How to improve your skills in DILR
DILR, as we know, has been the nemesis of many a CAT aspirant over the past few years. This section is considered to be a game changer and the most unpredictable section in the CAT examination. So for DILR preparation, while one can find a majority of the aspirants claiming that this is the most unpredictable and most difficult section among the trinity, but it is absolutely possible to ace this section with a right approach and a proper of set of skills. In this article, we will try to look at some skills that can be developed while preparing for CAT, which can be very beneficial to ace this section.
Over the last few years, DILR is primarily about two things – puzzle selection and then proper mathematical reasoning. But even so, someone selects the right sets and solve 4 sets, one needs to solve the two easiest sets quite fast, and this pace would come from the regular practice of DILR sets. But apart from this, what are the core strength does a student need to crack, and how can she/he develop those skills through a particular kind of targeted practice.
Developing the mental strength for DILR
Those of you who are familiar with strength training and have been doing this for quite a few years may know that there is no point in trying to do a few kettlebell moves unless you had a certain amount of strength in the key areas such as core, legs, and mobility. So before doing some moves if you first spend months just working on strength and mobility, then when you will be finally doing those moves the strength and the flexibility both will be there to go into and hold the pose. And this is what you need exactly to build the mental strength for DILR.
Okay, is there any specific way to practice that can impart the strength to the LR muscle in the brain?
When you’re just starting out , pick up a question bank which contains all the basic templates. Keep in mind as compare CAT DILR sets they are going to be way too easy. You would be able to solve them within time. But these sets can be a good starting point to develop the LR skills. But here is the caveat, in order to get maximum benefit you have to solve it without putting pen on paper unless absolutely necessary (ouch!).
What this exactly means is that on your notebook you should write down the numbers of the question and leave minimum space available for rough work and to write the answers. You would consider yourself good only if you can solve all the questions from a particular template within a set time limit with barely anything written on the notebook and with no more than one or two mistakes.
The moment you set this restriction you will be able to notice that, a 4-5 sets practice session could serve as a great LR core conditioning exercise. These basic templates are at the right difficulty level to solve without putting pen to paper. To solve these mentally you have to do strengthen four fundamental core skills – 1) Remember the constraints given in the set better, 2) Decode the logical implication of the clues given in the set and the question better, 3) Always try to find the most optimum route to answer instead of random trail and error, 4) Concentrate harder. Each of these 4 things is a core LR strength that is needed to solve any DILR set in CAT, and the first three apply to Quant as well and the last one for the entire test.
By setting these simple restrictions for yourself during your practice session, you’re simply forcing yourself to get better. You are forcing yourself to sharpen that tip of the pencil to a finer point and to be honest sometimes that is the difference between a great sketch and a good sketch.
Practice with a plan
Always keep a separate notebook to practice these sets. Your first goal should be to solve these sets in the desired time limit (with bare minimum writing). Only if you are able to solve 4 out of 5 sets let say within 30 minutes comfortably then you should try to solve without putting pen to paper. Do not try to go the whole hog mentally, start by decreasing the writing while increasing the thinking.
After every set, do a proper analysis of the wasted effort or moves during each set and the reasons for the mistakes (if any), for example, did you forget any information or did you jump to the options without drawing proper deductions etc. Do not ever try to do two sets in a row without analysing the first one and setting goals for the next.
Keep a track of how your notebook is looking as you are progressing, it should keep getting cleaner and cleaner with only the answers remain. Ideally, you should dedicate 28 (4 basic sets a day) straight days of practice to see a substantial improvement. ( Do not practice if you are low on josh – mental energy :P).
Developing the mental structures for DILR
The other skill that is needed and important to develop is the ability to identify when to use which clue while solving a question – in other words, the ordering of the usage of the clues. Hence, for every set you solve in DILR, focus on identifying the nooks and corners, the twists and turns that are present in the question. Once you see a particular twist while solving a particular question set, you should always make a mental note of the same so that next time onwards you are not stuck on the same trap again in any future question.
I will end this blogpost with an anectode from sports. Gymnastics is a sport where the first goal is to become as close to a machine as you can, and once you can do that you can bring complexity and creativity into your routine. All routines are thus rated on complexity and execution. Every time the landing is not perfect one drops points. Kohei Uchimura, who is considered to be one of the greatest gymnasts of all time once said that the secret to his success is the way he approaches practice. He puts in a lot of thought both during and into his practice. If you watch the replay of his performances at the Olympics, you will be able to notice that, there is a certain kind of calmness and control on his face. One eventually needs to develop that sort of calmness and precision every single time one steps out to solve a DILR set. If you can dedicate the month of July towards this, you will be better off for the rest of the season.
Best wishes for CAT 2021!
Abhishek Mukherjee works for 2IIM . Apart from solving interesting math questions he likes to eat biriyani and watch movies.