Math Syllabus for CAT Exam

Math Syllabus for CAT Exam

For test-takers coming from a non-math based background, approaching the Quantitative Ability section of the CAT exam can be intimidating. Particularly if you dove into your first mock exam without much information about what math concepts the exam covers, you may have been put off by the seemingly complex problems you saw there. Don’t be! In this post, we’ll break down the math syllabus for CAT exam, showing you exactly which topics you’ll need to study to get those top scores.

(If you’re looking for information about the format of the Quantitative Ability section, check out David’s post on the CAT Quantitative Ability Syllabus!)


“Arithmetic” is one of those highly misleading words. For those unfamiliar with the CAT, arithmetic may sound like the exam will ask questions like 4 + 8 = ? For better or for worse, CAT arithmetic problems are considerably more complex. You may need to perform arithmetic for some of the following problem types:

  • Percentages
  • Profit and Loss
  • Interest (Simple and Compound)

But some of the hardest arithmetic problems of all will come in combination with other topics. That’s right: the CAT may take several simpler concepts and layer them together into a more difficult problem. With practice, though, you’ll come to see exactly what these look like—and how you can master them!


Like arithmetic, algebra crops up in some unexpected places in the CAT Quant section. Furthermore, a lot of commonly tested CAT questions (such as ratios, mixtures, and rates) may not seem like they involve algebra—when, in fact, you are actually solving for an unknown. With that in mind, prepare to see algebra in some of the following question types:

  • Quadratic Equations
  • Ratios/Proportions
  • Mixtures
  • Rates (including speed)
  • Inequalities
  • Functions

If your algebra’s a little rusty, check out our CAT Algebra Practice Problems!


Geometry is another subject area that many of us haven’t looked at since high school. Brushing up on your geometry through practice tests and drills is a good idea, though, since you’ll see it in a fair number of CAT Quant problems. These include problems about:

  • Triangles
  • Circles
  • Angles
  • Area
  • Volume
  • Irregular objects
  • Coordinate geometry


Related to the previous concepts, trigonometry problems appear often enough on the CAT that you should study this area, particularly if you never studied it in secondary school. Trig concepts on the CAT include:

  • Exponents and Logarithms
  • Triangles, particularly Sine, Cosine, Tangent


Warning! Miscellaneous does not mean easy. Necessarily! While some concepts like remainders may be more intuitive than other concepts on the test, sequences and permutations can throw students for a loop. Be prepared to see any or all of the following:

  • Sequences and progressions
  • Number Properties (Factors, Multiples, Remainders, Negatives)
  • Combinatorics: Permutations and combinations, probability, rounding

While that may all seem overwhelming, remember: with careful practice and good strategies, you’ll be able to master these concepts before the official exam, getting you to your dream score—and, we hope, your dream school! Happy studying!

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