How to prepare for CAT Quantitative Ability (QA) section?

What is Quantitative Aptitude?

Quantitative Aptitude (QA) is a section that tests the candidate’s mathematical aptitude and analytical ability. The questions of QA in CAT or other MBA entrance exams are usually based on elementary Mathematics that we study till class 10th. To ace QA, one has to have clarity of various concepts and thorough with their application.

QA is an integral part of any competitive exam. CAT 2021 had 22 questions from this section out of total 66 questions. 3 marks are awarded for a correct answer whereas 1 mark is deducted for wrong answer. Out of these 22 QA questions, 8 questions will be of TITA type where you not be provided with options but you will have to manually enter your answer in the text box. TITA type of questions do not carry any negative marking.

QA preparation is demanding as its syllabus is vast. Preparing for this section can be mentally taxing and physically draining, especially for students from non-Engineering background. Building a strong base and consistent practice in Quantitative Aptitude is the key.


CAT entrance exam syllabus is neither specifically defined nor released by IIMs. Based on the mock test released by IIMs and questions that have been asked over the years in CAT exam, following is the list of topics to be prepared for QA section.


QA Distribution of questions

IIMs have started giving more weightage to Arithmetic questions in CAT entrance exam to promote diversity. While around 40% questions are from Arithmetic, the number of questions from other topics like Numbers, P&C, Probability have reduced over the years. Below is the distribution of questions asked in CAT since 2017.


It would be wise to start your preparation with Arithmetic, since Arithmetic questions have a higher weightage. You can prioritise topics as per the distribution of questions given above. For non-Maths background students, it would be wise to pick topics like Permutation & Combination, Probability, Co-ordinate Geometry, Trigonometry towards the end of your preparation.

Where to study from?

We at Apti4All have put tremendous effort to bring to you a one stop solution for CAT Quant preparation. A well researched theory along with examples helps you clear your concepts. Once you go through the concepts for a particular topic, you can move on to Concept Review Exercises. This will help you in learning how to apply the concepts that you have learnt. Once you are comfortable with concepts you can move on to Practice Exercises. If you are comfortable with concepts you can directly start with Practice Exercises as well.

While preparing, make formula sheet for each topic where you write down important formulaes (and question types if possible). This will help you revise topics faster.

Apart from Apti4All, other sources you can refer for Quant preparation are:

  • Quantitative Aptitude by RS Aggarwal (Basics)
  • NCERT Mathematics books for class 6-10 (Basics)
  • How to Prepare for Quantitative Aptitude for CAT by Arun Sharma (Level 1 and 2 only)
  • Quantitative Aptitude Quantum CAT by Sarvesh Verma
  • Quantitative Aptitude for CAT by Nishit Sinha
  • Past Year Paper questions

Along with your regular preparation, it is highly advisable that you do regular revision. The best way to revise is module wise i.e. Arithmetic or Geometry or Algebra etc. From exam point of view modulewise revision would be better that topicwise revision. It would save time and prepare you to solve a mixed bag of questions.


Mock tests

Finally, the best way to prepare for any competitive exam is to write a lot of mock tests. Mock tests help you assess your preparation and make any changes if necessary. For CAT, application is more important than completing the whole syllabus. Mock tests help us learn the application part. You should write at leaset 20-25 full length mocks during your prepartion. Sectionals tests can also help you improve your performance in QA.

The whole point of writing mock/sectional test is to practice with time limit. Timed tests help us develop speed along with accuracy. 

Don't make the mistake of first completing the whole syllabus and then start writing mocks. You can start writing mocks once you've completed Arithmetic topics. You may also choose to write sectional tests for QA. Giving a test under time constraints is a completely different ball game compared to regular practice. Remember, your final goal is to score well in the exam and not just complete the syllabus. Applying what you know in an exam is a skill that can be acquired only by writing a lot of mock tests.

A very important part of writing mocks is to analyse them specially in Quant. Make sure you go through the solutions for all the questions (even the ones you got correct). This helps you figure out the best/shortest way of solving questions. While analysing you should figure out your strong/weak areas and focus on them accordingly.

The whole point of writing so many mocks is to figure out the best strategy to write the exam.


Previous Year Papers

Make sure you attempt questions from previous year papers, especially from CAT 2017 till date. This helps you to remain focused in your preparation as it keeps you updated with the type of questions that are being asked in exam.

At Apti4All we have categorised all previous year questions based on their respective topics. Hence, when you prepare a particular topic you can also practice previous years' questions for that particular topic.

We recommend students to take the immediately previous years' CAT papers as mocks. There is nothing better than writing actual CAT papers as mocks.


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