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CAT Exam : Improve Quantitative Ability scores in less than 30 Days

How to improve your scores in the Quantitative Ability section for CAT 2016 over the next few days?
When it comes to CAT, a lot of aspirants simply dread at the sight of a math question or end up questioning the existence of such an activity when it would be of little use to your future corporate job. While a few are pretty natural when it comes to crunching numbers, recalling concepts and making connections, a lot of people are not great at it. In this post, I will be having a look at a few things that can be done so that you improve your chances when it comes to cracking the Quantitative Ability section in CAT 2016.
The Article is written by Sriram Krishnan is a 4 time CAT 99+percentiler, CET 99.99 percentiler, and GMAT 760 (99th percentile). He has worked in strategy, finance, media and IT roles with SEBI, Shree Renuka Sugars, HT Media, and Accenture. An avid quizzer, he has been the national champion of CII Inquizzite, NHRD Quiz; National runner-up of Mahindra AQ and Business Standard Quiz and Mumbai champion of Tata Crucible. 

Identifying the areas of improvement

To begin with, as an MBA aspirant, you need to have a strong command over analysis and have to exhibit a fair level of awareness. This process starts from the day you start preparing for the CAT. If you are unaware of your strengths and weaknesses and are short of ideas when it comes to improving on them, chances are high that you will not make it to a good b-school. So, get to know yourself well before you form an opinion on the various topics and subtopics and your competency when it comes to tackling these areas. You should ideally be able to answer the question: Why didn’t you score to your potential in the QA section succinctly. A half-baked answer like ‘I am not great at geometry’ or ‘I got stuck on a question’ would not take you anywhere. To solve a problem, you have to first define what the problem is and the more precise you are, the better off you will be.

The ideal level of awareness would be achieved when you can simply look at a question and figure out whether you will be able to solve it or not.  And trust me, 50 days is enough to reach to 70-80 percent of the level which should be enough to crack CAT 2016. Just that, you need to have incredible resolve and discipline to improve with each passing day.

Which topics to focus on?

Over the last few years, CAT has gradually moved away from administering difficult questions that require a lot of intermediate steps to ‘smart’ questions that require you to think a bit outside your comfort zone. The onus has always been on good selection and if you can make sense of around 70-80 percent of the paper then your job is done. So, it becomes important to attempt what exactly you know rather than trying to solve each and every question that is thrown at you.

Looking at the trends, the important topics that you need to finish off (from the highest to the lowest priority) are:

  • Arithmetic (around 50-55% weight)
  • Averages (additions, deletions, and replacements)
  • Simple Interest and Compound Interest (direct questions, questions on differences, installments, compounded on a quarterly, every four month, half yearly basis, etc.)
  • Mixtures (single/multiple replacements and removals)
  • Alligations (two or more items with varying concentration/price to be mixed)
  • Ratios and Percentages
  • Profit, Loss, and Discount
  • Proportion and Variation
  • Time, Speed and Distance
  • Time and Work
  • Algebra (around 15-20% weight)
  • Linear equations (up to 3 variables)
  • Quadratic equations (sum of factors, product of factors)
  • Maxima and minima
  • Concepts of AP, GP and HP
  • Polynomials (sum of factors, product of factors)
  • Functions and Graphs (graphs is not really required and functions can easily be solved through generalization; in-to, on-to functions are pretty rare and it makes sense to not break your head on these topics)
  • Geometry (10-15% weight)
  • Basics of points, lines, angles, and planes
  • Triangles (basic properties, area, perimeter, similarity, and congruence)
  • Circles (angles, arcs and sectors and a bit on cyclic quadrilaterals and polygons)
  • Quadrilaterals (areas and basic properties of parallelograms, rectangles, squares, rhombuses, trapeziums and kites plus a few basic things on cyclic quadrilaterals)
  • Polygons (diagonals, angles – internal/external, and areas)
  • Coordinate geometry (not very important but might be useful to know the distance formulas: between two points, a point and a line and two lines and the concept of slope)
  • Trigonometry (can be skipped entirely; if you feel like, you can go for basic formulas for sin/cos/tan (90+x) or (90-x) and sin/cos/tan (a+b) or (a-b))
  • Number Systems (5-10% weight)
  • Types and properties of numbers
  • LCM and HCF
  • Remainders and division using LCM
  • Base systems
  • Factorials
  • Successive division
  • Euler’s/Fermat’s/Wilson’s/Chinese Remainder Theorems (practically useless yet glamorous; I haven’t seen an aspirant not preparing it, I haven’t seen a question requiring it)
  • Modern Math (probably the least important topic; can be skipped if you have a serious phobia of any of the topics mentioned below) (around 5% weight)
  • Permutations and Combinations
  • Probability
  • Set theory
  • Series and Progressions
  • Binomial theorem

If you are starting your preparation now, you need to be extremely focused on the first three topics mentioned above. Only once you are comfortable with Arithmetic, Algebra and Geometry should I recommend you to go for the remaining topics.

If you have covered pretty much everything from the above-mentioned topics and still do not have the scores to show for it will have to deal with the strategy and application part of it.

How much to practice?

Anything around 50 questions a day for 5 days a week for 7 weeks should be enough. Just that, make sure that you do these questions from credible sources and not get into marketing gimmicks. Mock taking is also essential to build a base and we recommend an upside of 30 mocks to a serious aspirant. So in total, if you are touching around 2500+ quality questions, you should be fine.

Also, do not dump a question once you have solved it. Sit with it for another minute and try to figure out why something was the way it was and if you can find a better approach. If you think a question is really interesting and you need to make a note of it, you can capture and screenshot and store it in the form of a PPT. Refer to this PPT on a daily basis and you will have a nice handy compilation in no time. Much better and more customized than any other book or programme!

Also Read: CAT Strategy 2016 | Also Read: Put yourself in our shoes : The MISB Bocconi Experience

What works for good aspirants?

The answer lies in how you solve a question. To give you a rough idea, solving a question usually involves the following steps:

  • Reading the question
  • Comprehending the question
  • Translating the information into a workable format on paper
  • Visualizing the probable way in which you will solve the question, drawing from past experience/knowledge
  • Actually solving the question

A lot of people spend time on each of these steps. Successful aspirants are generally those who can fuse a couple or more of these steps and can still retain the gist of it. While it is almost impossible to achieve perfection in a couple of months, you can always aim to reduce your effort by a bit. The more the exposure you have to questions and traps, the lesser the time that will you spend on thinking about these questions. Similarly, if you have a lot of solved examples under your belt, you will not spend time on step 4 and will jump from step 1 to step 3 to step 5. Identify the step that you can skip, do a few retention building exercises

For example: calculate the value of 53*79 mentally. The steps that someone will take will be:

1. Find 53*8 -> 50*8+3*8 -> 400+24 -> 424

2. So, we have 4240 with us from which we have to subtract 53

3. 4187 it should be

A lot of people have problems retaining data in their heads and although these people get the general idea behind calculating this, they are unable to retain 4240 in their heads when it comes to subtracting 53 from it.

It would be a good idea to pen down as much stuff as is possible during the test instead of staring at the screen/ceiling/your neighbor and muttering to yourself in an intense manner. Yes, everybody wants to be a Sherlock but it is a pretty rough journey to get even close to it. So, unless you are insanely good with numbers (which I am pretty sure you are not if you have read this till here) it makes a lot of sense to write down your calculation instead of doing it on an imaginary whiteboard and then doing it again on paper.

Also, if you are not very comfortable with some minor topic, it is perfectly okay to let go of it and focusing on other, more important topics. Learning new things in the last 20 days would not amount to much in the final test and you might get more confused than enlightened.

All the best!

Powered by MISB Bocconi, the first offshore campus of Bocconi University, Milan, Italy. We hope this article helps you prepare for the CAT Examination. MISB Bocconi accepts CAT Score (last year and current year) with the CAT Avg for the year 2016 was 90%ile.

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