With basics in place, get smart about time management

Last Updated : 05 September 2012, 13:26 IST
Last Updated : 05 September 2012, 13:26 IST

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With CAT and other management exams, we often find that having a good knowledge of concepts and ability to solve questions is essential but not sufficient.

Two students of equal ability may end up with significantly different scores in an exam like the CAT. The difference is as critical as a single point. The secret ingredient is effective management of time.

Managing 70 minutes effectively

Section 1: QA + DI: This consists of  21-24 QA and 6-9 DI  questions, as per last year’s pattern. Depending on the difficulty level of the paper, 16-24 attempts with 80-85 per cent  accuracy is sufficient to clear the cutoff for the IIMs.

For most students, QA and DI are of equal difficulty. For time management purposes, we will treat them as the same.The objectives is to read all 30 questions in the section. Most students find that to be difficult. By the time they reach the 24th question, they miss out on  the potentially easy ones among the last six.

Time is wasted when you are not sure on how to proceed, when you are biting your pencil, when you cross off everything and start again, when you are stuck half way through a problem.

If you have attempted 15 questions and got 11 correct in 70 minutes, time has been spent not only on these 15, but also on a number of questions which you began to solve but were unable to finish.  

You are also wasting time when you get an answer wrong. Not only is a negative score given to a wrong answer, but each  attempt can cost you three to four minutes too. However, a 10-15 per cent error is only natural as it is impossible to get 100 per cent accuracy consistently.

When you read a question, you have one of the following reactions to it:

*Type 1: I am very confident that I can solve this question*Type 2: I have no idea of how to solve this question*Type 3: I think I can solve this question but I am not sure

Type 1 questions should be solved immediately. Type 2 questions have to be skipped. Type 3 questions should be marked for review. Come back to them if you have time.
The basic idea is to solve all the sure-shot questions in the first phase and as many of the possible questions as time permits. Do not miss out any easy questions if you want to maximise your score.

For a DI set, you need to take two minutes to analyse the data and the questions before deciding to solve or skip. For a QA question, the decision should be taken in 30 seconds or less.

Your judgment of what is a sure-shot question may not be perfect right now. However, start applying this strategy for every mock CAT you take. Do a post mock analysis of the questions again after each test. This will improve your judgment over a period of four to five attempts.

‘Speed math’ is a useful skill for increasing attempts. Practise it for 20 minutes a day. Always look at answer choices before starting any calculation. Close answer choices will require careful calculation. Or else, use approximations The post mock-analysis should also focus on accuracy rate and reason for each error, so that the mistake is not repeated.

Section 2: RC + VA + LR: This consists of RC (three passages and 10 questions), VA (11 questions) and LR (9 questions) as per last year’s pattern.

For VA, allocate 20 minutes for 8-9 attempts (approximately, two minutes per question). This is enough to solve questions. The ones which are not solved in two minutes are unlikely to be solved by spending more time.

For RC, allocate 8-10 minutes per passage and ensure at least two passages are attempted (total allocation of 25-27 minutes).

The first reading of the passage is where students tend to spend a lot of time. If you send a lot of time reading the passage, you will still need to go back to it for each question. The first reading should be to get the key ideas, not the details.

Spend not more than three-four minutes on the first reading and two minutes for each question, going back to the passage for careful analysis. This way, you will spend time only on those sentences in the passage that deal with a question.

For both the RC and VA, in case you are stuck in between two close choices, mark any one and keep moving. This is critical for time management.

For LR, allocate 25 minutes with the objective of solving a minimum of two sets (six questions). For an LR set,  you may spend two-three minutes analysing data before deciding whether you wish to solve or skip the set. Time management and strategy is only useful if your basics are in place. So being good at concepts and sufficient practice is critical.

(The contributor is director of VistaMind Education.)

Published 05 September 2012, 13:26 IST

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