How to analyze CAT mocks? - CAT Preparation 2020
Updated: Jun 29, 2020
After the last post on the timeline of mocks, I received a couple of messages from aspirants to share what should be done between any two mock attempts. So, this post will share the strategy to analyze mocks. The upcoming posts will share how to improve your mock scores.
Rules of Mock Day
Before we move forward, I want to share a couple of rules, that you should abide by, on the day you're going to attempt a mock:
Don't analyze it immediately: There should be a gap of at least 5-6 hours between taking the mock and analyzing it. This rule is in place so that you don't tire yourself out after the 3 hour mock.
Don't wait too long: If you've attempted a mock in the last 24 hours, you must analyze it within that time, else you will not remember the rationale behind selecting a particular option.
You must do it: Irrespective of how much you score in the mock, you must analyze it. Remember that studying more for CAT will not help as much as analyzing a mock will.
Have benchmarks: The final point I wish to make is regarding having some benchmarks in place for each section prior to the mock attempt. This is because you should see yourself progressing.
Metrics to Track
The first thing you are required to do is to create an excel sheet or maintain a diary in which you note down the following 10 statistics of each mock you take -
Attempt Rate (3: one per section) - It refers to the number of questions you attempted out of the number of questions the section had.
Accuracy Rate (3: one per section) - It refers to the number of questions you got right out of the number of questions you attempted.
Percentile (4: one per section and overall) - It refers to your standing vis-a-vis all other students who appeared for the mock. It shows how many people scored lesser than you.
Now, out of all these metrics, there are just 3 that should be your primary focus - your sectional percentiles. The secondary focus should be on your accuracy rates and the tertiary focus should be on your attempt rates and overall percentile.
Why focus on sectional percentiles?
In CAT 2017, the DILR section was so tough that getting merely 15 questions correct out of 32 could fetch you 99 percentile. So, even when someone's attempt rate was lower in DILR, the percentile might have been higher due to the level of difficulty. Thus, your percentile is the true measure which reflects how much you're improving. Thus, before every mock, the benchmark you need to set is of those 3 sectional percentiles.
Why focus on accuracy rates?
Since the base for these is the number of questions you attempted, it negates the level of difficulty and shows you how you performed in that particular mock. However, it is of secondary importance because you might have gotten some questions correct by mistake.
Why focus on attempt rates?
Though your attempt rates depend on the level of difficulty of the exam, you might not be attempting sufficient number of questions to achieve your desired sectional percentile. By keeping a tertiary focus on these numbers, you'll be gradually able to push your overall attempts.
What benchmark should you set?
Till I reached the 90th percentile mark, I set a criteria of increasing my benchmark by 5 percentile points. Post that it became 2 percentile points. For instance, when I was scoring 85 percentile in QA, I set a benchmark of 90 and when it crossed 90, the next target became 92.
Analyzing the Mock
The first thing to do when you begin analyzing the mock is to note down the 10 metrics listed above. Then, check whether you were able to achieve your benchmark target of sectional percentiles or not. In either case, you should continue with the analysis.
If you have achieved the benchmark: There is always a possibility that you might have gotten the questions correct by chance. Moreover, you can always find out areas of improvements.
If you haven't achieved the benchmark: Then, it's time to look back at the mistakes you must have made. Don't feel disheartened as it is only with being aware of the mistakes that you can avoid them.
The Mistakes We Make
There are broadly 5 kinds of mistakes that you can identify after a mock attempt:
#1 Low Attempt Rate - After every mock, there is a number called 'average sectional score' which gets released. Given a good accuracy rate, if your sectional score is not higher as compared to this average score, then you must have attempted lower number of questions. Yes, the number of questions you attempt depends on the difficulty level, but the average score reflects how difficult the mock must have been.
#2 Wrong Selection - The next biggest mistake aspirants make is that they select the wrong types of questions to attempt. After every mock, a key is released that decodes which questions were easy, medium and hard. If you didn't attempt all the easy and medium ones, then that's an area of improvement for you. You will need to work on your selection criteria and spot the easier questions quickly.
#3 Guessed Answers - The next thing you need to look for is the rationale behind choosing an answer. When you are analyzing a mock question-by-question, don't jump onto the answer directly. Ask yourself first, why you marked that answer. If you don't get a solid answer, then you need to stop guessing. It may not yield similar results in the final exam.
#4 Incorrect Answers - The next mistake is the most intuitive one. You didn't answer correctly. Now, this may have further reasons like forgetting the formula, misreading the statement, silly mistake in calculation, etc. which you will figure out when you look at the answer key.
#5 Incorrect Method - Aspirants often forget to take into account this mistake. You might have gotten the answer correct, but whether or not you followed the right approach, the shortest method will become clear to you when you look at the detailed solution.
The Pattern to Follow
There is no hard and fast rule in this regards. But, I can share how I used to analyze a mock:
I used to begin section-wise starting with VARC, followed by DILR and finally QA.
In each section, I first checked if I had attempted a decent number of questions (evident from how far I am from the average score). This took care of mistake #1 discussed above.
Then, I looked at the difficulty split of the section to see if I attempted all the easy and medium ones - this took care of mistake #2.
Then, I started with the easier sets/questions moving towards the harder ones. I spent more time analyzing the easier and medium ones.
Before looking at the solution, I first revisited the rationale in my head. Then, I concluded if my answer was a guess or not.
Then, I checked the solution to see where I made the mistake, if any.
If the answer happened to be right, I checked the solution to be sure that my method was also correct.
So, this is how I analyzed mocks. To know more about how to improve your scores further after identifying these mistakes, stay tuned :)
You may wish to read the tips to improve the following sections: