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What Makes CAT Unique Than Other Management Tests

Mathematics Section of CAT- What Makes it Unique than Other Management Tests

CAT, conducted for admission in the Indian Institutes of Management is also accepted by other, top B-Schools across the country for admissions to MBA, PGDM and other management courses. The registrations for the examination begin in the first week of August and the official notification is released along with the application forms. CAT hall ticket is then released for the candidates who successfully apply for the exam.

What Makes CAT Unique Than Other Management Tests

The exam is divided in three sections: Quantitative Ability, Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension and Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning. Among the three sections, the Quantitative Ability section carries a weightage of 34% and the allotted time for the section is 60 minutes. Also, this is considered the trickiest of the three sections.

Why is the Quantitative Aptitude Section of CAT unique?

The quantitative section of Common Admission Test is different than other management exams, mainly because of the difficulty level. The questions asked in this exam are much more difficult and lengthy. The difficulty level has also increased over the years, making it the most feared section by students. The syllabus for the mathematics section is also quite vast. Judging by the last few years’ trends, algebra and geometry are two of the most important parts of this section.

CAT, sometimes does not follow previous year’s pattern, particularly for this section, making it very unpredictable. Some years had questions on arithmetic and number system dominating major part of this section while some years had maximum questions on algebra, geometry and higher mathematics. So students preparing for selective topics may be taken by surprise. The mathematics section of CAT is important because if the score of this particular section is less, the student will not be considered for IIMs despite scoring well in the other two sections. Considering last year’s admission trends, IIMs demand 85 to 90 percentile in mathematics section to shortlist candidates for GD PI rounds. So you need to prepare for the quantitative aptitude section with utmost seriousness.

How to Prepare for Quantitative Aptitude for the CAT

In the following paragraphs, we will discuss some of the topics students should focus on to obtain a good score in mathematics.

Number System

Number system can be called a low priority area for CAT mathematics preparation because the questions on this topic have decreased in the last few years. Nevertheless, the concepts should be learned to solve the questions that are asked. Some of the most important topics to cover include–

  • Basics and properties of numbers
  • Base System – conversion of bases, addition, subtraction and multiplication in different bases
  • HCF & LCM
  • Finding out last digit, last two digits, number of zeroes
  • Divisibility Rules
  • Long division and finding out remainders – on this topic the questions are mainly based on divisibility rules, binomial theorem, simplifying the dividend, Wilson’s Theorem, Fermat’s Theorem, Euler’s Theorem, pattern recognition, cyclicity of remainder.


The main trick to master arithmetic part is to learn the concepts properly and apply short methods for calculation. The basic concepts that you will need to follow for solving most of the problems are-

  • Averages
  • Mean, median, mode
  • Percentages
  • Ratio and Proportion
  • Simple and Compound Interest.

Observing previous years’ patterns most of the arithmetic questions are asked on the below mentioned topics –

  • Profit & Loss
  • Mixture & Alligation
  • Time & Work – pipes & cisterns
  • Time & Distance – basic concepts, relative speed, linear and circular races, boats & streams, relative speed, escalator based questions

Few other topics from the syllabus that the students can learn for concepts are–

  • Stocks & shares
  • Calendars
  • Clocks

The concepts should be learned properly. One concept can have more than one application for one or more type of problems. Profit and Loss, Percentages and Ratio-Proportion are the basics which are needed for solving most arithmetic problems.


Since last few years, Algebra has gained much importance in CAT’s mathematics section. Most of the tricky questions are based on algebra. The exam may or may not ask direct questions based on basic algebraic equations and inequalities but a lot of questions follow the concepts. The important concepts and topics that you should learn are –

  • Basic Algebra and Formulas
  • Linear Equations – most questions on this topic are word based and number of integer solutions
  • Inequalities
  • Quadratic Equation – most problems are on finding out roots and maxima-minima
  • Logarithm
  • Functions – modifications of graphs and smallest value in a maximum function

Functions can be called the most important part of CAT mathematics section and a lot of questions are on this topic.


Apart from algebra, geometry is another topic which has gained importance in the previous years. This part is very scoring but feared by students due to the extensive syllabus. Geometry is scoring because it has formulas and theorems applying which, a problem can be solved directly. Also, some geometry questions can be solved by just drawing diagrams and applying a concept without any calculation. The syllabus for Geometry can be summarized as follows-

  • Triangles – basic triangle properties, area, angles, types of triangles, similar triangles, special triangles (30-60-90, 45-45-90, 30-30-120), Pythagorean theorem
  • Polygons
  • Circles
  • Mensuration
  • Solid Geometry
  • Co-ordinate geometry
  • Trigonometry

Questions from triangles and polygons, applications of Pythagoreans theorem are the most important topics to be practiced. Questions on solid geometry and mensuration can be solved directly using the formulas, so understand the concepts and learn the formulas to solve those problems quickly. Trigonometry and Co-ordinate geometry can be given a little less priority. Learning the basic formulas and their applications is enough to solve these two.

CAT 2018 28 Topic-Wise & Year-Wise Solved Papers (1990-2017)

Higher Mathematics

The higher mathematics or the modern mathematics section of CAT consists of the following topics:

  • Binomial Theorem
  • Sequence and Series (A.P, G.P, H.P)
  • Set Theory – Concepts, Venn Diagram (2,3,4 sets), Maxima minima values in a set
  • Permutation & Combination – questions are asked on grids, rank of word in dictionary, distribution of objects, fundamental principles on counting
  • Probability

The higher mathematics section does not contain too many questions in CAT. But questions on binomial theorem and series are fairly common. The concept of Set theory should be learned well as it can help to solve questions on logical reasoning section too.

The quantitative section of Common Admission Test is more difficult than other management exams but proper practice and understanding of basic concepts can help students in solving questions accurately. Learning short methods and application of different formulas can help in quick calculations. Students should focus on algebra and geometry part to score well as they cover a major part of the section.