Right Approach to Crack Quant

A question commonly asked by students is: “Sir, I am going for a Management Degree Course. In management entrance tests, why am I being tested on my Math skills?”

I will try to not only answer the above question, but also give you the right direction in terms of preparation for CAT and other Management entrance tests. I will also guide you to build the right approach (which is what matters finally) that will ensure that you crack the Quant section in the CAT and other aptitude exams.

Let us begin with the following question:

Simplify: (19)8 – 17(19)7 – 41(19)6 + 58(19)5 + (19)4 – 384(19)3 + 75(19)2 + 21(19) + 3

A]        40                        B]      41                        C]      51                        D]      61

Before starting to solve this question, we should understand why an aptitude test asks questions like these.

Is the objective to check my calculations?

The answer to this is a clear “NO”, because you are sitting there for an aptitude test for a management course, or in short an MBA, and after completing your MBA you will become a manager. Of course, you are not expected to find the value of each term (in the above question) and then doing the addition and subtraction to find the answer. That would waste lot of your time and obviously that’s not the objective of the question.

Exam main sirf yehi question karna hai, yah baki paper bhi karna hai ? 🙂

If you end up solving this question in the normal step-wise manner, you are proving that you are not an effective manager. Have you ever seen a manager doing calculations by hand or mentally? Understand that 10 times more difficult calculations than this can be done within fraction of a second on a laptop. So, if as a future manager, you would not be required to do such calculations and think the things you don’t have to do in future, would CAT or any other aptitude test ever test you on that? NEVER! So that simply means CAT never tests your calculations or your calculation speed.

Is CAT testing my knowledge?

If CAT has to test your knowledge, then they should ask questions like:

–> In the recent past, the inflation was in negative but still the prices of the commodities that we purchase on daily basis were rising. Can you explain the reason for this?

(relevant to a B.Com/Economics graduate)

–>What are the marketing tools one should use to advertise a newly launched product?

(relevant to a BBA student)

These questions would be much better questions to gauge your knowledge rather than questions on additions/subtractions. Right? But then these questions are not being asked to you which simply means that CAT does not want to select you on the basis of your knowledge.

The question then is: What does any Aptitude Test actually want to check by giving such questions (as the one at the beginning of this piece). To answer this, let’s understand a few things.

After you pass out of a B-school, you will take on the role of a manager in an organization. Therefore, an Aptitude Test is designed to check whether you have the caliber to become a manager or not. How do they check it and what qualities they look for? Let us understand that:

When you become a manager, you will face a lot of complicated situations. An effective manager is one who simplifies those situations and not the one who complicates them further?

Take any 2 multiples of 6 for e.g. 12 and 18

12 + 18 = 30; 18 – 12 = 6

6 and 30 both are multiples of 6.

That means if I have two multiples of 6 i.e. 6a and 6b and if I add or subtract any of them

6a + 6b = 6(a + b), the answer would always be a multiple of 6.

To understand this, no hardcore mathematical knowledge is required. The same logic can also be applied to the question given at the beginning. Numbers from (19)to 21(19) are all multiples of 19. Hence result of their addition/subtraction would also always be a multiple of 19. That is,

(19)8 – 17(19)7 – 41(19)6 + 58(19)5 + (19)4 – 384(19)3 + 75(19)2 + 21(19)  + 3 = 19n + 3

A question which looked very complicated initially now seems quite simple. The way you look at a problem determines the process to be applied to solve that problem. The only thing required is to start looking at things from a different perspective/angle. Don’t assume a “quant” question to be a “math” question (remember that you are not auditioning for a Maths professor role). Take it as a situation that needs you to “simplify”. Why most of the times the question looks complicated is because the examiner wants to test whether you get scared in a difficult/complicated situation or whether you have the capability to see things differently and make it simpler. Of course, a manager is paid so well not because of hard work, but because of smart work 🙂

Important question: why are these situations in the form of mathematics questions? Answer: Whether a person is a Kirana shop owner or a CEO of a big firm, everyone studies basics of math in school. So quant becomes an obvious choice which could test everyone on the same platform.

Having understood that a manager is supposed to simplify the matters and not complicate them, let us understand another important quality associated with an effective manager: Optimal utilization of all the resources. This brings more efficiency into the system.

So an aptitude test also wants to test whether you implement what you say or do you just say it for the heck of it. When the question was given to you, what resources were you equipped with?

Simplify: (19)8 – 17(19)7 – 41(19)6 + 58(19)5 + (19)4 – 384(19)3 + 75(19)2 + 21(19) + 3.

A]        40                        B]      41                        C]     51                        D]      61

The first resource was the information from question which you used and simplified the situation. The second resource was options. Options were also given to you with the question. So CAT tests whether you can use resources and get the work done.

To finally answer the question, let me tell you that once you reach the stage that the expression is of 19n + 3 type, you can use options (read, resources) and realize that 41 is the only option which is of 19n + 3 type. So, the correct answer is 41. You can now realize what it takes to act like an effective manager. You need to train your mind by exposing yourself to such difficult situations time and again, till “being an effective manager” becomes a habit.

Another objective of an aptitude test is to check whether you can get maximum output with minimum resources, or can you work under constraints. A manager most of the times has to face a situation where there would be lack of some or the other resource. So a good manger is one who can give the maximum output with constrained resources. Now when we talk of an aptitude test, this quality is also tested. You know that if you had unlimited time, you would have solved all the questions in the aptitude test with 100% accuracy. The above mentioned question can also be done by simply calculating if unlimited time was there. But what an Aptitude Test does is to give you restricted time limit and check whether you can give the maximum output in constraint resource.

The output are the marks out here and you could only maximize the output not by calculating the values, but solving the questions with the RIGHT APPROACH and that is: When you start an aptitude test, don’t just start calculating. First analyze the situation (question), simplify if by looking at things from a different perspective, solve by using all the resources (including options) optimally and then only you can get the maximum possible output (marks) in the minimum possible resources (time).

We at MBAGuru term this approach as TWI or Think Without Ink. In our CAT coaching program at MBAGuru, this approach is taught and ingrained in each student through Adaptive Preparation classes.

The author of this blog piece is a pass-out the reputed Punjab Engineering College and has been a mentor with MBAGuru for the past 4 years. Seasoned in the CAT-prep space (experience of 12+ years), he carries immense know-how of how to tackle CAT and various other aptitude examinations. He is a favorite of students mainly because of his helpful attitude and affable nature.

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My overall experience with MBAGuru was extremely positive as the faculty as well as the administration personnel gave their best efforts towards the overall grooming of the students, which is crucial from the perspective of any reputed B-school. The adaptive course was extremely helpful as it ensured that individual attention was given to every student according to his need, and weak areas which resulted in a customized preparation for everyone of us. I am heartily thankful to the entire team of MBAGuru for helping me achieve my goals.

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