What is CAT ?

Post By : Ujjwal Shukla , IET Final Year
Posted on : January 05, 2019 , Category : CAT

CAT is one of the most eminent competitive exams in our country (also named as common admission test). It provides the foundation for the structure named as MBA and paves the surface to various IIM's, B-Schools and Top-notch MBA colleges.

Let's beam our flash on some statistical data, more than 2,00,000 students from global corner appear in the test and only a handful manage to score high enough to make into their dream destinations. Out of all the aspirants, approximately 60 to 65 thousand students are freshers, students who are either in their final year or just passed their graduation.

Let's clear some misconception regarding CAT exam and discuss about making into your dream colleges through the safari full of motivation and with proper planning and guidance.

Trends and Patterns

The CAT exam structure and exam content is revised on yearly basis. It is also prevented by IIMs that questions, their contents, types of questions are not repeated in the upcoming year. This is the basic reason due to which CAT has no specific and defined domain of syllabus. The questions (on a specific topic) that are being asked in one year may go missing in next year and after a few years such questions may rise up again.

One of the key facts on record is that the IIMs who have conducted CAT for the 2nd time has brought about some more changes and totally reshaped the CAT exam structure and content, although every time the changes in CAT have the objectives to improve academic and gender diversity in IIM classrooms. Whenever such changes indicate some difficulty for the CAT aspirants, IIMs inform amendments in the admission policy to achieve these objectives as done by IIMs.

One of the key facts on record is that the IIMs who have conducted CAT for the 2nd time has brought about some more changes and totally reshaped the CAT exam structure and content, although every time the changes in CAT have the objectives to improve academic and gender diversity in IIM classrooms. Whenever such changes indicate some difficulty for the CAT aspirants, IIMs inform amendments in the admission policy to achieve these objectives as done by IIMs.

CAT 2009 and 2010

The 1s edition and 2nd edition of computerized CAT exams had 3 sections on Quant, DILR and VARC with total 60 questions equally divided with 20 questions for each section.

CAT exam in 2011, 2012 and 2013

In CAT version of 2011, the number of sections in the CAT exam reduced from 3 to 2 with the same number of 60 questions. Prior to that, there used to be one section of Quant, one section of Verbal Ability and one section of Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning. In 2011 DI and LR sections were clubbed to Quantitative and Verbal Ability sections respectively. Now each of the 2 sections had 30 questions making it a total of 60 questions that had to be solved in 140 minutes.

The total duration was of 170 minutes.

There were 2 sections in CAT, Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation and Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning.

CAT 2015 Exam Pattern

  • There were 3 sections in CAT 2015 as Quantitative Ability
  • Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning, Verbal and Reading Comprehension.
  • The duration of the test was of 180 minutes.
  • Number of Questions:100
  • Quantitative Ability – 34
  • Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning - 32
  • Verbal and Reading Comprehension – 34

CAT 2016 exam pattern

CAT 2016 exam was conducted by IIM Bangalore for the 1st time.

They changed the scoring pattern and reduced the number of questions without negative marking in the exam. The number of questions in each of the 3 sections remained the same with as it is marking scheme that was earlier.

Question patterns: There were 100 questions

  • Section I: Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension had (thirty-four)34 Questions
  • Section II: Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning had (thirty-two) 32 Questions
  • Section III: Quantitative Ability had (thirty-four) 34 Questions


  • Non-MCQs (questions without negative marking ):25
  • Scoring pattern: 1 mark for each correct answer
  • Negative marking: 1/3 marks for each wrong MCQs

CAT 2017 Exam Pattern

This version of CAT was conducted in a similar manner as that of CAT 2016. Comparing the papers of the last two years we can say that the level of English was same. DILR was comparatively hard than that in 2016, and the quant section was on the relatively easier side. Total No. of Questions were 100 in CAT 2017 examination.

Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC) : 34

  • VA - 10
  • RC - 24

Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR) : 32

  • LR - 16
  • DI - 16

Quantitative Aptitude (QA) : 34

Changes in CAT 2018 :

The changes adopted in CAT 18 can be summarized below as:

  • DILR was on the difficult somewhat difficult scale
  • Quant was calculation rich.
  • Reading Comprehension Passages were seen lengthy.
  • Non-MCQs have remained 27 as were in slot 1in CAT 2018 as compared to 26 in CAT 2017 with a different number of questions in each section as compared to previous year.
  • Verbal ability and Reading Comprehension had 7 Non-MCQs, DILR 8 and Quant 12
  • Reading Comprehension passages were 5 in Slot 2 of CAT 2018 with a changed number of questions as compared to CAT 2017.
  • While the total number of RC questions were 24 as were in previous year CAT exam, the 4 RC passages were followed by 5 questions and 1 RC passage was followed by 4 questions instead of 6 Questions and 3 questions format that was till last year.
  • More Arithmetic and Algebra questions were seen in CAT 2018 examination of slot-2

No change in the Scoring pattern

The scoring pattern in CAT 2018 was sticked to +3 for the correct answer and -1 for the wrong answer for MCQs and +3 for a correct answer and 0 negative marking for the wrong answer in Non-MCQs

Many non-MCQs had answer options also. The correct answers had to be typed in the given empty space.

CAT 2018 Analysis is presented for Slot 1 and Slot 2 separately and overall the detailed Analysis contained Overall and Section wise difficulty level.

Candidates have reported a difficult DILR and moderate to difficult level of Quant. The CAT 2018 slot 2 exam has remained on a similar platform as that of Slot-1 exam. Only change was there that DILR and Quant were found on the slightly higher difficulty level.


Verbal Ability and Reading comprehension

  • No. of questions: 34
  • (No. of non MCQ question:7)

Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning

  • No. of questions: 32
  • (No. of non MCQ question:8)

Quantitative Ability

  • No. of questions: 34
  • (No. of non MCQ question:12)

Total no. of questions: 100

  • (No. of non MCQ question:27)

Approach to CAT 2019

Start your preparation for CAT'19 keeping the fact in mind that CAT is not a mythical creature going to devour you. It's a combined test of your patience, hard toil and the temperament when direction under a true and right mentor (teachers, seniors, you can be your mentor as well). It's a fairly competitive exam.

Believe in yourself and you will be surely making into it.

To begin with, CAT is a doable exam, if you understand that the exam not only tests you on Quantitative Ability, Data Interpretation, Logical Reasoning and Verbal ability but most importantly it is a test of temperament. The one who nails this exam is temperamentally fit to take up this 3 hours pressure setting.

Prior to starting your preparation, check through the syllabus and exam pattern at least. The syllabus is divided into three sections-

  • Verbal Ability and reading comprehension
  • Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning
  • Quantitative Ability

Verbal Ability

A few years back, CAT started off by cutting things that one had to remember in the verbal section. Removal of Synonyms, Antonyms, Spot the errors and the likes were done. CAT stopped testing vocabulary. Reading comprehension was expanded from 16 questions to 24 questions and the other 10 questions also became very nearly related to checking reading habit and the ability of the student apart from anything else. Importance was carried visibly to strengthen the idea of Reading, which cannot be repaired in less than a span of one month, using shortcuts, tips, tricks and memorizing words. Either you were naturally great at that (with long reading hours and great reading habits), or have pursued the habit of reading with CAT in mind.

Verbal ability section can be s improved in a systematic way. There are no shortcuts for this. In the same manner, Preparing for VARC section is like a penance, and in some ways test of temperament in the long run. If you always depend towards shortcuts and quick results, then you are not the person the exam is intending to find.

Data Interpretation And Logical Reasoning

In CAT 2015 introduced a curveball in the Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning sections. Prior to that, Data Interpretations section used to have really computational intensive tables, charts and graphs only. LR has always based on logic and very few puzzles had parts of DI in it, and vice versa. Starting from CAT 2015, DILR has become increasingly tough over the years. Else one could also call it as being unforeseeable, instead of tough.

Try to spend a lot of time in solving plenty of puzzles, including sudoku but not limited to sudoku. Doing things that keeps your brain sharp is important. Being able to draw up patterns from the puzzles is the most important ability required to nail this section.

Quantitative Ability

In 2018 edition of CAT, it has gone on to fix that one section that was so far gamed by sheer practice and very less understanding. 2018 CAT quant section was not tough. It had problems that were a mix of different arithmetic topics put across in several coatings, that could not be solved by plugging away only with memorized formulae, but actually tested understanding of the latent ideas. There were (few) questions from multiple topics that were put together into one problem. Understanding of basics was primary to solving most problems. Otherwise, one got trapped that had no out. Knowing bundles of formulae just did not help with this CAT. Neither did solve super hard math questions as practice to CAT 2018.

CAT Exam pattern changes year after year repeatedly. Tentatively few of questions from number theory, more than a couple of questions from Geometry has been the trend. What is constant in the CAT exam pattern is the importance of Arithmetic topics. Individually each topic looks like a simple barrier. But all put together arithmetic part of the Quants could become a formidable ally. People either underestimate the footprints Arithmetic can have, or fail to notice multiple topics in arithmetic, to concentrate on tougher topics like Geometry or Number theory and system.