I appeared for the CAT exam 2019 and my journey was nothing short of its ups and downs. Before I start, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I come from a rural background; my village is in Hoshiarpur district, Punjab. I completed my secondary education from a nearby town and after that I opted for agricultural engineering in Ludhiana. For the first three years, I had been concentrating on my graduation only. But then the question of what next struck my mind. Someone told me about an MBA in Agribusiness, which offers a huge scope in the coming times. So, I started preparing for the CAT exam. I joined a Bullseye for CAT preparation sometime in January 2019.
Fast forward |>> On November 24th 2019 my CAT exam was in the afternoon session. Out of curiosity I checked a YouTube review of the morning session exam. Verbal section was the most difficult as expected from IIM Kozhikode. In the exam, I attempted the verbal section with complete concentration. The DILR section was relatively easy; the trick was to find easy sets which were in the end and that’s where I started. I was able to score 90+ in CAT, close to my expectations. I got a call from IIM Ahmedabad for PGP FABM. The interview was based on my graduation subjects and latest advancements in the field of agriculture. I am satisfied with my interview and very hopeful that I will convert my call.
But it wasn’t easy reaching this point. Let me tell you about my experience:
Though I started studying in the month of January 2019, it was only a month later that my real CAT journey began - a journey full of learning, hit and trial, failures, and more learning.
"After around one month of classes, I tried my first mock which made me realize that CAT is not a piece of cake."
I got a percentile of 27 only and realized a long path is ahead of me. For a while I was like can I even make it? What if not? But then I set all thoughts aside and went for my target with maximum efforts. I realized CAT was not only about your knowledge and answering correctly but, even more importantly, it is also about picking what to answer and time management.
Along the class schedule, I decided to give mock tests regularly and was able to reach around 70 percentile on my 12th mock. My percentile after this kept fluctuating between 70 to 90. Out of the three sections, I struggled the most with quant - which was unusual for most people like me who are engineering students. Thus, while preparing, I gave equal time to verbal and DILR and gave more to quant. 90 percentile in a mock-test was the highest I achieved during preparation. And then came the last mock-test before on 17th November.
The Last Mock before exam
A week prior to the exam I appeared for my last mock which happened to be a disaster.
I ended up scoring 50 percentile!
I was totally devastated; not knowing what to do with just a week left.
What I learnt about Mock-tests
Well, we all know that mock-tests are the most important requirement when preparing for CAT and other MBA entrance exams. I learnt this through my above experience. My first mock-test opened my eyes to the difficulty level of the CAT exam and made me realise the importance of analysing myself. I went through some more mocks to familiarise well with the exam pattern - the different kinds of questions asked, the proportion of questions from different difficulty levels and how to smartly pick the ‘solvable’ sets of questions. After that I started trying out various strategies like increase speed, increase accuracy, target specific topics, maximize from strong areas and tacking weak areas, etc. All this helped me finally make a strategy that would get me the highest percentile in the exam. I saw myself improving up to 90 percentile applying this strategy. Thus, the more you practice in mock-tests, the more you are closer to victory.
But, there is one more important thing I learnt about mock-tests, i.e., ‘How to and not to analyze your mock-tests’
How NOT to Analyse Mock-tests
Analysing mock-tests is a very methodical process. Here are some tips you can follow when you sit down to study how your attempt went:
- Do not simply count the number of correct and incorrect answers
Analysing mock tests means you need to do a comprehensive study of your test attempt. You should understand the areas where you did well, where you made mistakes, where you took more time to solve a question, where the accuracy was the highest/ lowest, where you missed picking easy questions to solve, and so on. You should be able to identify your strong and weak sections; as well as strong topics within a section.
- Do not overlook the questions you did not attempt in the test
You would have left some questions while attempting the test, be it due to shortage of time, inability to understand the question language or very large calculations. Don’t ignore these questions. They may be high potential areas for you to score. Try to solve these questions after the test is over. This will help you to pick questions wisely next time.
- Do not forget to revise the topics
After you recognize any topics where you couldn’t score well or you think you lack clarity, always try to go back and revise those topics before your next mock test. Also keep revising old topics over and over again. This way you will not forget what you learnt a while ago and concepts will stay fresh in your mind. You will also be able to solve advanced level questions if you remember the basic concepts well.
- Do not over-analyse your test
Don’t read too much between the lines. Set a timer to the amount of time you want to spend to analyse a test. If one attempt doesn’t go well, it just might be because of a wrong strategy. Make observations about your preparation after analysing a couple or more tests.
- Do not let one test demotivate you
My last mock-test completely shook me. After consistently scoring around 70-90 percentile over a series of tests, in the last test I merely managed a 50 percentile. For a moment I felt I would fail, but I recovered fast by telling myself that I must believe in myself and concentrate on the final day of the exam. Mock-tests are tools to assess your level of preparation. They can reflect where you stand but cannot determine how you will score finally.
So, believe in yourself and let your destiny be determined by you. All the best!