Non-engineers can ace CAT Quants: IIM-B Convert Busts some Myths ft. Jhalak Mittal

Updated: Jun 28

Not good at CAT Quantitative Aptitude section? Don't worry, today we have a special guest post featuring Jhalak Mittal, a non-engineer, fresher who aced the CAT exam and made it to IIM Bangalore (Batch of 2022). Jhalak will share strategic ways for non-engineers to improve their Quants for CAT and push their scores up.

About Jhalak Mittal


Jhalak has a good academic record of 94.2% in High School, 96.2% in Intermediate, and 8.37 CGPA in Graduation. She is presently pursuing Economics Hons. from Kirori Mal College, Delhi University. She attempted the CAT exam as a fresher, and has scored 98.79 percentile in her first attempt. Except for IIM Ahemdabad, she has received interview calls from all other colleges and she has presently converted IIM Bangalore and IIM Kozhikode.


In Jhalak's Words


About the Myth


CAT: An examination that is considered to be a "child's play" for engineers and something not so easy for non-engineers. This perception has evolved due to the high weightage of quantitative ability and logical reasoning and the assumption that all engineers are good at Quants. This is a complete myth. What we fail to recognize is that there are some exclusive advantages to the non-engineers because of being from an academically diverse background. With focused preparation and the use of some strategies they too can score well in CAT.


Strategy 1 - Maintain the Balance


CAT has three sections namely Quantitative Ability (QA), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR), Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC). Engineers may have an edge over others because of their mathematical background and better reasoning skills. This can be because their concepts are relatively clearer due to a strong base. So, if non-engineers had to be at par with the engineers, they will either have to delve much deeper into quantitative concepts or will have to perform exceedingly well in the verbal part.


Nevertheless, one cannot ignore to maintain a balance between all three sections. From the experience of my batch, I have seen that a balanced profile has a higher chance of conversion. Thus, my recommendation to the non-engineers will be to not focus only on Verbal to compensate for Quants, but instead have a balance among them and improve all of them simultaneously.

Pro Tip: Don't focus only on one section, a balanced profile weighs more!


Strategy 2 - Revision is the Key


It is very important to have a good hold on the Quants chapters and one must know how to solve the Quants questions in the least possible time. For the same, one needs to revise the chapters again and again until they are comfortable with the concepts. This practice should not stop until the formulas and the shortcuts are on their fingertips.


Suggested | Tactics of Revision


The major issue that we all face, even if we memorize all the shortcuts is that in the exam pressure we end up using the traditional (and lengthier) way. Try to follow a routine, every time you pick a new chapter also pick an old one to revise. Give sectional tests that have a good mix of questions from different chapters, which will help you evaluate the part where you mostly get stuck.


Suggested | Sectional Tests Usage


Many aspirants tend to run after study material from multiple coaching institutes. They need to realize that CAT is not a syllabus specific exam, covering multiple materials will not guarantee that you will be able to solve a question in the exam that you may have done before. It is rather suggested to repeat the same material and focus on core concepts. However, mocks tests from different institutes are recommended.

Pro Tip: Revise more than you solve, use the shorter way.

Strategy 3 - Treat Chapters Differently


The chapters in the QA section of CAT can be grouped into - Arithmetic, Algebra, Number System and Geometry. Arithmetic has the highest weight and demands a good amount of time. One is recommended to start from arithmetic and give full attention to the concepts. Algebra demands the least amount of time and is very scoring. The majority of questions from Algebra can be attempted using the hit and trial method.


Number System and Geometry are very lengthy topics and need very detailed study. You may consider skipping one of these chapters (this is just my personal opinion). One tip for the QA section is a proper analysis of mock tests. You must try to note down the tricky questions you come across during the mocks. By the end, you will have a set of the best questions from all your mock tests.

Pro Tip: Note tricky questions, focus on chapters differently.

Suggested | Quant Formula Book



Strategy 4 - Exam Attempt Strategy


The attempting strategy also makes a huge difference. Everyone has their own strategy which has to be figured out by attempting as many mocks as possible.


Suggested | Timeline of Mocks


Majorly, there are two ways one can attempt the QA section in the exam -


  1. Rounds Strategy - It can be attempted in 2 rounds of 30 minutes each. In the first 30 minutes, one can target the questions that they are 100% sure about and questions that won't take much time. In the second round, lengthy questions can be taken care of.

  2. One Go Strategy - The second strategy (the one that I used) can be to do just 1 round and keep completing the questions that you know, irrespective of the time taken (obviously not wasting much time on a single question) and try to reach the last question 5-10 minutes prior.


You should also make use of features such as "Mark for Review" and "Question Paper View" during your mocks as well as in the final CAT attempt.

Pro Tip: Test to find your optimum attempt way for QA.

Bottom Line


During the beginning of my Quant preparation, I used to score 25-30 marks in the QA section in mocks. But, slowly and steadily, I picked up my score to 50-55 using these strategies and the rest due to practice and revision. For QA section, the bottom line is that: Consistency is the Key!

Hope these tips helped you with the preparation and attempt strategy for the QA section of CAT. I'd like to thank Jhalak on behalf of all the members of this blog because she took out her valuable time to share her QA strategy with us. The tips Jhalak has shared will surely help the aspirants plan their QA preparation in a more structure manner.


If you're interested in reading more about CAT preparation and the tips shared by others, you can head towards this section of the blog.


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