08 Sep 2020 21:50 IST

CAT 2020: Cracking the QA section

It's tricky to get this section right because of the limited time and the vast range of topics to cover

The QA section is quite dreaded by CAT aspirants primarily because its content is vast and the list of formulae is endless. Overall, CAT is not formulae-based but application-based, involving a fair amount of critical thinking, making the QA section stand out. To make matters even trickier, CAT has a sectional time limit. All of these culminate in making this section seem too difficult to crack, and thereby, one’s goal of cracking CAT insurmountable.

But, fortunately, this is an exam where one’s absolute performance fades away in light of one’s relative performance, and perfecting that is more of an art than merely being good with numbers. Before we delve into the details of how to tame this monster of an area, let us first try to get a perspective on what exactly QA is all about and how it is relevant for an exam like the CAT.

Break-up of quant

The quantitative syllabus of CAT can be divided into five broad categories. They, along with the breakup of the number of questions, are stated below to help students get a better idea of the QA in CAT:








The above chart is just to give students brief information about the CAT pattern last year and no student should assume that this is the exact break up of questions one can expect in the CAT 2020. With 34 questions in total in the CAT 2019, the number of good attempts for this section was around 18 to 20. Even with an accuracy of 80 per cent, one would have achieved an approximate of 95 percentile.

One should remember well that CAT has always been an unpredictable exam. Also, do make a note of the fact that we have no information about the number of questions that will be asked this year in the CAT, even though the duration of the test is the same. A student should take into account all the possibilities and be prepared for the same. In terms of testing exam preparedness and relative performance with regard to CAT, one should be appearing for full length mocks at regular intervals and analysing them thoroughly.

Test-taking tips for QA:

Plan your preparation

Do not pick any topic or test area at random. It is important to build a ‘measurable plan’ for the next several weeks till the CAT. A student should take up topics one at a time and focus on the timely completion of the syllabus.


When you are tackling the QA section, approach the questions in a group-wise manner. Meaning, you first read through a group of four to five QA questions at a time, by using the ‘next’ and ‘previous’ buttons in the online interface before tackling any of them. This will help you choose the right question(s) to attempt, and thereby, aid you in optimising your time and the number of attempts. In every group of five questions, consider answering just two or three. You should attempt more questions only if you find them really easy.

Focus on the basics

Understand fundamentals very well. Know the key points of every topic. For example, if we consider HCF and LCM, then knowing only their meanings and methods of getting them is not sufficient. You should know the key points such as HCF is a factor of LCM or that HCF of two numbers is a factor of their sum as well as their difference.

Omitting some topics before exam

Many students make a list of topics that they would skip for the CAT. This is not at all a wise decision in exams like the CAT. I remember in one particular year, a student had skipped “logarithms” and that year three questions came from the same chapter. One should at least go through the basics of each chapter.

Online practice

After learning all the the topics, you should start taking as many sectional tests as possible. This will help you improve your solving speed.

Do not target a specific number of questions

Cut-offs are a function of the difficulty level of the section and the exam itself. Targeting a pre-decided number of questions to clear the cut-offs is not the smartest strategy to follow as you may need to answer more, or even fewer, questions than what you had decided. Also, a target might end up limiting you.

So, continue with your preparations, take everything detailed above into account, put on your thinking cap and come up with strategies that will help you bell the CAT and make it purr.

All the very best to you!