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How should non-engineers prepare for CAT?

Non-engineering students need to focus more upon the evaluating factors in CAT i.e. optimisation of speed and accuracy

Mission MBA Updated: Nov 22, 2016 19:28 IST
HT Education Correspondent
About 40% of the CAT test-takers from non-engineering backgrounds.
About 40% of the CAT test-takers from non-engineering backgrounds.(Hindustan Times)

Classrooms at Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other B-schools are dominated by engineers because a majority of candidates clearing the Common Admission Test (CAT) and other entrance tests are from science and engineering background. But how should non-engineers - about 40% of the test-takers who are from non-engineering backgrounds - prepare for CAT? In general, there is no difference in the strategy and on the focus area between engineers and non-engineers. According to Pradeep Kumar Pandey, academic head, Triumphant Institute of Management Education, “There are a high number of non-engineering students every year who manage to crack CAT, in spite of not being from an engineering,statistics, math, mathematical science backgrounds.”

Quantitative aptitude (QA)

One should draw a boundary between QA and math. CAT demands only basic mathematical skills that we have learnt till Class 10. It does not focus on theoretical ideas but application of basic concepts. This essentially means that your knowledge of basic arithmetic and proportionality tools, numbers, time, speed distance, elementary combinatorics, algebra and geometry is more than enough to help you crack the test. Most of the problems present a level ground for everyone so there isn’t much of an advantage that engineers or other ‘math people’ have. Most students get carried away and focus on ‘glamorous’ concepts while neglecting simpler ones, says Pandey.

Basic mathematical skills is just one dimension of the QA section and the other dimensions are more important. These are the ability to perform in a pressure situation, observation skill, decision making, adaptability/flexibility and finally an ability to comprehend the questions. Solving a CAT quant problem is a step-wise process and the basic algorithm is Step-I: comprehension of questions, Step-II: interpretation i.e. what is given and what is required etc. Step-III: problem solving (if required). Before moving to step -III one should explore all the possibilities of answer option elimination through various approaches like observation or through finding out the range of guesstimate values after analysing the extreme cases. To inculcate the above set of skills, one needs to practice hard.

Logical reasoning and data interpretation(LR/DI)

DI and LR are less knowledge-oriented and more skill-oriented. These areas involve fewer concepts and require regular practice. Practising under time pressure is important. Whether you are engineer or non-engineer this section is an equaliser in the true sense.

To excel in DI one should be conversant with the application of some of the most repeated tools related to percentages, proportionality tool, averages and alligations. We should be clear with “How interpretation is different from calculations” and “How one can avoid unnecessary calculations in DI”. In calculation-based DI questions, if you can calculate mentally, it will be an advantage. Judicious use of on-screen calculator also saves precious time. In short, the adage, practice makes a man perfect is absolutely true for DI. Apart from this comprehension ability, logical reasoning and application of maxima-minima concepts is required more in reasoning based DI.

To deal with LR puzzles based upon linear arrangements, circular arrangements, distributions, order and sequencing, selections or binary logic, an aspirant is required to achieve the basic skill set though rigorous practice. The three basic skill sets are comprehension, interpretation and case analysis which are essentially required to crack any puzzles. After achieving the basic skill sets of puzzles some topic based LR like cubes, games, Venn diagram, tournaments etc are also required in this section.

Non-engineering students need to focus more upon the evaluating factors in CAT ie optimisation of speed and accuracy. Prepare for the exam by dividing your time equally for VA, LRDI and quant sections.

Read more: Common Admission Test versus other MBA exams; how you must tackle all