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Updated: February 27, 2012 16:22 IST

Quick-fix or resolution?

Kishan Kumar V. L.
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Pattern recognition can win you tests, but fail you in the long run. Build skills when preparing for tests.

Most students encounter a variety of aptitude tests in their academic lives. All but a few career options insist on tests of aptitude to determine a candidate's suitability. These can be related to jobs, such as a bank test or a Public Service Commission examination, or an entrance test for admission to a postgraduate programme.

Anyone preparing seriously for any of these will benefit from an understanding of the basic reason for conducting an aptitude test rather than trying to clear it by mastering pattern recognition.

There are tests designed to identify and understand the academic inclination of students at an early age and guide them to a particular career path, which are also referred to as aptitude tests. I am not referring to such tests here. The aptitude tests referred to here are tests administered by corporates, the government, and educational institutions for screening candidates for a job or a course.

Three skills

Most aptitude tests look at three generic skills of candidates:

Logical thinking ability: ability to come up with solutions and possibilities under a given set of constraints and ability to reason and transfer a particular learning to a new situation.

Arithmetic skills: basic mathematical skills required in routine business transactions, such as the knowledge of percentages, proportions, profit and loss, and interest calculations. This calls for an elementary understanding of the basic concepts involved in addition to the ability to perform simple mathematical calculations without the aid of calculating devices.

Language skills: ability to comprehend written material and ability to make error-free communication. English being the language of business in our part of the world, candidates are mainly tested on their English language skills. Standard testing areas include reading comprehension, grammar- and usage-based error identification and correction, and at times, vocabulary.

These are all skills that can be acquired and developed. Yes it is true that some have a natural flair towards these and they naturally score well in the aptitude tests. Nevertheless, all candidates can attain a certain minimum desired level of competence in each of these critical skills with the right effort and application. Though there are nearly a hundred different areas or topics from which questions can be set for an aptitude test, all the questions try to test one of these three basic skills in one way or the other.

These skills have a meaning and purpose beyond a test. As such, your approach to acquiring these skills should have a long-term view.

Instead of focussing on preparing for a particular test pattern, you should spend time to build your basics in logical, quantitative, and verbal ability. Once the foundation is set correct, you can build on that. Any preparation based on pattern recognition alone has a limited scope and is never advocated as a standalone approach.

One should look at aptitude preparation with an open mind and see it in a broader perspective. The utility of these skills go beyond clearing the screening tests as they have now become essential life skills whose absence will curtail one's progress in the long run.

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