CAT Quantitative Aptitude – the most demanding, most interesting and game-changing section in almost every other CAT examination. The sheer volume of topics that needs to be covered for CAT Quant flummoxes many CAT aspirants. Read on and stick to what I call the ’10 Plot Points’ to guide you home in Quant. Ace your Quant preparation even if you are starting in july.
1. CAT Quant is the largest bundle in terms of preparation
This is a no-brainer; CAT Quant is the area that demands the majority of your preparation time, irrespective of the number of days left for CAT. Come to terms with the fact that it will take a lot of time to cover even one round of learning all topics for CAT Quant.
2. Build fundamentals for CAT Quant
Quant is not going to be just about calculating fast or crunching numbers at a rapid pace. It is a tricky place with a lot of traps. You need to know how to avoid those traps in general.
Very often, CAT aspirants jump to high rigour problem-solving without getting their fundamentals in place. It backfires big time; take my word for that. Building fundamentals for CAT Quant is of utmost importance.
3. Have a preferred order while preparing for CAT Quant
Build a plan, and stick to it; the order of topics to be covered, the number of days it might take for each topic, etc. should be part of your preferred order. You can also check out 2IIM’s customized plan for CAT Preparation.
However, if you do not have a preferred order, what I would recommend is the following: Arithmetic -> Geometry -> Algebra/Number Systems -> Number Systems/Algebra
Arithmetic is the biggest chunk
CAT Quant tests Arithmetic heavily. Questions from Percentages, Profit and Loss, Averages, Simple and Compound Interest, Pipes and Cisterns, Speed Time and Distance, Races, etc. comprise thereabouts of 50% of the Quant section (16-17 questions).
Follow it up with Geometry
There are around 9-10 questions from Geometry, Co-ordinate Geometry, Mensuration and Trigonometry, combined in a standard CAT Quant section. Follow Arithmetic topics up with Geometry and allied topics; this gets you close to 24-25 questions in Quant. If you get these two chunks right in the CAT examination, it is a feat in itself.
Proceed with that topic you are better acquainted with
Once you are done with Arithmetic and Geometry, choose either Algebra OR Number Systems and Permutations and Combinations. The choice depends upon which of these you are that bit slightly more familiar with.
4. Learn from First Principles
This is, without a hint of doubt, the most vital but most easily forgotten thumb rule for CAT preparation in general, and CAT Quant in particular.
You may not realize the value of it – and I keep harping about this almost all the time – but learning from first principles builds up your speed over a period of time.
5. Don’t obsess over speed
You need to crawl before you walk, walk before you run, and run before you fly. You cannot check all the boxes right at the start of your CAT Quant preparation.
Speed is the aspect that takes a hit when you start preparing for Quant. It is perfectly alright; DO NOT obsess over speed in the initial phases of your preparation.
If you are stuck in a perennial battle between speed and accuracy, the 5 prompts to tackle the battle should see you through.
6. Forgetting is natural
More often than not, you complete Percentages and move on to the other topics like Profit and Loss, and Ratios and Proportions. Suddenly one fine day, probably during a mock, you realize that you are not able to solve a Percentages problem. Or, it takes more time than it did previously to solve one seemingly easier problem in Averages.
It is natural. It happens to every single CAT aspirant out there. Do not worry, do not panic. Forgetting is natural.
When you move topics, you tend to forget certain theorems and concepts in an earlier topic, your speed comes down, and so on and so forth. Which leads us up to the next plot point.
7. CAT Quant is an iterative learning process
One round of learning is not the end of a topic. Things do not work that way in the run-up to any examination; CAT Quant is no exception in this regard. All learning is iterative.
When you are preparing topic-by-topic, you have to go 1-2-3-4-1-2, then 5-6-7-3-4. By this way, you will not only keep learning new topics incrementally, but also keep brushing up the previously-learned topics from the attic called your brain. You can easily ace Quant with the right habits and plan.
8. When topics pile up, do not worry
You start preparing in iterations, and realize you had completely forgotten one topic. All the methodologies, underlying principles, theories and everything else are flushed in a whiff. You are in a state of shell shock, or in modern terms, post-traumatic stress disorder.
In order to set things right, you start focusing on that topic. Then, you recognize that you are missing out on the plan you had to learn more topics. The stress becomes palpable and you feel like things are slowly slipping out of your hands. DO NOT FRET.
Finish off the topics you floundered with, and adapt your plan accordingly for more topics.
9. Topics of CAT Quant are interlinked
You are not learning in an island, when you are preparing for CAT Quant. While learning Speeds and Races, and Pipes and Cisterns, your knowledge of Ratios and Proportions gets reestablished. When you prep topics like Profit and Loss, and Simple and Compound Interests, the requisites from Percentages get reinforced. If you use a bunch of variables to find unknown parameters, there is tinge of Algebra involved.
In a nutshell, the various topics – seemingly unrelated to one another – are pretty much interlinked with one another in a manner of speaking. You strengthen your learning as you progress with multiple topics of Quant.
10. Plan your schedule to include learning ‘n’ times
If you have a schedule, that schedule must contain an outline of sorts for revisiting a topic a second time, a third time and so on. It is just not enough to learn a topic once and then move on with life as usual. If it were that simple, CAT would not be called a competitive examination.
Best wishes for CAT 2021!
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.