It is a genuine query of roughly 40 per cent of the test takers who have weak mathematics background whether what chances do they hold to get success in CAT. It is quite evident from the various disclosures and the press releases of IIMs that CAT 2018 won’t be biased towards one stream. IIMs noticed the apprehensions of such students and the test makers are working in a direction to make the test smarter, in order to check the conceptual clarity of candidates through the level playground questions, so that all streams of study have fairly equal chances. These changes are most likely propelling the curiosity to appear in CAT-2018 across all branches — arts, science and commerce.
How should candidates who are weak in mathematics prepare for the CAT?
In general, there is no difference in the strategy and on the focus area between such candidates and others. There is a high number of such students every year who manage to crack the CAT, in spite of not being from an engineering/ statistics/ maths/ mathematical science background. In 2017, three non-engineering students got 100 percentile score in CAT. From here, it is quite evident that if you prepare hard, you also have a fair chance to fetch 99 plus percentile score in CAT.
So, such preconceived notions or sort of negativity among such students are completely absurd. To succeed, kill such wrong notions first. How a student performs in the exam like CAT has less to do with his background and more to do with his/her perseverance and being open to new ideas.
In the recent avatar of CAT, the test takers to a large extent got relieved of a burden called ‘time management’ which played a key role in the earlier CATs. The students now need not worry about the time they spend on each area/ section and can instead devote their attention to solving as many questions as they can. This reduces mental stress and should help in increasing the accuracy levels. A majority of the test-takers used to find it difficult to adhere to dividing their time equally between the sections. The test itself will now ensure that they divide their time equally.
Quantitative Aptitude (QA):
One should draw a boundary between QA and maths. CAT demands only basic mathematical skills that we have learnt till class 10. CAT does not focus on theoretical ideas but the application of basic concepts. This essentially means that your knowledge of basic arithmetic and proportionality tools, numbers, time speed distance, elementary combinatorics, algebra and geometry is more than enough to help you crack the test. Most of the problems present a level ground for everyone so there isn’t much of an advantage that engineers or other ‘maths people’ have. Most students get carried away and focus on ‘glamorous’ concepts while neglecting simpler ones.
Basic mathematical skill is just one dimension of the QA section and the other dimensions are more important. These are the ability to perform in a pressure situation, observation skill, decision making, adaptability/flexibility and finally an ability to comprehend the questions.
Solving a CAT quant problem is a stepwise process and the basic algorithm is
Step-I: Comprehension of a question,
Step-II: Interpretation, that is, what is given and what is required et al.
Step-III: Problem-solving (if required).
Before moving to step-III, one should explore all the possibilities of answer option elimination through various approaches like observation or through finding out the range of guesstimate values after analysing the extreme cases. To inculcate the above set of skills, one needs to practice well.
Time-bound practice will help the students to understand what concepts they require to revisit. Prepare a compendium of formulas topic-wise in a logical order. You need to also understand the restrictions, conditions et al, under which these are valid.
Data Interpretation and Logical reasoning (DILR) section:
DILR section is less knowledge-oriented and more skill-oriented. Recent pattern suggests that majority of the question sets are an amalgamation of both DI and LR. There are no sub-sections in the name of DI and LR within the DILR section. These areas involve fewer concepts and require regular practice. Practising under time pressure is important. Whether you are strong in mathematics or not, this section is an equalizer in the true sense.
The three basic skill sets here are comprehension, interpretation and case analysis which are essentially required to crack any puzzles. Once you have read the given information, before starting to solve, take a look at the questions to be answered. They set a direction regarding how to use the given information. Start with a statement that gives a direct information and then pick a statement that is related to the element that is placed in the solution. If there is no direct link or there are no proper link between the statements, then pick up the statement that gives least number of possibilities and try by trial and error.
Students who struggle with maths need to focus more upon the evaluating factors in CAT i.e. optimization of speed and accuracy. Prepare for the exam by dividing your time equally for VA, LRDI and Quant sections.
The article is authored by Academic Head, T.I.M.E