My experience:

When I was preparing for CAT 2017, I always remained confused when it came to choosing between speed and accuracy. Many people suggested that the speed matters in CAT as you will have to solve 34 questions in an hour. So focus on speed. Initially, I tried that. But it backfired. While trying to solve problems quickly, my accuracy took a hit. In Quant, I would answer half the questions wrong. So, I changed my strategy. I started focusing on accuracy. Initially, I could solve the lesser number of problems but accuracy improved significantly. In Quant, it went up to 100% as well at times. And gradually, my speed also got increased.


So, Speed or Accuracy – What should I focus on?

Speed Vs Accuracy

I would say, both. There has to be a balance between the two. However, in the initial few months of the preparation, one should focus on accuracy alone. With time, speed will follow.

I will explain to you my point through the following table.

speed or accuracy

Note: The above table was prepared by Atishaya Jain

From the above table, we can see that attempting 20 questions with 90% accuracy yields significantly higher marks than attempting 30 questions with 60% accuracy.

One more reason to not undermine accuracy: The person with 60% accuracy would have fetched many negative marks as well as he would have lost significant time in attempting the questions, which he eventually got wrong. What if instead of attempting those questions wrong, he had attempted questions in which he was very sure of getting answers? He would have gained significant extra marks and would have increased his percentile substantially.

So, we can say that compromising accuracy at the cost of speed is not a rational choice. However, at the same time, low accuracy with less speed is insidious.

Having said that, there should be a balance between speed and accuracy, because the speed with accuracy can get you some very good results.

Now we know that there has to be a balance between speed and accuracy.

The next question is:

How to improve both?

For that, take note of the following points.

Accuracy precedes speed:

It means that first, you should focus on getting the answers correct than getting the answers quickly. As I said earlier, in the initial few months of preparation, focus only on learning different approaches and getting the correct answers. Once you gain confidence and start solving questions with accuracy, you will be able to gain speed automatically. I feel that speed is a by-product of accuracy.

How to improve speed?

In the CAT exam, besides accuracy, speed is a function of:

1.   Choice of question

2.   Solving time

It is very important to choose the right questions to solve and then solve it quickly. And from my experience, it comes automatically with a lot of practice and mocks.

I remember when I was in the initial phase of my preparation, I would hardly solve 8–10 questions in an hour. Then, as I practised more, I came across certain frequently occurring calculations, for example, a square of 24 and 26. I realized I should have these calculations at my fingertips.

So, I learned

1. Square till 30

2. Cube till 20

3. Tables till 20

4. A quick way of finding squares of numbers ending with 5 and 9

5. Frequently used fractions

All this helped me increase my speed in the quant and LRDI section. But I could remember all these things at my fingertips because I practised a lot. So, speed is always a by-product of a lot of practice.

As far as mocks are concerned, mocks help you decide which question to attempt and which one to leave, which eventually helps you gain speed.

In the VA section, consistent reading will help you gain speed.

What should be the accuracy of each section in the CAT exam?

Generally, in Quant and LRDI, there are fewer chances of getting an answer wrong if you know the approach. So, in these two sections, you should have very good accuracy.

Quant: 85% + 

LRDI: 85% +

Verbal is tricky. Here, it is difficult to be very sure about the answers. So, you can take a little risk in this section. You can have a trade-off between attempts and accuracy. I used to try to attempt 28+ questions with 70%+ accuracy. It can get you a good score in the VARC section.

Final words:

First focus on accuracy, speed will come with time.


Read: What Strategy Should I Follow In CAT Mocks?


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  13. Mistakes That A CAT Aspirant Should Avoid! Ft. Atishaya Jain

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