Most of us perceive that the quant sections in SAT, GMAT or GRE are simple. Yet, not many achieve a high level of accuracy in quant sections of these tests. Even-though these tests evaluate you on basic concepts of mathematics and many questions seem straightforward to most students taking the test, an accuracy of even 70% can be quite difficult for most.
Why? Most students attribute this to “silly” or “careless” mistakes that they could have avoided. This trend is seldom addressed in their future review and preparation since most students only really worry about their ‘concept proficiency’. The result is that they end up being stuck in mid 70 percentile scores at best with very mediocre accuracy in quant.
The reason this happens is that these tests, beyond anything else, are tests of strategy. They are designed to make test-takers opt for certain types of (wrong) answers even though they might be very proficient in the concepts tested. So, if you’re someone who keeps making careless mistakes, this is what you need to do to improve your accuracy and avoid careless mistakes on the Quant sections.
Here are 5 ways to improve your accuracy in quant sections.
I. Read the question carefully
Do not miss any word while reading. Remember that the quantitative section is all about minute details and if you miss out crucial details in the question stem (however minute they may be) you will find yourself either wasting a lot of time backtracking or pick an answer that is incorrect (after investing a lot of time solving the question).
What is the increase in production of Jane?
What is the increased production of Jane?
If data stated that Jane used to make 10 cupcakes in an hour but with her new oven she can make 20 cupcakes in an hour – her increased production is 20 cupcakes per hour, her increase in production is 10 cupcakes per hour.
Throw in percentages to this question and you’ll realise what a huge difference a minute detail in the question can make to how you approach and answer this question. Read the question carefully!
II. Solve everything on the paper
Even though a question might seem like it requires only simple calculations, make it a rule to put important details and your calculations on paper. Also practice doing this in an organised and methodical fashion to avoid missing any steps and picking an answer that is a value from a partial solution to the question.
Quantity A Quantity B
X = X2
4 = X2
±2 = X
As this is a simple question you may try to calculate everything in the mind itself, but never ever do that. If you forget to write the square root in the second step, you might end up reasoning that the answer is “Quantity A is equal to Quantity B”.
III. Deal with Conversions meticulously
Many avoidable mistakes happen because unit conversation end up being treated carelessly. Check for units in the question. If the units are not same, then convert everything into one unit based on the question’s requirement.
What is the ratio of 9 inches to 3 feet ?
Before solving this question we have to check for units. Since the units are different we have to convert either inches to feet or feet to inches. We know 1 foot = 12 inches.
To convert feet to inches we just have to multiply with 12.
3 x12 = 42 inches
9 inches : 42 inches
3 inches : 14 inches
This ensures that all values we work with correspond to the same unit of measurement and we arrive at the accurate answer without having to backtrack or make wild guesses.
IV. Ask the Right questions
To get to the right answer efficiently, you need to understand what the question is actually testing you on. To understand this you need to ask yourself three questions:
- What is the question asking me to find?
- What information do I have to help me solve this question?
- What information do I need to solve this question?
If 4x + y = 8 and y – 3x = 7, then what is the value of x + 2y ?
Before solving this question you have to ask a yourself a few questions:
Do I need individual value of “x” and “y” to find the value of x + 2y?
What do I have to do so that I can get x + 2y value without solving for “x” and “y”.
V. Do not skip steps
As discussed throughout, if you do not follow an organised and methodical process you will make mistakes that will make your accuracy drop. To avoid this, make sure you learn the correct steps to approaching different question formats and ensure that you follow each step for every question you practice.
Most importantly do not forget to apply your methodical way of solving questions on the day of the test!
Take a mini-assessment test to know what your accuracy level is on Quant sections: Quant Mini Assessment test.