The syllabus for Quantitative Aptitude (QA) section may seem vast at first. However, there are a couple of topics, 5 to be precise, that are almost always tested during the CAT. These 5 topics constitute roughly 50% of the total questions asked in QA section. The other 50% comprises of 1-2 questions from the remaining 10 topics. While this post talks about the 5 most-scoring topics, I have also provided the list of remaining 10 topics for your reference towards the end of the post.
Topic #1 - Geometry
In CAT, the problems relating to geometry cover mostly triangles, quadrilaterals, and circles. Even though polygons with more than 4 sides are also covered, the emphasis on such polygons is not as much as it is on triangles and circles.
Tip: Read through the properties as well as theorems on parallel lines, angles, triangles (including congruency and similarity of triangles), quadrilaterals, circles, and polygons. Stick to the basics. Do not invest your precious time in learning difficult formulae - they will hardly ever be tested!
Topic #2 - Averages, Mixtures, Alligations
This is one of the simplest topics you will find in the entire QA module. The value of this topic lies not in itself, but it's power to increase your speed throughout DI, LR, and QA. In CAT 2016, some questions were even asked directly from this topic.
Tip: Questions from this topic area "score booster" opportunity. If you miss out on these questions or answer them incorrectly, you lose out on low-hanging fruits!
Topic #3 - Simple Interest & Compound Interest
Another easy topic. The questions are direct. If you practice from any good quality coaching material, chances are that the questions in actual CAT would be a cake-walk since not a lot of variations occur in this topic.
Tip: Try to complete 1 coaching material worth of questions (typically ~50) and you are sorted. Do not learn formulae by rote - try to understand the logical concepts behind them.
Topic #4 - Time and Distance
This topic can be summarised in few words: Distance = Time * Speed. That is it. You do need fancy calculations while answering questions from this topic. Most often, you need logical deduction skills to map out (sometimes literally) the relative positions of objects in question at certain intervals of time. From what I recall, 3-4 questions on CAT 2016 were based on time and distance.
Tip: Practice questions on relative speed, boats and streams, races and circular tracks. Do not learn any other formula except for Distance = Speed * Time. To master this topic, think visually!
Topic #5 - Numbers
A very expansive yet simple topic. Most questions from this topic test your pattern recognition skills. The more variations of questions you practice, the better your preparation.
Tip: A good place to really understand the type of questions tested in Numbers is to pick up CAT previous year question papers and identify the sub-topics that were tested. Once you have identified those categories, go back to your coaching material and practice questions on those categories of questions. That's how you ace a topic that's super extensive.
Remaining QA Topics
Find below the list of remaining topics tested in QA. I have broken the list into 2 categories:
I. The ones you should focus on after completing the 5 topics mentioned above:
a) Quadratic Equations
b) Progressions and Series
c) Time and Work
d) Functions & Graphs
e) Permutations & Combinations
g) Inequations & Modulus
II. The ones which can potentially be left out from your preparation with minimal damage to your scores - These are the topics that have gradually waned away from QA section of CAT.
About the Author:
Akshita Agarwal is a PGP student at IIM Ahmedabad class of 2017-2019. She scored 99.87%ile in CAT 2016 and bagged final admission offers from IIM Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta, and Lucknow. You can find her blogs on CAT preparation here.