How to improve your scores in the DI-LR section for CAT 2016 over the next few days
If we are to conduct a short survey regarding the section that would be the most unpredictable and difficult to prepare, we are pretty sure that Data Interpretation (DI)- Logical Reasoning (LR) would be the undisputed winner. This is simply because there is no fixed topic or subtopic that you can focus on or even a rigid structure to the section as such. How do you tackle something that you have no idea about? Something that has no pattern? Well, if these questions haunt you, rest assured that they will be haunting all the other aspirants too.
That is precisely the way to tackle this section. Most DI-LR battles are decided in your head rather than on the exam table. In QA or VARC, you are always thinking about how would YOU solve a particular question and if you have worked enough to cover your weakness but in DI-LR, it is a matter of judgment of whether the majority of the test takers would be able to solve it or not.
If we look at CAT 2015, there were 4 doable sets, 2 difficult ones and 2 scorchers. If one would have attempted just the 4 doable sets and had got around 45-50 marks out of 96, one would have been on track to a 97+ percentile in the section. Even then, a lot of students fumbled and ended up getting a lot less than they should have. This could be attributed to panic and an inability to differentiate the doable sets from the rest. Picture this: you could have easily finished the 4 sets in 45 odd minutes but then you would have another 15 minutes to kill. That is when panic takes over and even the most prepared aspirant ends up doing something which s/he hadn’t intended to.
So the bottom line is, if you know exactly which sets/questions are to be solved and which ones don’t deserve to be, you should be fine. Regular practice would of course help you get better at selecting the right questions.
Sources for practice
Past year CAT papers are rich sources of the various question types that could appear in CAT. So, I would recommend that you solve each and every set however trivial it might seem to be. The past 20 year CAT papers are easily available for free and you can download and solve them if you haven’t already.
Second best source would be the mocks that you solve. Given the ‘legacy’ of most of the popular mock test providers, at least 50% of the section would be difficult and it would be a bit far-fetched to expect that you would be able to solve the set even if you know how to solve it. So, it would be advisable to focus on only the easy-moderate graded sets and let go of the difficult ones. If you have missed the easy and moderate ones during the actual test, you might want to check those again. If you are doing just fine with the easy and moderate ones, you are on track to get a strong score in the section.
Avoid sectionals and books as much as possible as:
1) The institute would rather deploy its best resources on mocks rather than sectionals and so, the quality of sectionals might not really be to your liking
2) Books don’t allow you to time yourself (however hard you may try) and the level of questions is either too easy or too difficult in most of the cases
If you are struggling to make cases and read between the lines when it comes to LR sets, you can catch hold of a copy of The Great Book of Puzzles and Teasers by George Summers and/or Shakuntala Devi’s books on mathematical puzzles. Plus, engaging yourself in popular puzzles like SuDoKu, Kakuro, Bulls and Cows, etc. would help you in questions involving logical games and arrangements.
Attempts vs. Accuracy
The short answer is ‘accuracy’. Especially in LR, you cannot waste time on tackling questions that you know are outside your comfort zone. What you can do is keep aside 5 minutes to make sure that you re-check your calculation/working and correct your silly mistakes, if any. We had a student last year who had focused on what he knew, had solved just the 4 easy sets and got a 98.xx percentile with a 99.87 percentile overall. Even if it means sitting pretty for a good 10 minutes without solving a question post that, you should be fine.
Which ones to attempt?
As the questions are not rigidly segmented as is the case with QA and VA-RC, it is almost impossible to prioritize and skip questions in a fixed manner. However, the entire ‘syllabus’ can be divided into these sub-topics and depending on your performance in the mocks, you can figure out the types that make you comfortable and the ones that make you uneasy:
1. Critical Path: You will be given a lot of ways of doing an activity from point A to point B. You have to find either the best way of doing the activity with/without some constraint. If you are great with cases and can back yourself to find the optimum path quickly, you can go ahead. If data makes you nervous you may want to push this type to the end.
2. Arrangements: The bread and butter of LR. If you are not comfortable at all with arrangements, you may very well wave your chances of cracking this section goodbye. Having said that, not all arrangements questions are easy. You can set individual benchmarks and make sure that you stick to them (more than 8 characters, more than 2 characteristics, inward and outward facing mixed circular arrangements, arrangements coupled with a family tree and so on are a strict no-no).
3. Logical Conditions: There would be a few conditions that need to be satisfied and the questions would be based on the possible arrangements that could be made. Simply speaking, each question will be standalone and it will require more investment from your side in terms of time spent. The accuracy would be pretty high in these questions though and most of the time, you would be able to use options to get to the answer. If you have a lot of time on hand and/or are looking to boost your score, go for it!
4. Tournaments: Simple tournament based questions with a point based structure are pretty common and feared by many an aspirant. The questions are neither very difficult nor very time consuming but a lot of students get scared by these questions and skip them. If you are not good at these, you can work on it now and get better. The ones on maxima and minima, although tricky are not difficult to learn and so, should be covered in the coming few days.
5. Logic Games: Typically you will have a game with a logical aspect: sticks and coins, moving rings from a tower to another, cutting and joining chains, finding the number of weights, etc. The rule of thumb here is to attempt this only if you have seen the logic before. If you have no clue as to what exactly is going on, it doesn’t make any sense to even try to attempt this.
6. Charts and Diagrams: Unless it is a cryptic DI-LR mix caselet, it should definitely figure on your list of must attempts. Even if you are not keen on solving the entire set, you can look for at least a couple of questions that would be more doable than the rest. The skillset required is that of being quick with data, number crunching, and trend analysis.
7. Tables and Caselets: Probably the easiest question type to figure in DI-LR. If you are someone who can put pen to paper as soon as you see a caselet, these are your go to questions. Considering that as an MBA you would be required to make sense of tables and data in general, it makes perfect sense to not let go of these questions.
8. Data Sufficiency: Although it didn’t appear at all in CAT 2015, it is a part of a lot of aptitude tests and hence, important. As it is nothing but an extension of quantitative ability, it is recommended that you solve these questions as much as possible. The biggest problem with this type lies in making silly mistakes (probably because there aren’t any answer options to confirm your calculations).
So, to sum it up, to crack DI-LR, you need to practice a lot, avoid silly mistakes even if it means compromising on your attempts and improve your selection. If you can take care of these aspects, rest assured you will do very well in DI-LR.
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 CIIInquizzite, NHRD Quiz; National runner-up of Mahindra AQ and Business Standard Quiz and Mumbai champion of Tata Crucible. Co-founder at www.learningroots.com
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