. They should observe and learn from the different approaches. They should try to categorise the questions into levels of difficulty based on their understanding and the amount of time needed to solve each of them in an exam situation.

Step 4: Students should spend some time analysing the sectional and overall scores and percentiles. They should continuously track their key performance parameters and look out for trends that may be adverse. They should also remember that absolute scores do not necessarily reflect their performance as it is a competitive exam where only relative performance — and in the case of CAT, the percentile — matters.

Students should actively keep track of how often they cross all the sectional cut-offs and the number of times they made it into the toppers list or how often they cross a certain overall figure that they may be aiming for. Ideally, they should look to improve their percentiles in each of the mocks, while keeping in mind that ups and downs are just a part of life!

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