The time is ripe to start preparing for CAT 2021! Too often, potential aspirants defer their CAT Preparation due to their perceived fear towards the Quantitative Aptitude Section. We’ve found, time and again, that a good hold on the syllabus and a (reasonably) structured schedule can take you a long way in your quantitative aptitude preparation. Let’s delve into this now!
CAT 2021 Preparation – Quantitative Aptitude
First off, the overarching way of preparing for something remains the same for anything in the CAT:
- Learn from fundamentals.
Learn from absolute zero. Do tons of practice of routine to build automation and speed. See where you stand by assessing yourself.
There is a certain bias towards the order in which one goes through quantitative aptitude preparation, which proves to be useful.
If you already know what this exam is about, if you already know all about the quant section, and you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses, then stick to an independent plan. The aforementioned useful pattern is for someone who is starting with a clean slate i.e. from absolute basics.
If you are a CAT Retaker, do check out this article that dives into key strategies for your reattempt. If you are a non-engineer, check out this article to find out how to best approach the Quant Section! 🙂
Why is Arithmetic a game-changer for Quantitative Aptitude?
Let’s move on. The biggest topics to hit, for someone starting from absolute basics, come under Arithmetic:
- Profit & Loss
- Ratio, Proportion & Mixtures
- Speed, Time and Distance
- Simple and Compound Interest
- Pipes and Cisterns
- Work & Time
These are routine and simple topics for most exams that involve quantitative aptitude, that aren’t heavy in theory but are crucial in helping you build an intuition for simple equations and variables.
Arithmetic forms the backbone of your quant preparation and is absolutely vital. For the last few years, about half of the Quantitative Aptitude Section of the CAT has been from topics under Arithmetic. So you can see why this forms the bedrock of your preparation.
Say you are solving a question from Number Theory. One way or another, you’re thinking about using Ratios. Or say you’re doing Geometry…you end up solving an equation. Percentages, Linear Equations and Ratios are topics that will keep popping up. This is why you need to have this base ready before you further your CAT Preparation.
Look to get very comfortable with the idea of percentages, fractions, decimals, manipulating ratios within questions etc. Having these ideas in place will prove to be immensely useful and they will also help you amp up your game.
If you have Arithmetic in place, your route to the 85th percentile in Quant is practically assured.
The remaining 15 percentile
There are three big chunks:
- Number Systems
Why should Geometry be Step 2 after Arithmetic?
I have always preferred Geometry from the aforementioned chunks because preparation for Geometry is done iteratively: You learn the theory, you do a bunch of questions, then you try a bunch of new questions only to realize that you need to reinforce your theory. It definitely needs two rounds but remember, the payoffs are massive.
So what comes under Geometry?
- Geometry (we’re not blind to the irony :P)
- Coordinate Geometry
These topics form about 20% of the Quantitative Aptitude Section, which is definitely significant and massively useful.
For a detailed preparation plan for Geometry, do check out this wonderfully concise article on CAT Geometry Preparation!
After Arithmetic and Geometry, it is more or less a toss-up between Number Systems and Algebra.
What comes under Number Systems?
- Number Theory and Remainders
- Set Theory
What comes under Algebra?
- Linear and Quadratic Equations
I don’t have a very strong preference between algebra and number systems. Pick whichever one you gravitate towards.
Note: Definitely complete linear and quadratic equations. They are vital for your overall quant knowledge.
There is also Modern Math:
- Permutation and Combination
Notes to Remember
- Definitely go for Arithmetic first, then Geometry, then either Algebra and Numbers Systems consecutively with Modern Math.
- Don’t look to skip or pick topics early on. You’re learning Percentages to learn Percentages. The idea of selecting your strong or weak areas will come into play in the last 2 months.
- When you’re practicing for a topic, you’ll learn fundamentals, get some practice, then do a bunch of CAT-level questions to know whether you’re game ready.
- A lot of learning is iterative, and revision can make or break your CAT attempt. If you’re learning topic 1 2 3 4, revisit 1 or 2 and then move on to 5 6 7. Come back to 3 4 after that and go forward.
Check out this wonderful video about the Art of Revision to learn why it can make or break your CAT Attempt and why it is vital to learning itself.
As your level of math goes higher on, your need for consolidation will reduce but early on, keep faith and keep revisiting topics.
In quite a few occasions, you’ll feel like you’ve lost some speed. Trust me, speed will come back. You might also feel like getting to even the 98th percentile is a Herculean Task. Hang in there.
If you feel like you have/may have trouble remembering Quant Formulae, read this article to learn a simple way to retain those pesky numbers.
As you progress further, a bunch of common traps in the Quantitative Aptitude Section will start to plague you. Read this article to recognize and beat them early on!
This exam can be nailed if you’re temperamentally sound and perseverant. This is why it is crucial to learn with a sense of joy. The idea of learning something new and figuring something out should put a smile on your face! 😀
Cheers, and Best Wishes for CAT!
Rajesh Balasubramanian takes the CAT every year and is a 4-time CAT 100 percentiler. He likes few things more than teaching Math and insists to this day that he is a better teacher than exam-taker.