If you have ever appeared for any competitive exam or management exams like CAT, then you would know that if there is any topic that takes you for a really good spin, it is Data Interpretation.
Data Interpretation questions form an integral part of most of the competitive exams. This section tests your ability to interpret and comprehend graphical data and then answer the questions that follow.
To master this area, you need to combine skills with strategy. You would need to master skills such as enhanced calculation speeds and employing logical tricks to simplify the question.
Along with mathematical and logical ability, this area is all about managing your time. So what you need to focus on is how to make sure you spend the minimum possible time on each of the questions.
Important topics to be learned
Before going to the strategy part of DI, we need to master few topics that will help us in almost every exam. The whole section is about speed and calculations. These are the common topics to be studied thoroughly in order to score in Data interpretation section:
Ratios and fractions- Ratios are used in case lets, bar charts, line charts, pie charts and almost every topic. The most common use of ratio is the comparison. One should know the relation between two different fractions just by looking at their numerators and denominators. You should have a good understanding of the relations between numerator and denominator to avoid unnecessary waste of time in comparing fractions during the examination.
Percentage- Increase/decrease in percentage can be confusing at times so you need to have a clear idea and understanding of percentages. Two similar looking sentences with the subtle difference might cause you to end up with a wrong answer.
To master DI Section must be thorough with Table (at least up to 20), Squares, cubes, Square roots, percentage to fraction conversion & vice versa. Most of the graphs are picked from any newspaper, journal or any other written source. Understand data thoroughly & logically clear basic terminology given in graph before jumping to questions.
Learning squares, cubes, tables, percentage to fraction relationships, etc. can go a long way in helping you master Data Interpretation questions, as these not only help you solve the questions but allow you to do so more efficiently.
Certain types of data graphs are quite common: round-robin matches in a particular sport, sales figures for a particular company, no of consumers among various competitors, investment, and returns of a particular company etc.
Understand the nature of data given whether it is absolute or relative. Absolute data is the lot easier to handle (figures are in meters, Kg, seconds) whereas Comparative data can be slightly tricky to handle (figures are in percentage, parts per million, per thousand, ratios, etc.).
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You should devote initial two months in understanding all the topics under data interpretation and practice the mathematics topics that will help you in all the data interpretation questions. These two months you should practice only questions without considering the time taken to solve.
Now, after two months of practice, you are able to solve most of the questions, you can start taking sectional mocks. Data interpretation questions are always solvable but some of them take a lot of time. This month focus on practice questions with the help of an on-screen calculator.
After three months of concentrating on solving questions and improving your efficiency without considering time as a factor, now is the time to focus more on improving your timing with questions. Start taking sectional mocks as many as possible.
Logical Reasoning & Data Interpretation will come under a common section and by now you would also be finished with Logical Reasoning topics and started with sectional mocks and thus, you need to practice time management for both Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation.
Taking sectional tests will allow you to know the topics you need to practice more and the topics that you can solve every time accurately. Analyze those weak topics and take some extra effort for such topics.
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Now you need to practice on sorting topics in mock tests. Always read all the sets within the given allotted time.
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It can happen that you might waste a lot of time on one set and miss the easy scoring set but sorting and time management for both Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation is to be practiced thoroughly and with multiple approaches.
You need to adjust with your approach or methods as per the difficulty level of the section. More the number of mocks you take, more you will come to explore your options for the CAT.
Dedicate at least one month before the examination to the revision and practice. Try to take as many full-length mocks as possible along with the revision of topics.
A large number of mock test analyses will give you a good idea about the difficulty level of the section in actual exam and your preparation accordingly.
Data Interpretation is one area where speed is required more than anything else. You should practice a lot to improve the speed with accuracy.
Books help in understanding and clearing concepts about the topic at hand. You can also go for online material but still, books are a must for better understanding and practice. Some good books that you can opt to prepare data interpretation for the CAT are:
Study material of any good coaching or institute like TIME/ CL/ IMS.
Always remember one simple rule that never fails: tips and tricks are important but practice is the most important of all things.
Make sure you practice your skills on a regular basis. Make a study timetable, solve mock tests and previous year CAT papers and just be confident in yourself and you will get the positive results for sure with your hard work.
All the Best!!!