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CAT: 5 steps to crack Quant

Dr Shelly Verma | October 07, 2005

The term 'quantitative' literally means measurement of values and the Quant section in the Common Admission Test 2005 deals with basic mathematical operations, algebra, trigonometry, geometry, matrices etc

image You can expect approximately 35 to 50 questions which account for 50 marks, in all. These need to be solved in approximately 40 minutes.

Some of you may be scared of this section, especially if mathematics was never your strong point. It may prove to be a mind game; the more you assume it is difficult, the more pressured you will feel. Relax.

It just requires lots of practice and for you to be alert while attacking the questions. Here are some tips to help you score in Quant.

i. Make a planned move

Divide all questions into three categories, according to your knowledge and understanding of concepts.

a. Easy: These are your strong points. You are comfortable and can solve them in the least possible time.

b. Can be handled: You know how to tackle them but you need to devote more time. Your comfort level is not as good as you may have come across such questions only in the study material and not during school days or college.

c. Tough: You have no idea how to do them as they may not have a standard formulae, and may involve higher order mathematical techniques or a mix of two or more techniques.

ii. Prepare according to priority

~ Everyday, without exceptions, further strengthen the areas of your expertise ie questions in category 'a'.

~ The questions which you find tough should not be done in one go; divide the content into smaller portions. Spread them over a few days. It will help to build your concepts.

~ Learn ways to solve difficult questions with help and assistance from others who have expertise. They can show you an easier method by helping you to identify clues, shortcuts and time saving methods.

iii. Adopt the optimum strategy

~ During your exam attempt questions according to priority, that way you can do more questions than what others can handle.

~ Your task encompasses Quant questions in 'a, b or c' category (as divided above). If you do category 'c' first, then you tend to waste time pondering over questions you are not prepared to tackle.

~Instead do category 'a' and 'b', first. This way you have done two-thirds of the task and are only required to do one-third of it later, in the given time.

~You may not be able to solve all questions, but try to maximise your performance.

iv. Devise a systematic approach

~ You need to be quick. Your comfort level will increase if you do not have to use a pen for most of the calculations. Since calculators are not allowed, start improving your ability to do mental mathematics.

For this, play with numbers. Add, subtract, multiply and divide, smaller and then bigger numbers, orally. Do everything in multiples of five or 10 as their tables are easy to remember.

You can do this almost anywhere -- at home, the canteen and at the supermarket when calculating your bill.

~ Learn your mathematical tables up to 30, square roots and cube roots. These assist in minimising the calculation time required. Memorise all the rules of easy solving techniques you come across.

~ Be very careful with the units used.

There may be a need to do conversions to get an accurate answer, so learn these, especially if the multiple-choice answers are given in a different unit altogether.

~ Problems in mathematics follow a set of standard formulae. The difficulty levels change when a combination of formulae needs to be applied while solving the questions. You need to find ways and means for preparing for any such combination if you intend to give your best.

v. Accuracy matters

Just attempting more questions won't help. It is better to answer less questions correctly, than do plenty of wrong ones, especially if there is negative marking.

However, in case you are not sure about the method for an answer, do not spend too much time in finding the exact answers. Approximations actually help. In all probability at the most only two options will be close to the correct answer.

Limit your option choices by striking out the options that are not seemingly correct. Then try to find a solution by substituting the possible values from the remaining options.

~ If you are unable to solve a question, put a mark/ star against it, go to the next question, and come back later, if you have the time.

~ Do not panic. Remain focused on your current problem. Do not allow your mind to wander to earlier unsolved questions.

Aim to answer the maximum questions (correctly) in minimum time. To accomplish this you MUST practice.


Dr Shelly Verma is on the faculty of the department of economic at the University of Delhi. She has designed and authored comprehensive online programmes along with supporting books for GRE and GMAT for US companies. She is affiliated with various training institutions for Verbal and Logical Reasoning, Group discussions, PDP and also does career counselling. 

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