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How to Analyse MOCKCATS - May 6th, 2006

Friends ,

I found this article helpful - though a bit lengthy


How to get the best out of AIMCATs

The inputs for this note have been provided by Mr. Ulhas Vairagkar (PGDM-IIM, Ahmedabad), Centre Director, T.I.M.E., Delhi



Section I: Introduction

Approach: Treat each & every AIMCAT like a real CAT - with as much seriousness as you would treat CAT. This means that you will divide your time in doing the sections in a manner that you demonstrate your competence in all the sections so as to achieve sectional cut-offs.

You are advised to distribute the total time available to you over various sections as per the "Test taking Strategies" session/note.

Easy Questions: The way to conquer CAT or any other exam is to identify easy questions and doing these as fast as you can with good accuracy. The other important part is to leave most of the difficult questions so that in the given two hours, maximum questions can be attempted.

Scanning Skills: Scanning the paper to identify easy/difficult questions is an important skill that you will need to build, develop and hone with each AIMCAT. A series of 18 tests therefore greatly helps in developing this ability.

Accuracy: You should target an accuracy level of 70-80%, which means that out of every 20 questions attempted by you, at least 14 questions should be right.

Importance of Analysis: A large number of successful T.I.M.E. students have confirmed that "thorough analysis" of AIMCATs was the most important ingredient in their preparation & success. Given below is the process recommended by T.I.M.E. and used by these students in analysing their performance in AIMCATs to achieve success. This note covers what you should do as soon as you write your AIMCAT (Stage B below) and how you should use the results and AIMCAT performance feedback given to you on T.I.M.E. website for every AIMCAT (Stage C below).


Section II: How do I get more out of AIMCATs

This section deals with what you should do after you take the AIMCAT (and before you get to know your percentile scores and rank).

Basics

1. To get the best out of AIMCATs, please budget at least 6-8 hours for a thorough analysis which is essential to get full learning out of the same. A number of students mistakenly focus more on taking a large number of tests without rigorous analysis of the test they take. Remember, test-taking without proper analysis is like eating without digestion.

2. While taking the AIMCAT, please ensure that you mark in your test booklet, each question/option attempted by you.

3. After the AIMCAT is over, please DO NOT look at key/solutions to check your marks. Instead, freshen up, relax a bit and get ready for a few marathon sessions.

4. Please take each stage as seriously as you would take actual CAT.

5. Results in each stage should be tabulated as given in annexure.

Stage 1

In the first stage, please attempt those questions in the AIMCAT which you did not attempt earlier. You will need to fix a time period for stage 1.

This time period can be arrived at as below:

a) Suppose total Questions in AIMCAT : 150 ( 100% )
b) Questions attempted : 60 ( 40% ) in two hours
c) Balance Questions : 90
d) Time period fixed for stage 1 to attempt 90 Questions: 3 hours ( this is calculated using student's speed )

On the other hand, if the number of questions attempted was 90 then:
a) Balance Questions : 60
b) Time period fixed for stage 1 to attempt 60 questions : 80 minutes

Actual time you should fix will be more than what you calculate as above since the questions that you left out will be more difficult/time-consuming than the questions that you attempted in the exam. Hence, budget for about 20-30 minutes more than what you calculate as above.

After fixing the time period, you should now attempt the un-attempted questions in that time period by using an alarm clock.

After stage 1, you may have still left some questions un-attempted.

Stage 2

Now you will attempt all the "leftover" questions that were not attempted so far (at the first time or in Stage 1) without any "time limit". It is possible that even after giving "infinite" time, you may still not be able to all the questions.

Stage 3

Now is the time to check how many of your attempts are right by using the key only. Please do not look at the solutions at this stage.

Stage 4

Re-attempt all those questions which you answered incorrectly, still without looking at the solutions, to see if you can correctly answer the same now. You will find that you are now able to get a few more questions correct even without looking at the solutions. Please understand that this is the way to improve your learning. You do not need to set any time limit for this stage. At the end of this stage, there could be some other questions that you still are not able to answer correctly.

Stage 5

Now look at the solutions and check following:
e) Have you solved each question by the "approach" suggested in the solutions or you used another/longer method
f) Solutions to those questions which you could not answer correctly earlier.
g) How to solve those questions that you were not able to solve at all at the end of stage 2.

It is possible that some students may not be able to understand fully the solutions/explanatory notes for some questions. In such a case, please take guidance from your faculty members. In case, the question is from the chapter that has not yet been taught in the class for your batch and you do not know the basics of that chapter, please wait till the chapter is taken up in your batch.

Stage 6

You will now review each question and try to classify the questions into "EASY", "MODERATE" and "DIFFICULT" questions based on your perception of the difficulty level of the questions. Use following guidelines while assigning difficulty levels to various questions:

Easy: Can be done in less than a minute.
Moderate: Requires more number of steps, more calculations: Time taken could be between 60 and 90 seconds.
Difficult : Questions where you may not know the basics for answering the question, questions that involve very long calculations or that need to have very accurate answers due to close options or questions that involve large number of steps - all these leading to time taken - more than 90 seconds.

You will tabulate how many of these questions were attempted in your first attempt, stage 1 and stage 2.

Summary of Stages & Analysis

At the end of the analysis, you should be able to identify your strengths & weaknesses and make an action plan as below:

a) Attempts Percentage (AP): Percentage of total questions attempted. While this is undoubtedly important, a lot of students place undue emphasis on this factor alone. More attempts without accuracy will only lead to less marks and lower rank.

Attempts Percentage is closely linked to the second parameter - IEQ. Without high IEQ, Attempts Percentage would normally be lower. The key to improve Attempts Percentage is to build your skills in the area of:

i) Numerical Ability: This is all about your ability to calculate fast. You should be thorough with Tables, conversion of fractions into percentages & vice-versa, square & cubes, etc. to improve this ability. Needless to add, the more you practice, the better you would become.

ii) Reading Speed (RS): Good RS does not only help in RC section but also helps in all the sections, for, the length of questions in each test area has significantly increased in the recent years.

iii) Ego Management: A large number of students lose precious time in continuing with a question just because they think that they can do it and spend unproductively high time battling with it. Just don't do it!

b) Ability to Identify Easy Questions (IEQ): As mentioned earlier, this is the most important skill that can make a huge difference to your score and rank. When you do this analysis for every AIMCAT, you should be able to significantly improve your ability to identify "easy" questions. You should do this analysis for each section / test area as well as for the whole paper.

Measure: IEQ = 100 x (No. of easy questions attempted / Total no. of easy questions in the test )

Target & Action Plan: Improve your IEQ score by at least 10 percentage points in the next AIMCAT. IEQ score of 80+ is considered to be very good.

c) Accuracy (Ac): Check your accuracy in each stage and try to identify the reasons for making mistakes. The reasons could be many - carelessness in calculation, application of wrong formulae, missing out some critical data, hastiness arising out of desire to attempt more questions, etc. The objective is to understand the reasons why you made mistakes and learn from them. This analysis is extremely important for you if your accuracy is less than 70%. When your accuracy is low, you are wasting a lot of precious time in attempting and marking wrong answers.

Measure: Ac = 100 X (No. of questions attempted & right / No. of questions attempted )

Target & Action Plan:
i) Try to get Accuracy score of at least 70. If your score is above 70, aim to maintain it around 80-85 while trying to attempt more number of questions.
ii) Make a list of reasons and identify the number of mistakes that can be attributed to each reason. Track your progress to check if you are learning from your own mistakes.

d) Ability to Avoid Difficult Questions (ADS): This is a measure of your ability to identify the 'tricky' ones so that you leave these alone. Some of you may be able to solve and get correct answers to these questions. However, the time required in answering these could be much better utilized in answering easy questions - simply because you can attempt more of these! For most students, if their ADS is high, their IEQ will be low.

Measure: D = 100 x (No. of difficult questions attempted/Total no. of difficult questions in the test)

Target & Action Plan: Aim for a score of less than 10%.

e) Areas where you need to build knowledge & techniques (KT): In case of questions that you could not solve in any of the stages or found that the method used by you was longer/more cumbersome, stage 5 is helpful in identifying your weak areas.

You will need to build a storehouse of short-cut techniques and also work on improving knowledge in your weak areas.

Record-keeping


AIMCAT AP (Attempts Percentage) IEQ Ac ADS
501 - Stage1
501 - Stage2
501 - Stage3
501 - Total




Section III: Additional Analysis & Action Plan after AIMCAT results are declared

1. Discrepancy between your estimated score and reported on the website

If you notice any large discrepancy (difference of more than 2 in your attempts, right or wrong answers) estimated by you vs. as reported on the website , it is possible that darkening of ovals done by you on the OMR sheet is improper. Please pay special attention to this. Otherwise you may lose marks unnecessarily.

2. How to use AIMCAT Feedback

A thorough analysis of the AIMCAT results provided on T.I.M.E. website will help you get an insight into what's happening with your performance in the AIMCATs. It also helps you to understand your relative performance vis-Ă*-vis the entire student community writing T.I.M.E. AIMCATs.

The feedback given to you on AICMATs consists of the following:

Section-wise Results
Area-wise Results
All-India Comparative Performance
Question-wise Analysis
Toppers' List
Snapshot of your Performance
Performance across AIMCATs

Let us look at the parameters on which you are given feedback under each of the above areas.

Section-wise Analysis: This gives the performance of the student in each section. In addition to your City Rank and All India Rank, you get your percentile score, percentage score. These two parameters are also the scores given in the Score Card of CAT. In addition, you can also know the cut-offs in each section as well as the cut-off for the entire paper as a whole. These cut-offs are the levels that you should aim to get a call from the IIMs. With the help of the percentile mark, one can understand how close the student was to the cutoff. A safe percentile mark in each section would be around 85. You should strive towards achieving this target in each section. A thorough analysis of the ranks in each section along with the percentile scores in the section will give you an indication of where you stand in the entire lot of students writing the AIMCATs.

Area-wise Analysis: In addition to the Section-wise analysis, the Area-wise analysis can be used to check your performance across various test areas within a section also. Whereas section wise analysis gives you the relative performance in the section, area wise analysis will give the relative performance in each area viz., RC, VA, QA, DI, DS and LA. So you student can check your percentile rank in various areas and work on those areas where your performance is less compared to the other areas. In fact this will also help students understand the relative proficiency of the entire test takers.

Question-wise Analysis: The Question-wise Analysis gives the following feedback for each of the questions in the test: the correct answer to the AIMCAT, the answers marked by you, the difficulty level of the question, number of people who attempted that question and the number of students who got the answer correct. This analysis will help you to tally the marking you supposed to have done on the OMR and what you actually have marked. In addition, you can know what type of questions you should have attempted and what should have been left out with the help of the difficulty level as well as the data on number of people getting a particular answer correct.

Toppers List: This is the list of all those students who have cleared the cut off in all the sections. Please note that by studying the toppers marks, you can understand which areas they are making marks and which sections are not easy to score and accordingly target your preparation. You should try to get into the toppers list as many times as possible so as to get the confidence of making it to the IIMs.

All India Comparative Performance: This will give the mark at various rank levels in each of the sections. Please note that the sum of the marks of the sections may not be equal to the total (all sections taken together). The importance of every mark is clearly brought out by this All India Comparative Performance analysis. A simple analysis of how better your rank could be can be gauged from looking at the marks you have got to the person who has got say 100 ranks before you. This will hopefully propel you to go a little faster in your exam and attempt more or be a little more careful so as not to make mistakes in the exam and get the extra marks to improve your rank.

Snapshot of your Performance: This identifies - in each section of the test and for each level of difficulty of questions - the questions that you got right, those that you attempted but got wrong and those that you did not attempt. The colour coding helps you identify the mistakes in your strategy and helps you fine tune your approach before you go for the next AIMCAT.

Performance across AIMCATs (Areawise and Sectionwise): This will give a picture of what has been your performance across AIMCATs at one shot. This will also help you to understand which of the areas you need to concentrate on and change your strategy for attempting the paper. For example, if you have not been crossing your cutoff in say verbal and RC by a mark or 2 in every AIMCAT, then it may be worthwhile in changing your time limits that you set for yourself for that section and give say 5 more minutes than the time you usually give to ensure that you cross the cutoff.

3. Target-setting

Your target in AIMCAT cannot be just score improvement! You should be clear that the ABSOLUTE SCORE in the AIMCATs is not the most reliable indicator of whether you are improving. For example, lower score in a relatively difficult test could be better than a higher score in an easier one!

Percentile score or rank are the only reliable indicators of your performance.

It is suggested that you should fix a target for the next AIMCAT after you finish analysing the current one. This target can be a two-stage one depending on your performance level:

Stage I: Target to clear cut-off in any given section where your score is lower than the cut-off score.

If you narrowly missed the cut-off in a section, did you miss it because:
a) you gave it less time? or
b) attempted fewer questions? or
c) have low Accuracy score?

On the other hand, if you missed the cut-off by a wide margin in a section, is it because:
a) your "fundas" in this area are poor? or
b) you gave this section very little time?

In either case, you have to prepare an action plan to reduce/eliminate this lacuna.

Stage II: Target a higher score / percentile

This is a bit more difficult. As explained earlier, higher absolute score may not necessarily lead to higher percentile score or higher rank, hence your target has to be in terms f percentile rank. To do this well, you will need to develop the ability of assessing how difficult/easy each of the sections/whole paper was. This can be done by benchmarking the test paper against the earlier test.

WISH YOU ALL THE BEST!
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