How to Study for the CAT Quantitative Ability Section

study cat quantitative ability section

Maybe you were fourteen years old the last time you had to solve for x. Or maybe you’re an astrophysicist, working with calculus on a level most of us can’t fathom. In either case, you’re taking the CAT exam. Because the CAT has a particular way of testing math (which the test-makers call “Quantitative Ability”), you’ll still need to study for the exam. So here it is: our best advice for how to study for the CAT quantitative ability section.

Get to Know the Material

By material, I mean both the concepts that will be tested (see my post on the Math Syllabus for the CAT Exam), and the format in which you’ll see the concepts tested (see David’s post on the CAT Quantitative Ability syllabus). After all, you can’t ace a test when you don’t know what’s on it, right?

More than that, familiarity with the concepts tested takes a lot of the mystery out of an exam. This, in turn, reduces test anxiety and allows you to score higher. Win-win!

Test Yourself

I can’t say it enough: the best way to a good score on any test is to take mock exams. Because IIMs only offer the CAT once a year (and you have to register at least two months in advance), there’s no excuse not to take at least a few practice exams—and the more, the better.

How many is ideal? At least one a week. Two a week is better. If you can take them in test-like conditions (all at once, in silence, on a computer), that’s the best!

Review Your Tests

For the teachers among us, this is obvious. For other test-takers? You’d be surprised. A lot of us finish our practice exams and immediately score them—and then set them aside, often for good. When you do this, you’re losing out on about 50% of that test’s value, if not more.

Why? Because these tests are treasure troves of information. By analyzing the questions you got wrong, the questions you got right, and why you answered the way you did, you get a peek into your test-taking brain. Once you have that information, you can make your study plan all the more efficient.

I would even go so far as to say that without analyzing practice tests on a regular basis, there’s no way you can study for the CAT efficiently. It’s like throwing darts blindfolded—you can do it, but why not just take off the blindfold and see what you’re doing?

Be Your Own Drill Sergeant

Once you know where you need to improve in terms of content, the next steps are simple. Return to your lessons (or go to them for the first time) in these content areas. Then, drill yourself with several series of 10 questions. After each drill, pause and score yourself, then correct the problems you answered incorrectly.

At the end of the day, my best advice for how to study for the CAT Quantitative Ability section is this: keep going! Persistence pays off, and it especially pays off on the CAT. So if you’re discouraged by your early practice test results, that’s okay.

So how to study for the CAT Quantitative Ability section? Get back in the saddle and push forward. You’ll get there in the end!

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