The (Aptitude) Exam Code



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The (Aptitude) Exam Code

When I say I have been "lucky", I mean it.

It is because I have had the privilege of being in company of people who have cleared aptitude exams of various types in their lives. But not all who decide to take the exam have someone, who’s been there done that, to guide them and help them from going astray.

Since knowledge is best used when shared. I want to share here the debrief of the entire studying process, from skipping lunches to sleepless nights, everything required to take you there.

It’s not possible to club all aptitude exams under one article.

This article is an attempt to generalize and to give a plan to those who are more or less new to aptitude exams. Also, the preparation strategy varies with the kind of background you have pursued your under-graduation (or 11th/12th) in.

I’d begin by listing various major exams that employ Aptitude Testing, with (my perceived) difficulty level.



  • CAT (for MBA)

  • GMAT (for MBA abroad)

  • GRE (for MS abroad)

  • SSC (for middle rung officers in Indian deppts.)

  • CSAT (for Indian Civil Services)

  • Banking Exams (for various jobs in Indian banks)

The reason CSAT Paper2 is relatively easier is because the exam is still in its nascent stages (just 2 years old) and is expected to evolve. But being born in this ever competitive world, each exam is witnessing influx of thousands of candidates with each passing year. So apart from being tough or easy, exams have now come to focus around if you are over-prepared or not.

Very briefly it is good to understand here that most of the Aptitude Exams have major sections as Quantitative Aptitude (Quant.), Verbal (English, per se) and Reasoning.

I’ll give here a strategy to tackle these exams by suggesting books (2 or 3 in every section) in an increasing order of difficulty so those who consider themselves as absolute rookies can begin with the first book and with your increasing level of comfort you can choose a book higher up the ladder.

I’ll also try to give tentative 7 tips for Aptitude Exams in the end (philosophical/preachy in nature).



Books –

Quantitative :

1. R. S. Agrawal for Quant. (Beginner Level) (For All Exams) (Tons of practice)

2. Official Guide GMAT (Intermediate Level) (Good for CSAT, Bank, GMAT)

3. Arun Sharma for Quant. (Various Levels of Difficulty) (LOD 1 applicable for all exams, LOD 2,3 majorly for CAT or these days GMAT)

4. Previous Year CAT Exams (Only for CAT. Big NO for anything else)

Verbal –

1. Official Guide GMAT (All Exams) (Must Do - Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning from this book).

2. Word Power Made Easy, Norman Lewis (All Exams) (Rs.100 book, such fun to read and provides amazing vocabulary. Good for essay writing vocabulary, news paper reading, improving reading comprehension and boosting confidence)

3. Previous Years’ CAT exams (for lengthy, toughly worded RCs. NOT AT ALL RECOMMENDED for CSAT or Bank Exams or GRE)



Reasoning (Data Interpretation included) :

1. R.S. Agrawal for Reasoning (Beginner Level) (Must Do for CSAT, Banks)

2. Various Previous Year Bank Exams (Intermediate Level) (CSAT, Banks)

3. Previous Year CAT Exams (Even for those appearing in CSAT or Banks can do questions of Analytical Reasoning from here, will help immensely)



While the crux of the next few lines is to prepare or rather over-prepare (to get above average returns and to be less surprised at seeing something new), I believe it’s worthwhile to have a look at these 7 tips for Aptitude Exams (rather for all exams).


1) First things First - Have a plethora of studying material around you. From handwritten notes of previous years’ toppers to standard text books. Search net. Get hold of random videos, ppts etc if you can (they are generally not helpful but keep giving you scholarly feeling).

2) Make a study schedule - Plan, segregate, divide. Planning is of utmost importance. Some concepts require a longer spree and some are just passe'. I have seen and have rather been a victim of non-adherence at times, and it may drag you back so badly that recovery will seem inconceivable. I kept procrastinating Syllogism and struggled in the final exam.

In my opinion, start with an easy topic (or very easy topic like Vedic Maths) and jump onto a longer sections as you keep gaining in confidence (when I say longer it means absolute brute, boring, sickening topic).

3) Taste the Tests – Appear in a lot of tests. Join, beg, borrow or steal test series papers. Yes, you will have to do that. Scrutinise your weaknesses. Work on them first.
4) If you're working/ Paucity of Time - Look out for small-small patches of time in between to cover the things up. Like skipping lunches, not cashing upon a lucrative dinner offer, missing a relative's retirement party, missing the most exciting cricket match India has ever played etc.

5) Group Discussions - Do make a circle or a group with whom you can discuss your doubts with and can keep a track of your progress vis-a-vis other group members. Knowing your friend is ahead of you can spark that competitive feeling to work that extra hour.

6) Re-Re-ReDo Things - Things will not be so clear in the first go. Second reading will reveal many new secrets; third reading will take you there. So don't worry if after first reading you end up feeling if it's Chinese written over there, things will get better with persistent effort.

7) Lastly, have faith in your abilities. 
There are many who have done it earlier and many who’ll do it this time. It’s not something divine.

I wish you all the best and expect you to wish me too , as even my story is unfinished yet.

[For the credentials – Exams I’ve appeared and respective results: CAT (100percentile in quant twice, 99.xx overall), CFA, Teaching Aptitude (6 years), UPSC Mains (Failed)  ]

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