This is the underlying principle in acing the most critical section – Quantitative ability - in any management entrance test.
I specifically mentioned 'critical' because Quant is a double-edged sword. It can be a curse for aspirants who have been out of touch for a long time, whereas a blessing for those who are accustomed with the basics. It differs from the other sections in the respect that there is no ambiguity in an answer – unlike many sections where answers can be subjective.
The objective of this post is to guide the aspirants in their journey to ace the Quant section and put forth a framework that can help them do so. The framework need not be followed rigorously, it can be adjusted according to one’s abilities and circumstances. I’m beginning with the assumption that you have almost a year left for your target examination.
First of all, begin with a general assessment of your abilities. I would advise to take a preliminary mock test and see where you currently stand, before you start the preparation. After the mock, analyse each question and find out your weak areas. Identifying your weak and strong areas and your overall preparedness at the very start helps you distribute the time you invest accordingly.
Next, make a routine. You have 7 days a week, make sure you practice Quant each and every day, while coming back to a specific topic after every 3 or 4 days. This is important, because once you start neglecting a particular topic, there are chances that you’ll soon start scoring less in it and then start avoiding it altogether. Don’t get fixated on difficult questions; it’s your time to learn the concepts. Practice the questions you’re comfortable with – doesn’t matter how easy they are.
Categorise your question bank on the basis of their difficulty - where LOD 1 comprises of easy questions and are necessarily concept builders, whereas LOD 2 and LOD 3 consists of actual examination-level questions. For the time being, focus on LOD 1, make sure you practice 2 to 3 topics every day, and make sure you devote more time to your weaker areas. Focus on continuous rather than intermittent learning – come back to each topic regularly to make sure it is retained in your brain.Keep repeating this until the approaches to basic questions are ingrained on your brain. This is the point where you can confidently claim that you have your concepts clear. It’s time to move on to the LOD 2 questions.
This is where you start encountering entrance exam-level questions. Don’t get disheartened if you don’t get them right on the very first attempt – have patience and take your time. If you’re not able to solve a question, look at the solution given, and see where you went wrong. Was it your concept, or was it some other factor? If it was the concept, then go back to the basics and revise.
Once you’re done with LOD 2, time for the boss fight - LOD 3. These are the questions that mostly make aspirants scratch their heads in the middle of the examination. Here, you have to learn a very important trick – which ones to attempt and which ones to let go, in the actual test environment. Most entrance tests consist of too many questions to be attempted in too little time, and you’ll be tangled in a serious time crunch if you try to solve all of them.
While solving LOD3, you’ll come across questions which – perhaps make use of an obscure concept, or are solvable but take too long. Either way, you have to learn to balance between the risk you’re taking by investing time in such a question, and the score you’ll be gaining if you get it correct. Learn to identify the difficulty of a question by skimming through it, and then decide whether to attempt it or move to the next question. After all, you can always mark it for review and return to it later when you’re done with the easier ones.
In addition to solving questions sequentially according to their level of difficulty, take as many mocks as you can. Analyse each mock and identify where you went wrong. To be on the safe side, consider getting two mock test series. This will help you prepare for a wider variety of challenges that might come in the actual test, and at the same time put you among a wider range of test takers.
Here are some tips that will come handy. I’ve already mentioned some of them before, but I’m restating them to emphasise their importance.
- Don’t rely too much on shortcuts. There are many shortcuts which are useful only for generic cases. However, management tests usually put a twist in the questions. If you try to use shortcuts without identifying the twist then you’re bound to waste some valuable time, or worse, mark the wrong answer. Instead, focus on using the basic concepts. Even if it means spending an extra minute, you’ll be assured that the answer you mark in the end is indeed the right one.
- Don’t get fixated on difficult sums, especially during the examination. You won’t score extra points for solving them. Like I’ve mentioned before, learn to identify the ones that require more time in an instant, and skip to the next one. Return to them only after you’ve solved all the easier questions.
- Don’t make silly mistakes. And don’t make arbitrary guesses (an educated guess might work fine, though). If you’re unsure about an answer, make sure you recheck it but don’t leave room for silly errors. Remember, one silly mistake can take your dream college away from your reach.
- And finally – practice, practice, practice. There’s no alternative to it. Practice until you start loving each and every topic. Practice until you start solving questions mentally, and then continue practising.
Times might come, when you suddenly feel out of place in your preparation – when you’re unable to solve questions you just practised a week ago. Don’t be disheartened. If you feel low on confidence, try attempting some easy mock test sectionals. In the end, confidence plays a huge role in maintaining the stamina and nerves on the D-Day.
Wishing you all the very best ahead!