How to Attempt Quant Section in CAT 2020? - Rounds Technique Explained [used by CAT toppers]

Updated: Jun 28

Since CAT 2020 preparation is ongoing and most aspirants are already taking the mocks, I thought it's the right time to share the Attempt Strategy for Quant Section of CAT. Please note that this post will cover 'how to attempt the QA section' and not focus on the QA preparation tips.

Quant Attempt Strategy


Basics


There are two important points:


  1. Even if you haven't covered your Quant basics, you must start taking mocks. If you haven't already begun, I'd suggest you to follow this mock timeline.

  2. Each person has a unique attempt strategy. You should read as many as you can, test them during the mocks but eventually go with what works the best for you.


Sources


The attempt strategies that I'm referring to can be learnt from mock attempt videos on YouTube or Quora answers by the CAT toppers. I used both of them to create the strategy that I'm about to share.


The Rounds Technique

I. INTRODUCTION

Time and again, CAT toppers have used and recommended the Rounds Technique. Before we discuss what it is, let us first see who can make use of it.


Use Cases


If you're already taking mocks and not scoring well in the QA section, then there can only be two reasons:


  • Low attempts

  • Low accuracy rate


If low accuracy rate is the main concern, then you need to revisit the basics and practice more. But if low attempts is the issue, then there are two further possibilities.


  • You're not done with basics

  • You are attempting the wrong questions


The Rounds Technique is a solution to problem 2.2 i.e. you are attempting the wrong questions.



Rationale


Since the CAT Quants section has 34 questions and each question carries equal marks, it doesn't matter whether you are able to attempt the difficult questions or not. In other words, the key to cracking this section boils down to your ability to attempt the right questions!


What are those questions?


There are three kinds and they come with an overlap between them:


  • Easy (formulae based)

  • Short (one-liners)

  • Familiar (you know the trick)


The objective behind the Rounds Technique is to hunt these questions, which would ultimately result in more attempts, more score and optimum utilization of time.


II. IMPLEMENTATION

Now, I will share how this strategy is used. The idea in simple words is to solve the QA section of CAT in multiple rounds - the number of rounds and the time spent on each round varies from person to person.


I used 3 Rounds and spent 15, 35, 10 mins on round 1 (R1), round 2 (R2) and round 3 (R3) respectively.


ROUND 1 - 15 Mins


In this round, we hunt for the easy questions i.e. the questions based on formulas and core concepts. The rules that I defined for myself in this round (and you can make alterations for yourself) were:


  • Begin from Question 1 and read questions in the same sequence.

  • Spend max. 10 seconds on reading each question. If the question is too lengthy, skip it.

  • For the questions that seem easy, attempt and solve in no more than 1 minute.


By the time this round ends, which is approx. after 15-16 minutes, you will have:


  • Read all the questions. Time Taken = 10 secs*34 questions = 6 minutes.

  • Attempted the easy questions. I was often able to find 8-10 such questions. Time Taken = 1 minute*10 questions = 10 minutes.


So, R1 should end with 10 easy questions attempted in 15 minutes with all other questions read. Along with that, you must also mark some questions for review while reading them. These questions are:


  • Easy but couldn't solve

  • Familiar but lengthy


If the thought that is crossing your mind is how can someone read 34 questions in 6 minutes, then you should read the secret why IIM students have fast comprehension skills. Moreover, you need not fix the 10 seconds limit initially. This is what I ended up with. You can begin with 20-30 seconds and improve it on the way.



ROUND 2 - 35 Mins


In this round, the idea is to solve the familiar or lengthy questions. You should begin with the questions you marked for review in the first round i.e. easy but couldn't solve and familiar but lengthy. Now, students often make this mistake of randomly choosing the questions.


If you begin with an easy question you couldn't solve, which is probably towards the end of the paper, then you might fall into what I call the Ego Trap. "How can I not solve this, I've done it so many times before, what is the mistake that I'm making" Sounds familiar?


This is the reason I always began afresh. I started from the beginning but chose the questions marked for review with the rules to:


  • Try each question for no more than 30 seconds.

  • If know how to solve, attempt till 1.5 minutes more. If not close, skip it.

  • Note down the question numbers (on rough sheets) which were very close at 2 minutes yet couldn't be solved due to the inability to recall the formula or error somewhere.

By the time this round ends, which is approx. after 35 minutes, you will have:

  • Tried all the remaining questions. Time Taken = 30 secs*24 questions = 12 minutes.

  • Attempted the familiar or lengthy questions. I was often able to find 15 such questions. Time Taken = 1.5 minutes*15 questions = 23 minutes.

So, R2 should end with 25 easy, familiar or lengthy questions attempted in 50 minutes. Now, you will be left with about 10 minutes and 9 difficult, unfamiliar or unable to solve questions.



ROUND 3 - 10 Mins


This round aims at grabbing extra marks through the questions that you were close to solving but couldn't or the ones that appeared difficult to you in the first go.


You should begin with the questions you noted down from R2:


  • close enough to be solved

  • error in calculation somewhere


By the end of this round, I often got 2-3 more questions making my average attempt in this section around 28.


In a nutshell, what I've said essentially gets captured in this picture:



II. BENEFITS

The main benefits of this technique are:


  1. Psychologically motivating - The time bifurcation is such that by the end of 15 minutes, you know you already have 10 questions in your cart + all the questions read. It gives you a good start.

  2. Less wastage of time - Since you fix a time for attempting the questions, you are less likely to fall in the ego trap and hence save yourself from overspending time on any question.

  3. Not missing questions - You will not miss out on reading any question. You will also not regret later that some questions out of the unread ones were easy.

  4. More marks - Needless to say that when your attempts will improve, your marks are likely to follow. Just keep improving your speed and accuracy.


When analyzing a mock, you can also validate this strategy by confirming if you are attempting the easier questions or not, if you're spending less time/question or not.

So, this is all I had to share about the Rounds Technique used to attempt the QA section in CAT. Some more posts that you can read on CAT Preparation include:


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