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How to prepare Reasoning and Data Interpretation

Reasoning and data interpretation are common components of competitive exams, especially those that are related to the commerce field. Reasoning refers to the ability to put together seemingly unrelated data into logical and meaningful patterns to find solutions. Data interpretation generally deals with a mass of data and the candidate is expected to change it into information to answer questions. This article will provide a complete analysis of this section in CAT, RBI Grade B, SSC and PO exams.


Syllabus – Important Topics


Common Admission Test, generally abbreviated to CAT, is an exam conducted by the various Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) which provides admission to MBA in these institutes. CAT 2019 has the following syllabus for the reasoning part:

  • Seating Arrangement
  • Blood Relation
  • Syylogism
  • Tables and Graphs
  • Caselets

Questions in this section can be either individual or as a set.

RBI Grade B

The Reserve Bank of India is the central bank of the country. It conducts the Grade B exam every year, which is for the post of Grade B officer. The syllabus for the reasoning section includes:

  • Puzzles and Arrangement
  • Input Output/Coding Decoding
  • Syllogism
  • Inequality
  • Miscellaneous

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Staff Selection Commission is a recruitment board that provides employment in various Ministries/Departments of Indian government. For this purpose, it conducts examinations every year. There are four types of exams that comes under SSC:

  1. CGL (Combined Graduate Level)
  2. Stenographers
  3. CAPFS and DP
  4. JE Examination

This article will be focusing on SSC CGL exam. The syllabus for reasoning includes:

  • Puzzles
  • Graphs and Diagrams
  • Series
  • Blood Relations
  • Word Formation

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Among many other topics

Bank PO

Probation Officer exams are conducted by various banks in India. As the syllabus pattern for the prelims is the same for all banks, this article will focus on SBI PO exam details. The syllabus for reasoning and data interpretation section includes:

  • Puzzles and Seating Arrangement
  • Inequality
  • Coding-Decoding/Input-Output
  • Series Based
  • Data Sufficiency
  • Miscellaneous


Topic-wise Weighting

Though the reasoning section is common in many competitive exams, the topics have different weighting in each exam. The following table shows a comparison between the aforementioned exams.

Reasoning CAT RBI Grade B SSC Bank PO
32% 30% 25% 35%

As is evident from the table, Bank PO exams focus the most on the reasoning section. For this section, CAT has 32 questions carrying 96 marks for 300. RBI exam has 60 questions carrying a total of 60 marks out of a 200. SSC has 25 questions carrying 50 marks out of 200 and Bank exams. The syllabus for reasoning in bank exams is considered to be tough.

Below tables show topic wise questions to be expected in each type:


Chapter Questions Asked
Data Interpretation (Charts, diagrams, graphs) 15-16
Analysis Type (Caselets, blood relation, ranking, puzzles) 8-9
Seating Arrangement 4-5
Venn Diagrams 4-5

As is evident from the table above, the exam focuses on data interpretation for the majority of the reasoning section. Other types constitute the minority of the section. Focus on data interpretation questions fetches good percentage for candidates.

RBI Grade Exam

Type Questions Asked
Inequality 5
Syllogism 2-6
Coding Decoding 2-6
Blood Relations 1-3
Seating Arrangement 5-10
Directions and Distance 1-3
Floor Puzzles 5

Analyzing the table above, we can conclude that the maximum number of questions are asked from seating arrangements, which deals with permutations and combinations. More focus on this type will lead to better scores.


Category Questions Asked
Series 3-4
Coding 3-4
Arrangement and Direction Sense 4-5
Logic (Syllogism, Venn diagram) 2-3
Clock and Calendar 0-1
Non Verbal (Puzzles) 7-8

Bank Exams

Group Questions Asked
Puzzles and Seating Arrangement 15-20 (3-4 Sets)
Syllogism 4-5
Inequality 4-5
Coding Decoding 3-4
Input Output 3-4
Series 4-5
Data Sufficiency 4-5
Miscellaneous (Relations, directions, ranking, etc) 5-7

After perusal of above tables, we can see that each exam gives importance to different topics. A collection of most important topics based on number of questions asked for each exam is given below:

Exam Important Topic
CAT Data Interpretation
RBI Grade Exam Seating Arrangement
SSC CGL Non Verbal
Bank Exams Puzzles and Seating Arrangement

Strategy for Preparation for Reasoning Section

Reasoning section is more about puzzles and data. Questions can be solved with the help of the given data only. So do not make assumptions. The difficulty level related to each topic changes from candidate to candidate. It is best to practice a lot of questions and then figure out where your weaknesses lie. Time management is crucial to gain good scores. While practicing with past year papers, keep a timer to account for each section. Be careful with the language used, as what might seem to be may not be what it is.

For direction sense, the easiest way to keep track is to keep turning the paper yourself. That way, you go along with the character and so, mistakes are minimized. Picture puzzles generally have common figures rotating around. Catch hold of one such figure and solve the questions. Remember the sequence of alphabets and number them in the rough column before beginning the section. Series is among the toughest of topics since it is never clear as to what type of series each one is. Careful examination is required before solving them. Last but not the least; do not try to answer all questions if negative marking is present. Answer only those questions which you are confident in. This will help boost scores.

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