CAT Prep: How to handle tough questions in AIRCATs/mock CATs?

Confused whether to take CAT again or not?

I hope you didn’t miss out the writeup about how simple things are powerful. How the simplest things can bring the biggest gains in your CAT prep often overlooked.

Hope you have made some progress there by analyzing your recent mocks. If you’ve realized the scope of improvement in picking more from the easy questions, here’s what you should look to do next!

75% of your strategy to score high is about picking easy questions. And almost 20% of it is about realizing the (relatively) difficult ones and leaving them. Even if you do it after having spent a couple of minutes in realizing the same! These tough questions are like swinging deliveries in the corridor of uncertainty on a pitch with a decent sprinkling of grass.

These are best left alone. You just have to avoid getting out.

Even the best batsman in the world does not score off every ball.

Similarly, the best way to prepare for CAT also does not require you to score off every question, or even attempt to! Understanding this is a vital step in making the most of your CAT preparation.

The question you need to ask for each of the Difficult questions across AIRCATs/Mock CATs is “why did I attempt it?”

If it happens to be from a strong area of yours AND if you are not taking twice the average time per question on these, then keep going. But each question that you mindlessly took on without realizing the worth of time spent on it must be a lesson well learnt.

Just see the time that you spent on questions assigned the level Difficult and the Score you gain from them. Now, compare the same with the rest of your test performance in terms of marks per minute. And you will realize how big a drain these questions are – on your time, score and hence, your confidence! In fact this should be a takeaway even from the regular ADAPTIVE classroom sessions. These sessions happen in your classroom CAT coaching, where you take level-wise topic-wise tests in each session. Using them to improve your judgment and habits gives you a headstart.

How do you figure which question is difficult? While that is what your practice and analysis is meant for, a simple way still is to see where you are at after 1.5-2 minutes into a question. If you are still not confident of getting the right answer within the next 1.5-2 minutes, run from that question! You can always come back to questions that you leave (mark them if you are super keen), but you almost never will. Because there is always so much more to do that lies in front of you.

Just be conscious of such time gobbling questions and start decreasing the percentage of attempts in this category. You will see your good scores becoming exceptional very soon.

If you decide to leave even a few more of the difficult questions, the gain will be 2-fold:

  1. You will save time that can then be used to get more marks per minute from the relatively easier questions.
  2. You will likely score fewer negative marks because the accuracy in difficult questions is generally poor.

This is a conscious effort you need to make. Seeing past data (what %ge of difficult questions have you attempted in a mock, and the impact it had on your time and score) would be a good first step. Being conscious in the future tests would be the next action to take.

About the author: Deekshant has sleep-walked through several 100 and 99.9 %iles in practically every section of the CAT. That he is a cricket fan and he writes okay is evident from most of his posts. 1000s of our students swear that he can motivate almost anyone to double his/her percentile through very simple yet powerful inputs. And that’s why every MBAGuru student has direct access to him via mail and Telegram. Oddly, he somehow also finds the time to write songs professionally. And yes … almost missed this … he is an alumnus of IIT Delhi & IIM Cal 🙂

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