In less than a couple of months the first SimCAT of the season will start and so it is time that those who are serious about their prep should do so with a set of concrete goals. In this post, we will look at how you should be using your study material, what milestones you should set yourself for each of the upcoming months and most importantly how to approach your practice.
As most of you would agree the prep plan does not change from year to year unless there is a drastic change in the pattern of the paper. These two posts from last year are very detailed and cover what you need to do for each section, how much time you should be putting in every day and the mindset you need to develop.
But is just knowing the concepts and practising regularly, enough to crack the CAT? What is it that you should be doing during your practice that will give you that extra bit of time that great batsmen seem to have to play their shots?
Going beyond concepts and formulae
The first step is to be comfortable with all the concepts across areas — just knowing concepts not necessarily having practised a lot of problems.
What is the most important commodity in an aptitude test? It is time and just knowing the concepts and blindly practising it will not make you any better at acing the test than your neighbour who is preparing.
Once you are aware of the rules and the formulae, you should develop the awareness of when to use them and when to ignore them. To put it more simply you need to find the fastest route to goal with or without the rules, with or without an elegant solution.
What is the fastest route to goal — when you find a way to solve without having to write a word.
Let us take an example and see what I mean by ignoring the rules to find the fastest route to the goal.
A rabbit on a controlled diet is fed daily 300 grams of a mixture of two foods, food X and food Y. Food X contains 10 percent protein and food Y contains 15 percent protein. If the rabbit’s diet provides exactly 38 grams of protein daily, how many grams of food X are in the mixture?
Now, the long route to solving this problem is to write an equation. If you are doing this, then always take what you need as to finally calculate as x.
So if there are x grams of food X then we can frame an equation that equates the protein from each of the foods X and Y to the total protein in the mixture — x*.10 + (300 – x)*15 = 38 and you will get the answer, provided you do not make any calculation mistake, which by the way is unpardonable (the equivalent of getting run out because of not grounding your bat).
But you can reach there faster without writing a word..
The final percentage of protein of protein is 38 out of 300 which is very close to 13% (10% is 30 and 1% is 3).
If both X and Y were in equal quantities — 150 grams each — then the protein in the mixture has to be a simple average of protein in X, 10%, and protein in Y, 15%, which is 12.5% (this part comes from knowing the concept of weighted averages)
The final percentage or resultant will always be closer to whichever quantity is more. If I have more of X then final protein percentage will be closer to the percentage of X and vice-versa.
Since the final is close 13% which is slightly greater than the mid-point 12.5% it means that there is slightly more Y than X, if both are equal then 150 each, if Y is slightly more than X it means than Y is marginally greater than 150 and X is marginally less than 150. The only option marginally less than 150 is 140.
You notice the equation solution is always shorter to write than the logical solution, which is why text books will always have equations and which is why non-traditional such solutions are best explained orally than through text.
But the logic itself while you are solving does not take you any time if you know the concept of weighted averages!
Using this approach one processes the information visually.
10%- – – — – — – – – — -12.5%– 13%- – – – – – — – – -15%
< 150 — – – – – — – – – — – – – – -300- – – – — – – – – >150
Some of you might feel — but why does this not strike me?
The power of answer options
The biggest difference between an aptitude test and the tests in school and college is the presence of answer options and they are not just there to make evaluation easy. They are present to see whether you have the ability to exploit them at the slightest chance
The reason it does not strike everyone is because most people are still busy solving the question like they did in school and college — as if there were no options.
As I always say, CAT is a T20 game and just like how a batsman in a T20 game unlike one in a Test Match, always keeps looking at the field placing, you have to always keep an eye on the answer options since the answer options are the fielders in an aptitude tests, you need to exploit whatever gaps there are between them.
ARITHMETIC has been the area from which the maximum number of Quant questions turned up from over the past few years and it is the area where is maximum scope for improvisation.
The reason is simple, the whole of Arithmetic can be simplified into just two concepts RATE and AVERAGES.
RATIOS, RATE, SPEED, PERCENTAGE are also the same X/Y and interest is nothing but PERCENTAGES. The only other core concept is that of averages, more importantly, weighted averages.
It might seem to an extreme simplification but let me give you a few examples to show you why if you are really good at Arithmetic you will see it in terms of just RATIOS and AVERAGES.
Working alone, printers X, Y, and Z can do a certain printing job, consisting of a large number of pages, in 12, 15, and 18 hours, respectively. What is the ratio of the time it takes printer X to do the job, working alone at its rate, to the time it takes printers Y and Z to do the job, working together at their individual rates?
Now there are three ways to go about this:
Method 1: Find the time taken by Y and Z together by doing 1/15 + 1/18. Those who are fast can execute this without wasting much time but it is still the very much run off the mill, that everyone knows from school.
Method 2: To avoid adding fractions since one cannot directly add two times, one can choose to add speeds. Take the total work as the LCM of the three 12, 15 and 18, which will be 180. If the total work is 180 and X can finish it in 12 hours X’s speed will be 180/12 or 15 units per hour and Y and Z will be 12 and 10 respectively, making the joint speed of Y and Z equal to 22 units per hour. Since speed and time are inversely proportional, ratio of X to Y and Z in terms of time taken will be the inverse ratio of their speeds or 22/15
Method 3: If instead of 15 and 18 hours, Y and Z can both do it in 15 hours each together they will take half the time or 7.5 hours. Similarly if Y and Z can both do it in 18 hours each then together they will take half the time or 9 hours. Since one is 15 and one is 18 together they will take between 7.5 and 9, lets take the most comfortable number between 7.5 and 9 — 8. So required ratio is of X to Y & Z is approximately 12:8 or 1.5, so we need an answer around 1.5. Look at the options, A, B and C go out of the window and E is close to 3 so we are left with D.
These are questions on which the standard method is fairly straightforward but what about problems where either the standard method involves solving two equations or the problem is such that writing an equation becomes impossible. It is in such cases that the non-traditional thinking comes in handy.
Keeping an eye out to use the answer options can really be the difference between a good percentile and a great percentile. The odd half-a-minute to a minute saved on around 5 to 10 questions can mean time to solve about 2-3 questions more and that can be the difference between a new IIMs call and an Old IIMs call.
The only way you can develop this skill is by trying stuff in practice, which is what most sportsmen do. A lot of the stuff you see footballers pull-off in tandem during a match will actually be things that they have tried out during practice. I am sure the paddle-sweep that Sachin started playing a lot during the latter half of his career was something that he tried out and perfected by having bowlers bowl that line to him in the nets.
So do not practice to execute solutions blindly on auto-pilot — a computer can do it (We can’t beat the machine at speed, by doing what a computer or calculator can do we will be just be handing over our jobs to them. Automation is already slated to take away many of our IT and programming jobs, computers running on complex algorithms have already become a major part of Finance and when AI goes from ANI to AGI to ASI the future is not going to be rosy if all you can do is what Indian school and college tests have asked of you so far — memorise and reproduce, with good handwriting)
So during practice don’t jump to solve a question. Process the question and visualise the traditional solution — I will get an equation each and if I solve them I can get the answer.
Since there is no point in executing a solution that is very straightforward; do not solve’ look at the answer and feel good. You should be thinking — Can I use answer options, can there be another way.
May be to begin with solve it traditionally but spend time thinking about an alternate methods after that.
You can find more of these arithmetic methods here — CAT100Percentile.com
These are just a few samples, we will be coming up with more such stuff once the SimCATs start.
Practice with a TEST mindset
All the football fans among you will agree, irrespective of whether you like him or not, that Jose Mourinho is special (if not “the special one”). But behind Mourinho and other big coaches is an unknown Portuguese — Victor Frade, who has been called one of soccer’s greatest minds
His views on football training sessions have a lot in common with how one should approach test-prep since in effect both involve developing particular skills.
Those of you who have attended classroom sessions of mine know that during the Challengers part of the Class Sheet, I usually set students a task — getting 9 marks in 10 minutes, by choosing the right questions and the executing the fastest methods.
I believe that you should be executing what you would need to do in full-length tests from a very early stage of your prep. Your prep time cannot be different in aim and intensity from your test-taking time.
So always practice with a TEST state of mind in terms of aim and intensity. You have to be solving with a sense a of urgency, a sense of speed and with a view to optimise your path to the answer. This does not mean that you need to go into your practice session slapping your thighs or beating your chest, it just means that the tawa should be at the perfect temperature — not too hot, not too cold.
You cannot be practicing with a test-match intensity and expect to perform in a T20 during match play.
This I feel is one of the reasons why a lot of test-takers usually tell me that they get really nervous during the SimCATs with the clock ticking — they haven’t put themselves under pressure during practice.
Also people end up taking a lot of time to warm up before they hit peak performance levels in terms of concentration, speed and accuracy. Do you have any time to warm up on test-day or during a SimCAT. You have to start from the first second — if the first ball is there to be hit out of the park, you should. So even when you start your practice session you should be fully switched on right from the word go.
You have the Prep Plans in the links shared above, you have 7 months to go and remember skills take time to develop so don’t make the mistake of leaving it till September.
Getting a 99 plus on the CAT is not a cakewalk, it will demand everything of you. The only question is how badly do you want it and how much are you willing to give up for it.