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How to Prepare for CAT Quantitative Aptitude (QA)

The Quantitative Aptitude (QA) section is one which haunts the dreams of many of the non-engineering aspirants. With CAT generally being regarded as one a ‘tough’ exam, the prospect of solving high level Quantitative Aptitude leaves several aspirants shaking.

But is it really high level Quat?

General Stages for QA Preparation

Worry not! This article will carry details on how to prepare for the CAT Quantitative Aptitude (QA) section by establishing a process about how to prepare for QA questions.

  • The first step for the preparation is to learn the basics and make yourself as comfortable with it as possible. CAT is as much as a speed test as it is a skill-based test. Thus, it is important to improve the speed of solving including the speed of calculation. The different tricks and tips can be looked at in this stage to identify the ones which work for the student and which ones to avoid.
  • This will also give the aspirant a platform to boost their preparation to the next level after establishing the basics properly. The practice for this level of questions can be done using the NCERT books from Class 10 to 12 since the portion remains the same. Thus, even choosing a reference book is no longer an issue, practice and improve your speed through these books before moving on to more advanced material.
  • Following the basic preparation, the intermediate level of questions should be attempted. The concepts should be clear at this level so the focus should be on maintaining a high level of accuracy when solving these questions. The speed of solving can initially be sacrificed in order to clear the concepts further. However, once the concepts are clear, the practice to increase the speed should start in earnest again.
  • In the final step, the candidate should appear for as many mocks as possible. Attempting too many tough questions does not make much sense because the number of tough questions in CAT are very limited and usually the benefit of solving these questions are outweighed by the loss of missing out on easier questions.
  • Attempting mocks will allow the candidate to identify his strengths and weaknesses in the section and will give him/her a target to work towards. Depending on the time remaining for the exam, the weaknesses need to be consolidated as much as possible. You should be able to solve at least the basic questions in an acceptable time during the mocks so that you don't miss out on the easy questions in this section.

Topics Covered in QA

The topics covered in the Quantitative Aptitude syllabus is not clearly defined in the syllabus due to which the students are always slightly confused about how to prepare for the CAT Quantitative Aptitude(QA) section. However some analysis on the previous year's papers yielded the information that every year, Numbers and Geometry & Mensuration generally account for the highest number of questions in the form of almost 10-12 questions. This represents almost a third of the questions from the total 34 in the section.

Geometry & Mensuration Formulae

Geometry and Mensuration formulae are quite intensive in number which is one of the reasons that many students find this section tough. Without the formulae and the tricks, solving these questions could take a very long time. In order to help the students on how to prepare for the Quantitative Aptitude (QA) section, the major mensuration formulae are mentioned below:


  • Curved Surface Area= 2(l+b)*h
  • Total Surface Area= 2(lb+bh+hl)
  • Volume= (l*b*h)


  • Curved Surface Area= 4*a2
  • Total Surface Area= 6*a2
  • Volume= a3

Right Circular Cylinder

  • Curved Surface Area= 2*π*r*h
  • Total Surface Area= 2*π*r*(r+h)
  • Volume= π*r2*h

Right Circular Cone

  • Curved Surface Area= π*r*l
  • Total Surface Area= π*r*(l+r)
  • Volume= (1/3)* π*r2*h


  • Curved Surface Area= 4* π*r2
  • Total Surface Area= 4* π*r2
  • Volume= (4/3)* π*r3

Solid Hemisphere

  • Curved Surface Area= 2* π*r2
  • Total Surface Area= 3* π*r2
  • Volume= (2/3)* π*r3

Hollow Hemisphere

  • Curved Surface Area= 2* π*r2
  • Total Surface Area= 2* π*r2
  • Volume= (2/3)* π*r3

Some shortcuts apart from these mensuration formulae that can be used to solve these questions as soon as possible are:

  • Symmetry should be kept in mind when solving these sections since it can literally half the time of solving in some cases.
  • Some options can be eliminated directly by looking at the dimensions or the values which can also help in solving these questions
  • Most of the questions in this topic are limited to a few types which have already been asked in the previous CAT papers. Thus preparation for the mensuration topic can be done from there directly.

These mensuration formulae usually come in handy for students who are looking at how to prepare for Quantitative Aptitude (QA). Similarly formulae for geometry is also available on this website.

For geometry, the various theorems are difficult to remember and this makes solving some of these questions very difficult. There are questions where knowing the right theorem could solve the question within 15 seconds while the conventional methods may exceed a couple of minutes.

Number Systems

After the mensuration and geometry section, the next topics which can be taken up by students is Numbers. Numbers in CAT is one of the fundamental topics of the section and one which students tend to devote a lot of time too.

One of the reasons for this is that the types of questions that can be made on Number systems are huge due to which the study materials have a huge amount of content for this section compared to other topics such as commercial maths.

Some of the most important types of questions that have been repeated in CAT are:

  • Sum or difference of a number and its reverse will be given along with some other relation and the number may need to be identified
  • Counting questions mixed with arrangements can be asked
  • Continually increasing or decreasing count can be asked

These sections cover almost half of the QA section in the exam. However when students ask teachers how to prepare for the QA section, a few other topics are always mentioned such as Commercial Maths, Probability, Alligations and Mixtures, Sequence and Series and Trigonometry.

Profit and Loss/SI and CI

Commercial Maths consists of primarily two topics, Profit and Loss & Simple and Compound Interest. While there are only a few formulae in these topics, they are quite calculation intensive. The use of percentages in this types of questions generally allows for faster calculations and solutions. Some of the formulae in this topics are:

  • Simple Interest: SI= (P*R*T)/100
  • Compound Interest: A=P*(1+(R/100))^T

These two formulae are basically sufficient for solving questions from Simple and Compound Interest although some more formulae can be derived to help the student solve faster.

Alligations and Mixtures

Alligations and Mixtures are a topic which can be tested in conjunction with other topics, such as profit and loss, or through stand alone questions. The basic concept of this topic is that it consists of two or more materials/items being mixed and the questions are usually framed to ask how much of each should be added to a mixture in order to reach a particular ratio. Profit and Loss can be added to this question by mentioning the cost of each material and the cost of the alloy.

Sequence & Series

Sequence and Series is a topic which covers three basic topics: the Arithmetic Progression, the Geometric Progression and the Harmonic Progression. These topics, like Alligation and Mixture, can be stand alone questions or may be mixed with other topics although that is quite rare.


Trigonometry is an auxiliary topic which is used in Geometry, time, speed, distance and as a standalone topic. The basic formulae for trigonometry should be on every CAT students fingertips as it can be used quite a lot.

Tips and Tricks for QA Section

These are some of the topics that carry a significant weight in the Quantitative Aptitude section. Some general tips on how to prepare for the CAT QA section are:

  • Improve Calculation speed through practice as well as other techniques such as Vedic Maths
  • Build a strategy on how many questions to attempt based on your comfort level with this section
  • In the exam, main focus should be on accuracy even if the speed is slightly slower than expected since the level of the paper varies every year
  • Attempt different strategies in the mock exams in order to arrive at the final strategy that you wish to use in the final exam

How to prepare for the CAT Quantitative Aptitude (QA) section was once one of the biggest questions that aspirants needed to answer before they could think about giving the exam. However today, we have several resources available online to start our preparation without anybody else's help. Still the competitiveness of the classroom coaching in QA classes is difficult to compete with as it is the most level field between the aspirants while VA and DILR favor those who might have a natural knack at it.

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