How should non-engineers prepare for the Common Admission Test (CAT)? It is a genuine query of roughly 40 per cent of the candidates who belong to non-engineering backgrounds.
In general, there is no difference in the strategy and on the focus area between engineering and non-engineering students. There is a high number of non-engineering students every year who manage to crack CAT, in spite of not being from an engineering/statistics/maths/mathematical science background. Thus, such preconceived notions are completely absurd.
To succeed, kill such wrong notions first. How a student performs in the exam like CAT has less to do with his/her background and more to do with his/her perseverance and being open to fresh ideas.
Quantitative Aptitude (QA):
One should draw a boundary between QA and Maths. CAT demands only basic mathematical skills that we have learnt till class 10. CAT 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 ‘maths people’ have. Most students get carried away and end up focussing on ‘glamorous’ concepts while neglecting simpler ones.
Basic mathematical skill 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, observational skills, 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 as follows –
Step-I: Comprehension of question
Step-II: Interpretation, that is, what is given and what is required etc
Step-III: Problem solving (If required)
Before moving to step III, however, one should explore all the possibilities of answer option elimination through various approaches such as 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. Practicing under time pressure is important. Whether you are an engineer or a non-engineer, this section is an equalizer 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. Students 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.
To deal with LR puzzles based upon linear arrangements, circular arrangements, distributions, order & 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 puzzle. After achieving the basic skill sets of puzzles some topic based on LR such as 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, that is, optimization of speed and accuracy. Prepare for the exam by dividing your time equally for VA, LRDI and Quant sections.
Wish you all the best!