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CAT - Acing Quantitative Aptitude and Data Interpretation

Friends, here is next in the series of guiding pointers towards your CAT preparations. There are many who find the quantitative or quant as it is commonly called, a tough nut to crack. I have received numerous queries on how to ace the Quantitative Aptitude and Data Interpretation section of the CAT exam especially from candidates having a non-engineering background. Now, being an engineer myself, I may not have done true justice to where they are coming from but still have tried my attempt to put down a few things which everyone should keep in mind while preparing for this section of the exam.

Cover all Topics

I have heard from a lot of friends and juniors that they find some of the topics (including geometry, permutations and combinations, probability etc.) and plan to leave these sections so that they can concentrate on their stronger areas. They make a point that this way they can be sure about ability to solve questions in those areas. However, I have always advised them to atleast brush up basics in all the areas/topics. There is always a chance that the questions from your stronger areas are difficult while those from your weaker areas are very basic in nature. In such cases you would not like to miss on the chance of scoring on those simple questions and saving time rather than spending time on the harder ones. If you prepared easier questions in those weak sections, you solve them and then gain edge by solving a few difficult questions from topics you are strong in.

Calculations – Use Shortcuts

QA/DI section is all about how fast you are at your calculations. It does not matter if you have your tables rights or can multiply two 5 digit numbers in seconds. All that matters is how can you be smart in calculating your way to the answer. There are numerous number theory methodologies that one could adopt to fasten their calculation. Further one should also practice ability of estimating while working with big numbers. Though this is a double edged sword as estimating too much may deviate you answers considerably. However if you do it right, you can save that crucial time that you may spend resolving decimals.

Art of Elimination and Substitution

One other thing that candidates need to realize is that all CAT is an objective examination with multiple choice questions. In this paper no one cares if you could put down all the steps on your rough sheet to arrive at the solution. You need to mark just the right answer and hence you could simply forget your primary class mathematics miss’s golden rule of – “no matter if you have the right answer or not, it is important to have the right steps”. Not that it is not important any longer, but only that it isn’t so golden for this exam. So with the question, candidates need to go through the options with a view to nullify atleast a couple of them with logic. There is good enough chance that a negative value cannot be answer anyway or the max value possible is 1. Also, one should try putting in options into algebraic equations to identify the right pick rather than solving the question the right way.

Log your Learning

As you practice, I am sure you would come up with new tricks, shortcuts and procedures. It is critical that you carry these new learning to the examination and not leave them at the practice session itself. This is only possible if you log them in a diary or notebook as soon as you find them. This diary is the only material that you need to revise in the final days leading to your examination. In-fact what I did was to wrap all of these learning in a single page two sided and kept it for revising on morning of the D’day.

Knowing When to Move on

It is critical to practice not only the way of solving the questions but also of identifying the moment when to leave a question. There are questions which you realize would take too much time, even if you know that they would take time. It is best to keep them aside for end rather than wasting time in initial phase of the exam. Also, there would be other questions which you begin attempting but keep getting struck. The tendency is to work on the question further as it had already took some time but this is exactly what you will later learn is called as escalation of commitment. It is very well possible that you may have to miss four easy questions just because you spent all your time on that one question.

Theorize your Questions

During your practice, you would realize that most of the Data Interpretation questions can be classified in 5-6 broad categories or types. You should identify these categories and various forms possible within these categories. It helps if you could develop 5-6 topics around these categories and develop formulas or theories around these categories. You could include these formulas in that log and brush them up regularly to save time during the exam.

Guess your Way

Finally last but not the least is the ability to guess. I am not sure if this is a right guidance or not because of the negative marking, but my dad gave me this thumb rule and it worked for me. In case you could confidently eliminate two of the options, then you have a pretty good candidate question for guessing. All you need now is that gut feeling. If there is anything telling my heart that one is a better answer than the other, I would have gone ahead and taken the risk. That is something that worked for me and you need to find if it does for you during your mock sessions.

So this is another set of gyan pointers from this blabbering being!! All these are simply based on my preparations quite some time ago and I have no experience of teaching or anything. These may take your time more than they may help you so feel free to ignore this post – what if I give this disclaimer at the end which you would read after anyway wasting that time :) In case you have more tips and tricks, do add them to comments section for benefit of all. And as always feel free to shoot any questions you may have.

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