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How to Prepare for Quantitative Aptitude for CAT 2020

How to prepare for CAT quantitative Aptitude

Before we lay out a plan on how to prepare for the Quantitative Aptitude for CAT, let us take a complete overview of the Quant section of CAT. Going by the latest paper pattern of the CAT Quantitative Aptitude section, we have seen that there are total 34 questions in the CAT Quant section. Here is the detail of the CAT quantitative aptitude sections.

Number of Questions34
Time allotted60 minutes
No. of MCQ questions23
No. of non-MCQ questions11
For each correct answer+3 marks
For each incorrect answer [MCQ]-1 marks

Topicwise questions in CAT Quantitative Aptitude

Topicwise CAT quant questions

The topics from which the problems in the quantitative aptitude section in CAT appear are:

  • Arithmetic: This section contains questions from topics like percentages, averages, mixture and alligation, time and work, ratio and proportion, and time speed and distance. In recent CAT, questions from arithmetic have comprised around 40% of the total number of questions of the CAT Quantitative Aptitude section. Hence, for better preparation of quantitative aptitude for CAT exam, it is imperative for the aspirant to get a firm hold on questions from arithmetic.
  • Algebra: Questions from Algebra are mainly from topics like linear and quadratic equations, progressions, logarithms, and functions etc. Algebra questions comprise almost 25% of CAT Quant section. Consequently, algebra becomes the second most important topic for the preparation of CAT Quant section.
  • Geometry: Geometry, once upon a time, dominated the CAT Quant section, with as many as 50% questions coming from this area alone.  However, things in recent years have changed a little. Nevertheless, even today 20-25% questions of the CAT Quant section come from Geometry.  Around 6-7 questions from topics like triangles, circles, quadrilaterals and mensuration appeared in CAT 2018 exam. Only Elementary concepts of geometry are sufficient to solve these questions.
  • Number system: Questions from this topic used to dominate CAT in the last decade but now only 1-2 questions, that too from fundamental properties of numbers, appear in CAT.
  • Modern Mathematics: There are mainly three topics in modern mathematics – permutation and combination, probability and set theory. In recent year CAT papers, we have seen a few questions appear from these topics. However, the concepts of set theory play a very important role in helping the aspirant solve the Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation questions that are based on set theory concepts.

From the above descriptions, it is evident that around 90% of the questions in CAT quantitative aptitude are from Arithmetic, Algebra and Geometry. Therefore, targeting these topics is of utmost importance for the preparation of quantitative ability.

Read Also: Latest CAT Quant Syllabus

 The difficulty level of CAT Quantitative Aptitude Questions

Due to a decrease in the number of questions from number system and modern maths, the difficulty level of quant questions has considerably decreased in the recent CAT papers. As a result, even an aspirant from non-maths background should be confident of not only managing the cutoffs but also of scoring high percentile in the CAT quant section.


Difficulty Level CAT Quantitative Aptitude

Preparation plan for CAT Quantitative Aptitude

We can divide the plan to prepare for CAT quantitative Aptitude into three steps:

  1. Covering the basic concepts of all topics
  2. Practicing Quant Questions
  3. Topic-wise tests/ sectional tests

Preparation Steps for CAT Quantitative Aptitude

Covering the basics of all topics

Although 90% of questions in CAT are from Arithmetic, Algebra and Geometry, still it is vital to cover the basics of all the topics for two major reasons:

  1. Many a time the quant questions require multiple concepts from different topics, helping the aspirant correctly arrive at the right answer. Skipping the basics of any topic would create hurdles in approaching such questions.
  2. CAT exam is unpredictable. There are still chances that the question pattern of Quantitative Aptitude may change next year. To counter these changes, it is advisable for the candidate to go through the basics of all topics.

In what order the topics should be learned?

While starting the preparation for CAT quantitative aptitude, the order in which the concepts should be learned is vital. For our comfort, we have divided the syllabus of CAT quantitative Aptitude into five major topics. But, not all these topics are independent of each other. For example, if we have understood the number system, then it becomes easy to understand many concepts of Algebra. Also, it is easy for the student to solve questions that require multiple concepts.

Based on our experience as teachers of CAT Quantitative Aptitude, we recommend that the student study the CAT Quantitative Aptitude topics in the order in which they are listed below.

Recommended order for CAT quantitative Aptitude Topics:

One should start with arithmetic topics such as percentages, ratio and proportion, and averages. These topics are very handy in solving many problems across the arithmetic area.  You must focus on the relationship between percentage and ratio and also memorize the necessary conversions between them.

In addition to the above thing, aspirants should target the following topics in the order given here:

  • Number System
  • Algebra
  • Permutation and Combination and other topics on Modern Maths.

The order is important because the concepts from one area can be used to solve questions from the other areas.  Let us understand this with the help of a problem which appeared in CAT paper in the recent past:


Using digits 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 only, how many 5 digit numbers can be formed (without repetition) such that the numbers are divisible by 4.

This problem falls under the category of permutation and combination. But, to solve it, we also need to apply divisibility rule of 4. Divisibility rules come under number system. Thus, the order in which you learn is critical.

In Number system, one should give more importance to the following topics than to any other.

  • Elementary Properties of numbers
  • Divisibility Rules
  • Elementary concepts of remainders
  • Concepts of digits
  • Factorization
  • HCF and LCM

Similarly, in Algebra, must do topics are:

  • Linear and quadratic equations
  • Functions
  • Logarithms
  • Progressions

Geometry can be taken in any order as the concepts, and the topics, are distinct and have no connection with other areas of CAT Quant. To solve problems from geometry, we must have a good understanding of the fundamental theorems of geometry,  and an elementary idea of geometrical constructions.

Within geometry one should focus on problems based on basics of triangles, Pythagoras theorem, similar triangles, and fundamentals of circle; most of the geometry problems which have appeared in CAT exam are based on these concepts.

Take Practice Problems on CAT  Quantitative Aptitude

After completing the basic concepts of each topic or subtopic, one must test his/her learning by taking some easy to moderate difficulty level problems on those topics.  You must be careful of the resources from which you practice. There are many books which have a lot of mistakes. Moreover,  the level of difficulty is not close to CAT quantitative aptitude section.

We suggest the following steps be followed by aspirants while practicing the questions for the CAT Quantitative Aptitude section.

Step 1: Try to approach the problem without using pen and paper, i.e., mentally try to solve the problems. Do not bother about the time you take. The prime objective is to develop the habit of solving the questions mentally.

Step 2: Not all questions can be solved mentally. However, one should be able to answer questions on simple concepts. In case you fail to solve mentally, try solving by using pen and paper. The next step is to figure out alternate methods of solving the problems. Often, there is more than one way to approach CAT Quantitative aptitude questions especially in questions from Geometry.

Step 3: The third and last step is to go through the explanations provided for those questions. At times you will find that there is an entirely different method used to solve those questions. Weigh your approach and the method given in the explanation. If the approach used in the explanation is better than yours, do try to learn them.

FREE CAT Quant Questions with Solutions

Solving previous years CAT Quant questions

Quantitative aptitude questions from previous year CAT papers unarguably are the best source for practice.  Solving these pool of questions serves two purposes. First, it helps the aspirant to understand how the questions are framed to test the concepts. Second, being able to solve these questions gives a psychological satisfaction and motivation to the aspirant.

FREE Download: Previous Years CAT Papers

Challenges faced by the aspirant while practicing CAT Quant questions, and how to overcome them

Very often it happens that even after understanding the concepts, one finds it difficult to solve practice questions of decent difficulty level. There can be multiple reasons for it. Let me discuss a few common reasons here:

  • One of the reason is that the problem is not based on the application of the direct use of formula or concept. The question also has some additional conditions, and we have to get the solution under those constraints. Here, the student should not get demotivated by thinking that even after putting lots of hard work he is not getting the desired result.
  • Remember that you are preparing for CAT quantitative Aptitude test where just memorizing the formula won’t work. To enhance one’s learning, one must go through the solution of the question and focus not only on the method used but also on the approach applied to counter the constraints.
  • Doing this repeatedly will help you overcome most of the issues about your preparation for quantitative aptitude for CAT. Often you will find some tricks or shortcuts that help you get the answer in a much shorter time. Do try to figure out why that trick or shortcut formula works.
  • In doing so, you will not only strengthen your understanding of the trick but also get insights into where and in what types of questions you can use such methods. Once you have gained enough confidence in solving medium difficulty level questions in all the areas of CAT quantitative aptitude,  your next step should be to focus on topic wise or sectional tests:

Taking CAT Quantitative aptitude topic /sectional tests:

Taking quant sectional tests is an excellent way of evaluating one’s competency on the ability to apply the concepts as well as speed. Post-test, one must give time to analyse the sectional tests. While analyzing the sectional tests, your focus should be on how much more can you enhance your speed and improve your question selection skills.

At the same time, you must take note of the new question varieties and the new approaches to those questions or to those questions with which you are already familiar.

Taking some good Quantitative Aptitude timed tests helps aspirants to identify their weak and strong areas. The weak areas or topics are those in which the aspirant:

  • Finds it difficult to comprehend the question properly
  • Often gets the wrong answers
  • Takes too much time to attempt the questions or the method applied is not appropriate.

In case you come across any of the problems mentioned above, you need to improve it by visiting back to the concepts and solving some more practice questions from that topic. Getting your doubts cleared from your mentor considerably increases your chances of improvements.

IMPORTANT: In case, if the only problem is that you take more time to solve the problems, but you very often get them right, then you don’t need to exercise the above suggestion. The speed to solve the questions incrementally increases with the increase in the no of tests that you take and by analyzing those tests thoroughly.

Vital Tips for the preparation of quantitative aptitude for CAT

Working from options

Aptitude tests are objective in nature. Here, the only thing important thing is the answer and not how you arrived at it. Also, the CAT exam is time-bound and we get only 60 minutes to manage 34 questions in one go. Using the standard methodical approach to solve the problems might take a good amount of time. As a result of this, students may not be able to reach all the questions, at times even missing some of the easy ones.

To get most out of our hard work in preparation for CAT quantitative aptitude,  we must also be good at solving the problems by using the options backwards.

Working from options is a tried and tested method to arrive at the answers quickly. While practicing quant problems and during tests, we must consciously and deliberately look to tests the options to arrive at the answer.

Caution on using shortcut formulas

Many aspirants make the mistake of stressing too much on the shortcut formulas, instead of focusing on the concepts. They feel that by using these shortcut formulas, they can solve the questions easily and quickly. Also, they think that this way takes less time and effort to prepare for quantitative aptitude.

There is no denying the fact that for good preparation for quant section one must learn the tricks and shortcut formulas also. But, relying heavily on shortcut formulas only is not a good idea. Let me caution you all in using the shortcut formulas. There are two major shortcomings of shortcut formulas:

  1. For each type of question, there are specific shortcut formula derived but that is applicable to that question only. We know the fact that there is no limit on types of questions in CAT quant. Hence, it is difficult and confusing to remember so many shortcut formulas for each and every type of questions.
  2. In the CAT exam, most of the questions cannot be solved by just applying any shortcuts. CAT exam wants to check the aspirants’ fundamental concepts and not how well the shortcuts can be applied. For the same reason, they rarely give questions based on shortcut formulas.

List of CAT quant topics

Number System




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4 Responses

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