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Speed calculation techniques - CAT Strategy
April 11 2024

Mastering Speed and Accuracy: Keys to Conquering the CAT

The CAT exam is a race against the clock, and excelling requires a perfect blend of speed and accuracy. Here's why:

  • More Attempts, Higher Scores: Increased calculation speed allows you to attempt more questions, maximizing your potential score.
  • Confidence Through Efficiency: Solving problems quickly builds confidence and reduces test anxiety.
  • Focus on Strategy, Not Just Calculations: Speed lets you focus on choosing the right approach for each question rather than getting bogged down in calculations.

Developing Calculation Speed:

  • Conceptual Understanding is Key: Before focusing on speed, ensure you have a solid grasp of fundamental mathematical concepts. This eliminates confusion and hesitation during the exam.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: Regular practice with timed drills hones your calculation skills and builds muscle memory for applying formulas quickly.
  • Identify Shortcuts and Techniques: Learn time-saving techniques like estimation, approximation, and Vedic math (if applicable to your needs) to tackle problems efficiently.

Remember: Speed without accuracy is futile in the CAT. Practice applying these strategies alongside focused revision to achieve the optimal balance for 


There are various approaches to improve speed. These approaches are mentioned below in detail. With these mentioned approaches, one can easily enhance their speed and solve the CAT questions easily and quickly.

  • Lessen the time per question (try using shortcut techniques to solve CAT Questions). This would imply that either one needs to strengthen concepts or use the elimination of answer choices.
  • Have a superior sequencing of the questions you are attempting. That you will initially do the questions that take less time and after that rest of the other questions. This is something that you should do in any case.
  • Leave the questions where you are stuck or which is taking more time. This will help you improve speed and maximize the number of attempts.


Make the basics stronger. It is important to know basic multiplication tables (at least till 20), squares, and cubes. This results in reduced calculation time, also render multiplication and division of larger numbers easier. It is good to know the formulas – the reason and the meaning behind the calculations. You need to know- the ‘When’, ‘why’, and ‘How’ of each formula. At first, it will increase the amount of time you take to solve, but once you get hold of it, it will help reduce the solving time. Alternatively, the candidate should focus on the concept of the question and not just jump to problem-solving. If you want to speed up, alternative techniques will definitely help. Try using different angels to solve different topics.

Prepare for CAT with the best experts

Due to the fact that only a few of the applicants are able to make it to top IIMs every year, this makes the CAT most competitive exam in our country. CAT syllabus includes topics like Geometry, Algebra, Percentages, etc. which most of the candidates have already done in their high school academics. The exam is so challenging only because of its limited time. Thus, efficient time management becomes very important and probably is the biggest challenge faced by most of the candidates in the CAT Exam.

Also read: When to start preparing for CAT


Some of the tricks for increasing speed:

Base Multiplication Trick

For multiplications of numbers such as 105 and 107, the base multiplication technique can be used.

Step 1: To multiply 107 and 109, take the base as 100. These numbers are 5 and 7 more than the base.

Step 2: To get the answer to add 5 and 7 in the numbers to the base. 112 (100 + 5 + 7). This will be the left-hand side.
Step 3: Now take the product of the two numbers i.e. 5 & 7 and multiply them. Now just attach this at the end of the earlier result i.e. 11235.
You can use this trick to multiply numbers with any base.

Also read: Important quant Topics for CAT

Example: What is 508*512?
Step 1: To multiply 508 and 512, take the base as 500. These numbers are 8 and 12 more than the base.
Step 2: In order to get the answer, add 8 and 12 in the numbers to the base and get the number as 520 (500 + 8 + 12). Now, multiply 520 with 5(as the base is 5 times 100). We get 2600. Take the 1st three digits. This becomes the left-hand side.
Step 3: Take the product of the two earlier numbers i.e. 8 & 12 and get the product as 96. This will form the last three digits of the answer.
Step 4: Now just attach this at the end of the earlier result i.e. 260096.
Note: The base for both numbers should be the same. Otherwise, we cannot use this method.

Now let’s proceed to another trick.
You must be aware of the algebraic expression (a2-b2) = (a-b)*(a+b). We’ll use this expression to simplify calculations. Let us see how.

Example: What is 77*123?
Step 1: We take the base as 100. 77 is 23 less than 100 and 123 is 23 more than 100.
Step 2: Think of 77*123 as (100-23)*(100+23)
Step 3: Apply the above discussed expression i.e. (a2-b2) = (a-b)*(a+b).
Step 4: Answer= 1002-232 = 10000-529= 9471.

Shortcut Techniques for Verbal Ability:


In the CAT exam, focus on the first and last sentence of each paragraph in the Reading Comprehension section instead of looking at individual sentences.

You also need to look at the important and essential words and sentences in the passage. This will help in the identification of the key idea of the passage.

Now, form a quick summary of the passage basis the above steps.


Step 1: Identify the key terms and concepts in the passage.
Step 2: 
Go back to the passage and look for those terms in the text. Also, look for words related to the key term in the passage.

CAT aspirants are always advised to study smart rather than study hard. With proper preparation strategies, the preparation becomes more effective and the questions can be solved quickly in the exam.

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Rahul Singh

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