How Do 99+ Percentilers Prepare For CAT | Part 1 – Quantitative Ability

How to know whether you are someone who has the ability to crack CAT?

Most people believe that if you are great with calculations, blessed with a good mathematical aptitude or are decent at reading and comprehension skills you will stand a good chance at cracking CAT.

But I would like to take a slightly different approach here, which goes like this: if the very thought of cracking CAT sets your heart racing and veins pumping, if all that you think about or dream about is CAT then a strong willpower and dedication is all you will ever need.

“Don’t practice till you can get it right. Practice till you cannot get it wrong.”

In this article, I will primarily talk about how 99 percentilers usually prepare for CAT, the various books that they refer to and the various mock series that they give.

It will be a 3-article series focusing on the 3 sections of CAT:

  • QA -> Quantitative Ability
  • LR/DI -> Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning
  • VA/RC -> Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension

In this article, I will predominantly focus on the quant section, English and LR/DI will be covered in separate upcoming articles:

But before we start let’s get a few myths and preconceived notions out of the way:

Notion: All the students who make it to an IIM are born intelligent

Absolutely not! The most common definition of an intelligent person is – One who can process the given data or information fast and find innovative ways to solve a problem. An average person will just be someone who will take more time.

But speed is a direct consequence of practice. So, the more you will practice something, the better you will become at it over time.

All the students who make it to an IIM have 90 percent plus overall in X, XII, graduation and usually hail from the top graduation colleges

You have it wrong again! Rather you will find that a very high proportion of junta with 98 percentile+ will be those with around 65-85 in their 12th and graduation (10th exams have become a joke now)

Half of the battle is won in the mind, I myself took 4 years of preparation, 3 CAT attempts, several failed mocks and heartbreaks before breaking through. There were moments when I thought I will never be able to clear CAT but I was able to overpower them with the belief that “I can do this” and in the end, that is all that mattered.

The Quantitative Ability Section: 

As of now in the quant section of CAT, one has to solve 34 questions in 60 minutes, which gives you just around 1.8 minutes to solve a question, Hence, speed and accuracy are of the essence here. Also, the difficulty level of CAT has come down significantly in the years 2014-2016 from 2006-2013.

Having said that always keep one thing in your mind: Expect the unexpected from CAT! You never know they might significantly increase the level again.

The course for the quant section is roughly divided into:

1. Number System

2. Arithmetic

3. Algebra

4. Miscellaneous

5. Geometry

Also, you can check the allocation given to the individual topics in the image below.


Hence a fairly equal distribution given to the 5 sub-sections!

Now let’s get into the preparation strategy

The overall strategy can be divided into 3 stages:

  • Foundation Stage
  • Application Stage
  • Yoda Stage (Reference to Star Wars)

The Foundation Stage:

“Dreams and Dedication are a powerful combination”

CAT Quant is not the math you come across in college, it is a lot more basic in nature. As long as you like ‘finding answers’, you should be able to handle it.

You can build your basics by studying any one of the following books:

  • Arun sharma for Quantitative Aptitude
  • Quantum CAT by Arihant Publishers
  • TIME/CL/IMS material

I would personally suggest TIME Material for quant as it covers all the basics really well and you also get solves examples along with the theory.

Also enrol in either the correspondence or classroom program of IMS/TIME/CL (all three are good).


  • Solve all the questions for a particular topic from TIME/CL/IMS material (say Time Speed Distance) or basic level questions if you are referring to Arun Sharma or Arihant.
  • Mark the questions that you felt introduced you to a new method for solving a question
  • Revise the topics again after a week and solve those extra difficult marked questions

Most of the people score less than 90 percentile in CAT because they don’t even do these basics material well because of lack of motivation/fear of failure.

Application Stage:

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’ Muhammad Ali”

CAT questions seem to be very daunting to look at but are usually very easy to solve. Let’s take this example:

Given 2x + 5y = 1001, and x, y are positive integers, what is the sum of all possible values of x?

Now, let us start with trying to find one pair of values that satisfy this equation. If we substitute x = 1, y is not an integer, x cannot be 2 either. When x = 3, 5y = 995; y = 199 works. Now, 5y = 1001 – 2x. Or, 1001 -2x should be a multiple of 5. If x = 3 works, then the next value of x that works should be 8 (just think about this).

Going forward x = 3, 8, 13 work. The highest value x can take is 498. X cannot be more than 500 as that would not leave room for positive y. Now, we need to find 3 + 8 + 13 + 18 …+ 498. This is an AP with first term 3, common difference 5, nth term 498.

Was this rocket science? You just need to have a cool and calm mind with an analytical ability to apply the basics.

Checklist for going from the basic stage to the application stage:

  • Solve Past year CAT questions (2004-2008), you will come to know about the various pitfalls CAT tends to introduce in front of students
  • Revise all the basics concepts that you had learned and jot down the formulae, concepts learned in a notebook
  • Refer to for awesome theory and questions with complete solutions
  • Learn how to apply the basic formulae to more advanced questions that will require 2-3 logics at the same time using past year CAT/mock questions/Level 2 of various materials

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead-end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley

Yoda Stage

Yoda the character from Star Wars stands for self-mastery. The visibly timid and short Yoda was extremely skilled and dexterous with the ways of the force.

After applying the basic and application stage strategy you SHOULD be able to score approximately 85-99 percentile in CAT’s quant section (Though a lot depends on how you perform on CAT-Day!), but how do you go beyond that?

The secret lies in continuous practice and revision of mock level questions.

“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.”

Enrol for any mock test series (TIME/IMS/CL) and solve their questions religiously. I had a habit of noting down the mind-bending questions I used to encounter in mocks and revising them from time to time which took my CAT solving abilities to the next level (Scored 99.50 in the end).

Midnight Ruminations

I want you to think about your dream, now whatever it is that you are holding in your mind, I don’t care how far-fetched it might appear to be, here is what I know:-

That dream that you are holding in your mind is realistic and possible. Sometimes we can’t say that I can do that but what we can say is that it’s possible.

Until and unless you really believe that “It’s possible” none of the books, strategies and gurus in the world can help you.

You can read the story of how I cleared CAT here

For the part 2 on Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension, please click here.

For the part 3 on Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation, please click here.

Karan Kakkar

A die-hard Roger Federer fan, Karan is a singer and a musician who plays three percussion instruments. After spending the first 24 years of his life in Delhi, he finally found solace in the beautiful campus of IIM Kozhikode. Known simply as Kakkar among his friends, he prides myself on having watched all the IMDB top 250 movies in a single summer long movie marathon. He served as one of the student team members/writers of, representing IIM Kozhikode.



pitbull perez

in quants, once I do chapter and start doing other chapters I felt I forgot concepts and the way that i approached. Pls, enlighten me how to make a revision of quants? y i do forget? the concepts?

karan kakkar

Its fairly common, you will never be able to fully grasp all the topics in one go hence continuous revision is required. Try making notes and mark all the important questions related to a particular topic for revision.

Kushal Kabra

Inspired..!! In middle of Foundation and Application, try to finish it off as soon as possible and will get back to you again for Yoda stage. Thanks

ankita gite

Honestly, your story and strategy compared to others gave me such intense motivation! Thank you for sharing this! I am struggling emotionally more than mentally whilst prep…but there’s always a way..and your story confirmed it..! 🙂