CAT DILR is the X-factor that can distinguish the final outcome of a CAT attempt. Of course, the other two sections are tricky as well. However, the DILR becomes the game-changer because it combines the aspects of an RC passage (you need to get the context, crux and the details right to give it a go) with the rigour of a few Quant problems put together (read, percentages, change in quantities, increment/decrement, etc.)
You get a single puzzle or table right in CAT DILR, and you have 12 marks safe in your bag. If you get it wrong – and sometimes, you may not even realize it is wrong – alas! It is an unimaginably gut-wrenching telltale. No wonder the sectional score for the creme de la creme percentile in CAT DILR is different from the other two sections. There are tricky but interesting puzzles like this one, apart from the all-encompassing, actual CAT papers with their varying levels of templates and difficulties.
This premise begs a question. How does one decipher The Enigma of CAT?
1) Start CAT DILR prep once you get the basics of Quant right
CAT DILR requires a fair understanding of the basic Quant topics like Percentages, Profit and Loss, etc. So, it is important to get these arithmetic topics and their underlying concepts right before taking the plunge into preparing for DILR.
There is no prescribed time to start preparation as such; however, starting at least after a month after you get the ABC’s (I know ABC reminds you of the post-CAT results phase and the accompanying anticipation for calls, interviews, converts and admits) of Quant gets you going in DILR.
2) Get the fundamentals of DI & LR out of your way
CAT DILR puzzles have almost juxtaposed themselves into a mix of DI and LR in almost all the questions; hence, it is of paramount importance to get the fundamentals of Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning out of your way.
This implies you should get a hang of Pie Charts, Bar Charts, Line Graphs, Column Graphs, etc. for anything remotely related to a DI puzzle. For LR, this corresponds to comprehending the tournament fixtures, circular and linear arrangements, sequencing, etc.
You OUGHT TO feel at ease with these before you jump into the more arduous and critically important task of seeking variety.
3) Inch towards variations in terms of puzzles
Once you are on song with the above-mentioned ‘templates’ – charts, seating arrangements, and so on – take it one notch higher. Look for varieties. Solve different types of puzzles. Get used to the easy ones and the not-so-easy ones, the impossibly difficult ones and the incredibly doable ones. This sets you up in understanding which ones are worth attempting well within the timeframe, and which ones can and should be skipped during the actual CAT examination. Getting your mind trained towards catching hold of, solving and deciphering several puzzles is the differentiating aspect in propelling you to that dream score in CAT DILR section.
4) The actual CAT DILR puzzles are your go-to havens
You can solve infinitely many puzzles on a template you know; you can sit with obscenely difficult DILR questions and imagine you are going somewhere with your preparation. OR, you can go to the actual CAT question papers and start solving the puzzles there to get a flavour of the level of difficulty.
The actual CAT papers of the last three years contain 48 wonderful puzzles (eight puzzles each across two slots of three years), whose levels of difficulty range from done-in-a-jiffy to unimaginably insurmountable. You can start with solving about 10 puzzles from CAT 2019 for the time-being, to understand where you stand at this point. Hit 10 more in the next phase, and keep the last 25-30 puzzles for the third grind.
5) Fall in love with puzzles
The general thumb rule is practicing DILR for around 3 to 5 hours a week in the initial phases, followed by an additional two hours once you are done with at least one round of learning Quant.
Start solving puzzles regularly. They need not necessarily be the ones that are directly related to CAT DILR. SuDoKu, Kakuro, Scrabble, Crossword, 2048, Chess. The list keeps going on. Pick a puzzle game.
Over a period of time, you will realize your logical abilities have got strengthened subconsciously. More often than not, puzzle solving, when viewed not just an extension of CAT DILR, but as a routine dose of mind game, can come a long way.
Stay safe, and best wishes for CAT 2020!
Rajesh Balasubramanian takes the CAT every year and is a 4-time CAT 100 percentiler. He likes few things more than teaching Math and insists to this day that he is a better teacher than exam-taker.