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AKRS Srinivas
June 23, 2006

You have a little less than five months to prepare for the Common Admission Test scheduled on November 16, 2006.

The Quantitative Ability section worries you; numbers, geometry and algebra make you nervous.

Relax. Remove all negative thoughts like 'I cannot clear the cut-off' or 'I go blank at the very sight of Quant questions' from your brain.

True, t
hese are genuine concerns. To resolve them, all you need to do is work proactively. First, tackle your  fears. Then start solving problems in a systematic manner.

• Part I: Study strategy for CAT 2006!
• Part II: How to ace Reading Comprehension
• Part III: Want to score in Verbal Ability?
• Five-point action plan for Quant

You will not be in the best state of mind to crack CAT if past failures/ inabilities in mathematics continue to haunt you. As they say, it's okay to lose a couple of battles. Keep your eyes trained on the war.

'Divide and win' is the key; your preparation should be divided by topics and every topic should be further divided into sub-topics, type of questions, etc.

Once you have a topic-centric roadmap of the entire Quant syllabus, carefully ration the time you want to devote to each section of quant per day.

Start your study by checking your fundamentals/ concepts once again and see which concept should be applied to get the right answer.

4. Adopt a systematic practice technique.

Don't jump at solving problems immediately. Make the effort to understand the basic theories behind the mathematical concepts, howsoever trivial they seem to be. Then, solve the example problems without glancing at the solutions. When you finish, compare both your solution and the printed solution. Finally, look at the theory and formulae again and then attempt more exercises.

5. Focus on weaknesses.

A common problem: Since there are so many other areas, if students are weak in a particular area (say geometry or permutations and combinations), they neglect these questions and leave the solutions to choice.

This is a disastrous strategy.

Identify the areas you are not comfortable with. Numbers, geometry and algebra account for a huge chunk of questions in CAT, hence they deserve due attention.

Sub-sections of Quant

In CAT 2005, there were 19 marks' worth of questions pertaining to numbers. By leaving out this area, you will face a psychological block, leaving you less confident while solving the test.

For the next one month or so, you must attempt each and EVERY area of Quant at least once. Don't leave ANY topic undone.

Quant is divided into four main parts. These fours parts have to be done in a systematic manner. Part 1 is probably the most important part. Hence, in the run-up to CAT, you should do these areas at least three times. All the others should be done at least twice in the coming months.

Part 1: Number and Geometry & Mensuration

These two topics have to be considered separately as there will be a large number of questions in these areas.

Part 2: Arithmetic

Equations, ratio proportion and variation, percentages, profit and loss, averages mixtures, simple interest and compound interest, time and work and time and distance.

Part 3: Algebra

Indices, logs and surds, quadratic equations, progressions, special equations and inequalities.

Part 4: Pure Maths

Functions and graphs, number systems, coordinate geometry.

Study tip: Apart from the books that coaching institutes offer, look at books like Trishna's Quantitative Ability published by Pearsons.

Persistence is the key

If you cannot solve a problem on one day, sleep over it and tackle it the next day. Sometimes, even the simplest of questions elude you and you may get frustrated. Even the best of mathematicians face the same problem and therefore leave it for another day.

Do not merely just look at the solution and think you have understood the problem. Ensure you understand the logic behind the answer.

Spend time on the same or similar questions once again after a few days so you are sure of your expertise in that area.

In case you still cannot solve a problem the next day as well, talk to a faculty member if you are attending a training institute or to someone who is good at Quant.

Time management, a must

• Take mock CAT tests twice a week and devote 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to the Quant section.
• For at least 45 minutes after the test, analyse how you fared in Quant. Identify areas in which the questions were asked and the number of questions asked in each area.
• After returning home, solve every question in the Quant section without setting yourself a time limit. Then, go through the solutions. This will give you the confidence that, given sufficient time, you can solve almost all the questions.
• Make a note of how you solved each problem during the test and try to work out better and faster solutions.
• Over a series of a few mock tests, see if there is a particular pattern in the type of questions and areas from which you attempt questions or tend to falter. For instance, identify the type of questions which attract your attention at first glance during the test.
Analyse how long and accurate your answer attempts are. The aim is to solve the questions quickly.
Next, identify the set of questions and topics you generally tend to ignore. You need to start working on the basics in these areas as well.
After this, work at fine-tuning your strategy for the exam. You need to be able to select questions that seem easy or are not lengthy and ensure you get the required marks.

The final word

It may be heartening for you to note that, in CAT, the cut-off for Quant never goes beyond 12 marks (out of 50). There have been times when the cut-off for Quant was as low as eight marks. Besides, the fact that you have close to 40 minutes for Quant, and a range of 12 to 15 should would give you enough confidence to attack this section.

Last but not the least, there is no shortcut to success... or mathematics. Speed techniques and supposed shortcut formulaes don't help in CAT.

CAT tests your ability to understand the fundamentals of each area. Hence, spend quality understanding the basics to ensure you are ready for this section.

Part I: Study strategy for CAT 2006!

Part II: How to ace Reading Comprehension

Part III: Want to score in Verbal Ability?

NEXT: Tips to crack individual Quant sections

Have you taken CAT before? Share your tips, suggestions and expreinces. Don't forget to mention your name, CAT percentile, name of your B-School and company, if you work working.

AKRS Srinivas is an alumnus of IIM-Calcutta with an engineering degree in electronics and communication from Osmania University. He was with Maruti Udyog Limited in Gurgoan, Delhi and Kolkata before joining T.I.M.E. , Hyderabad, as director of the CAT course. He has been training students for CAT over the last eight years. You can mail him at info@time4education.com

BOOKS

How to Pass Numerical Reasoning Tests