22 Sep 2016 17:26 IST

Don’t let the quantitative aptitude section intimidate you

The trick lies in systematic and thorough preparation

With the CAT 17 date approaching, the nervousness is a palpable in the CAT/MBA aspirant circles.

The uncertainty in the CAT 17 pattern, in terms of the number of questions and the difficulty level, poses a challenge. A smart candidate should understand that one of the mantras while preparing to crack the CAT is the ability to stay agile and adapt to changes during the test.

Students should note that while there have been changes in the exam, the areas that one needs to prepare in remain the same. Earlier, the CAT was conducted on December 4; this year, it will be conducted on November 26.

Quantitative Aptitude

One area that many students, especially those from a non-mathematics background, are worried about is Quantitative Aptitude. One needs to understand that the term ‘quantitative ability’ can more appropriately be thought of as a problem-solving ability, which one does most of the time, using common sense, rather than mathematics.

So, instead of having queries such as ‘will there be more questions from higher math or arithmetic?’ or ‘will there be new format of question in the new format?’ , our suggestion to the candidates is to keep things simple and stay focused on a thorough preparation, without speculating about the future. Whatever the paper is, it will be the same for all those who appear for the exam. One should not waste time worrying about the distribution of questions or the level of difficulty, it can be better spent striving to be well-prepared in all topics of quantitative aptitude and, analysing and identifying one’s weaknesses and strengths.

Practice makes perfect

However, it isn’t sufficient to just have a good knowledge base; regular practice is also imperitive. It is therefore essential that one gets into a systematic routine and covers all the topics regularly. This must be timed so as to allow for efficiency in every topic and look to improve over time.

Quantitative Ability covers a wide range of topics such as numbers, algebra, arithmetic, geometry and pure math and each of these topics have a number of models. While it could be tempting to leave out a few topics or models during preparation, there could be no bigger mistake than that! It may so happen that the few topics that were skipped could form the majority of questions in the exam! So, I would strongly advise one to quickly assess one's weaknesses and work extra hard over the next couple of months in order to reach an acceptable level to tackle the problem areas.

Stages of prep

In general, a student should keep in mind the following during preparation:

Stage 1: Here, you need to work towards building your concepts. You must ensure a complete understanding of the concepts, especially ones such as arithmetic (numbers, equations, ratios, time & work, time & distance, and the like). In case you have joined extra classes, make sure that you attend them regularly. Also make sure you practice the problems discussed in the class at home as well.

Stage 2: At this stage, you need to work towards fine-tuning your understanding of the concepts. For this, you should go through the appropriate study material and try to solve the examples (without looking into the solutions) and then refer to the solution given to compare your approach with the one in the book. After solving the examples, move on to exercises provided.

Stage 3: Here, you should solve all the test papers while on a time limit andtry to maximise your net score. Focus on identifying any weaknesses in your approach and take the necessary steps to overcome them. Also, understand your strengths. In a nutshell, this is the stage where you will have to work towards designing an appropriate strategy for yourself.

Stage 4: At this stage, you should start solving some mock CATs.While taking a mock CAT, you would be in a position to assess yourself in an exam-like scenario. The analysis will help you in evaluating yourself in comparison with others giving the exam.

Like in all areas, the quantitative aptitude section consists of easy, medium-level of difficulty and difficult questions. The student should solve all the easy questions first, identify the difficult ones, and then decide whether to attempt or not, as all questions carry equal marks.

All the best!

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