(Image credit: www.natcom.org plus some own effort)
When one starts preparing for the first time, all the hoopla surrounding CAT is primarily based on Quant. Most of the people are introduced to CAT in this manner and quite a few derive inspiration from this and take immense pride in being able to solve CAT-level math. The remaining few, who are inherently good readers and comfortable with grasping the nuances of the English language take to the VARC section like a fish to water. Coined the non-engineer friendly section, perhaps wrongly as there are quite a few engineers who are brilliant in this part of the paper as well and that the ‘syllabus’ does not have anything to do with one’s graduation background is a neglected fact, most of the junta are completely terrified of this section. With public opinion divided on who is good at which one of these two, there is a third section which is oft-forgotten, more so with the rise of the 2-section paper: Data interpretation and Logical reasoning.
One of the reasons behind neglecting this section is that, there is nothing to study when it comes to this section. All the aspirants, irrespective of whether they have had formal coaching or not, enter the exam with more or less a similar level of prep with regards to DI LR; the data provided is the same and in most cases, there is only one way to solve the question and there are no real shortcuts as such.
To get better at DI-LR, like any other section, or subject, or test for that matter, one needs an ample amount of quality practice. Exposure to CAT level sets is a must and one must get into that zone when solving a puzzle becomes mechanical. A quick chat with the CAT toppers would reveal that solving puzzles came naturally to them and that there was no real effort that went in specifically into DI and LR. Also, with the cushion of a split DI LR section, the focus has shifted away from it almost entirely (except the verbal fearers who still bank on LR to boost their score, a la me from 2011). With the threat looming of a 3-section paper (we will get to know probably on the 26th of July which way it goes), it becomes all the more important to think of DILR as an independent entity. So, how does one get to this level and attain so much comfort that a DI/LR set seems like a scoring opportunity than a liability. I will try to answer a few common questions which might reveal a few ‘secrets’
Where to practice from?
By now, you would have guessed that CAT papers are the best sources to practice LRDI from. Add to that a sprinkling of the current year/past year mock papers and you should be familiar with most of the question types that can appear in a test. The classification cannot be superficial as is done by many students: competition based, sports based, pie charts, bar graphs, and so on. One needs to go beyond the ‘appearance’ of the set and into the crux of the logic as the form of representation can easily be converted from one form to the other. The commonly used logical situations are: Boolean logic/Binary logic, linear and circular arrangements, maxima and minima in Venn diagrams, combination puzzles, Sangaku, deductions mathematical or otherwise and many more. Ideally, one should have a set pattern ready to approach a particular variant. For example: If there is a puzzle involving arrangements, there is usually a centerpiece around which all the other statements rotate. The key is to figure out this piece of information. There would be two steps involved in doing it: first, figure out the statement, ideally with the most bit of information and second, find another statement that is connected to the parent statement. If you can figure out such a combination, most of the time, it would bring order to an arrangements set and you would know whether to solve it or let it go in the first 30 seconds itself (I will come to this part later). So, the key is to solve as many ‘types’ of puzzles as possible and figure out a way that works the best for you. There are good sources other than previous CAT papers and mock tests that would sensitize you into developing a thinking mind. You can go for George Summers’ book of puzzles or Shakuntala Devi’s books, either this or this or this or any other reputed books available in the market (they are quite light on your pocket and are a treasure of information). In addition to this, having an interest in logical puzzles like SuDoKu, Kakuro, Hitori, Mathdoku, etc. will train your brain into thinking in a logical manner and the concepts are useful in case of more questions than you imagine; something like a Kakuro is useful in LR sets wherein there is a restriction in the way sum of numbers can be made, there are some beautiful puzzles that are direct applications of the concept of the Tower of Hanoi or even Fibonacci sequence for that matter.
How to practice?
It helps to make DI LR a part of your day to day life. Solving material is fine and it will definitely help but thinking about day to day situations as an LR set will help you think from a paper-setter’s point of view and understand the nuances of a set more easily. Even when you are reading a newspaper report or just glancing through a PnL statement or a balance sheet, you can always think about the growth rates, ratios, contributions, and so on. It sounds trivial and probably silly, but if you haven’t had that kind of outlook in your formative years, these activities will help you fill the void. The more your prep becomes indistinguishable from your life, the more fun you will have doing it. In addition to this, solving mocks and analyzing them religiously would contribute to a better score in DI LR sets in the coming few mocks.
How to solve?
A commonly faced situation in any DI LR caselet is that, it leads to disproportionate returns. The time invested can range anywhere between 5-25 minutes and the maximum marks gained would be 12. So, keeping a sense of time is very important while solving a set. Broadly considering, there are 4 DI and 4 LR sets and so, investing around 10 mins per set is not possible. So, you have to be extremely selective and sure about the difficulty level of sets so as to optimize your score.
How to work around the traps?
A commonly laid trap in DI LR is evident from the fact that, the sets that are heavy with regards to numerical data are probably the least attempted and the ones with a few data points are tried by most. So, the first thing to understand is that the difficulty level of a set is in no way associated with the amount of data in the set. If anything, the lesser the given data is, the more the possibilities are.
A good way to identify if there are many possibilities is to browse through the questions and see if there are multiple questions starting with an ‘If’. The presence of these two letters suggests that it is not one set but multiple sets that you would be attempting and so, the time:output ratio would be slightly higher. Then you can take a call depending on what your position is with regards to the time left considering your attempts and the perceived difficulty level of the paper.
In questions involving multiple possibilities right from the start, for example: questions involving multiple travel routes or multiple points in a supply chain, there could be multiple possibilities. If one is to note down each and every possibility, it would take a lot of time to solve the set. In this case, it would be a wise idea to rush through a set and solve questions using option elimination and approximation whenever possible. This would give an accuracy of at least 50% and a net gain of 4 marks in around 5 minutes which is a fair deal (and on a good day, with the right kind of negations, you can actually touch 12 marks in 5 odd minutes which is huge in any kind of paper). This would allow you to invest time in other sets which will maximize your chances of getting a higher score.
Multiple pie charts, with the base figure unknown are particularly painful and so, can be kept for a later stage while attempting a paper. Similarly, questions involving uncomfortable fractions (like a zoo set which appeared in a Bull’s eye mock) ought to be left in the first go especially if you haven’t yet ‘seen’ a sizable chunk of the paper.
Binary logic questions (involving soothsayers, liars and alternators) can be solved using a specific approach too. You should ideally go for the statement that leads to a paradox (I am a liar is a classical example) and form a table accordingly which will give you a starting point. This type of LR sets is generally twisted and one of the more difficult sets and so, if you are unable to form the logic in the first go, better to let go of these.
Simple arrangement questions be it circular or linear are probably your best bet when it comes to solving an LR set (with some exceptions of course when it can be incredibly twisted). Irrespective of the difficulty level, there would be a chain of events that you have to follow and get to the crux of the arrangement. A common mistake aspirants do is to assume something that is not obvious in a set. It is like solving a SuDoKu. Every puzzle will have a unique solution unless the number of mandatory cells are not filled. So, not assuming positions or conditions is very important in these questions. Also, the wording of the statements is quite tricky at times. For example: A sits to the left of B could be interpreted (rather, assumed) as A sits to the immediate left of B which would give you an incorrect or an impossible arrangement thereby eating into your time. So, it is necessary to be absolutely clear about the various phrases that are used and their exact interpretation. I will come up with a post on traps soon to help you understand the paper-setter’s mindset.
How many should I score in a standalone DI LR section?
There is no pin point answer to this and it completely depends on your perception of the section. If all the questions are from the difficult bracket as stated above, any score of around 20-30% would be extremely competitive (97+ percentile) if there is an equal split of moderate and tough sets, you might have to score around 50% at least to remain competitive (97+ percentile) and if almost all the sets are doable, the more you solve the bigger your boost will be. The good part with DI LR is that, it will enable you to race past your competitors if you are able to crack that ‘one-aha!-moment’. So, the better you become at this section, the better will be the improvement in your score.