CAT DILR – the one section that proved to be the game-changer for many aspirants in CAT 2020. There are a bunch of things that an aspirant targeting CAT 2021 should have in mind, in terms of the overall preparation strategy, and also for the Quant section and the VARC section. But for now, let us focus on the elephant in the room – the DILR section.
CAT DILR – the 2020 experience
There was a time (even until CAT 2019) when the CAT DILR section contained puzzles of some standard templates – circular arrangement, linear arrangement, Mathematical puzzles, grid-based puzzles, bar charts and pie charts.
Cut to 2020. The ‘new normal’ was not limited just to our way of living. It had organically seeped into the way CAT questions are framed.
What do you mean?
Gone is the era of template CAT DILR sets. The DILR section has transformed from a position of ‘just giving some 8 sets of puzzles‘ to ‘defining each and every puzzle, and making sure it is not a cliched template’.
Want to see for yourself?
Given this reality, how should one start preparing for DILR?
The preparation involves two broad phases, as follows.
- Phase 1 – Getting used to the ‘usual’ puzzle sets
- Phase 2 – Seeking variety
Let’s go one step further and take a sneak peek into each of these phases now.
Phase 1 – Getting used to the ‘usual’ puzzle sets
The cliched tropes mentioned earlier – arrangements, graphs, charts, etc. – should be the starting point for anybody starting preparation for CAT DILR, as such.
Now, there is no guarantee that these are the types of puzzles that will appear in the examination. In fact, I can go as far as to say there are very less to almost no chances of them not appearing in your actual CAT. But, the idea of getting used to these templates will prove to be advantageous as you progress gradually to the next phase.
You should get used to the idea of seeing and interpreting the graphs, and maniuplating percentages, ratios, averages and so on and so forth. This ties back to how well your Arithmetic preparation for Quant is; so make sure to knock those topics off when you start preparing for Quant.
Phase 2 – Seeking variety
This is going to be the big leap that, in all probability, would see you through in the DILR section. The best place to start with, when you are looking for puzzles of diverse variants – and this goes without saying – are the actual past year CAT question papers. For those of you preparing for CAT 2021, you have the question papers for 11 different slots (2 in 2017, 2 in 2018, 2 in 2019, and 3 in 2020).
It is always a good idea to reserve some one or two papers untouched. You might want to take them as mock tests to evaluate where you stand. So do not explore all the previous year papers. Keep one or two untouched, and have a good go at the others to get an idea of the kinds of puzzles asked, as well as how to solve them.
What is the most crucial aspect of CAT DILR preparation?
The differentiating aspect is going to be how much variety one can seek in terms of the DILR puzzles. That might prove to be the X-factor in deciding who reaches 99.xx versus who misses out on a whisker and ends up at 98.xx or 97.xx.
This ties back to Phase 2 of the CAT DILR preparation. It is not enough to solve multiple sets on the tenth and fourteenth varities. You have to go beyond that and look to nail the 19th and 27th varities, which seem unlikely to appear in CAT but would end up being a part of the question paper, nevertheless.
The thumb rule
In short, if you look at a puzzle set and it looks way too complicated for a 40-minute (or a 60-minute) section, that is the puzzle that is most likely to appear in CAT. Have that in mind always.
The idea of arriving at a solution in CAT DILR
There is one important characteristic feature that is innate to DILR, and that which marks it apart from the other two sections. It is the idea of arriving at a solution.
While solving a set, you should not merely look to solve it in 15 minutes, but search for better, more optimized ways in which the same puzzle can be solved in 10 or 12 minutes. That bit of fine-tuning helps a lot. Every minute you save in this section is going to determine if you will still have enough time to solve that one extra set or even one or two questions from a set.
Solutions are easy, approach is not
Oftentimes, if not always, the questions in a DILR puzzle can be answered as soon as you have a table. But, arriving at that table is important. You must always look for the approach that cracks the puzzles open, rather than jumping right to the end and grabbing a glance at the solution. The former is a catalyst to your preparation; the latter will cripple your preparatory mindset.
You have to get into the mindset of the question paper setter to know why there is a better approach to a particular question. Having a sense of where the set leads you to, what it sets you up for, etc. are critical things that will prove to come in handy.
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.