Before you give the CAT exam, you pass through plenty of similar mock exams, which prepare you for the ultimate challenge. In this post, I am writing about the feeling and the experience of my first mock CAT of the journey.
It was a month before the mock that I started preparing for the same. Everyone does the same. I wanted to put my mark right from the first exam. I wanted to have my name on top of the rank list. I always had an edge in quantitative aptitude and I knew that this section was going to help me get enough overall score.
The first mock happened in April- when the CAT was six to seven months away. I started preparing for the verbal section. I started solving 5–6 RCs every day- the accuracy wasn’t up to the mark. Anything in verbal section- be it para-jumbles or critical reasoning or sentence correction- I knew that I was not ready for the test. The only thing that helped me score in verbal section was logical reasoning (which is not core verbal per se).
24 hours before the mock
I bunked the college and was preparing for the next day. Any tricks, tips, techniques or tutorials- that had CAT word in their title- was useful for me. I put my earplugs on and started playing motivational boosting songs. It went on for a few hours straight before which I took a break. I had to make a ‘strategy’ on how to crack the exam.
Tomorrow’s CAT was going to be offline- a paper based test. This gave me an advantage as I could choose what time to invest in quantitative and what to invest in verbal aptitude. It was a three hours test (while CAT used to be a 2 hours 20 minutes exam in 2013). We didn’t know how many questions were going to be there or which section had what weightage or what will be the percentile markup. The only thing we knew was that the exam was going to start at 9:30 AM and would last for three hours.
I prepared a simple strategy of investing 50–50–50 minutes in Quant-Verbal-(DI + LR). This spared me last 30 minutes – which I could invest in whichever section that could help me increase the total score. A simple strategy which I followed in CAT 13 and CAT 14 as well (CAT 14 had no sectional timings).
Everyone was ready with their weapons (pen, pencil and eraser). We took our seats in the classrooms. We had the sealed question paper and OMR sheet in front of us. It was 9:25 and we were going through the instructions.
- It was a 150-questions test. (The CAT used to be a 60-questions test.)
- There were three sections with 50 questions in each. Quantitative aptitude had 50, verbal had 50 and DI+LR had 50 questions. This was the first shock. As LR was taken out of the verbal section, I had nothing easy to score in verbal.
- There were no sectional cutoffs. The challenge was to score as much as possible. A relief for me as now I could focus on my strengths (quant, DI and LR) and ignore my weaknesses (verbal).
It was a local college building that was rented for the exam. Over 500 students from Endeavor center were present. I was competing against all these students. Some of these could be my college-mates after a year. Three students in front of me were still shuffling through notes and that was troubling me and was putting me under pressure. Being an engineer- I had learnt a technique to put such students under pressure and I used the same. I asked them a formula of volume of a cone- and they were blank. They didn’t know the answer (nor they were supposed to). But they panicked. The speed of their shuffling got increased. Eventually the pressure was transferred from my back to theirs and they surrendered and put the notes aside.
9:30 AM and we heard the biggest shout: START. It was new, different and exciting. One of the teachers had shouted this from the central corridor. The intensity of sound woke up all those who were still sleepy. We opened the paper and started going through the questions. I chose to go in the verbal section first (Why? Because I was stupid). I thought that being fresh, I could solve a few questions in verbal easily. In verbal, first was reading comprehension which had a paragraph that was 800–900 words long and had 8 questions. My brain did a calculation that even if I took 20 minutes to solve these 8 questions- I would have an edge in this section.
The paragraph was about some philosophical theory and I knew nothing about what it was talking. 20 minutes passed and I was still halfway in the paragraph. Logically, I should have switched to something else but then I was stubborn. If I had invested 20 minutes already, why not invest 10 minutes more and score 8 questions in it. (The most common mistake that every CAT student makes. Learn to skip the questions which are not getting broken in the dedicated time.)
Thirty minutes had passed, I finally gave up. It was not happening. I saw the watch and then the OMR sheet. It was completely blank. I hadn’t answered a single question yet. I glanced at the OMR sheet of the student sitting beside me. He had already answered 8–10 questions. Those black circles on his OMR sheet were making me nervous. He too glanced at my sheet and saw that I hadn’t answered any. He saw in my eyes and I felt that he was asking: “Still want the formula of volume of cone? In your face.”
Enough was enough. This was not how I am going to lose. I would give a fight. And when you go aggressive, you decide to play on the best of your strengths. I did the same. I turned to the section which has always stayed the closest to my heart. The Quantitative Aptitude.
30 seconds and the first question was solved. I turned to OMR and marked the first circle. Wow! It looked so pleasing to my eyes. (Was this the best feeling in the world? I can vouch for this moment.) Second. Third. Fourth. In five minutes, I had solved four. Technically, in 35 minutes – I had scored four. 😦
This switching between OMR and Questions was time consuming. I decided to go all guns blazing into questions for next thirty minutes and then mark all the answers into OMR. I solved 20 more. I gave 20 minutes more to quant section and overall I had 35 answers marked in OMR.
50% time was over and I had 35 answers. I again glanced at his OMR sheet and noticed that he was looking at mine. The nervousness was again shifting to his side. He hadn’t used the last hour in the best way possible. When I switched to quant, he didn’t. First 50 questions were from verbal and glancing at his sheet- I could tell that he was still trapped in the same section. (Another thing that we usually do. We resist shifting to other sections just because we think going sequential is the best thing.)
I had 90 minutes left, and had to rebuild my strategy regarding how much to invest in verbal and DI. I decided to give 40 minutes each and then use the remaining 10 minutes in whichever section is the easiest (which surely was not going to be the verbal section).
The tempo was high. Ironically the silence of that examination hall was boosting me up. The sound of turning pages of question paper was revealing. I jumped into Data Interpretation (DI) and started solving the easiest-looking set. 10 minutes and it was done. 8 questions were solved. Next. Done. Next. Done. 25 minutes and 16 more questions were in my pocket. I focused on Logical Reasoning now and in next 25 minutes I had solved 14 questions. In total, I invested 10 minutes extra (40 + 10) and solved 30 of the 50 questions.
Now I was tired. I was exhausted. The mood was off. Why? Because now I had to solve verbal questions as there was no other section left. :-(. 40 minutes were left and I had zero attempts in verbal.
I found an exciting paragraph (relatively exciting -_-. As there is nothing exciting in verbal section for me.) and started solving it. In 15 minutes I was able to solve it with somewhat accuracy. In next 20 minutes- I solved 15 more. In total- I solved 25 questions and I knew that accuracy would be too poor. Last 5 minutes- I used in quant and solved 3 questions more.
The time was over. I had attempted 93 questions (38+30+25). The OMR sheet was taken away and solutions and answer keys were being distributed. Talking with others around me, I found that none had attempted more than 75 questions. I was having an edge in the attempts- but it was only me who knew that those 25 questions of verbal were hoax. The process was that we were given answer sheets of students sitting in the other class. We had to check their answers and put the total score.
With calculating other student’s score, I was checking mine as well. I had marked all my answers in question paper and was counting how much I was going to score. With 3 marks given to each question, the paper was of 450 marks.
In quant, I had 32 correct and 6 wrong. Score: 90
In DI+LR, I had 24 correct and 6 wrong. Score: 66
In verbal, I had 13 correct and 12 wrong. Score: 27
Still I didn’t know how others had performed. But going through interactions outside the hall, I had a feeling that I would end up in top 50 students among 500.
Next day, the results were announced and I was 3rd among all the Endeavor centers across India and 1st among those 500 students from Ahmedabad center. It was a satisfactory moment as everyone now had my name on their lips. Faculties from Endeavor started noticing my scores more and with time, my weakness in verbal got more coverage. It was open to all that I was scoring pathetic in verbal.
Yes. Even though the overall score was good, I had failed in verbal section. From the first mock, I knew that if anything was going to stop me from getting IIM calls, it was the verbal section. Eventually it did stop me. This section costed me a whole year as I had to take a drop. I will go into this later. Till then goodbye.
-Arjuna@War (Parth Shah)