How to Prepare for CAT: Quantitative Ability

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Quantitative Ability (QA) section of CAT exam is considered to be the toughest section of all and also the most scoring one. The number of students scoring 100 percentile in this particular section is more than Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC) and Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR).

Preparing for Quantitative Ability is not easy, though. It is calculation heavy and requires a strong background in Mathematics as it includes major Math topics from class 9 and 10.

To prepare for QA, first of all, know the syllabus. The CAT syllabus for QA includes the following topics:

Geometry HCF & LCM Averages
Trigonometry Algebra Partnership (Accounts)
Mensuration Ratios and Proportion In-equations Quadratic and linear equations
Profit & Loss Time-Speed-Distance Surds and Indices
Number System Geometric Progression Inequalities
Work and Time Percentages Logarithms


You must also understand the marking scheme and number of questions asked in the QA section of CAT exam.

Total number of Questions in Quant 34
Type of Questions in QA 24-27 MCQs (There is negative marking)
7-10 Non-MCQs (There is no Negative marking)
Marks for Each Correct Answer +3
Negative Marks for Each Wrong Answer -1
Difficulty Level of QA Generally Moderate to High

Once you have understood the QA syllabus and exam pattern, make a plan for its preparation. Begin with basics:

Complete the syllabus: Understand topics, its concepts and formula in the initial days of your CAT preparation. After completing each topic, revise the formula and solve a few questions to know if you have understood the concept thoroughly or not.Practice easy to medium questions chapter wise.Remember, solving a particular question helps you understand it, solving it the second time, improves speed.

Listed below are the best books for QA

  • NCERT Mathematics Books (Class 9 to 10)
  • How to Prepare for Quantitative Aptitude for the CAT By Arun Sharma
  • Quantitative Aptitude Quantum CAT By Sarvesh Sharma
  • Quantitative Aptitude for Competitive Examinations By Abhijit Guha
  • Quantitative Aptitude for CAT By Nishit Sinha

Practice previous years question papers and mock tests:Once you’ve completed the syllabus, move on to solving past year CAT question papers and mock test series. This will give you an idea of the types of questions asked, topic-wise weightage, difficulty level of the quest and time taken to solve QA questions. Given below is the table indicating topic-wise weightage:

QA Topics Expected number of questions
Arithmetic 13 to 15
Algebra 6 to 8
Advance Mathematics 4 to 6
Geometry 6 to 9

Mock tests will provide you enough practice of CAT exam day as they are designed exactly like the actual exam along with sectional-time limit.

Other strategies you could apply to prepare for quantitative aptitude are given below:

Group Studies: Join CAT study groups (online or offline). Being in company of people who are in the same boat as you will not only boost your confidence but also give you exposure of different methods that can be applied to solve a question. You can get your queries solved, learn short cuts and other strategies to approach QA questions. The group will also keep you motivated at all times. Reach out to groups on Quora, Facebook, Whatsapp, Telegram, etc.

Mental Calculation: Although each candidate is provided an onscreen calculator in the CAT exam, mental calculation will save a few precious seconds. Develop your capacity of mental calculation, it is crucial because CAT is essentially a speed test.

Choosing the right questions in CAT exam: In the quant section, you can easily expect 10 to 30 percent questions which will break your speed because of heavy calculation or tricky nature. The ability to identify and skip them is the key. Remember, there is negative marking in CAT for wrong answer but not for skipping questions. Selecting the right questions is a skill to be developed while practicing sample papers and mock tests.

Build Stamina:Quant is the last section of CAT question paper which means a candidate will reach the section in the last hour. You need to build mental and physical stamina to finish two heavy duty sections – VARC and DILR – and then start with Quant which the most calculation heavy section of the exam.