Quant score and maximization seem to be two opposite poles when it comes to CAT preparation. Be it engineers, who are “supposed to be” good at Quant, OR the non-engineers who “typically struggle”, the last of the three sections is more or less a bitter pill for the majority.
Of course, VARC and DILR – the other sections of the triumvirate – bring with them a set of challenges that need to be overcome. How to select the right puzzles and when to let go of a set are crucial elements of your DILR performance. Similarly, how you proceed with the VA and RC questions determine the percentile you would get in that section.
All said and done, Quant seems to be the bitter pill for the majority of CAT takers. Maximizing your Quant score is one of the most, if not the most, important factor in deciding your final outcome of CAT 2020.
1) The “I-missed-out” regret and learning to skip questions
Quite often, I hear people lamenting the following sequence of events:
- I started off well in Quant.
- Reading through each and every question, I went through all but the last four or five problems.
- When there were only two or three minutes left, I looked at the last set of questions, and they were easy.
- If I had some more time, I could have gotten all of them right – they were from topics I know, and would have not been time-consuming at all.
- But, alas! I did not have the time.
In the social media lingo, this should look something like, “X goes slow in Quant. X reads all questions. X misses out on easy questions due to “lack of time”. Do not be like X.”
Anyways, this is the problem that has been identified. What is the diagnosis?
The diagnosis/cure is simple. Skip questions.
The craft of skipping questions
Skipping questions is not easy. Letting go of anything in life, let alone CAT Quant questions, is definitely easier said than done. But, this art of skipping questions comes with practice and experience (meaning, MORE MOCKS).
Learning to skip questions is like learning to cycle. Initially, you are clueless and get toppled in no time. Over the course of time, though, you learn to steer it well, the balance becomes perfect and the ride gets smoother. This is exactly how skipping questions works, too.
When you start taking more and more mocks, you get slapped on your face each time for some reasons. “My question selection could have been better“, “Oh crap, I knew this one but choked under the time pressure“, “My Quant percentiles and scores are pathetic; I need to pick myself up soon” are constant sub-conscious reminders that keep ringing within you.
Which brings us to the next question – which questions need to be skipped?
2) Question categorization – easy, medium and tough
The nomenclature of this categorization is as diverse as the diversity some of the IIMs crave for. Some call it the A-B-C selection method, but the jargon does not matter. You should be able to compartmentalize the easy questions from the medium and tougher ones.
As a general rule of thumb, the categories work as follows:
- Easy – those questions that can solved in/under a minute, and are from the topics you know.
- Medium – those questions you know the approach for, but those that will take more time (2 minutes and more).
- Tough – those questions that have to be skipped in an examination context, unless and otherwise there is no other go. (Rajesh would call these “GOK (God Only Knows) questions.”)
What you should and should not do during mocks
Let us assume you took a mock and did not score well in Quant. You want to delve deeper to understand why your Quant score is pathetic. The analysis of that particular mock CAT reveals that you have spent a total of 17-18 minutes to answer just three questions. Out of these three, one question has spanned 8 minutes.
The next time around, you got to tell yourself that you are NOT READY to afford those 15+ minutes to solve THOSE TWO OR THREE QUESTIONS. Instead, you should focus on scoring those 6 to 9 marks through other questions which should take much lesser time. The final outcome is that you would still have sometime to work on the difficult ones, while you have scored a respectable Quant score already.
3) Take mocks, mocks and more mocks
The typical number that is usually prescribed is 30 mocks before D-Day. Now, the pattern change has meant that you might not be able to take 30 mocks in the new duration. If you can somehow take 12-15 mocks from today till a week before CAT 2020, it should be more than sufficient.
Get all sorts of experience – low scores, good score with a mediocre percentile (perhaps because the paper itself was easy), sectional flops, overall flops, plateauing of mock scores – before 29 November 2020. This prepares you better than any advice from Rajesh or myself.
4) What if all the Quant questions are really tough? How do I maximize my Quant score in that case?
More often than not, you start going through the questions, and by the fifth or sixth minute, you realize that the questions are really tough. This would mean that by the first 12-15 minutes, you would have gone though one round of all questions, scoring some three or four questions right.
Now, this difficulty brings with it the need to adapt. As humans, we all adapt to changes; we are not programmed to do things the same way all the time. After those 15 minutes, you have got to tell yourself, “If this is tough for me, it is tough for the others as well” an try attempting those questions that fall under the medium difficulty.
Remember, you may not have answered enough questions if the paper is tough, but this presents another opportunity – one where you have enough time to get some more answers right with 20-25 minutes available.
Stay Safe, and Best Wishes for CAT 2020!