No, this is not a clickbait. I truly went from a 30’s something percentile in quant section in CAT 2017 to a 97 percentile in CAT 2019. Now before you go on to think that quant is not your cup of tea since you never understood it in the first place, let me give you a small background on myself. I have had an interesting journey with Mathematics all my life. I hated it until I was in std 9th, mainly because I failed to understand it. Topics of arithmetic like profit loss, percentages, Time speed distance all were a bouncer and the often-imaginary world of geometry was a nightmare for me as I compared myself to Darsheel Safari of Taare Zameen Par, who could not form a picture of Apple when the teacher asked him to write it. I barely managed to scrape through my exams and felt my future to be absolutely bleak.
Then came std 9 and my new math’s teacher in school along with a new tuition sir changed my life and I owe all my future improvements to them. Talking about improvements, I scored 95 percent in math’s in my ICSE exams and a 97 percent in my ISC exams as mathematics became the subject I scored highest in. Life has a weird way of humbling you and I found out that in my first CAT attempt in the final year of college at DU where I was studying economics. My nightmares started to return as 90% of CAT’s quant syllabus consisted of chapters that were there till std 8 and I shivered with the fact that I may never be able to do an MBA again. Results came and sure enough, I had scored 30’s something In CAT 2017 quant, and let me remind you that quant section that year had been the easiest in a decade or so. So how did I manage to improve? Let’s know how.
- FALL IN LOVE- Malcolm Gladwell, in his bestseller Outliers popularised a rule of thumb to become an expert in ANY field- spend 10,000 hours in practising it. While the time frame is debatable, what’s not debatable is that one can master about anything in the world if we are ready to spend ample amount of time with it. You cannot master mathematics or English or LRDI whichever is your weakest section if you spend the same amount of time in them as your strong sections. You have to be willing to give in astronomical amounts of time, energy and hard work into that area where you are weak. There is no going around it. But for that, you have to start liking the subject first. Now, I’ve observed a pretty cool thing with hard work. The more time you spend on a subject, the more you start to like it. When I prepared for CAT 2018, I decided to solve 100 questions of mathematics daily. No matter what, and I slowly found out that I started to gain confidence and that led to spending more time in quant. Surely enough, I scored a cool 90 percentile in quant that year, a whopping upgrade from the previous year.
- STICK TO THE BASICS- I have seen many people looking for ways to get around the working hard part and searching for shortcuts for sums. They defend themselves by saying that CAT is all about speed, which is true, BUT, its also about variety. And that’s the negative about shortcuts, they aren’t applicable generally. So, my advice is to stick to the basics and get darn good at them. If you keep your basics strong you can handle any template you get. And that is how I turned my maths game around, both in school and in CAT. My tuition sir used to be painfully adamant about being conceptually clear and I slowly understood why he said that since his teachings are the ones, I still remember 10 years down the line. I didn’t have to keep practising the same sums in order to memorise the steps since I wasn’t going for shortcuts.
- ACCURACY OVER NUMBER OF ATTEMPTS- this is an eternal debate surrounding entrance exams and many might differ with me when I say that accuracy is much more important than the number of attempts. People were surprised to know that I attempted just 18 questions of quant in CAT 2019 and scored 97 percentile. It was because all the 18 questions were correct! Yes, I knew I could solve more had I been given 5-7 minutes more but I focused extremely on getting every question correct rather than solving 25-30 questions with 80% accuracy.
- EQ over IQ – this point becomes very important to level people historically great at maths and people who become good during their preparation. We all come to the same ground because in MBA entrances, you don’t need to know everything. You just need to know somethings brilliantly. CAT, IIFT, XAT these exams are more about the art of leaving than the art of attempting. You can get a better score at 50% attempts than someone who attempts 80-90% if you strategize your mind well. How you manage your emotions, failures of the previous sections, which questions to leave is what will decide your fate. Practise that.
- MARATHON NOT A SPRINT- CAT is a long journey and what will keep you motivated and improving throughout the year is a good routine. Start small but start consistent and slowly build your stamina. You can’t expect to solve a few hundred sums in the last month and sail through. Even if that happens, it will be a chance incident and we don’t want to rely on chances.
I would like to conclude by saying that don’t let a section be the reason of your failure. Mathematics can be learnt by anyone, any time if you have the will for it. And yes, If I can do it, so can you.
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