5 Ways to Resolve the Speed vs. Accuracy Conundrum
Speed vs Accuracy – The battle is as age old as CAT itself. You go berserk in some tests thinking you have got all the answers right, only to see the negative marks overpowering the hard-earned right answers. On the other hand, you go all conservative, and your overall score writhes in pain, unable to move further up. Somehow, somewhere the idea that you need Speed, at the cost of Accuracy has creeped into the minds of CAT Aspirants preparing for CAT Exam. CAT Preparation does not need this tradeoff, indeed it is not even a tradeoff in my mind. Many a times, the strategy that forms in your mind when you are looking to score more, you believe that increasing the number of attempts by hook or crook is the answer to it. But it need not be. Read on to know more.
We have all been there, done that. Speed vs Accuracy is akin to the Ashes Test matches between England and Australia, like the fandom battles for and against Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, like the ever-crazy high octane India vs Pakistan cricket matches. The stakes are high. You cannot afford to leave some stones unturned. You absolutely cannot compromise on your strengths, focus and performance. So how does one really come to terms with the Speed vs Accuracy conundrum, and more importantly, how does one overcome this troubling horizon and move further up?
There is ZERO trade-off between accuracy and speed
The usual speed vs accuracy debate is normally countered by taking the form of a trade-off. Honestly, one need not trade-off the former for the latter, and vice-versa.
In combinatorial terms, speed and accuracy are neither mutually exclusive events nor independent events at that.
How does one find the right balance in the speed vs accuracy problem?
There are five easy ways to steer clear of this seemingly ever-lasting hardship. These are straightforward, direct and rudimentary mechanisms one should master over the course of one’s CAT preparation.
1) Use approximations to end the Speed vs Accuracy battle
Accuracy is important. But you are not launching a space ship. This essentially means that you should not hesitate to approximate whenever needed and proceed.
For instance, if you realize that you have to find the amount of time taken by two pipes A and B to fill a tank. If these two pipes individually take 20 and 30 minutes respectively, do not spend time trying to solve the problem as 1/20 + 1/30 and then find the LCM and then the answer. If a pipe takes 20 minutes to fill a tank, it fills 5% in a minute. Similarly, another pipe takes 30 minutes to fill a tank, it fills 3.33% in a minute. So, together they fill over 8% a minute. This means they will take about 12 minutes to fill the tank. This kind of approximation and switching between percentages and fractions will help you gain time.
Manual Calculations or On Calculators?
More you use Calculators (especially in the learning phase), worse your intuition of numbers become. To prevent the same keep calculating increasingly with pen and paper/mental calculations rather than relying on a calculator for the simplest of calculations. The better your sense of numerical intuition you develop, better overall scores in Quants and DI are possible.
2) Glance through the answer choices to douse the Speed vs Accuracy stress
One very important thing that you need to keep in mind – but most of the CAT aspirants usually forget very easily – is that as you proceed with each step of solving a question, you need to take a quick glance at the answer choices. This way, in may instances, you will find that you do not have to go to the last step and find the answer. Even if it is only one or two steps saved for each problem, that will give you enough time to crack another 3 or 4 more problems in CAT. That is a mammoth difference when it comes to getting calls from the IIMs.
3) Practice. A. Lot; confront the Speed vs Accuracy dilemma
Probably the most cliched yet most appropriate quotation that fits almost at every instance of CAT preparation is “Rome was not built in a day”.
Speed vs Accuracy is an aspect of your CAT preparation that cannot be fixed in a day or two or a week. It takes time, and it demands (note that I am not using “requires”) a lot of practice, perseverance and patience.
Reiterating an example stated earlier, let’s say you take Mock 1, where you go all out. You realize you have fared low because you were adventurous. So in Mock 2, you take a back-foot and perch yourself in the cocoon of “safe attempts”, you realize your scores are not transcending.
CAT preparation cannot progress with this extremist attitude of wanting to do either this or that. And more importantly, you need to reconcile with the fact that things will keep going South; you cannot eradicate them, you can only try to mitigate them. Mitigation – and possibly, eradication – comes with a lot of practice. Take practice tests, sectional tests, mock tests, quizzes and what not to keep you on your toes.
Finding the balance is the key in CAT. The balance that helps you neither overdo and get penalised by negative marks, not underperform and not get enough marks. That is why this takes a lot of hit and trial, and for some, it might take a while (maybe few months) to get the hang of this. This is a primary reason for us to suggest aspirants to start taking mocks as early as possible.
4) Choose the right ones. Leave the rest.
When we are talking about Speed vs Accuracy, you need to know Rahul Dravid, even if you do not know/watch/understand cricket. What could rightly be termed as The Rahul Dravid Paradigm is the idea of choosing the right deliveries (in this case, questions) and hitting them with sheer dexterity. You ought to improve your question selection abilities incrementally and exponentially.
5) Do not hesitate to skip difficult questions
Do not get unduly concerned if you seem to be skipping questions in a test you are taking.
In the first round of attempts, you should be charging at those questions that are really easy to solve for you (“Easy” refers to those questions that can be solved in a minute or less).
Though this is generally true across all three sections, it gains greater importance in the Quant section. Quant is a section loaded with enough and more traps, and it is important to steer clear of those traps. There is a four-step process you can follow, especially in Quant, to get over the speed vs accuracy problem.
- As you go through each question, if you encounter a question that you do not know or happens to be difficult, skip it and forget it.
- If you find a question that you know, but will take two or more minutes, mark it for review, skip it and proceed.
- Attempt in the first round only those that will take about a minute.
- After exhausting all these easy questions, if you still have time come back for the questions that you have marked for review. This way, your selection of questions follows the rule of attempting the easiest ones first and then the tougher ones.
In a nutshell, you can afford to skip every other question, provided you can maintain very high levels of accuracy. So, go ahead and skip questions that are difficult. It will be more detrimental to get stuck in a question and spending a lot of time on it than skipping a question that is easy by mistake.
Stay safe and best wishes for CAT 2021!
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.