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Preparation Tips for Quantitative Ability (QA) Section in CAT

Last Updated : 20 Sep, 2023
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The CAT exam (Common Admission Test) is a computer-based entrance exam in India for students wanting to secure the coveted MBA seats in various management institutes of the country such as IIM’s, FMS, DMS, etc. CAT is conducted every year by the IIMs on a rotational basis, and it scores the candidates using three sections, namely Quantitative Ability, Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension as well as Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning.


Among these three sections, Quantitative Ability is perhaps one of the most important sections. This is because it also helps in the Data Interpretation section if prepared thoroughly. Also, 22 questions out of a total of 66 questions in CAT are asked from this section alone, hence its importance cannot be overstated. So this article focuses on some important Preparation tips for Quantitative Ability so that you can best prepare and consequently ace the CAT exam!!!

Pattern for Quantitative Ability in CAT

To devise an overall strategy for the QA section in CAT, it is important to first understand its overall pattern. It is as follows:

Section Total No. Of 
No. Of 
MCQ Type 
No. Of 
Non-MCQ Type 
Total Marks Time Allocated
Quantitative Ability 22 14 8 22 x 3 = 66 40 minutes

Syllabus for Quantitative Ability in CAT

The syllabus for Quantitative Ability (QA) section in CAT comprises of mainly 5 sections:

  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra
  • Number System
  • Geometry & Mensuration
  • Modern Maths


Arithmetic comprises of following topics:

  • Percentages
    • Simple Interest & Compound Interest
    • Change of Base
    • Successive Change
    • Profit, Loss & Discount
    • Adulteration
    • Faulty Weights
  • Ratio and Proportions
    • Basics
    • Partnership
    • Mixtures & Alligations
    • Replacement
  • Averages
    • Basics
    • Mean, Mode and Median
    • Weighted Average
  • Time & Work
    • Basics
    • Efficiency
    • Negative Work
  • Time, Speed and Distance
    • Average + Relative Speed
    • Boats, Streams & Escalators
    • Linear and Circular Tracks


Algebra comprises of following topics:

  • Linear Equations
  • Quadratic and Higher order Equations
  • Functions
  • Sequence & Series
  • Logarithms
  • Maxima and Minima
  • Modulus 
  • Inequalities
  • Coordinate Geometry
  • Arithmetic Mean and Geometric Mean

Number System

Number System comprises of following topics:

  • Classification
  • Properties of digits
  • Factors and Multiples
  • Divisibilty Rules
  • Factorials
  • Highest Powers
  • Base Systems

Geometry & Mensuration

Geometry comprises of following topics:

  • Lines & Angles
  • Triangles
  • Quadrilaterals
  • Polygons
  • Circles
  • Mensuration
  • Mass Point Geometry
  • Trigonometry

Modern Math

Modern Math comprises of following topics:

  • Permutations and Combinations
  • Probability
  • Coins + Dices
  • Selections
  • Arrangements

Preparation Strategy for Quantitative Ability

Now that we have better clarity of the pattern and syllabus for QA, let’s move to the preparation. The first two to three months of CAT preparation (depending on the time you are left with) should be devoted to religiously completing the syllabus. This is a list of all the areas you need to cover in this period. 

1. Improving calculations 

  • Learn tables till thirty
  • Learn Squares, cubes, and reciprocals till 30.
  • Power of 2 up to 12
  • Power of 3 up to 7
  • Power of 4 up to 6
  • Power of 5, 6, and 7 up to 5
  • Power of 8, 9, and 10 up to 4
  • Power of 11, 12, 13 up to 3
  • Square roots and factorial till 10

Please note that even though the calculator is provided in the exam, it will be as useful as the calculator at your home because if you honestly have to use it, you are not there yet. 

2. Learning Formulas 

While doing the chapters, learn all the formulas and make a cheat sheet for them. When you finally solve the questions, don’t look at this sheet. You should have learned it by heart and if you are unable to recall it then learn all the formulas again and do the questions again the next day. 

Also, make a biweekly plan for revision and allocate 15 minutes for it. Put up the formulas in front of you wherever you sit or carry them with you when you travel. 

Attempt multiple mock-tests for preparation

People argue that there are no hacks for getting a good score in CAT, but there is one, it’s called giving MOCKS. 

So you should attempt as many mocks as you can and ANALYZE them. This point can’t be stressed enough but just to emphasize again, ANALYZE MOCKS AFTER ATTEMPTING. Please remember is that this is not an exam for just hard-working people but for both hard-working and smart-working people. So be smart and attempt the maximum number of the EASIEST questions in Quantitative Ability. Remember that all correct answers will fetch you a +3. There are no brownie points for attempting the hard questions. 

Also, everyone has a different definition of easy, so play to your strengths. However, it might happen that the area you are confident in has the hardest questions. Don’t fall for that trap, move to the easy questions immediately, and don’t let it affect your ego. 

3. Learning the art of elimination – Some options can be eliminated just by looking at their values. 

Go Round-Robin: These are some of the steps you need to follow when giving the exam. 

  • Start from question number 1 read it, see if you can do it in a minute or less i.e. if it’s formula-based and there are no multiple cases and possibilities then go ahead and solve it. If you think you can solve it, but it will take 2-3 minutes just note it down on the rough notebook provided.
  • Repeat this for all 34 questions. By this time, around 30 minutes would have elapsed, and as per an average paper, you would have attempted around 15-18 questions. Now two things have happened, with decent accuracy you have managed to get around 97 percentile and have seen all the questions.
  • In round 2, look at the list you have prepared, attempt all the questions you have marked which were easy but would take 2-3 minutes. The good thing about this strategy is that your mind will subconsciously be working to solve these questions, and you will be able to solve them even faster than you would have, had you solved them on the first go. By the time you complete it, there is a very good possibility that the time will be up but if you manage to solve a couple of the hard ones then kudos to you.

Some General Tips for Quantitative Ability

These are some general tips you can follow while preparing for the Quantitative Ability section of CAT: 

  • In CAT examination, a notebook is provided and there is no dearth of paper so while solving questions solve them neatly because sometimes you are unable to solve the question and have to skip it as it is taking longer than expected. In this case, when you come back to re-attempt the question, instead of starting from scratch you can pick up from where you left.
  • While practicing try and evaluate how much time you are taking to solve the question. You need not start this practice right away, but after you are done with basic questions, try to time yourself.
  • Most questions are designed to be solved under 2-2.5 minutes so if you are taking longer than this period ask your peers for advice. Maybe they know an approach you aren’t aware of.

Books to prepare for QA

  • How to Prepare for Quantitative Aptitude for the CAT by Arun Sharma
  • Quantitative Aptitude for the CAT by Nishit K Sinha
  • Quantitative Aptitude for the CAT by Sarvesh Sharma
  • Quantitative Aptitude for All Competitive Examinations by Abhijit Guha

How to Prepare for the CAT Exam?

For the most efficient and effective preparation of the CAT exam, GeeksforGeeks brings you the “CAT Mock Test Series”. This course covers all three sections i.e. Quantitative Ability (QA), Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC), and Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR) – and here you’ll get timed tests of different difficulty levels that are designed to help in tracking both speed and accuracy. In addition, theory regarding important sections is also provided in the tracks which aid both in concept building and revision.

The course consists of 27 Sectionals Tracks, 27 Sectional Contests, and 3 Full-Length Mocks, and let us tell you that both the tracks and the contests assess you on three levels of difficulty to help you prepare for the question of any difficulty level you might face in the examination.

CAT 2021 Test Series

The CAT 2021 Preparation Test Series is being provided to you at a student-friendly price, INR 499/- Also, you’ll be provided with a detailed explanation after the test completion for all the required questions. It will surely help you in clearing the doubts and improving your problem-solving skills.

You are just a click away to level up your CAT 2021 preparation game – register now for the CAT Mock Test Series asap!!

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