Common Traps To Avoid In The Quant Section Of CAT Exam

Typically, CAT aspirants find the Quantitative Aptitude portion of the CAT as difficult and challenging. It is filled with many chances to make huge mistakes and possibly fail or have a low score. That is why it is most important to prepare for the CAT in advance through practice of Mock CAT tests, through coaching classes, through online preparations, and group discussions and forum. That is why it is also important to know your strengths and weaknesses so that you can build and improve on them in time for the CAT. Alongside this, you should have a strong grasp of Quant fundamentals and syllabi and have an easy hand at formulas and computation.

There are plenty of reasons why test takers find the Quant as the toughest part of the exam and therefore are scared of it. It may be that students have forgotten the fundamentals and the Quant syllabi, or have issues with time management, or the discomfort and anxiety in formulation and calculation, etc. Quant is tough because it provides opportunities to make many mistakes. But the good news is that with practice, mistakes in the Quant can be avoided.

Here are common traps typically found in the Quant Section:

1. Struggling with the Difficult Problem

The CAT contains a variety of easy and challenging questions to solve. Given the limited time, you will have to be smart in choosing which ones to solve.

In your desire to be the CAT hero or heroine, you might want to start with solving the difficult questions first and ultimately get stuck in that one particular question for ten minutes or so, only to realize you are not making progress. You only wasted time. The smart thing to do is to pick the lowest hanging fruit first. Get rid of the simple questions that are easy to calculate and solve. Then, move on to the next.

When you struggle with a difficult problem where solving one problem becomes more important than getting a good sectional score overall, it becomes a trap. So how do you avoid this trap? Be self-aware that it happens to all. Be aware, too, that when you feel like you have allotted more than the reasonable time on a question, and still have not made any good progress, then it is time to move on.

Common Signs and Symptoms:

• Your equations begin to confuse you.
• You fill up a number of rough-sheet and still have made no progress.
• None of the substitution or elimination work.
• You read the question several times.
• Time has passed and you still haven’t even attempted majority of the section.
• You realize you might fail or have a low score.
• You try to solve the same question again and again.

2. Knowing a Formula vs. Understanding a Concept

Knowing a mathematical formula or theory by heart and memorizing it is different from understanding the concept. Most students have everything memorized but get stumped when test day comes because they are not able to apply the formula or theory or interpret the question correctly. This is another common trap.

Quant questions in the CAT exam test not just your memory but your creativity in applying formulae and concepts or interpreting questions correctly. Creativity comes with having practiced different examples and understanding the concept.

Common Signs and Symptoms:
• You do not know which formula to use.
• The formula or concept you are using is wrong.
• Your rough pages are empty except for the formula or theory.

CAT aspirants commonly fall into the trap of bad time management. For the revised CAT exam, there are 50 quantitative ability and data interpretation questions to answer in a limited time and just having bad time management can spoil your overall score.

Think about it, 170 minutes to complete all the questions with nearly two lakh test takers. One question can seriously mark the difference between high and low percentile and getting to your dream institution.

The good news is that, in the new CAT, candidates will have the flexibility for devoting more or less time to each section according to their ability. Candidates also will be able to switch from one section to another during the examination timing. For this, the key is time management.

Practice on Mock CATs and advance exam preparations guides as much as possible. Familiarize yourself with the stress and rigor. Get used to maintaining your concentration for the entire time duration. You need endurance to start, and finish the test with the same stamina and energy throughout.

Common Signs and Symptoms:
• You are panicking.
• You are cramming for time.
• You have not completed majority of the questions.
• You lose stamina, focus, and concentration.

4. Incorrectly Reading and Understanding the Question

It happens, sometimes, that you have solved an entire question and discovered you have made the mistake of reading and understanding the question incorrectly. Such errors show a lack of clarity and focus in the early part of solution finding process.

The smart thing to do when this happens is to slow down and concentrate while reading and analyzing the question. Read the question twice if necessary in order to understand what is being asked. Do not try to save time in scanning over the question in a rush to find the solution. Pay attention to keywords and phrases used in the question where a wrong interpretation could change the answer drastically. Double check your answer with the question posed. Read the question again after answering it, to make sure you answered correctly.

Common Signs and Symptoms:
• You are just scanning the question in a rush to solve it.
• You lose focus and concentration while taking the test.
• You are confused as to why the solution does not answer the question when you think you did everything right.

5. Making Trivial Errors
Making small and trivial errors is perhaps the most disheartening and frustrating trap. You read and understood the question correctly. You are going at a good pace. You are applying the correct concept or theory. You have stamina, focus, and concentration. But in the final step, you made a small and trivial error. Perhaps due to the rush, or perhaps due to carelessness and oversight, you made that simple error in calculation. Maybe, you added instead of multiplying or you wrongly added. However it is the mistake was silly. Don’t beat yourself because of it. It happens to everybody. Slow down and be more careful. Check and double check. Do the grind work and practice hard in the preparation stage and be smart during the test. Learn the tables and ratios well. Learn and master the fundamentals. Again, be more careful. Pay attention.

Common Signs and Symptoms:
• You were careless and made a silly mistake.