Strategy for Preparation - QA in CAT
CAT tests you on various areas, mainly Quantitative Skills, Verbal and Passage Comprehension Skills, and Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation Skills. Before you begin preparing for these areas to ace CAT, your first question generally is: How to acquire the necessary skills required to maximize the attempts without diluting the accuracy? In other words, what is the best strategy for preparing for such exams? Here, we try to answer this query for QA.
How to prepare for QA?
Before you begin any preparation, you should have a fair idea of the quantum of work and an estimate of the time you would require to acquire the necessary skills. For this, the first step is to have a look at the actual past year papers and try to understand the skills needed to attempt such kind of questions. You should ideally attempt one or two Section Tests based on QA. This is usually psychologically a difficult step, primarily because you feel that you have not yet learnt any concept or shortcut, and so are not prepared for the test at all. Please realize that the objective of taking the Section Tests is not to secure good marks. The objective is solely to know what is Quantitative Aptitude and what skills are tested in a QA test. When you would attempt the test in time limit, then you would not only feel that some of the questions are currently beyond the range of your current knowledge level, but also feel the heat of time pressure. And you would realize that your current process of attempting the questions is not fast enough to solve the questions within time limit, and also that the time pressure decreases the ability to solve the questions. The more you feel the time pressure, the less you have the ability to solve the questions. Having a first-hand experience in this and realizing all this and more is the objective of attempting a Section Test BEFORE starting any preparation for QA.
You should know that the entire QA section can be divided into 3 main areas:
You should know the names of all the topics asked within the above 3 areas mentioned. If you are the kind who is generally scared of Maths, or are not much comfortable with Maths, then you should start the preparation with those topic(s) which you feel is/are relatively easier than other topic(s). In any case, you should start learning all the topics one by one, gaining conceptual knowhow of each and every topic in thorough details. While you are preparing for these topics, you need not go into detailed proofs of the results. Rather, you should focus on the application of the results. For example, instead of worrying about the proof of Fermat’s theorem with regards to Remainders (Number System), you should worry more about how to apply the theorem in various situations.
While you are learning all the concepts and also the applications, also learn the innovative approaches of solving the questions. Repeatedly working towards learning such approaches will attune your mind into such kind of lateral thinking, in the process developing in you the skills needed to solve the questions well within the time limit. Though not every question in CAT paper can be solved by so called innovative approaches, yet if we can apply such techniques in 25% – 30% of the questions in QA Section of CAT, that would mean huge saving of time, resulting in greater and greater attempts.
One mistake which students usually commit while preparing for QA is that if they find some topic(s) difficult, they altogether leave the topic(s). Note that if you leave 10% - 15% of the topics altogether, and get questions from such topics, especially easy ones, then you would miss the opportunity of having had higher attempts. The problem gets even more compounded when relatively more difficult questions are asked from the topics which you prepared more thoroughly, and in that case, your attempts would automatically go down. So, preparing for QA in this manner is a wrong strategy. Better strategy will be to learn all the concepts of all the topics of QA. In the end, you will become stronger in some areas, and remain weaker in some other areas of QA. This is fine, as long as you have learnt all the concepts, yet not mastered all the topics. Just in case you face a relatively easier question from the areas you are weak in, you can hope to attempt some of those questions.
While you are preparing to increase the conceptual strength of QA topics, you should not forget to attempt the Section Tests of QA on a regular interval, with less frequency of tests during initial phase of preparation, and with more frequency of tests during the later phase of preparation. In your final days of conceptual learning, you should be taking full length tests or mock tests, covering all the areas tested, so that you know how much you can attempt in QA section along with attempting other sections. Attempting other sections will drain your energy levels and hence will impact your performance in QA Section.
In nutshell, during the initial phase of preparation for QA of CAT, your focus should be on learning Conceptual Skills with less emphasis on Tests, and as you progress and move into final phase of preparation, your focus should shift towards learning Test Taking Skills, which is the ultimate skill required to ace the CAT test. You should keep on fine-tuning your strategy in attempting mock tests, so as to maximize the attempt of questions, without diluting the accuracy part.
If you follow the above preparation strategy, with customization of the same to suit your individual needs, you can be sure to have acquired the necessary skills required to attempt CAT with much greater confidence.
By Mr Ashu Jain
[Ashu Jain is a very renowned Quant faculty and the author of the bestseller QA for CAT of Wiley India].