Strategies for achieving a high score in the Numerical Reasoning test of the Selective Entry Exam.

The Selective Entry Exam now a days consists of five tests falling into two broad categories

Ability Tests

  • Numerical Reasoning
  • Verbal Reasoning

Achievement Tests

  • Mathematics
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Writing- Persuasive or Creative

Numerical Reasoning falls under the category of Ability Tests, which measure the child’s ability to solve problems without prior knowledge. Ability generally predicts how quickly a child will be able to learn and the level of complexity they can deal with.

Numerical Reasoning is also an integral component of other competitive exams like SEAL and Scholarship exams.

Numerical Reasoning is especially challenging as compared to more scoring subjects like Verbal Reasoning or Mathematics.

This is a multiple-choice test that measures the ability to think and reason using numbers. Items in the test tap into series, matrices, arithmetical reasoning and deduction. As such, it is an extension of Mathematics.

The exam is reasonably tough as a student is required to do 50 questions in 30 minutes. Most students find the test quite challenging.

The instructions on the Selective Entry Numerical Reasoning test paper are as follows:

“When you are told to begin you will have 30 minutes to do as many questions as you can. If you don’t know the answer to a question, make a guess or come back to it later. You don’t lose marks if you get something wrong. It may be difficult to finish all the questions in the time allowed, so don’t spend too long on any one question. Try to answer as many questions as you can. If you change your mind about an answer, please erase your original answer using an eraser and colour your new answer in on the answer sheet.”

The paper setter cautions that it may be difficult to finish all the questions in the time allowed, so don’t spend too long on any one question

The 50 questions in the test are not of the same complexity. The questions can be categorised as:

  • Category A: Easy or Least complex
  • Category B: Intermediate complexity
  • Category C: Maximum complexity

The questions with maximum complexity are normally lengthy and heavily worded questions with multiple information strings to be read, comprehended, and analysed. Some of the information may be extraneous (not required for solving the question), thus increasing the “information load”.

The total time for all 50 questions is 30 minutes, which gives an average time of 36 seconds per questions.

The crucial aspect is that all questions, irrespective of their complexity, carry equal marks.

Consider a scenario in which in the first 10 minutes, a student X has done 18 categories A questions and another student Y could attempt only 3 category C questions.

Who do you think has made a better start?


Stay Calm During the Test

When students attempt the Numerical Reasoning test, they are overloaded by visual, numerical and textual data. The typical reaction is anxiety and panic, and they feel as if they are facing insanely ‘difficult’ or ‘complicated’ questions. However, in most cases, that is simply not the case. So, remember to stay calm.

No “First Come, First Serve”:

Most students think that the questions are placed in the test paper in a graded manner of complexity, i.e. the first question is easy and the tougher questions are towards the end.

This is not the case. Complex questions (category C) can be interspersed throughout the paper, i.e. in-between comparatively easier questions (categories A & B).

So, when the test starts, do not be just tempted to start with the first question. Flip through the entire paper and identify questions that are in category A and solve them first. Thereafter, move on to B category questions and finally, if you have time, got the C category questions.

There have been numerous instances when a complex question was placed at the beginning and students wasted precious time on trying to solve it.

Imagine a student wastes 10 minutes or so in one of these complex questions and has only 20 minutes for the remaining 49 questions! Further, attempting easier questions, in the beginning, is a big morale booster. Students gain confidence in increments as they successfully attempt category A questions.

Confidence is at its lowest ebb if you have wasted precious time solving a couple of questions, with questionable success, and time seems to be running out of your hands.

Selective Omission

Selective Omission is a strategy that is complementary to the above strategy. The majority of the time should be utilised to identify and solve A & B category of questions in that order.

Omit the questions which are complex, long-winding and heavily worded, at least in the first instance.You may come back to these questions later if time permits.

Utilising Skills and Problem Solving Techniques

  • Read the question carefully. Determine what is given and what is to be found.
  • Analyse the information: Break down the information into small parts. Separate the relevant from the irrelevant information.y
  • Synthesise the relevant information, i.e. to combine separate elements in order to form a coherent whole.
  • Creating a diagram, flow charts, tree diagrams, making a table, writing the information etc. are effective strategies for analysis and synthesis.
  • Mentally calculate as much as you can. Use fast calculation techniques.
  • Eliminate the redundant answers from the given choices.
  • Select the answer that suits the given conditions. For example, in a Quadratic equation problem, many times, it is not really needed to formulate an equation and solve. This will be too time-consuming! Just check the choices which fulfil the given conditions and select the answer.
  • Do working out only to perform the necessary calculations.
  • Working backwards, guess & check and solving an easier version of the problem are other effective strategies

There are more skills and problem-solving techniques for achieving high marks, which only an experienced teacher can share.

Intelligent Estimation

This is considered a vital problem-solving technique, where you can close into the answer with the elimination of other choices. This is especially applicable to category C questions and the correct answer can be arrived at without actually solving the question.

Attempt All Questions

Since there is no negative marking in the test, do not leave any question unattempted. You may guess some answers towards the end if need be. You might get some of these guesses correct.

Time Management

As stated earlier, the total time for all 50 questions is 30 minutes, which gives an average time of 36 seconds per question. Manage time efficiently. Do your own work and do not get distracted by what others are doing.

Revise Your Answers

Finally, if you have time, please check your calculations and revise your answers.

Remember, this is a competition and you need to stay ahead of others by following the best practices. It is not about how much you score; what matters is your score in comparison to other students.

If you score 30 correct answers where 95 % of students are below your score, this would be a much better outcome than where your score is 35 and 95 % students have secured more marks than you.

It is all about competitive advantage! Practice makes you confident and ready to take on the challenge.

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