Picking the Right Questions

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Mock CAT - How to select the right questions?

Knowing how to traverse through a paper is an important skill-set in the CAT. This is particularly true of the computer-based version, as in the paper-based versions one had the luxury of choosing the order of the sections, sub-sections etc while attempting a paper. Let us look at a few aspects of picking questions in this post.

1. Question selection has to be dynamic:

A student does not have the luxury of saying "let me look at the questions in different categories and figure out which ones work best for me." The decision-making will have to be on the fly. One has to have the ability to gauge the level of difficulty of the paper and keep amending the basis for trying/skipping questions.

2. One needs to have an intuitive sense of each section:
One should have a particularly clear idea of questions by sub-category. With the change in pattern, CAT has made this easier for the student, time limit is now defined for each section. So, effectively we are taking three one-hour exams. Be aware of how many questions you've ticked off in the common patterns, and you will know what else to look for. You know you will have roughly 16 each from DI, LR and RC – this gives an anchor for these two sections.
Let's think of a cricket metaphor: Taking the CAT is like chasing in an ODI match. Think of all the good chasers there - Javed Miandad, Dhoni, Bevan. You can bet your bottom dollar that these guys would have known exactly how many overs were left for the first/second bowlers and the fifth bowler. You can take it for granted that by over no 30, a batsman like Dhoni would have already 'alloted' n runs to be taken from the 6 overs from the non-regular bowler. As a parallel, at any point of time you should know how many from DI, LR and RC are yet to come when you are taking these sections.
If you have not faced a single RC question in the first 18 questions in the third section, odds are that all the remaining questions are from RC. If you cannot see that coming, you have to revisit the entire preparation plan. ☺ Imagine a post-match interview where Dhoni says, we could have got 40 off the last 5 overs, but unfortunately three of those were bowled by Dale Steyn. There is nothing unfortunate about Steyn bowling 3 of the last 5 overs.

3. You should be able to gauge the difficulty level of the paper and plan accordingly:
I am going to continue with the cricket metaphor here. If you are batting first, it is silly to plan for 300+ score if it is a very tough track. Equally important is to not 'play' for 220 runs on a 280 track. A great many students end up being conservative with their targets when the paper is too easy. In some sections in CAT, you will be in a position to attempt 24-27 questions. In these you should be setting the bar high. As a simple rule of thumb, one should hit the range of ~24 questions per section to hit 99th percentile. (It goes without saying that there are lots of caveats to this rule). And when in doubt assume that the paper is easy.

4. Leave well, leave early: Carrying on with the cricket metaphor here (suddenly realized that there are quite a few parallels :) ). As for the first round of attempts is concerned, if you do not get the method straight away, skip the question. When you are taking mock CATs and analyzing them, have a good look at questions that you spent more than 4.5 minutes on and figure out how you got suckered into these. If you take 8 minutes for a question, it hardly matters whether you got it right - its a bad call. Beat these time-sinks down aggressively.

5. Everyone needs the odd confidence-booster:
Lets face it, skipping all dicey questions is good in theory, but it does make one nervous. And sometimes, every now and then you will find yourself in a position where you have skipped 4 in a row and then you face a time-consuming, boring question in linear equations. In order to get your confidence going, you might have to set aside 4.5 minutes to crack this. This is ok.

6. Start well:
Lots of guys start sluggishly and then start sweating by the end of 10th minute. Plan to fly off the blocks with feverish intensity. You cannot go much wrong with that strategy.
To complete with a cricket metaphor. Start like Sehwag, finish like Dhoni. Go berserk in the first few minutes, turn savvy (calculating) half way through the paper.
Best wishes for CAT 2015.