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The DI section in CAT can be rewarding but also your downfall if not attempted carefully. In today's article we outline some strategies that you could use to make sure that you attempt DI correctly. We have also added a smaller section on how to study for DI in the last month of preparation.

Strategies for Cracking DI

Selecting the Right Sets

Most of the times, your performance in the DI section depends on your ability to choose the right sets. In a CAT DI section, not all sets are worth attempts. There is a good spread of easy and difficult sets. The objective is to choose the easy sets and avoid the tough and time-consuming ones. What is also important is to prioritize the sets that you have chosen to solve so that you don’t end up spending too much time on any one set.

How does one select or reject a set on the face of it? There are many factors that can decide this.

1. Familiarity with the Data Representation

Sometimes the CAT examiners represent the data in a format that may be unfamiliar to you. Because of this there would be a big risk to attempt such a set as you never know how much time you might end up spending in deciphering it.

Here is a CAT 2008 set to illustrate the same:

2. The Nature of the Data Values

Sometimes, your set may have data values that are big (4 digits and more) or values that are in decimals. Usually such values are not so friendly to calculate. Hence such sets should usually be avoided.

Here is a CAT 2003 (Nov) set that falls in the above category.

3. Ability to Extract Data Values from the Set

Some times that set may be familiar to us and the data values may also be friendly, however it may be difficult to extract the exact values from the set. Since we spend considerable amount of time in calculation, we better take the correct data values and calculate. Again it is better to ignore such sets.

The following CAT 1999 set is a good example of this.

4. Other factors

Apart from the above factors, there are some other reasons why you may choose to leave or do a particular set compared to others. These are:

  • How many questions follow a particular data set? – Since you are spending considerable amount of time in deciphering the data set, you might as well take maximum advantage of the time you invested.
  • Are the answers options too close of far apart? – Close answer options mean, possibility of approximation are ruled out. You need to spend that extra time to calculate the answer up to the last decimal place.
  • Is there a ‘Cannot be Determined’ or ‘None of these’ in the answer options? – You are not sure of your answer and need to spend that extra time to double check whether the answer is indeed one of them, or you have made some mistake in calculation or overlooked some part of the information.

5. The Correct Trade-Off between all the Evils

Having said all of the above, it is important to note that you may not have get a set that satisfies all your requirements. Every set will have some drawback or the other. There may some sets that may not be familiar to you, some others in which the data values are not good enough and others where you may not be able to extract the exact values. This does not mean you should end up leaving all the sets. Probably you may have to Trade-Off one evil for another and decide which of the evils is better to live with, in the light of your strengths. In other words, life won’t be a smooth highway ride as far as DI is concerned. You need to overcome some of the hurdles and avoid treading on some others.

Don’t get Stuck in a Jam!

At the end of the day all of us are fighting against time. This is more true for DI as you may end miscalculating your time distribution across sets if you are not sensitive to the time that you are spending on every question.

The crucial decision that you need to take is ‘All of Some’ or ‘Some of All’. What it means is, whether it is advisable to solve ‘All questions from Some sets’ or ‘Some questions from all sets’. You need to take the former strategy if you could not short-list sufficient number of DI sets in your CAT papers. Since there are a only a few sets worth attempting, you need to solve almost all the questions from them if you need to have sufficient number of attempts. On the other hand, if you that almost all the sets are equally good or equally bad, then you may take the latter strategy. In this strategy you attempt all the sets, but skip specific questions from every set that are difficult or time consuming. Thus key to attempting a DI section is to keep moving on and not get stuck on any question or any set.

How to prepare for DI in the last one month?

1. Work on Speed Calculations

It is too late in the day to work on your calculations. However, if you have still haven’t mastered it, spend a good 3-4 days on calculations. It can still do wonders! Things like Reciprocals, Squares, Square roots, Cubes, Cube Roots etc. Work the calculations out mentally. Initially it may take more than you might want it to be taking, but this habit once formed will go a long way in helping you for DI. Working on Calculations is like swimming. Once you know it, you know it. From then on you can only work on getting better.

2. Study the DI trends in actual CAT papers

Preferably solve the DI sections of all the CAT papers from 2003 onwards. Try and understand how the questions have changed from the previous years. The annexure given at the end of this report can help you in this. This should take not more than 3 days.

3. Solve Section Tests rather than Individual Sets

What is important is to simulate the CAT. Hence rather than focusing of solving individual questions, you need to solve as many section tests as possible. Take these tests under timed settings, with emphasis on selecting and prioritizing the sets.