Cracking the CAT lies in your strategy to ensure a perfect blend of speed, accuracy and attempts. The ability to calculate faster will not only help you in the Quantitative and Data Interpretation section but also in speedily maintaining the blend of speed and accuracy.
Quant and DI in CAT have consistently been rated as difficult and challenging. Even though there have been times when people find the verbal section extremely difficult, still Quant and DI have always been characterised by the ‘tricky’ and ‘logical-input based’ questions. This makes it vital to study the nature of Quant and DI in a CAT and recall the most effective strategies to excel in the two sections.
Previous CATs: A micro-analysis of Quant and DI
While analysing the past CAT papers, one can easily find half of the questions that were either tricky or lengthy. A further division into moderate, easy, very easier can be made by analysing the question statements. Experts at TCY have categorised the questions of last three CATs into ‘very easy’, ‘easy’, ‘moderate’ and ‘difficult’ on the following basis:
~ Very easy: These are direct formula or theorem-based questions. There seems to be no trap in language or calculation and does not seem to have high level of implementation of logic.
~ Easy: This is the one that involves a little application of concept and one or more formulae. Questions involving language traps also come in this category.
~ Moderate: Generally this category consists of questions from geometry, mixture and alligation, time and work, and some sub-topics of number theory. Good observation and analysis, fast pace of calculation and comprehensive understanding of the concept are vital in solving these questions. An example for such type of question from CAT 2006 is given below:
Question:The sum of four consecutive two-digit odd numbers, when divided by 10, becomes a perfect square. Which of the following can be one of these four numbers?
(1) 21 (2) 25 (3) 41 (4) 67 (5) 73
Strategy: Here the conceptual expertise will be possessed by the one who knows that the maximum sum of any four consecutive two-digit odd numbers can at most be 389. Now on twisting the question we have to think of a number less than 389 which when divided by 10 will result in a perfect square. Hence the feasible sum can be 360, 250, 160 or 90. Now let’s go with the options as the answer should be a number near to one-fourth of the sum. The fifth option is easily eliminated as one-fourth of none of the assumed sums above is near 73. It should be near 90, 63, 40, and 23 and checking further we get numbers 41 as the part of four odd numbers ie 37, 39, 41 and 43 as the numbers, that are odd and which add up to 160 thereby satisfying our conditions. So 41 is the right answer.
~ Difficult: These are the questions with ambiguous and confusing question-statements. It is recommended to leave these questions unless you are very strong in math and have plenty of time.
The following graph gives an overview of the analysis:
The above graph shows that the share of ‘very easy’ questions is increasing since 2004 and in the year 2006 more than half (52 per cent) of the Quant questions were very easy. A similar trend was observed for DI questions (40 per cent were very easy). Although the share of difficult questions in Quant is declining, it is not the case with DI. Hence, with more and more logical reasoning inputs DI in CAT is getting more challenging than Quant.
Meeting the Quant, DI challenge
Experts from TCY offer the following tips to help recall the tools to counter the challenges offered by CAT at this stage of your preparation:
- Method(s) of solving questions
You can use any of the four methods to answer the questions in Quant or DI section.
~ Direct or conventional method as you did in your school days — going from the question to the answer. This method, however, is least preferable.
~ Eliminating the options or going with the options. This is always the best and quicker way to reach the required answer.
~ Substitution of some values in the question. This method is very useful for algebra problems.
~ Using the direct method and elimination method simultaneously.
- Selection of questions
While selecting the questions to attempt we have to be very careful. One must remember that in exams other than CAT we have to answer as many questions as possible. On the other hand, in CAT a possible scenario may be the one where the test taker leaves nearly half the questions and still makes it to the top. The ability to select questions with easy statements and not-so-close answer choices can be developed by analysing your Mock CATs regularly at this stage.
- Improving speed of calculation
The time spent by a student in the Quant and DI section on calculation is about 20 per cent and the remaining 80 per cent is spent on comprehending the concept of the question. So besides your basic concepts you need to work more on your calculations. It is recommended to spend at least 15 minutes daily on doing addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Also the ability to recall tables, squares and cubes up to 30, and multiplication between some common numbers like 13 x 12, 18 x 24 etc will be handy in getting the best out of the 20 per cent time one spends on calculations.
Since time does not permit us to solve all the questions, it becomes important to make sure that one solves 50 per cent of the questions at an accuracy rate not less than 80 per cent rather than doing 80 per cent of questions with 50 per cent accuracy. If the paper is tricky, then attempts and accuracy can be adjusted to find the optimum balance.
- Handling traps in the language of the question
Even a well-prepared student can fall in the traps in a few questions in CAT. You have to clearly see what is being asked. For example, consider the following:
Question: A student is expecting 90 marks in the mathematics paper and overall 75 per cent marks in five papers but he actually gets only 80. What percentage of marks does he finally get if the marks in the other four papers are the same as expected?
Solution: The very first answer from a majority of students will be 73 per cent as they imagine the maximum marks of a paper as 100, which is a trap in the question. This happens because in many examinations maximum marks are 100, but this does not hold true in this situation. So the answer for such questions will be data insufficient or can’t be determined.
- Preparing for a changed CAT-Quant pattern
Be prepared with every type of permutation and combination for the pattern of CAT 2008. Will it have five or four options per questions; is there going to be one-fourth of a mark or one-third negative marking for a wrong answer; will the number of questions decrease or increase; will the sections have sub-sections and further sub-sub-sections with varying marks per question or not; which topics would be visible more in CAT 2008; what adjustments should be made in the attempt pattern if there are more questions from an unexpectedly less preferred topic like functions, time and work etc. All these uncertainties should be addressed and discussed with your trainers at this stage only in order to be prepared for the same.
So, in order to reach the 99.99 mark it becomes imperative to get familiar with the different ways of managing the attempt and findinganswers to the optimum number of questions. Keeping many sources of questions handy with you (like previous CATs and hundreds of tests and new questions available on www.tcyonline.com) and their continuous analysis are indispensable for CAT preparation at this stage.