How to Prepare for Data Interpretation for the CAT

how to prepare for data interpretation for the cat-magoosh

How to prepare for data interpretation for the CAT? Begin by studying early and often. Image by Tumisu.

When approaching the Common Admission Test (CAT) for the first time, students may find the second section, Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DI&LR), intimidating. With little everyday context, it can be difficult to know how to prepare for Data Interpretation for the CAT. The time pressure makes this harder. With 32 questions overall, DI&LR devotes 16 questions to Data Interpretation and 16 to Logical Reasoning. Test-takers have an hour to answer all 32 questions. However, by following a few guidelines, you can make sure that your preparation is effective. With better prep, you’ll boost your score as high as possible on the official exam.

Make a Study Schedule

One of the best things you can do is to create a study schedule. Whether you have one, three, or six months to prepare, knowing how much time you have to devote to CAT prep will help you plan that prep better. Even if you’re scoring significantly lower in DI&LR than in the other sections, devote a relatively even amount of time to each section during your early preparation. It’s good for your application to have high scores in all three categories, so don’t let the others slide as you prep for DI&LR.

Use Good Prep Materials

It can be difficult to sift through all the CAT materials available, particularly on the Internet. We’ve been through a lot of them, and found that 2iim’s lessons provide a good basis for CAT Data Interpretation study. While 2iim has some free options, you’ll benefit most with a green subscription. This will then allow you to access full lessons in this area, as well as practice problems.

Read Relevant Outside Materials

One reason that test-takers can find Data Interpretation challenging is that we don’t often encounter these types of graphic stimuli. Regularly consulting relevant outside materials can help make this less intimidating. At the same time, it will prepare you for the more rigorous DI problems. The Economist online has a blog called Graphic Detail, which features new charts and graphs Monday through Friday. These well-researched and complex graphics can provide you with real-world applications of DI problems, contextualizing the more complicated concepts. (There are also extensive archives!)

Practice with DI&LR Sections

At the end of the day, your success in CAT Data Interpretation will rely on using the tools we’ve discussed and applying them to the test. With this in mind, practicing using previous years’ DI&LR sections will help you put those skills to use and hone them further. It’s a good idea to take these sections under timed conditions, allowing yourself no more than an hour. Also, remember that sectional practice should be integrated in your schedule with full-length CAT practice tests. DI&LR is the second of three sections on the test, so you should get used to approaching it after having worked through an hour of Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension problems.

Drill, Drill, Drill!

With the 2iim practice problems or earlier years’ tests, create timed drills for yourself. Give yourself half an hour to answer 16 DI questions, and check your accuracy. It’s okay to allow yourself a little longer than you’ll get on test day (slightly less than two minutes per problem) in your early studies. However, as the official test nears, keep timing yourself and shaving a few seconds off of your time with each practice set. Having a realistic idea of how many questions you’ll answer in this section will also help you evaluate your timing as you get closer to test day.

Constantly Evaluate

Finally, the most important aspect of all of this study is evaluation. After you do your drills, practice sections, and full-length CATs, spend at least as much time studying your answers as you did on the original questions. What did you get correct? Why did you get it correct? What did you get wrong? Why did you get it wrong? Were there questions you should have skipped? Were there questions you shouldn’t have skipped, but did? If so, why? By constantly asking yourself questions like these, you’ll be able to keep tweaking your study and improving your Data Interpretation scores until the official exam.

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