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How to Prepare Quantitative Aptitude for CAT?

Last Updated - July 28, 2017

Quantitative Aptitude section of CAT is generally considered the toughest section by many of the aspirants, especially if they have not been studying mathematics after their Class 12 or 10. However, this section can be tamed if a candidate follows a proper strategy, and manages to create a good mixture of concepts and practice, along with usage of the proper type of study material.

Some important points to ponder before beginning the preparation for CAT Quantitative Aptitude (QA)-

  • Examination Pattern for Quantitative Aptitude Section for CAT 2017 is expected to remain same, 34 questions which need to be done in 60 minutes.
  • QA is generally of easy to moderate on the scale of level of difficulty.
  • CAT Syllabus for Quantitative Section includes Arithmetic, Geometry, Algebra, Number System and Modern Mathematics.
  • Arithmetic has been the topic with maximum weightage from past two years.
  • Candidates are advised to start preparing by now and devote at least 2 hours to this section daily.
  • They can also purchase a national level Mock Test Series for CAT, which plays a very important role.
  • Books by Arun Sharma, Nishit Sinha and Sarvesh Verma are the most recommended books for Quantitative Aptitude for CAT.
  • Concept based learning and regular practice is the key to success in this section.

CAT Quantitative Aptitude & Pattern of Section

Exam Pattern of CAT has remained exactly the same from past two years, 2015 and 2016. IIM Lucknow is conducting CAT 2017 and the pattern is still to be announced officially for CAT 2017. However, assuming that there will be no changes in the examination pattern, the Quantitative Section of Common Admission Test 2017 will look like this:

  • CAT 2017 will be an online computer based test.
  • Quantitative Aptitude Section will have a total of 34 questions.
  • Candidate will be given a total time of 60 minutes to complete the section.
  • Each question will carry three marks.
  • There will be around 24 questions which will be Multiple Choice Questions and the rest of the questions will be ‘Type in the Answer’ type.
  • There will be no negative marking for Type in the Answer questions; However, Multiple choice type questions will carry a negative marking of 1 mark for each wrong answer.
  • Candidates will be provided with a basic on-screen calculator in the exam.

Check Here  CAT Exam Pattern


CAT Quantitative Aptitude – Tips, Tricks and Strategies

Strategy and method of preparation plays an important role in CAT. Candidate needs to have a proper plan and needs to manage their time well, so that they do not skip any topic and also learns every topic very well.

Here are some preparation tips for candidates, for Quantitative Section of CAT:

When to start?

The best time to start preparing for CAT or its Quantitative Aptitude section is around February and March, especially if candidate has not studied mathematics in his/her graduation. Other period of time when many aspirants start preparing is June.

However, no candidate is advised to take the start of preparation beyond June as the syllabus of Quantitative Section is huge and takes around 3 to 4 months to complete, for most of the students. Candidates starting in June should make sure that they complete their syllabus by the end of August or at maximum 2nd week of September, but not later than that.

How much time should be devoted daily?

This thing depends upon the proficiency level of candidate in mathematics and also the total hours a candidate can devote to CAT preparation daily. If candidate is a non-working aspirant and is fully devoted to CAT preparation, then 3 to 4 hours of time daily is enough.

However, if candidate has time constraints due to job and other factors, he/she must devote at least 1.5 to 2 hours daily. Seeing the other way around, a candidate must at least target to solve 20 questions everyday in the initial days, and may take this number to up to at least 40 or higher than this in last 2-3 months of preparation.

Scheduling of chapters

If a candidate is taking coaching for CAT, then the question of which chapter is to be studied when does not even arise. If candidate is relying totally on self-study, then preferable order of topics is First Arithmetic, then Geometry, Number System, Algebra, Modern Mathematics and then other left over topics.

However, this order is completely subjective and candidate may adjust this order of chapters according to his/her own strength and weaknesses.

Mock tests

Mock Tests are the most important part of CAT Preparation. Candidates must enroll for at least one Mock Test Series and should start taking mock test before or from June. Test Series’ Institutes like TIME, IMS and CL are considered to be the best, as most number of students take these.

However, a candidate may also refer to the other test series, as per his/her preference. While attempting mocks, candidates should be as serious as they would be in actual CAT exam. Candidates must look to identify easy questions first and solve them quickly and accurately.

Some more strategical tips

Here are some other tips of relevance for candidates:

  • Candidates must not ignore their strengths, the topic which seems or easy or in which they are more comfortable should be started first.
  • Focus should be more on accuracy than merely going for a high number of attempts.
  • Candidates must not leave practicing concepts throughout the phase of preparation, as practicing helps candidate to remember the concepts more effectively.
  • Candidates should first learn concepts than just remembering or cramming formulae.
  • Candidates should also try to have a good calculation speed.
  • Assuming an easy to moderate paper, a score of 60 out of 102 can lead to a high percentile (98+), therefore, candidates should not try to attempt every question; rather they should look to attempt easy and moderate questions with high level of accuracy.

CAT Quantitative Aptitude – Difficulty Level Analysis

Quantitative aptitude section of CAT has historically been easy to moderate section, but only up to CAT 2015. CAT 2016 was amongst the most difficult CAT Papers of all time and its quantitative section was also tougher than what it usually is.

Let us take a look at the difficulty wise analysis of CAT 2015 and 2016’s Quantitative Section:

Level of DifficultyNo. of Questions in CAT 2015No. of Questions in CAT 2016
Easy12-138-9
Moderate15-1612-13
Difficult3-510-12
OverallEasy-ModerateModerate-Difficult

So, it is clearly visible that CAT 2016 was tougher than CAT 2015. But it does not necessitate that CAT 2017 will also be on the tougher side, as the predictability level of exam is very low.

Check Here  CAT Practice Papers 2017


CAT Syllabus for Quantitative Aptitude

IIMs do not provide any specified syllabus for CAT. But from the observation of past year papers of CAT, no question in quantitative ability has come from outside of the scope of these heads or to say it in a more simpler way, we can divide the syllabus of Quantitative Aptitude section of CAT in following heads:

  • Arithmetic: Ratio, Percentage, Averages, Profit and Loss, Time Speed and Distance, Simple and Compound Interest, Time and Work, Alligations and Mixtures, Pipes and Cisterns.
  • Geometry and Mensuration: Lines, Circles, Triangles, Other Polygons, Cylinders, Cones, Spheres, Co-Ordinate Geometry, Trigonometry etc.
  • Number System: Remainders, Factors, Factorials, LCM HCF, Prime and Composite Numbers etc.
  • Algebra: Quadratic Equations, Linear Equations, Lines and Slopes, Functions, Arithmetic and Geometric Progressions, Modulus
  • Modern Mathematics: Permutation and Combination, Set Theory, Probability etc.
  • Others: Clocks, Calendars, Logarithms, Surds and Indices etc.

CAT Quantitative Aptitude – Weightage of Different Topics

Well, CAT is a totally unpredictable exam, and its level of giving surprises to candidates is even more in Quantitative Aptitude. Therefore, candidates are advised to maintain a balance of all topics rather than focusing on two or three heads from the ones listed above.

CAT’s pattern has remained same in 2015 and 2016, 34 questions in Quantitative Aptitude section and duration of 1 hour. From the trends of past two years, weightage of each heading can be expected as in the table given below:

TopicsNumber of Questions
Arithmetic10-11
Number System5-6
Geometry and Mensuration5-6
Algebra4-5
Modern Mathematics3-4
Others1-2

Candidates must note that these are mere expectations. As CAT has been highly unpredictable, no one can tell exactly how many questions will come from each topic.

However, the weightage of Arithmetic heading has remained constant in the past two years, so candidates can assume it to be the most important topic for CAT.


If a candidate is taking coaching for CAT, he/she may refer to the coaching material provided by the institution. However, there are some good books available in the market that are studied by many aspirants, irrespective of the fact that they are taking coaching or not.

Therefore, here are the top three most recommended books for CAT Quantitative Aptitude:

CAT Preparetion books
Books NameAuthor/Publisher
How to Prepare for Quantitative AptitudeMcGraw Hill Mr. Arun Sharma
Quantitative Aptitude QuantumArihant Publications Mr. Nishit Sinha
The Pearson Guide to Quantitative Aptitude & Data Interpretation for the CATPearson Publications Mr. Nishit Sinha

In addition to these books, Candidate must look to solve past CAT papers also. There are a lot books also which offer solved past question papers. Solving past CAT papers is very important, as it makes candidate understand that what actually is to be studied and which type of questions are asked in the exam.


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