Understanding the structure and types of questions on data arrangements

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Arrangement is the act of putting things in a specific order or a sequence in order to satisfy the given constraints. Arrangement puzzles which appear in the logical reasoning section of aptitude papers assess the test-taker’s ability to comprehend complex data and filling out the information gaps using the given clues and set of constraints.


Structure of questions on Data Arrangements

Each Arrangement question typically begins with a paragraph which describes a particular situation and introduces a set of terms. This introduction will give you an idea of what you are expected to do with that particular question. This will be followed by a couple of short statements which will provide the rules or constraints to be applied to the particular terms and situation. One commonly asked question type is on seating arrangement of a group of people.

There are three types of clues involved in arrangement questions. They are:

  1. Direct clues: In this type, the relationship between two terms will be directly mentioned in the statements.
  1. Indirect clues: These are rules which can be converted to direct clues through reasoning, once all the other direct clues are identified.
  1. Scenario clues: Once all the direct and indirect clues are incorporated into the logical framework, the rest of the problem can be simplified to two or three scenarios, which on further analysis will lead us to the correct solution.


Approaches and strategies for questions on Data Arrangements

The systematic, step-by-step approach to solving arrangement questions will involve the following steps:

  1. Decide on the logical framework which should be used. This will be in the form of a diagram, through which all the terms given in the problem are plotted in a readable format using various letters, shapes, and symbols.
  2. Include direct clues and indirect clues into the logical framework necessarily in that order.
  3. The problem is considered to be solved, provided all the interrelationships between various terms are identified. If the information gap still persists, then the remaining problem has to be broken down into possible scenarios. Each scenario has to be checked for consistency of data. The scenario which meets all the constraints can be taken as the correct answer.
  4. Guard against multiple correct answers especially when “Cannot be determined” is one of the answer choices in the questions that follow the puzzle. When there are multiple correct answers which fit all the constraints given in the question, then the exact nature of the terms involved cannot be ascertained. Hence, the answer will be “Cannot be determined”.


Types of Arrangement

Linear arrangement

A Linear arrangement can be defined as a straight line arrangement typically involving not more than two dimensions. The key factor to be noted here is that arrangements are done only on one axis. When A is said to be on the left or ahead of B, in a linear arrangement, it cannot be assumed that A is to the immediate left of B or immediately ahead of B unless it is mentioned so specifically.

The directions given are relative in nature as it depends on from whose perspective the test-taker is deciding the directions. For example, if four people P, Q, R, S are sitting at a table from left to right in the same order, then Q is sitting to the left of R but to the right of P. Change in orientation, left and right, depends on two possible scenarios i.e. whether the test-taker assumes people to be facing the direction he is facing or whether he assumes them to be facing the opposite direction. But as long as consistency is maintained in incorporating the directions, this fact should not change the solution as the two scenarios are mirror images of each other.


Circular arrangement

A Circular arrangement can be defined as an arrangement having a closed loop. Typical examples include situations wherein seating arrangements around a table have to be made. The table can be of any shape and need not necessarily be circular. This is illustrated by the following diagrams.

Though the above diagrams look very different in terms of their structure, there would be minimal deviations in the interpretation of some common clues for all these diagrams.

For example, A is sitting opposite to D. B is sitting to the immediate left of A. B is sitting between A and C.


Complex arrangement

Complex arrangements are arrangements which involve more than two dimensions. The approach for these problems should be very similar to that of the linear arrangement problems except for the fact that the logical framework for interpreting the problem assumes special significance in this case. A lot of information needs to be comprehended in a complex arrangement problem, and hence, care should be taken to ensure that an appropriate framework which will aid smooth fitting and assimilation of data will be used.