CAT preparation itself can be puzzling for many aspirants as they start off. Once the initial phase of enigma fades away, though, the preparation becomes more and more intense each and everyday. With Drill Level and CAT Level tests, sectional tests, mock tests, revision and analysis, the whole grind can be unimaginably exhausting for quite a few.
But CAT prep combined with puzzle-solving can make it more enthralling.
Hmm, I’m curious!
CAT aspirants often feel that they should not ‘waste’ time not preparing for CAT. They look to maximize their productivity and end up getting drained out at a very early stage. There comes a need for some means to combine relaxation along with some level of connection to CAT preparation. While reading books is one of the easiest ways that hits me immediately, there are brain games – puzzles, so to speak – that would provide getaways from the rigour of CAT prep.
These games serve two purposes; they boost your logical thinking, and increase certain aspects of your Quant and Verbal abilities.
What exactly are you talking about?
No, I am not blabbering. There is an unlimited list of brain games that keeps your brain sharp, that makes you brisker than usual in the mornings, that provide for ‘fun’ while you learn something sub-consciously. And, I have a list of five of them. Each of them has direct correlations with your CAT preparation in some way or the other. Let’s go!
1) SuDoKu – Grids, numbers and possibilities
This is the gold standard for anybody starting off with puzzles for the first time. The 9*9 SuDoKu is the standard type, although there are rudimentary ones like the 6*6. The other variants within the 9*9 grid include Odd and Even SuDoKu, Diagonal SuDoKu, and more. The pinnacle of it all was when Arto Inkala, a Finnish mathematician, came up with the ‘world’s most toughest SuDoKu puzzle’. It supposedly has a difficulty rating of 11 (as opposed to the maximum of Level 5 we are used to).
Enough backstory. How does SuDoKu as a puzzle help my CAT preparation?
Of course, we would not be discussing something that is not related to CAT, would we?
(i) It helps you view better the constraints given in a CAT puzzle
SuDoKu is a game of constraints. When you are stuck somewhere, not knowing how to proceed, you will delve deeper and find out that one number that will make the puzzle solvable in less than couple of minutes.
(ii) The game of caselets: SuDoKu as a pseudo-CAT puzzle
SuDoKu also helps you subconsciously build your mind towards solving caselet-based puzzles. How so? Quite often, you fill in the cells with the various possible numbers that could occupy a cell. Then, you eliminate some of them when the whole grid is filled with all possibilities of numbers. This is exactly what you do in caselets as well.
2) Kakuro – the game of grids and sums
This is probably the elder sibling of SuDoKu, in the sense that there is one additional layer of complexity involved. You do not have a fixed 6*6 or 9*9 grid as in the case of SuDoKu; but what this game offers is more profound. Numbers are given as clues then and there in various columns and rows; these numbers refer to the sum of those numbers that should be entered in the constituent cells.
If you can solve a Level 3 SuDoKu in probably 5 minutes, a Level 1 Kakuro puzzle takes approximately that amount of time at least.
CAT puzzles and Kakuro – how do they add up?
Kakuro is a miraculous puzzle game. In addition to doing what a SuDoKu can do to your logical abilities, two Quant topics can be related to Kakuro solving. They are Progressions, Sequence and Series, AND Permutations and Combinations.
No, you do not get to do all that 52C3 and 36C6 hardcore solving.
The numbers corresponding to the clues given in the puzzle could be in Arithmetic Progression or Geometric Progression. And there are multiple possibilities of filling up the numbers.
For example, let’s assume you have 30 as the clue and there are four empty cells,. Then the obvious answer choice is 9, 8, 7, 6. But, which number goes in which cell is determined by an adjacent clue and how it can be arrived at. Get the drift?
3) Crossword – the words that are worthy enough
If you think Crossword is a game for the elderly (because that is the image we have been fed with, in pop culture), you might be wrong.
If you conclude that Crossword is a word-game that is for English-savvy people, you might be wrong once again.
Last but not the least, do not limit Crossword to your Verbal Ability preparation. You are making a blunder if you are constricting the scope of a Crossword.
Crossword as a catalyzing puzzle towards CAT preparation
There are three things you need to work with simultaneously in a Crossword.
- You have to decipher the word(s) based on the clues given.
- The need to choose the appropriate word based on the number of empty cells you have is crucial. For example, let’s say there are 7 vacant places for an answer that looks like ‘Opposite’. Your mind should immediately race to ‘Antonym’ as a related word. You are forming connections based on available constraints.
- There is a necessity to look at the adjacent cells. This is to ensure what you fill up for one answer does not mess up something else. In this aspect, Crossword becomes synonymous with Kakuro and SuDoKu.
In effect, Crossword is yet another ammunition in your armoury of puzzle games for CAT.
4) 2048 – 2^x?
Did your mind race to find out what power of 2 is 2048? If it did, your Quant preparation must be a decently well-oiled machine.
This game is often played blindly by pushing all numbers to the left or right or up or down in mobile screens. NO, there is a methodical, logical way to decide which way you need to swipe (forget Tinder).
If you can appreciate the game for what it is, this is going to be your go-to puzzle game.
5) Chess – the haven
I could end this with three words – “Chess: Enough said”. But that would be too mainstream. Besides, that is not the purpose. This game, as such, does not need any introduction though. So, let us see how and why this one is very important.
How Chess as a puzzle helps CAT preparation
In Geometry classes, what is the one thing that Rajesh keeps repeating about? Or rather, who is the one person whose name keeps getting repeated in Geometry? Clue: The name starts with P.
YES, you got that right – Pythagoras. Pythagorean triplets form an integral part of Geometry, don’t they?
What do you automatically look for when you see a 3 and a 4? You look for a 5. If you have a 45 degree angle, what do you immediately think about? You think about tan 45, and look for some two sides which could be equal.
So, what exactly is happening here?
ANTICIPATION. That is what is happening. Your mind starts anticipating. That is what Chess does as well. It prepares you to anticipate various scenarios. What if the rook comes forward? What if there is a castling? How should I protect my king if the bishop tags with the queen? Your sense of anticipation improves exponentially.
The way you look at an arrangement puzzle or a Quant sum that spans five lines changes dramatically once you start acquainting yourself with Chess.
Let’s know in the comments what your favourite puzzles are. Cheerio!
Stay safe and best wishes for CAT 2020.
Written by Giridharan Raghuraman