In the last two months, I have been asked one question very frequently. It is: “How should I prepare Quant if I am weak in Maths?”
I understand that maths is not your forte. I agree that you might have been out of touch with mathematics after class 10. But that should not leave you dead scared. The CAT exam syllabus of the quant is till class 10 only.
Hence, first of all, start believing that it is possible and you can do it. Many non-engineers who studied maths up to class 10 have made it to the top IIMs. So you too can make it. Many have done it before you, and many will do it after you. So, you can also do it. Feel this attitude, and read further.
To be honest, I, being an engineer, am average at maths. Though it is not my forte, it is not my nemesis either. So, I never referred to any textbook of maths for the CAT preparation. But I have learned from many aspirants that they are having a tough time dealing with maths. This has made me realize that there can’t be only one way of preparation. What worked for me might not work for others. And so, I reached out to my non-engineer friends. I tried to understand how they approached the preparation of the Quant section for the CAT exam. Among these friends, some were b.com grads, and two of them were doctors.
How do non-engineers generally deal with Maths?
In the outset, I am summing up the highlights of my discussion with them.
- They prepared for CAT for at least one year.
- Most of them borrowed the Arun Sharma book but failed to follow that in and out.
- They studied mainly through the study material of the coaching institute and the mock tests. They all said that mocks helped them substantially.
- Most of them covered easy topics first and did not focus much on the tough (LOD 3) questions.
- Most of them had one section in which they were relatively strong.
- Interestingly, one doctor liked maths, and she prepared with coaching material and mocks. She ended up with around 99 percentile in Quant.
Now, In this blog, I am going to share what I learned from their experience.
So, if you get a nightmare from maths or you find it hard to understand the solutions of most of the questions given in the study material, the following points might help you.
Most of my non-engineer friends said that they knew that maths was their weakness. So, they started a bit early. As such, if you are weak in mathematics, you should start preparing for the CAT exam at least 12 months before the CAT exam. And if possible, prepare for around a year and a half. It will give you sufficient time to get adapted to the CAT syllabus and get through the exam.
Focus on the basics:
When you are weak in some areas, when you feel stuck in something, you need to first learn the basics of it. But at the same time, you need to keep a check on the time you have for the preparation. Everyone who manages to score well in the Quant section has his/her basics covered. To cover the basics, you should do the following experiments.
- Cover the basics from the study material of any coaching institute: I always prefer this because the study material of the coaching institutes covers all the topics in a very optimal way – they cover the basics as well as give you exposure to the variety of questions asked in the CAT exam. You can try this.
- Cover the basics from Arun Sharma: You can also cover your basics from the famous Arun Sharma books for CAT preparation. However, I would recommend this way in the following situations.
- You have sufficient time for the CAT preparation (more than one year).
- Your basics of Quant and LRDI are too weak.
In general, I would suggest you to first go through the study material of any coaching institute. Start taking baby steps with the help of that study material. You can approach your topic-wise Quant Preparation in the following manner.
- Pick up any easy topic (for example, profit and loss), read the concepts given at the beginning of the topic, and then try solving questions.
- With the concepts given, you will be able to solve most of the questions. There will be questions which you will not be able to solve, try it for 3-4 minutes. If you don’t get the approach, highlight them, and see the solution.
- If you are not able to understand the solution also, post it in some peer-learning group and take the help of other aspirants. They can help you better with the concept and the approach. They may even suggest some better approaches to the same question. Remember, peer-learning is one of the most important aspects of the CAT exam and the MBA.
- If there are so many questions whose solutions you are not able to understand even after watching the solutions, it means that your basics are not in place. In this situation, pick up the Arun Sharma book for that topic, and cover it. You can skip LOD-3 questions as they are generally not tested in the CAT exam. The CAT questions are mostly (around 28-30) easy or moderate.
As I mentioned, this is the time to experiment in which you try to understand which way works better for you. Do this experiment for at least a month. This will give you an idea as to what resource you should use to cover the basics. This will also help you understand how comfortable you are with the CAT syllabus and if you should join any coaching.
I feel that no matter who you are – engineer or non-engineer, you should not join coaching straightaway. First, you should take baby steps on your own, get a rough idea of your strengths and weakness, and then decide if you need to join coaching. If yes, it will help you decide when you should join a coaching class.
Do not over-study in the beginning:
When you start practising, the initial days will be tiring and you might find it difficult to sit for long hours. So, don’t do that. In the beginning, go slowly. You have time, so you can start slowly, and later pace up your preparation. Learn at your own pace. This will ensure that you don’t lose interest even before getting fully into the preparation mode.
Make a learning diary:
When Quant is not your forte, you may need to revise it now and then as it does not come naturally to you. In this situation, you should maintain a learning diary in which you can note down all the important formulas and concepts topic-wise. And keep revising it so that you stay in touch with it.
Work on your calculations:
It comes in very handy, but it is not a skill that can be honed in a day or a week. It will take months to develop that habit. So, be patient. Every day, along with your regular preparation, spend around half an hour in learning a thing or two about speed maths. You can find this in the study material of any coaching. Basics like table up to 30, squares up to 30, cubes up to 20, conversion of fraction into percent, and so on should be at your fingertips. Just keep learning a bit of it every day and use it in your calculations. You will gradually develop the speed.
This is very important. You spend a lot of time in learning one topic from scratch and then if you keep it aside for a month. All the learnings will be gone. You will feel like starting the topic again from scratch. So, don’t just throw away any topic after covering it. Stay in touch with it. And the best way to do is to try solving questions on various social media platforms and peer-learning groups. This will help you revise your concepts, and at the same time, you will be able to help others that will win you friends in this journey.
Analyze mocks religiously:
My non-engineer friends, as well as I, strongly feel that most of the learning happens through mock analysis. Go through each question of the Quant section, try it again on your own. If you are not getting the approach, see the solution. Try to understand the approach they have used in their solution. If you feel that you are not able to solve many questions from a particular topic, go back and brush it up either from the study material of the coaching or from the Arun Sharma book. Inculcate this habit. Analyze mocks religiously.
Please, don’t get disheartened if you get stuck in preparation and don’t see the light quickly. Don’t feel bad if you fail to solve the questions comfortably. It is okay to struggle. When you start something new, when you see that something is your weak link or something that is not your forte, you need to invest a lot of time in that. Initially, you won’t see the light. You won’t see any improvement in just a few days or a few months, but a consistent effort over a period will fetch you some beautiful results.
In any new project that you work on, the initial few days or few months are required only to find the right way and the right direction. Initially, you will do something and discover that it is not working for you, then you will try a different method which you might find efficient, and then you start following it consistently to get the desired results.
You need to forgive yourself for your faults and mistakes and keep on learning with patience. You need to give yourself sufficient time to do mistakes and learn from them. Those who want instant results, I feel, they do injustice to themselves. So, please, be patient. Please, don’t be harsh on yourself. Don’t overburden yourself. Learn slowly. It is okay. Once you get the hang of it, you will become unstoppable.
Finally, just remember,
“With ordinary talent and extraordinary effort and perseverance, all things are attainable – Thomas Fowell Buxton”
The success tastes sweeter if it comes as a result of coming through sheer struggles.
With these points, I feel one should be able to get rid of his Quant fear. However, as I always say, it is just my opinion. This is not the only way to study, but it is surely one of the ways. Those who are struggling to find a way can try this.
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