DI-LR Strat
Comments 16

DI-LR: Improving your core strength

DI-LR, as we know, has been the nemesis of many a CAT aspirant over the past few years, and every serious aspirant asks me that — how do I improve my DI-LR skills.

Over the last two years, I thought that it is primarily about two things — set selection and comfort with mathematical reasoning (many sets over the last few years have been based on Arithmetic and Modern Math concepts).

But even so, I knew that to select the right sets and then solve 4 sets, one needs to solve the two easiest sets quite fast, and this pace would come from the regular practice of DI-LR sets (irrespective of difficulty level) and Sudoku.

Even then I still felt that a lot was left to the “natural” capability of the student. There was nothing concrete I could communicate (apart from a 5-minute average for Medium Sudoku sets) like say a particular reading speed or a particular set of concepts.

What core strength does a student need to crack DI-LR and how can he or she develop those skills through a particular kind of targeted practice.


The reason I thought about core strength is that I have been doing yoga, strength training, and breathing exercises quite regularly and I realised that there is no point in trying to do a few asanas and kettlebell moves unless one had a certain amount of strength in the key areas — core, legs, lower back — and mobility — hips and back.

In this current season of training, the trainer that I am working with did not even make me do many of the asanas for close to 8 weeks or more, asanas that other instructors start from day one and one keeps doing for years hoping to get better. This guy spent months just working on strength and mobility so that when he finally made me do an asana, it just felt right — both the strength and the flexibility were there to go into and hold the pose (which never happened in years practice before)

And that is what led me to think about exercises to build core strength for DI-LR. Can there be a specific way to practice and specific sets to practice that can get impart the desired strength and speed to the LR muscle in the head?

And in the process, I jogged back to my first teaching assignment back when I had just finished my engineering (mechanically) – teaching Analytical Reasoning to GRE students.

I managed to download the ETS GRE Big Book (it is no longer in print) that has 27 full-length tests with two AR sections per test, each section had 25 questions to be answered in 30 minutes, with approximately 18-19 LR questions spread over 4 sets and 6 CR questions.

I started doing a few sections just to gauge their utility from a CAT Prep perspective. I felt that compared to the CAT LR sets they were way too easy, I could solve the questions within time and I made 2-3 silly mistakes every single time and every section had only 1 or 2 questions that were tricky (back in the day all of us used a get a perfect score on this section). But the sets felt like good practice since they are well-designed and needed you to think a bit.

I felt that these sets can be a good starting point to develop LR skills but to yield maximum benefit to the entire spectrum of students I needed to add one bit of complexity — solve it without putting pen on paper unless absolutely necessary.

What this meant was that on an A4 size paper I wrote down numbers 1 to 25 (to note down the answers) and had the rest of the space available for rough work, I would consider myself good only if I solved the entire section within the time limit with barely anything written on the paper and with no more than 1 mistake.

The moment I set this restriction I felt that a 30-question practice session could serve as a great LR core conditioning exercise since I never solved LR sets mentally. While in the Math posts on this blog, I have advocated reducing writing to a minimum, I myself never did the same for LR. I felt that these sets were at the right difficulty level to solve without putting pen to paper.

To solve these mentally I had to do strengthen four core skills

  • Remember the conditions and the set better
  • Decode the logical implications of the information provided in the set and the questions better
  • Always find the most optimum route to answer instead of random trial and error
  • Concentrate harder

Each of the above things is a core LR strength that is needed to solve any LR set and the first three also apply to QA as well and the last one for the entire test.

I realised that just by setting this simple constraint I was forcing myself to get better, I forced myself to sharpen that tip of the pencil to a finer point and sometimes that is the difference between a great sketch and a good sketch.

Let me take a set and demonstrate what I mean by solving a set mentally, this would mean that all of you would have to imagine things visually 🙂

Solve the set on your own first and then go ahead and read my solution.


A museum curator must group nine paintings — F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, and O-in twelve spaces numbered consecutively from 1-12. The paintings must be in three groups, each group representing a different century. The groups must be separated from each other by at least one unused wall space. Three of the paintings are from the eighteenth century, two from the nineteenth century, and four from the twentieth century.

Unused wall spaces cannot occur within groups.
G and J are paintings from different centuries.
J, K, and L are all paintings from the same century.
Space number 5 is always empty.
F and Mare eighteenth-century paintings.
N is a nineteenth-century painting.

1.If space 4 is to remain empty, which of the following is true?

(A) Space number 10 must be empty.
(B) The groups of paintings must be hung in chronological order by century.
(C) An eighteenth-century painting must be hung in space 3.
(D) A nineteenth-century painting must be hung in space 1.
(E) A twentieth-century painting must be hung in space 12.

2. If the paintings are hung in reverse chronological order by century, the unused wall spaces could be

(A) 1,5, and 10
(B) 1,6, and 10
(C) 4,7, and 8
(D) 5, 8, and 12
(E) 5, 9, and 10

3. Which of the following is a space that CANNOT be occupied by a nineteenth-century painting?

(A) Space 1
(B) Space 6
(C) Space 8
(D) Space 11
(E) Space 12

4. If J hangs in space 11, which of the following is a possible arrangement for spaces 8 and 9?

(A) F in 8 and M in 9
(B) K in 8 and G in 9
(C) N in 8 and G in 9
(D) 8 unused and H in 9
(E) 8 unused and F in9

5. If the twentieth-century paintings are hung in spaces 1- 4, which of the following CANNOT be true?

(A) Space 8 is ·unused
(B) Space 9 is unused
(C) F is hung in space 6
(D) M is hung in space 12
(E) N is hung in space 9

6. If the first five paintings, in numerical order of spaces, are F, 0, M, N, G, which of the following must be true?

(A) Either space 1 or space 4 is unused.

(B) Either space 7 or space 12 is unused.
(C) H hangs in space 11.
(D) Two unused spaces separate the eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century paintings.
(E) Two unused spaces separate the nineteenth-century and twentieth-century paintings


A museum curator must group nine paintings — F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, and O-in twelve spaces numbered consecutively from 1-12. The paintings must be in three groups, each group representing a different century. The groups must be separated from each other by at least one unused wall space. Three of the paintings are from the eighteenth century, two from the nineteenth century, and four from the twentieth century.

Unused wall spaces cannot occur within groups.
G and J are paintings from different centuries.
J, K, and L are all paintings from the same century.
Space number 5 is always empty.
F and M are eighteenth-century paintings.
N is a nineteenth-century painting.

Things to make it a point to remember:

  • 20th-4, 19th-2, 18th-3
  • JKL – 20th,  N – 19th, F&M -18th

INFERENCES from the information as I am reading the conditions first one to the last one

  • J, K & L have to be from 18th or 20th (since 19th has only 2)
  • F, M are from the 18th, so J, K & L have to be from the 20th (else total of 18th will be 5)
  • G is 18th or 19th (since it is from a group other than J)
  • H and O can from any century

1. If space 4 is to remain empty, which of the following is true?

This is a must-be-true question and hence I can derive the answer before going to the options.

  • If 4 is empty and 5 has to be empty as per the conditions then the spaces 1,2, and 3
    • cannot have 20th century since there are 4 paintings
    • cannot have 19th-century paintings since there are 2 paintings, which means that from 6 to 12, 7 places the rest of the 7 paintings from the other two sets have to be placed without a gap, but a gap has to be there between two sets of paintings.
    • have the 18th-century paintings are.

Now I will go to the options and search for an option that says 18th must be in 1-2-3

(A) Space number 10 must be empty.
(B) The groups of paintings must be hung in chronological order by century.
(C) An eighteenth-century painting must be hung in space 3.
(D) A nineteenth-century painting must be hung in space 1.
(E) A twentieth-century painting must be hung in space 12.

2. If the paintings are hung in reverse chronological order by century, the unused wall spaces could be

This is not a MUST-be-true but a could be true so, after drawing basic inference and I can go to the options.

Reverse chronological order means 20th, 19th, 18th.

Space 5 is empty, and after that, there are 7 places, so the four 20th-century paintings have to be in places 1-2-3-4. Now I will go to the options to check which one can be the set of unused spaces.

(A) 1,5, and 10
(B) 1,6, and 10
(C) 4,7, and 8
(D) 5, 8, and 12
(E) 5, 9, and 10

The first three options can be eliminated since spaces 1 to 4 cannot be unused, the 20th-century paintings hang there.

I try out option D, — 5 unused, reverse chronological order so next set has to be the two 19th-century paintings in 6 and 7, 8 is unused, three 18th-century paintings in 9, 10, 11, and 12 is unused; no rule is broken and hence this could be true. I will not try to substitute option E unless I want to double-check

Which of the following is a space that CANNOT be occupied by a nineteenth-century painting?

Since it is CANNOT-be-true question, in a way the opposite of the must-be-true question, and since there is no additional information, I have to jump to the options and proceed.

(A) Space 1

If a 19th is in Space 1 it has to be in Space 2 as well, and since there has to be a gap between one group and the other 3 has to be empty, 5 is anyway empty, and nothing can be kept in space 4, so all the 7 paintings from 20th and 18th have to go into the 7 spaces from 6 to 12 without a space between the two periods, which is not possible and hence this is the answer. I do not even need to check the rest.

If J hangs in space 11, which of the following is a possible arrangement for spaces 8 and 9?

It is a could-be-true question, so I should deduce whatever I can before I jump to the options.

J is a 20th century painting and it is in 11 so the other three have to be in a group along with J, so the 20th century paintings can be

  • in 8,9,10,11 (with J being the last) and unused spaces in 7 and 12
  • 9,10,11,12 (with J being the third) and unused space in 8
  • Both cases put together, 8 has to be filled with a 20th century painting or unused  and 9 has to be filled with a 20th-century painting

Now to the options.

(A) F in 8 and M in 9
(B) K in 8 and G in 9
(C) N in 8 and G in 9
(D) 8 unused and H in 9
(E) 8 unused and F in9

A, B, C, and E can be eliminated since they all have paintings that are definitely not from the 20th century. Hence, option D.

5. If the twentieth-century paintings are hung in spaces 1- 4, which of the following CANNOT be true?

As I mentioned before a CANNOT-be-true is another version of must-be-true and since they have given some additional information in the question I can make deductions before I go to the options.

20th-century paintings are hung from 1-4, means that from 6 to 12 there are 7 places and 5 paintings to be hung, the two blanks, can bith be between the two groups, or one between the two groups and one at 6 or 12.

I can now jump to the options.

(A)  Space 8 is unused

8 is unused, means the free spaces are 6-7 and 9-12, where the 19th and 18th century paintings can go respectively, so this can be true

(B)  Space 9 is unused

If 9 is unused, then the free spaces are 6-7-8 and 10-11-12 where 18th and 19th century paintings can hung

(C) F is hung in space 6

F and M along with another painting form the three 18th century paintings and can occupy 6-7-8, 9 has to be unused and then the two 19th century paintings can follow.(D)

(D) M is hung in space 12

If M is in 12 the other two 19th-century paintings have to be in 10 and 11, 9 has to be empty and the two 19th-century paintings can be hung in spaces 6 to 8.

(E) N is hung in space 9

Since all the above options are possibe this has to be the answer.

6. If the first five paintings, in numerical order of spaces, are F, 0, M, N, G, which of the following must be true?

All of these paintings are not from the 20th century so they cannot be the first five in this order after Space 5, since there will not be any space for all 9 paintings including the 20th-century ones.

So at least a few have to be before space 5. F & M are 18th-century so F-O-M have to be together —  1-2-3 (with 4 & 5 unused), or 2-3-4 (with 1 & 5 unused). I can now jump to the options.

(A) Either space 1 or space 4 is unused.

All of this reasoning was done and has to be eventually done mentally without putting pen on paper. If you think about it, the reasoning is always a mental process, all you need to do it is to de-couple it from writing.


Practising with a plan and purpose

There are only 54 section tests in the book so you have to make the most out of each session.

  1. Keep a separate notebook to practice these sets.
  2. One page to note down the answers and the following ones to solve.
  3. Your first goal should be to solve the questions in the desired time-limit (with writing)
  4. Only if you are able to solve the 25 questions within 30 minutes comfortably should you try to solve without putting pen to paper
  5. Do not try to go the whole hog mentally, start by decreasing the writing while increasing the thinking.
  6. After every set, do a proper analysis of the wasted effort or moves during each set and the reasons for the mistakes, if any
    1. Did not remember information
    2. Did not draw deductions and directly jumped to the options
  7. Consciously make changes while solving the next set.
  8. Do not ever do two sets in a row without analysing the first one and setting goals for the next.
  9. Do not solve more than 2 sets in a day, since you will just run through them without getting any better.
  10. Ideally, you should dedicate 27 (2 sections a day) or 54 (1 section a day) straight days of practice to see a substantial improvement (Do not practice if you are low on mental energy just because I said you have to)

When I started I used one page for the answers and maybe scribbled on a page and a half, and made 2-4 mistakes.

By the 7th set, I barely wrote anything, and even that little I felt was not necessary, I could have reasoned my way through. My mistakes had come to 1.

All the mistakes boiled down to not remembering information from the set or misremembering it.

This can be useful for test-takers at all levels

  • Those who are weak at LR need to develop the ability to solve a section of this difficulty in 30 minutes; if you cannot solve 4 sets this level in 30 then you cannot solve 4 sets of CAT level in 60.
  • Those who are good can use this to solve cleaner and faster
  • Those who are very good (are gunning for a 99.50 plus) can use this as an ideal warm-up
  • And at any level, if you have a silly-mistake problem this is the practice to fix it

Keep a track of how your book is looking as you are progressing, it should keep getting cleaner and cleaner with only the numbers and the answers remain.


One of my favourite athletes is Kohei Uchimura, who is considered one of the greatest gymnasts of all time. Gymnastics is a discipline where the first goal is to become as close to a machine as you can, and once you can do that you can bring complexity and creativity into your routine. All routines are thus rated on complexity and execution. Every time the landing is not perfect one drops points.

One of the commentators during the last Olympics said that you can take a picture of him at any point during his routine and it will be beautiful, at no point will his legs not be absolutely together and toes pointing out like an arrow. Uchimura said the secret to his success is the way he approaches practice, he puts in a lot of thought both during and into his practice.

Uchimura 5

Uchimura 2

Uchimura 4

I watched the replay of his all-round gold at the Rio Olympics and I have to say that I have not seen a demeanour like his on the face of any sportsman absolute control before, during, and after his routine.

One eventually needs to develop that sort of calmness, precision, and accuracy every single time one steps out to solve.

Uchimura

I feel that if you can dedicate the month of June towards this, you will be better off for the rest of the season.

16 Comments

  1. Aditya says

    Thank you sir , I am always eagerly waiting for your blogs. In fact felt very bad when I actually got a notification that your new post is up the other day but then when I tried opening it, the browser said “Oops” because I guess you happened to delete it for some reason.

    Also just wanted to know will we have RC masterclass being taken up by you this year?

    Like

    • Hi Aditya,

      Glad to hear that you find the blog useful enough to look forward to every post.

      I will be taking not just the RC but VA and DI-LR Masterclasses as well.

      All the best!

      Like

  2. Hello sir,
    In the points 8,9 and 10 you are talking about analyzing a section as a whole or just one set. Also, we must ideally solve two sections a day or 2 sets a day?

    Like

  3. Rupanshu Mukhija says

    Hello Sir,
    It was really useful. Thanks for this wonderful blog.
    I wanted to know which is the book that you mentioned for 54 sectional tests ?

    Like

  4. zishani mishra says

    Hi Tony Sir,
    I am glad I read through this completely. All the blogs, though they are lenghty, gives us the much needed motivation and confidence. Also, I love how an athlete comes up in all your articles!!
    Looking forward to attend your Masterclasses!

    Like

    • Hi Zishani,

      Glad you read through it!

      I know they are lengthy but nothing really good can be created or communicated in an instant.

      I know this is kind of contrarian in a world with diminishing attention spans but I try to keep it simple — those who do not wish to read need not read and more importantly, this exam demands your full attention for 3 hours straight!

      The reason for the examples’ around athletes is the same — I do not think cracking a high-stake aptitude test (pure aptitude tests and not the silly campus recruitment test) is any different from performing like an elite sportsman — one is supposed to perform to the peak of one’s powers during a short duration in a context with pre-defined rules.

      More in the masterclasses 🙂

      All the best!

      Like

  5. Sir, I have been doing this exercise and your post certainly helped me how to correctly look at the problem.
    Along with this, I had one more question, I took 2 Take-Home simCATs scoring 92 and 96.77 percentile respectively but the score I observed was actually a little less as compared to the percentile scored, for example, a score of 112 led to a 96.77 in the second Take-Home Mock.

    So how do I correctly analyze this performance, score-wise or percentile-wise, like did I get a higher percentile as the paper difficulty was more? And is this percentile static, or will it change with more students taking the test?

    Like

    • Hi Vedang,

      The score-percentile equation changes on the basis of two things:

      1. The difficulty of the test — if a test is more difficult than the previous one then a lower score or same score would fetch a higher percentile (just like the definition of a good/winning score changes on the basis of the pitch)

      2. The number of people taking the test — if your performance remains the same and more people take the test then your percentile will go up since as you would know the value of a fraction (less than one) increases the numerator and denominator go up; which is one of the big reasons why your CAT percentile will be significantly higher than your SimCAT percentile (CAT Percentile = Simcat Percentile + (100-SimCAT Percentile)/2)

      So, do not fret too much, just track your percentile on average across tests, if it is averaging 95 then you are on track to score at least a 97.5. By focussing too narrowly on every single test you forget the more important thing — getting better.

      After every test your goal irrespective of percentile should be to figure out how much more you could have squeezed out of both the test and out of yourself — this does not stop even if you score a 99 or a 99.50 or a 99.95

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!

      Like

      • Vedang Desai says

        Got it Sir,
        Thank you for this explanation, it’ll definitely help me analyse the test better next time onwards.

        Regards.

        Like

  6. Harshit Joshi says

    Hi Sir,
    Thank you for this basic yet important tip, just started with the Big Book, just wanted to know is there any source where i can get the solutions for it so that if i can not get that set in the time frame or after that ,then i could analyze and see the way that particular set could have been approached?
    And where my approach is getting long and i could rectify it.

    Like

    • Hi Harshit,

      There are no solutions to the same.

      The sets are very basic and if you are not able to solve them during the time limit you should be able to solve them after that.

      You should be able to derive the optimum solutions yourself.

      Scenario 1:You have 100 hours and you spend them solving 400 sets, checking the given solutions for the ones you are not able to crack.

      Scenario 2: You have 100 hours and you spend them solving 150 sets arriving at all the solutions on your own.

      Your skills will improve by a drastically high margin in the second scenario.

      Just like your body will not put on muscle unless you lift heavy weights and induce micro-tears, your mind will not get better unless you put some major load on it and force it to think.

      All the best!

      Like

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