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PREPARATION AND TIPS FOR COMMONWEALTH GENERAL SCHOLARSHIP TEST / NTS GAT GENERAL

GAT General is a competitive test conducted by National Testing Service (NTS) and constitutes the first stage of assessment for the prestigious Commonwealth General Scholarship. Acing this test will give the aspirants a good shot at bagging the scholarship and though the test apparently doesn’t look very intimidating, it can turn into a nightmare if insufficient time and efforts are put in its preparation. In this document, I will share the ways in which you can prepare for the test and some tips and strategies that will help you give your best on the test day.

TEST STRUCTURE

First things first, let’s start with the basic structure of the test. The test for Commonwealth General Scholarship is structurally the same as a GAT General test except for slight differences in the weightages of each of the three sections i.e. Verbal, Quantitative and Analytical Reasoning.

- The ‘Verbal’ section assesses your English language skills on an elementary

level (I say ‘elementary’ because it is very easy compared to tests like GRE) and is intended to test your vocabulary, grammar and comprehension skills. Questions in this section would usually be grammar/vocabulary based fill-in- the-blanks, synonyms/antonyms, analogies and one or two short passages followed by related questions.

- The ‘Quantitative’ section is a test of your mathematical abilities but to

accommodate test-takers from various fields of study, this section is limited to only very basic mathematical concepts (if you did reasonably good in your

Matric/O-Level Maths, you should be able to handle this section). Questions generally revolve around, but are not limited to, the concepts of ratios and proportions, geometry, exponents and roots, fractions, percentages and the like.

- The ‘Analytical Reasoning’ section is a test of your analytical skills. It majorly includes questions based on logic puzzles that assess your ability to

understand a few scenarios and organise individual elements in each scenario based on a set of constraints. It also includes a few questions that require you to draw logical conclusions from a given statement or a set of statements.

TEST PREPARATION

The first obvious way to prepare for this test is to consult GAT General books published by Dogar and Ilmi. These books are useful for familiarizing yourself with the test pattern and

include samples of practice test papers and you can find them easily in any major book store. If you are willing to put some extra efforts in your preparation, I would recommend using the GRE Big Book (link given at the end of the document) for the verbal section, especially the comprehension and analogies in this book are very useful. For analytical reasoning, I would recommend practicing LSAT’s logic games. In the links section, you will find an LSAT strategy guide that explains how to tackle these questions using grouping strategies and organizational diagrams. Moreover, you can google LSAT logic games and try and practice as many questions as you can. For the quantitative section, if you don’t feel confident about your mathematical concepts, I suggest you go through the ‘mathematics review’ section of any good GRE book (Barron’s GRE can be found in the links’ section). Another very comprehensive guide is the Collins GCSE Maths Instant Revision (link given) which covers majority of the topics tested in the GAT test.

TIPS AND STRATEGIES

Although the passing mark of a GAT test is 50, it is a few tens short of a scholarship-winning score. The competition for Commonwealth Scholarships is fierce which means that just passing the test won’t help the cause. You should set your eyes on a score that is between 80 and 90. The nomination is based on quota which means that the merit for provinces that have more competition is usually higher. The usual merit cut-off scores are: Punjab 85- 87, Sindh(Urban) 82-84, KPK 82-84, Sindh(Rural) 78-80, Balochistan

78-80, FATA/GB 78-80. These are rough guidelines and actual cut-off scores every year may differ. Nevertheless, your goal must be to score above 85 to give yourself a good chance of getting nominated.

In my experience, there are two things in the test that would either make or break your score; time management and the analytical section. The difficulty level of the test is such that under no time limitation, you won’t come across many questions that you won’t be able to answer but the trick is to be able to make conscious attempts at all 100 questions during that 2-hour time window. Majority of the people struggle with time management in the test and end up blindly guessing a good 15-20 questions, at which point it’s highly unlikely for them to get a winning score. Secondly, the analytical section that is 40% of the total weightage constitutes a major percentage of the test. The questions are structured such that around 5-6 questions usually relate to one particular scenario which means that if you don’t understand the scenario clearly, there is a chance that you might end up answering most of them wrong. So essentially, if you learn to deal with scenario-based questions and you learn to finish the test in time (given that you already have a reasonable command of the English language and basic maths), you can significantly improve your chances of a high score.

I have accumulated a list of tips and strategies that have helped me do well in the

test and that you can use too to improve your score.

- Start early! Do not leave your preparation to the last minute. Identify your weak areas and work on them first.

- Figure out the number of sample test papers available to you. Solve one test

paper at the start of your preparation (you can do it without time limit) and check your scores for each section. This will help you to identify your weak areas. Work on your weak areas and leave the rest of the test papers for later when you are finished with your preparation. Do not randomly solve sample

test paper questions because that would defeat the purpose of leaving them for later to practice under timed conditions. Use the GRE Big Book and LSAT books if you feel the need to practice questions.

- Once you are satisfied with your preparation, open the sample test papers

and do each one of them under timed conditions. Make sure you are undisturbed throughout the whole test. By the end of your last practice test, if you manage to make conscious attempts at 95-100 questions within the

time limit, you are likely to manage your time well in the actual test too.

- One important strategy that has proved very useful for me is determining

the time allocation for each section and the order in which the sections are attempted. In my opinion, these are two very important decisions that you need to make before you sit in the test according to what suits you. After sitting in several GAT tests, I have figured out that the following is best-suited

for me:

o Time allocation: Verbal 20 mins (0.6 min/question) Quantitative 30 mins (1.2 min/question) Analytical 70 mins (1.75 min/question)

o Order of attempt: Quantitative-Analytical-Verbal (QAV)

- As far as time allocation and order of attempt go, there is nothing set in

stone and what might work for someone else might not work for you. One way to figure out what suits you is to do each of your timed practice tests with different combinations of time allocation and order of attempt and see which one helps you score better and manage time well. However, one word of advice is that in your time allocation, make sure you allow more than 1 min/question for the analytical section and in your order of attempt, try not to leave it for last because the stress levels are high near the end of the test and considering the nature of the questions in this section, you will be prone to making plenty of mistakes.

While in the test:

- As soon as the time starts, just have one quick look through the booklet to

make sure that there are no missing pages but don’t waste your time reading questions in all sections or assessing the difficulty level of the test. Get to the

first section from your chosen order of attempt right away.

- Don’t get stuck on a question. If you can’t seem to find the answer but have narrowed it down to 2 of the choices, mark small dots beside these options so you can choose one of them when you get back to it later.

- Don’t look at the time too often. A sensible way to keep track of time is to

check the time after you finish one-third and then two-thirds of a section. For instance, if you have allocated 20 mins for the verbal section that consists of 35 questions, check after 12 questions if you have completed them in 6-7

mins. If not, then you need to compensate for this in the next 12 questions.

- All said, there is still a chance that you might run out of time near the end of the test. Since there is no negative marking, you can resort to blind guesses in the last minute and make sure you don’t leave any question unattempted.