5 Tips to Improve Data Interpretation for CAT

5 Tips to Improve Data Interpretation for CAT

If you received a low score in Data Interpretation on your last CAT exam, or you can’t seem to improve your responses in this area on your practice tests, don’t despair! A lot of test-takers find Data Interpretation to be one of the hardest subject areas on the test. Furthermore, the time pressure is fierce—less than two minutes to answer each question (if you attempt them all). However, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to raise your score! On the contrary, by using our 5 tips to improve Data Interpretation for CAT, you’ll find yourself practicing smarter—and your scores should rise accordingly.

Tip #1: Know What’s Being Tested

It seems pretty basic, but a lot of test-takers don’t take the time to get to know the types of questions they’ll encounter on the CAT. Well before the official exam, you should be familiar not only with the question types you’ll see on the exam, but also with the different ways the exam may present data:

  • Line graphs
  • Bar graphs
  • Pie charts
  • Scatter plots
  • Tables
  • Multiple data sources

You should also have a sense of the material that the CAT tests, as well as your comfort level with the concepts. These consist primarily (but not exclusively) of the following:

  • Percentages
  • Averages
  • Ratios
  • Proportions
  • Data comparisons

Tip #2: Know Your Formulas

This will help you with your Quantitative score, as well. The average formula (number of desired outcomes, divided by the total possible outcomes, multiplied by 100) comes in handy quite often. So too does the formula for percentage increase or decrease (the difference between two numbers, divided by the original number, multiplied by 100).

Working among concepts—changing percentages to ratios or proportions and vice-versa—doesn’t necessarily use a formula, but is often tested. Familiarizing yourself with these processes can also help boost your Data Interpretation score.

Tip #3: Get Used to Graphic Stimuli

One reason that students often find Data Interpretation difficult is that most people rarely work with complex data presentations in real life. Don’t be among them! Check in with The Economist’s “Graphic Detail” blog on weekdays for all kinds of data: charts, graphs, and infographics.

Tip #4: Get Comfortable with Mental Math

I know, I know, you’re given an on-screen calculator for this section. Use it as little as possible! First of all, if you practice enough beforehand, you’ll be able to approximate the answers to a lot of questions in your head, anyway. Secondly, relying on the calculator may drive you away from using smarter techniques to answer the problem: testing the answer choices, eliminating obviously incorrect choices, and so on. Mental math practice, particularly with the concepts listed above, will help you avoid making these kinds of mistakes!

Tip #5: Practice with Really Difficult Material

While there are plenty of differences between the CAT and the GMAT, the Integrated Reasoning section of the GMAT uses plenty of charts and graphs. While the format of the questions is very different, looking over sample charts and graphs and analyzing them can help you improve your Data Interpretation score. Ask: what kinds of problems would the CAT test-maker write about this graph? How would I solve them?

Mastering CAT Data Interpretation

Data Interpretation accounts for 16-18 questions on the exam, so mastering it can really boost your score. Be methodical, be practical, and above all be dedicated to mastering the question types, and you’ll find that you’re able to improve your score in this section on the CAT exam.

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