Now that you are done with doing everything you can prepping for the CAT what matters most is how and what you execute in the 170 minutes on D-Day.
What are the things you should do?
What are the pitfalls both strategic and psychological that you must avoid?
Here is a list of the 10 Things You Should Do On CAT-Day.
1. Beat The Waiting-Time Blues
The first thing you need to tackle on test-day is the long wait before you get to start the test, at least a good 45 minutes will be spent twiddling your thumbs. There is a very strong chance that your brain will go off into sleep mode during this period. So you need to ensure that the system stays sharp during this period.
One way to do this is to keep yourself mentally occupied with the any of the following things — mentally go through the solutions of good problems you have encountered in your prep (old CAT problems, alternate solutions to problems etc) , go through the tables or values of fractions and decimals or remind yourself of the other 9 things mentioned in this list :-).
Do this at a slow and relaxed pace. Imagine sportsmen practicing their warm ups – cricketers facing tennis-ball throw downs or footballers stretching.
2. Be Quick Off the Blocks, Do Not Get Stuck Anywhere In The First Ten Questions
Given the baggage of engineering exams that we carry we tend to start slow — the I-will-do-every-question-properly-attitude — and finish in a hurry.
We do this because we are greedy to get marks under our belt, but if you have time under your belt you will have more marks at the end of the test. I would rather have gone through 10 questions in 5 minutes and not attempting anything rather than spending 20 minutes, to get 3 right and 2 wrong.
Tell yourself that you are going to choose your questions decisively. Be quick off the blocks and do not get stuck anywhere in the first ten questions.
3. No Question Is Worth More Than 4 Minutes
Do not throw good money after bad money. Do not restart solving a questions after you have already spent 4 minutes on it. You might think you can get 3 marks if you spend another 3 minutes but there are always plenty more fish in the sea, especially easier fish. Remember all those SimCAT questions you discovered you could easily solve only after you went home. No question, not even ones from your favourite areas, are worth it.
4. Strategically Leave 30-35 Questions
It is always better to leave a question/set than to play and miss. From our previous post on scores and percentiles you will see that you can leave more than 30-35 questions and still get a 99 percentile. You should not spend more than 15 minutes in leaving these questions. This will leave you with enough time to correctly solve the questions you select.
5. Time-Limits Are Sacrosanct, Do Not Exceed Them
The most precious thing on an aptitude test is time. So if you have set some basic time-limits for yourself then you should stick to them. Even an extra 5 minutes here and there can jeopardise your sectional cut-offs and hamper your chances of getting a call.
IIMs take sectional cut-offs very seriously, right down to the decimal. Remember it is a computer that will generate the list of candidates to be sent a first call based on the input parameters and not people sitting and evaluating your application qualitatively. So a 79.9 instead of 80 on a section will mean that you will not get a first call.
So if you feel you need to give 10 minutes more to a section, do that later not immediately. We had discussed a timing strategy here.
6. Skip questions within a set in DI and LR
Within a particular DI or LR set (more DI than LR), there will be one question which might end-up being time-consuming. This can be the first one or the second one. So first estimate the number of steps involved in solving a question or the precision of calculation required (close options), if both are high then quickly move on to the next question. In many cases it does turn out that solving two questions of a set in 4 minutes is a much better option than getting stuck for 10-15 minutes with 3-4 questions.
7. Do Not Let Your Favourite Area Jeopardise Your Test
Very often test-takers go in to the test thinking that they have to score heavily from a particular area be it LR or Quant. Sure you have to, but only if the questions permit you to!
For example, I would rather do two/three solvable LR Sets in 15-20 minutes and leave the seemingly tougher ones after trying for 3-5 minutes rather than spend 35-40 mins trying to solve all the LRs. Always exit when your prescribed time-limit for an area is done.
You should also be prepared for your favourite area to be less rewarding than usual. When I solved SimCAT 12, I spent very little time solving LR, despite LR being my strong suit because I realised they would sink my time. How do you realize this? By taking your blinkers off! If after 5 minutes you have got no hang of a set unlike on easy sets, then that is your biggest signal!
VA and RC might not be your strength but there might be easy questions lurking there, finish them first and then come back later to try your hand at the tougher LRs.
8. Remember, unfamiliar does not mean unsolvable!
How many times have you left a DI Set just because it is unfamiliar looking only to discover later that it was actually quite simple? I am sure quite often.
We are wired to be wary of the unfamiliar, it helps us survive. But on aptitude tests this can be your undoing. Very often DI Sets where the representation is not a regular one or LR sets that do not seem to be the standard arrangement types might not be difficult to solve once you invest 3-4 minutes trying to understand what they mean.
In fact the converse is also true, familiar looking sets can lull you into investing time to solve them, only to realise much later that they should have been left alone. The LR Sets in SimCAT 12 are a case in point , the tough sets were very standards arrangement type of sets.
9. Do Not Carry Baggage From The Previous Section, Think About The Question In Front Of You
Your ability to crack a question depends on your level of engagement with the question. It happens quite often that based on the number of questions they are able to attempt in a section, test-takers’ performance on the second section is affected. Test-takers go in to the test having a fixed number in mind and if the do not hit that number on that section, they attempt the second section with nervousness, lower confidence and concentration levels. Please remember that on test-day your ability will not drastically fall or rise. So if you were able to attempt fewer it just means that the section was tougher as a whole. Do not carry baggage from one question into another section!
Also, often when you are doing questions from areas that you are not really fond of, you are thinking about questions from areas your are fond of. Does this really help? Think only about the question in front of you.
10. Take Only Your Brains To The Test, Leave Your Feelings Outside The Lab Along With Your Other Belongings
Most things are won or lost as much by aptitude as by attitude. When Roger Federer plays Nadal you know that somewhere (despite Nadal relentlessly pounding heaving topspin forehands to demolish Federer’s single-handed backhand) Federer lacks the belief that he can beat Nadal. When Djokovic beat Nadal in a final last year, after losing a few matches to him previously, the newspapers said that he displayed a monk-like focus. Both of these examples indicate that half the battle is won or lost in the mind.
Your performance on aptitude tests is dependent on how well your brain processes the information in front of you. So if you let all the myriad things around the test — if I do not get it this time I can’t imagine myself continuing in this job, if I do not get it this time my parents will get me married off and so on and so forth — affect your ability to process the information in the question and execute your timing strategies, it will result in you not performing to the best of your abilities.
I know this might seem to be easier said that done but people truly have bigger problems — not knowing where their next meal is going to come from, not having money to pay their child’s fees, being there with a loved one fighting cancer and worse — none of your problems are really bigger than these.
So do not let your emotions get the better of your abilities. Take only your mind to the test, leave your feelings along with your other belongings outside the lab.
And the most important thing that that cannot be part of a numbered list: DO NOT GIVE UP AT ANY STAGE OF THE TEST.
This is perhaps the most important thing that will be demanded of you. Fight till the very end, despite the fact that your favourite area did not go well, despite the fact that you find the paper tough, because every mark counts. This will ensure that even if you do not make it to your dream college you might make it to a college that you have applied to and will give you the career break you are looking for. Giving up at some stage of the test can cost you an entire year!
That was may be one of the longest posts I have written but I know that if you can do these 10 things and do not give up, you will have performed to the best of your abilities.
So here is wishing all the readers of this blog all the very best for your CAT! Go forth and maximize your score!