Three steps to cracking the CAT Section 1 – Quant & DI : Part 1

This is the first of a three-part series. (Click here to visit Final Admit: The one stop shop for all MBA aspirants on InsideIIM)

CAT has changed over the years but most students study it and most teachers teach it still using the old methodology of dividing the preparation into three broad areas of
a. Quantitative Aptitude
b. Logical Reasoning & Data Interpretation
c. Verbal
While this strategy makes sense because of the nature of the topics, it would be wise for an aspirant to also align his preparation with clear goals in mind and pursuing them relentlessly. There is obviously the noble goal of learning but as an aspirant you also need to focus on the end result which is getting a call from the IIMs or getting a good score. Keeping those things in mind, I often suggest to my students to also analyze their preparation from a sectional perspective. In this post, and the two that follow, I am going to talk about how you can fine tune your preparation towards scoring more in section 1 of CAT 2014. The three steps in my opinion are:

Step 1 – Knowledge
Step 2 – Analysis
Step 3 – Improvement

So, without further ado, let us begin on this journey to scoring better in section 1.

Step 1 – Knowledge
The first thing that you need to know as an aspirant to score more in section 1 is the structure of section 1. It consists of four broad areas:

a. Quantitative Aptitude
b. Data Interpretation

There are 30 questions in section 1 which are further divided into the above four categories as:
20 or 21 questions are asked on Quantitative Aptitude. These are further divided into five sub categories:

1. Number System
2. Arithmetic
3. Algebra
4. Geometry
5. Modern Math

A very common misconception that students have is that CAT focuses a lot on Number System but that is not the case. As a matter of fact, if you consider the past 2-3 years (which is hard because papers are not available) or CAT papers from 2004 to 2008 (for which the papers are available) Number System is the least important section. Not only that, more often than not – questions which are asked on Number System are harder than the questions from other sub categories. On the other hand, the CAT paper is heavily inclined in favour of sub categories like Geometry and Algebra.

In Algebra, Functions form a major part of the questions. I would specially like to point out that complicated questions on ‘Remainders’ (questions which cannot be solved by basic rules and concepts of cyclicity), advanced questions on ‘Permutations & Combinations’ (questions which require usage of anything other than nCr), and questions on ‘Probability’ are almost never asked. But still a lot of students waste a huge amount of time preparing for these chapters. If you are among one of those students, I hope that after reading this post you would change your ways and utilize your time wisely.

9 / 10 questions are asked on Data Interpretation and these are also divided into 3 sets of 3, 3, and 3 / 4 questions each. More often than not two of these sets are easier than the third one. One of these sets is often calculation heavy whereas the other rely more on understanding the data given. More often than not questions in this part of the paper include tables with large amount of data. There is a reasonable chance of data being given in the form of bar charts or line diagrams. Pie charts are slightly less popular. Having said that, you should expect at least one set which would have data in a not traditional format like a spider web data representation or data given to you as a part of a triangle. Some students get shocked and surprised by this new form of data representation but from what I have seen in the past – these are the easiest questions to solve. Because in these, the key lies in understanding the data representation and once you do that – the questions are a cake walk. So, if you are lucky, you will get a set in non-traditional data representation format and that should be the first set that you should attempt.

I hope that if you have reached this point in the post, you are now well versed with what gets asked in Section 1. If you thought that this post was helpful, show us some love by liking / sharing / tweeting it. If not, you can always use the comment section to suggest improvements.

Ravi Handa has been teaching students for competitive exams institutes for past 8 years. He currently runs an online CAT coaching course for CAT 2015 and an online coaching course of IBPS PO 2015 Exam Preparation.


Ravi Handa

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Which are the best books for CAT to prepare. please guide me to start my preparation and I would give my CAT in 2015 .

Ravi Handa

If you are looking at CAT 2015, I would suggest that you work on your English. Read as much as you can – as often as you can. Serious prep can start from Jan / Feb 2015.

Shubham Kabra

The above description was quite helpful!
Regarding CAT my preparations are going quite well but DI and LR proving a bit cumbersome! Management of time with proper accuracy, I am finding that hard to achieve! I will be giving CAT, 2016, I am from HR COLLEGE, MUMBAI!
Help me out in how to make these highly improbable things possible!