Quant Section

Conquering the war of numbers

Conquering the war of numbers

Sanjay Arora

Nearly all competitive exams include a section testing Quantitative aptitude. Regardless of whether or not the exam qualifies you to pursue a field requiring your quantitative ability, the section is included to act as a filtering mechanism facilitating the selection of a few individuals from a multitude of applicants. Quantitative aptitude (quant) is a good measure of one's mental alertness, problem solving skills and analysis. All three of these attributes become important in a stress filled environment demanding fast and effective solutions to an incredibly complex problem. This makes quantitative ability all the more important while giving exams qualifying individuals for a professional field. Popular exams which test quantitative skills include Common Aptitude Test (CAT), Common Law Admission Test(CLAT), Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), Xavier Aptitude Test(XAT), Graduate Record Examinations(GRE) and Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) entrance. However, there exists a lot of fear around quant because of the difficulty myth of mathematics passed down by peers and family. This article explores how to break away from that fear and effectively work on quant.

How to tackle

maths phobia

Tackling your fear of maths is one of the most essential steps when it comes to preparing for quant seriously. Carrying the fear with you makes the section feel tedious and the will to practice, improve and master drops drastically. Since quant is something everyone and anyone wishing to complete a series of degrees to be qualified has to face at least once, the sooner the fear is tackled the better it is.

There is a mathematician in everyone and to awaken that mathematician one can start by taking every question as a challenge rather than a cumbersome task. This change in perception helps be patient with questions and awakens a desire to arrive at answers. Remind yourself that a wrong solution is better than no solution. Going somewhere, even if it's not where you want to be, means that you've started the process of analysing to try to arrive at a solution and the first step towards the right answer has already been taken. If this seems too much and leads you to burn out, starting with easier problems would set the pace for you to enter the right frame of mind needed to tackle hard problems.

When it comes to maths, it is essential to take initiative. If the reason maths seems difficult is because of an inefficient teacher, resorting to methods of learning like YouTube videos and websites like khanacademy.org will go a long way. If a change in attitude towards taking maths as a challenge has been successfully achieved, finding the discipline to take initiative will not be hard. Once a certain degree of ease has been established with the subject, frequent practice will start coming naturally.

Types of Quant Questions

Quant questions can be largely segregated into the following types:

Data Interpretation: Such questions revolve around data representation in the form of graphs and tables and ask for inferences based on them.

Percentages: These form a vast part of quant sections and require handling of numbers in the form of fractions.

Arithmetic Aptitude: Quadratic equations, approximations and simplifications, data sufficiency, HCF and LCM are topics testing arithmetic aptitude. Referring to books prescribed in school (Class VIII onwards) helps clear the basics of all these topics.

Simple Interest and Compound Interest:This is more of a formula oriented topic and keeping a sheet of relevant formulas that is revised from time to time helps in tackling these questions.

Work and Time Such questions ask for the calculation of efficiency of work done by a particular individual. It can also be viewed as an extension of ratios and percentages.

Probability: Probability deals with chance that an event occurs. It too requires knowledge of different methods and formulas to deal with different types of questions. Eg.Conditional Probability, Permutations and Combinations

Ratios and Proportions: This section, too, deals with fractions and proportion of quantities in a mixture. Refreshing basic handling of fractions from school text books can help establish an ease in dealing with fractions.

Stream Boat Problems: Such questions test one's knowledge of relative motion. This is section utilises basic formulas and does not include too many tedious calculations.

Pipes and Cisterns: Similar to concepts studied in work and time this section requires calculation of the rate at which a container can be filled.

Inequalities: Questions on inequalities appear as a mixture of word problems, quadratic equations and coded inequalities. Coded inequalities make use of absolute values, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, less than, and greater than values along with BODMAS,.

Number series: Such questions require the detection of rules which result in a particular series to predict values of the series. Arithmetic and geometric progression formulas come in handy while solving these questions.

Profit and loss: These questions hold particular importance in the field of accounting and economics. Knowledge of concepts of fixed cost, variable cost, revenue and price are important to solve these questions.

Age problems: Such questions are based on the relations between blood relatives and other individuals. They utilis ratios, proportions and other equations to find solutions.

Time and Speed: These questions are relatively simple and very important from examination point of view, they can be easily tackled if studied from ICSE textbooks for Class VII.

Mensuration: Questions pertinent to mensuration require calculation of perimeter, area and volume based on given information. Largely formula based, these questions can be easily solved if formulas are revised on a regular basis.

Averages: These questions are an extension of data representation. They focus on extracting a numeric representation of data points. Averages can be of many types like weighted average, mean, median, etc.

Partnerships: Business partners make deals represented by contracts defining division of ownership. Questions on partnership require knowledge of divisions of profit and loss in a business.

Mixture and Alligation: Statement questions based on application of averages appear in the form of alligation and rules of alligation. Concepts like mean price and ratios of two quantities are utilised to find solutions of such problems.

Coding and decoding: These questions include letter coding, number coding and number-letter mix coding. Positioning of alphabets is a popular type of such questions. They do not utilise any particular formula and are based on logic.

Stocks and Shares: These are questions very important for banking exams require a hold on concepts of shares, stock capital, dividend, shareholder and face value.

These large divisions can be further divided into question types. Weightage given to each type varies with the exam being given.

Book suggestions

Fast Track Objective Arithmetic by Rajesh Verma (Arihant Publications) provides shortcut methods and exercises for competitive examinations like RBI, SBI, IBPS PO, SSC, LIC, CDS, UPSC, Management and all other recruitment and aptitude test. Quantitative Aptitude for Competitive Examinations by RS Aggarwal (S Chand Publishing) contains questions with solutions focusing on exams like IBPS-CWE Bank PO/Clerical/Specialist Officers, RRB Officers; SBI-PO/Clerical; NABARD etc.

— The writer is a Panchkula-based

Employability Expert and Chief Mentor,

Maven Career Coaching


Method to master

  • Instead of wasting time on practicing multiple questions in every topic relevant to the exam, it is important to know the exam
  • Weightage of a certain concept in a paper may be way more than other concepts, therefore, devoting maximum time on that topic while practicing only makes sense
  • If memorising formulas is difficult in spite of regular revision, trying to develop mathematical thinking can go a long way
  • Mathematical thinking requires reading and understanding the logic behind every formula
  • It facilitates the handling of numbers when subject to various conditions to arrive at an answer. Listening to soothing or meditative music while practicing question helps clear the mind and effectively arrive on methods to approach questions
  • Keep practicing on a regular basis. It is important to train your mind to function efficiently during the hours of the exam
  • Practice question or study for quant in those hours of the day wherein your competitive exam is to take place
  • Keeping track of time and allocating it well will help in avoiding hasty calculations leading to errors
  • Timing questions during practice would also help staying on track and completing the paper
  • Lastly it is important to sleep well before a maths exam. Pulling all nighters is not advised. Lack of sleep and being tired has an impact on how effectively you can think about questions to arrive at solutions

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