Tips to master the Quantitative Ability section
Most of the competitive exams club the mathematics sections of the exam with Data Interpretation & Analytical Reasoning. In order to master this section of the examination, a few core skills need to be developed. These include a combination of accuracy and speed, the ability to perform simple/complex calculations under pressure and the ability to use reasoning while solving mathematics questions. Considering the nature and scope of these skills, practice should become the imperative for any student. The basic understanding and grasp of concepts is vital and should never be looked over. Along with these, one needs to develop a certain set of advanced skills and learn a few shortcuts so as to minimize the time you spend on each question.
Keeping an overall perspective of the examination in mind, there are a few factors that should always be kept in mind while solving questions and preparing for this section:
- Quantitative Ability Section is a combination of major simple concepts along with advanced mathematics: The majority of questions asked in the exam are based on simple concepts, and this makes it an absolute must that one works on the concepts and does not fall into the routine of cramming questions itself. Also, while giving the exam, one should be on the lookout for these simple questions and make sure that one does not miss out these questions.
- Accuracy plays a key role: One important determiner of your final score is your accuracy level. Any test is not only about the number of questions you attempt but also about the number of questions you got right. One does not necessarily have to solve all the questions in the examination to score well. Imagine the scenario where there are 30 questions in this section. One candidate, out of a total of 30 questions, solves 28 questions but with an accuracy of 40 to 50%. Net gain in this case: only 13 to 14 correct questions, plus a heavy penalty in terms of negative marking that pulls you down further. In case of another candidate, he solves 21-22 questions but with 90% accuracy. Net gain in this case: 18-19 correct questions accompanied with a small quotient of negative marking. Keeping an accuracy-based approach can go a long way in improving your performance and improving your score radically.
- Pacing yourself in the exam: Furthermore, an important aspect is moving onto the next question if you are stuck on a single question. It has been observed that certain students get stuck on one question & spend 15-20 minutes on this question because they feel that can do this question. Thus, although they are able to do that one question and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment, however they fail to realize that they are probably missing out on 5-6 questions which they could have done in the same time. Hence moving onto the next question after spending the adequate time to a certain question is important. You can anyways come back to this question later, if time is available. Hence try to solve only easy questions in the section first & then only move to difficult ones.
- Grasp over calculations is a must: A good hold over calculation helps in decreasing the time spent on each question. Learning tables up to 25, squares up to 30 and cubes up to 20, performing fast multiplication and knowing ways to find squares and cubes of three digit numbers in a single step through Vedic maths helps you perform speedy calculations.
- Keep in mind the importance of various topics: In addition to the, one should always know the amount of weight age one should give to each quantitative ability while preparing. For example, recent trends show that numbers, time speed distance, algebra and permutations and combinations are some topics that are frequently tested in the examination. Questions from topics like geometry, time and work and probability vary from set to set. However, questions from topics like sets, clocks, piston and cisterns, binomial theorem have hardly been seen in recent years. This is not to discount the importance of these topics but one should always pay emphasis to topics which are in vogue.
Some additional tips for the section:
- One basic quality that operates in background while preparing for any examination is to be able to identify one's strengths and weaknesses. A SWOT analysis (analysis of one's Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) can go a long way in fine-tuning one's preparation and help in identifying which areas to study and which to avoid.
- For data interpretation, strong base in calculations plus a way to easily identify the changes by looking at graphs is important. Rather than focusing on exact calculations, options should be kept in mind and thus certain leverage could be taken and questions should be solved accordingly.
- Revising the concepts of all the chapters of mathematics from NCERT books of 6th - 10th standard could really prove to be very beneficial. This can be really beneficial for those who have a weak base in mathematics.
- Regularly practicing timed-tests really helps in revising concepts and perform better under time pressure.
- Another thing to do is to make notes and summary of all formulas and shortcuts learnt, so that as and when you get time or feel the need, those can be revised. Do remember to work on all the important guidelines specified.
The above forms some fundamental tips that should be kept in mind while preparing for the mathematics sections of the examination, as well as when one sits for the examination. The essential tips given above are a reminder of the basic principles that we often overlook while solving questions in an exam and this can lead to ruinous outcomes. So in order to be successful, make sure you fine-tune your preparation using the tips given above.