Rahul saw Tina sitting dejected in a corner. “What happened, Tina?”, he asked. Tina pointed him to the list of students placed in the recent drive. Rahul knew in an instant.
“College will end in three months, Rahul. I really wanted to put my mother’s anxiety about my future to rest”, said Tina between sobs.
“It’s ok”, Rahul consoled. “You’ll be okay. I know how well you code. Plus, you speak better English than most of the professors!”
Tina didn’t cheer up.
“Tell me what’s wrong”, said Rahul. After gathering her strength for a few moments, Tina spoke.
“It’s the quant section always. I can never remember so many things. You know I’m smart and capable, and I get the answers right if I know what formulae and identities to apply. But there are just so many things to remember, so many formulae, and so much variety of questions, I can never solve them all in time!”
Rahul offered her his bottle of water.
“It’s ok, Tina. Everyone has tough stuff to get through. It can be hard, but you know, I had the worst English, but I conquered the odds with planning and practice. Surely someone as smart as you will get through your obstacle much faster!”
“I can guarantee you’ll be placed in the next two months”, said Rahul, and Tina looked up. “But you have to promise me to stay positive and work on the quant section for the entirety of those two months.”
“Can you do that, Tina?”
Tina nodded. Rahul smiled.
That evening, they went to the library and picked out a few choice titles, all of them on the Quant section. “Don’t look at how thick this pile is”, said Rahul, noticing Tina being overwhelmed at the number of thick books there. “You’re smart enough to solve these in ten minutes. All you need is a planned approach and practice to help you remember the concepts in exam time.”
“Right then. Let’s start!” Rahul drew out a notebook and wrote down the names of all the subsections there were in Quant.
“I trust you score well in a few of these. So why don’t you tell me how to tackle the ones you know about, and I’ll tell you how to do the rest”.
Tina smiled in response.
The Algebra and Arithmetic Strategy
“Algebra and Equations”, declared Rahul as he wrote it down. “Most of these are questions requiring you to find out values of a variable or an expression.”
“Oh, this one’s fairly simple”, chirped Tina. “I’ve done these since school, and most of these are pretty school-level.”
“That’s right!”, said Rahul. “The identities and formulae you need to know are the same as you studied in class 8. There are also topics like Speed and Distance, or Time and Work, that you may need to pay attention to, but they’re simple if you know the basics well. Let’s list some things you can do to keep yourself up to date with the topic”. He drew out a pen and wrote down a few action points.
- Revise NCERTs till class 8.
- Practice word problems, especially for speed and distance.
- Time yourself while solving problems.
“Same for Arithmetic”, Rahul continued. “The level of complexity usually does not exceed a medium-difficulty board exam paper. You scored well in your Board exams, didn’t you, nerd?”
Tina smiled. The quant section seemed doable after all.
“Right. Next comes Profit and Loss, and Simple and Compound Interest questions”.
“Oh Rahul I absolutely hate these. My brain just cannot think along the lines of money. Plus, they make things so complicated with half-yearly rates and comparing simple and compound interests…”
“Ok, ok. So I guess this is one type of questions you need to practice”. Rahul noted “Profit and Loss” and “Simple and Compound Interest” in a separate column. “You know, Tina, a good way to get through these questions is to think of the rate of interest as percentage increase or decrease. Simple interest means the time and the percent increase will be multiplied to get the factor that leads you to the amount. For Compound interest, you don’t multiply the two, instead you put time as the power of the factor.”
Tina looked confused.
“Ok think of it this way. If you have a sum earning simple interest at 10% for 2 years, you can get the amount this way. 10% means 0.1. Multiply that by the number of years, which is 2. This gives 0.2. Finally, add 1. So your factor is 1.2. Your amount will be 1.2 times the principal. Simple, right?
Tina solved a few problems this way. Rahul was right!
“And now for compound interest… if your sum earns 10% interest for two years, the amount at the end of the first year will be 1.1 times the principal. The next year, this amount will be the principal, so the next year you get 1.1 times the previous sum, or 1.21 times the original. So you got (1.1)^2 times the principal as amount.”
Tina was surprised she hadn’t thought of it before. She quickly noted this down and resolved to practice this for the next few days.
Planning for Mensuration
“Okay then. What about Geometry?”
“Oh there are so many properties and formulae to remember I get a headache every time I try. Is there a simple way to handle these like the one you suggested for Simple and Compound Interest?”
Rahul smiled. “Unfortunately, there isn’t. The properties are best mugged and practiced to apply quickly in a question that needs it. But there are always ways to make memorizing these easier. When I was studying for my exams, I used to write them on a white board each day afresh, and a week later I could recall most of them without peeping at a book. Memorizing is one thing. But more important is to practice applying these theorem and properties so you can solve questions using them.” He wrote down a few action points again.
- Make a chart of properties and formulae. Revise daily.
- Use flashcards to remember tough formulae.
- Look up shortcuts, practice against a timer.
“But you know the good thing? If you get these right, the concepts from mensuration may help you in all sorts of other topics, be it pie-charts, mathematical modelling or even probability!”
The Modern Mathematics Agenda
“Yes, what about Probability?”, asked Tina with hope in her voice. She had always had a tough time answering questions from the topic.
“Well, I’m fairly certain you know the basics. After all, probability is about the chances of something happening. The number of times a condition is met divided by the total number of cases possible gives you probability. But most people I know falter when making or considering cases. I say they should learn it in conjunction with Permutations and Combinations. Solve through a simpler exercise on PnC first, and then practice the harder problems. There are a lot of concepts to learn in the topic, which is why people find it hard. Make it simpler for yourself. And revisit the topic often so you don’t forget it. Let’s see what all you can do to tackle it.” Rahul started penning some action points for it too.
- Devote 4 hours per week to PnC and probability.
- Solve as many types of questions as possible and practice each type to get familiar.
- Think of special cases where particular events or permutations will have to be excluded. Practice those.
- Make a chart to memorise typical formulae like Baye’s theorem.
Tackling Statistics and Mathematical Modelling
“Statistics is simple!” jumped Tina, when she saw Rahul note it down next. “It’s just a few formulae, and most of the questions I can conceptualize pretty easily.” Rahul smiled. “Just remember to keep practicing. The same goes for Data Interpretation. There are no formulae in DI. It’s mostly algebra, and sometimes you can even solve questions based on visual data alone! Remember to not solve these questions to the last digit, unless the question demands it.”
“Yeah, that’ll be easy. Mathematical Modelling is one area I draw a complete blank in though”, said Tina.
“Well, if you have mastered the other sections, chances are you’ll be able to crack these as well. Most mathematical modelling questions are simple, where you only need to replace the variable in one function with a second function. So really, it’s just a fancy form of Algebra! One trick to solve these correctly is to write the larger function in terms of y instead of x, if both are given in x. That way, you don’t get confused where to put the smaller function.”
And that was it. Rahul had shared all he knew with his friend, and Tina had all she needed to give the quant section a final, wholehearted push.
Tina spent the next two months slogging over numerous math textbooks. She borrowed a few books on CAT and other MBA exams from her friends, and solved through most of those to be doubly sure. She wasn’t going to let the quant section stop her from getting a good placement offer.
One and a half months later, a major technological brand arrived at the college. Tina decided she was ready, and filled the form with eagerness. Two days later, the assessment was conducted. Quant couldn’t prevent her from landing an interview, and the interviewers were impressed by her academic record and proficiency in coding. She walked out of the interview hall, hoping to score a placement offer.
A week later, Tina stopped Rahul in the corridor to the reception, and handed him a chocolate. Rahul understood looking at Tina’s eyes that were bursting with excitement.
“A chocolate won’t do, Tina. I want a grilled sandwich from the canteen”, he laughed, and they walked to click a photo of the notice board which had the list of the candidates who had been offered the placement. Tina’s mother wouldn’t be anxious anymore.
This series of posts aims to assist Engineering students in preparing for assessments that form the first step to bagging a good placement. If you have a question on how to prepare for any stage of placements, ask our experts through the comment section below.