CAT Exam Pattern, Marking Scheme, Syllabus, and Previous Year Papers

Common Admission Test or CAT is a computer-based entrance exam for admissions into management courses in Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other top B-schools of the country. CAT is the most significant national level MBA entrance test taken by more than 2 lakh candidates every year. Around 4,000 seats are offered through the 20 IIMs and other non-IIM colleges. The regulating body/exam authority is IIM. Different IIMs conduct the CAT exam on a rotational basis every year.

In terms of exam pattern, the duration of CAT is for three hours, which is to be completed in one sitting without any breaks in between. The motive of the exam is to test candidates in three areas; Quantitative Aptitude, Data Interpretation, and Logical reasoning and Verbal Comprehension and learning. CAT is taken after graduation in any discipline, but students in the final year of graduation are also considered eligible. CAT is held across the country through various exam centers located in different cities and states of India. The purpose of this test/exam is to shortlist eligible candidates for management degree courses. The test scores of CAT are considered by all the top MBA management institutes/colleges/universities throughout the country, including IIMs (Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta, Lucknow) that offer more than 5000 seats each year.

The exam will be conducted on Sunday, November 29, 2020. The online medium will do the process of application/registration through the official CAT website, and It will start from August 05, 2020, to apply online for CAT. Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has also started accepting the CAT scores for its management courses since 2018.

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Key Highlight
of CAT
CAT Application fees:
SC/ST/PWD: Rs.950 For all the other categories: Rs.1900
Starts: Aug 05, 2020 Ends: Sep 23, 2020
CAT Admit card:
October 28, 2020, onwards
Date of CAT:
November 29, 2020 Sunday
CAT Duration:
120 Minutes

CAT Exam Pattern:

The Common Admission Test (CAT) is conducted once a year by the reputed IIM colleges on the rotational basis across India; IIM Indore will conduct CAT 2020. The current situation of COVID-19 has led to two significant changes in the existing exam pattern of CAT. The exam duration has been cut short to 2 hours despite 3 hours, and it will be conducted in three slots.

The undergraduates and graduates belonging to any stream can appear for CAT as it attracts a massive competition as it is one of the most competitive exams in India. The format of questions in CAT is multiple-choice and non-MCQs (Type In The Answers, TITA format). The exam pattern has been followed for years, and it remained the same in context to the form and number of questions.

For the better clarity of CAT, take a look at the CAT Exam Pattern in this table:

Exam Name

CAT, Common Admission Test

Exam Conducting Authority

IIM Indore

Medium of CAT


Mode of CAT

Computer-Based Test

Format of questions

MCQs and Non-MCQs (TITA)

CAT Duration

2 Hours (120 Minutes)

40 Minutes for each section

Number of questions in CAT


Sections in CAT.

3 Sections

Verbal Ability  and Reading Comprehension (VARC)

Quantitative Aptitude (QA)

Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR)

Total marks

300 Marks


CAT tests the aspirants on the parameters of the Reasoning, Quantitative Aptitude, and Verbal Ability. As there is considerable participation from the aspirants, it creates a lot of pressure among the participants to perform the best to score. For the best preparation, Y4W CAT Mock Test Series is here to help out.

Key highlights of the CAT Exam Pattern:

  1. The significant change that has been introduced this year is the time frame for the exam has been cut short to 120 Minutes from 180 minutes earlier.

  2. There will be three slots in which the exam will be conducted on the same day, November 29, 2020, CAT Morning Session, Afternoon Session and Evening Session, CAT Exam Dates. The timings for each session is:

    1. CAT Morning Session: 08.30 AM – 10.30 AM

    2. CAT Afternoon Session: 12.30 PM – 2.30 PM

    3. CAT Evening Session: 4.30 PM – 6.30 PM

  3. The sectional time limit will become 40 minutes per section. The aspirants will not be able to switch the sections until the time limit for the particular section gets over.

  4. CAT is a computer-based test, not an online test; that is, the participant will have the questions on the computer screen and mark the answers accordingly. It will not hold using the internet facility.

  5. The computer-based test will have questions in both the Multiple-Choice and Type in the Answers format. The total number of questions is 100.

  6. The aspirants will find the medium of the exam as English.

  7. IIM Indore will release the tutorial regarding the CAT Exam Pattern, details about the test from October 23, 2020, onwards.

CAT Marking Scheme:

As CAT is the most competitive exam, negative marking is a vital factor here. The CAT aspirants will observe a negative marking of 1 mark per the wrong answer. The correct answers will add three marks to the score of the aspirants. The negative marking is for the MCQs, TITA format questions have no penalty for the wrong attempt.

About 70-75% of MCQs and 25-30% of the Non-MCQs are in the exam, making negative marking a considerable part of the exam. The negative marking creates a tremendous hustle for the aspirants. It leads the aspirant's score to the back foot; it pushes the aspirant backside from scoring the best ones. As for every question, three marks are dedicated.

The CAT Marking Scheme is depicted in the table:


Name of the Section

Dedicated Time

Marks allotted


Verbal Reasoning and Reading Comprehension (VARC)

40 Minutes

3 marks for each question.


Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR)

40 Minutes

3 marks for each question.


Quantitative Aptitude (QA)

40 Minutes

3 marks for each question.


Key points of C.A.T. Marking Scheme:

  1. +3 marks for every correctly marked question in the exam paper.

  2. -1 mark for every incorrectly marked question.

  3. There will be no negative marking regarding the questions that will be left unmarked.

  4. MCQs will have negative marking, non-MCQs or TITA format questions will not have the negative marking. Each correct answer, irrespective of the format carry three marks.

CAT Syllabus:

  1. Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC):

Reading Comprehension

One Word Substitutes

Verbal Analogies

Idioms And Phrases

Fill In The Blanks

Sentence Correction

English Grammar

Antonyms And Synonyms

Selecting Words

Meaning Usage Match

Ordering Of Words

Ordering Of Sentences


2. Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR):

Bar Charts

Odd Man Out And Series

Seating Arrangement


Line Charts

Calendars And Clocks

Venn Diagram

Table Charts

Cubes And Dice

Puzzle Test

Pie Charts

Binary Logic

Number And Letter Series

Blood Relations

Logical Sequence



3. Quantitative Aptitude (QA):

Binomial Theorem

Stock And Shares

Chain Rule

Races And Games Of Skill

True Discount

Bankers Discount

Decimal Fraction

Pipes And Cisterns

Set Theory


Surds And Indices



Problems On Numbers




Problems On Ages

Ratio And Proportion

Simple And Compound Interest

Time And Work


Profit And Loss

Alligation And Mixture


Time And Distance

Permutation And Combination




Number Systems




CAT Previous Year Paper Analysis:

CAT in the yesteryear was comparatively easy than the other years. The exam was held on November 24, 2019, in two slots. The exam had a fair share of MCQs and Non-MCQs, 75% of MCQs, and the remaining 25% non-MCQs.

The experts revealed that the first section of Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension was difficult as the RCs were challenging to decode. There were 5 Comprehension Passages with the MCQs included with it. The time frame provided for the exam was 3 hours (180 Minutes), with the sectional time limit was 60 minutes.



No. of MCQs

No. of Non-MCQs


Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC)




Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR)




Quantitative Aptitude (QA)



Total Number of Questions: 100




74 questions were applicable to the negative marking frame. The negative marking, as discussed earlier, plays a significant role in scoring a good score. The candidates have found that the difficulty level for the exam was moderate. For the 99 percentile, the candidate must have to score between 157-160. The Data Interpretation section was majorly concentrated on pie charts, matrix, set theories, and denominations.

Understanding the CAT Competition: 

Understanding the competition is an essential step before appearing for any competitive exam, so it is for CAT preparation. The candidates need to outperform others to secure a spot in the shortlist for WAT (Written Ability Test), GD (Group Discussion), and finally, the PI (Personal Interview) process.

CAT is the leading entrance exam in India that is the gateway to the topmost IIMs, management institutions. About two lakh candidates appear for the 5000 seats offered by 20 IIMs. The exam pattern has been changed; for the same, there is a guideline booklet available from October 23 onwards to have better clarity.

CAT is a test of mental strength and the ability to take the pressure. In any business organization, the manager has to undergo stress and face market reality to maintain the positioning of the company's brand. Hence, in this context, CAT aspirants are being tested not only for their quantitative skills and language skills, but an added pressure of time & speed is added in the CAT exam. So they have to ensure that during the CAT exam, mental strength needs to be negotiated.

How to Prepare for CAT 
  • It would be best to work on time management and accuracy in answering CAT 2020 to achieve a good rank. So go through the topics that are available on the CAT official website and start with the ones that you are good at. Practice reasoning and mathematics problems by memorizing formulas and try to approach practically. 

  • Youth4work is an excellent platform to practice mock tests, discussing queries and get online courses, etc.

  • After each study session, it keeps 1 hour for revision of topics learned/practiced.

  • Make mathematics and reasoning your strong suit; practice questions to solve them within time to increase efficiency. The trick here is to mug up math formulas by heart, so they come in handy while solving a problem.

  • Become smart by attempting questions that you are sure of first, then come to the problems you’re in doubt. But don’t try them anyway; remember negative marking is a factor here. Therefore, only attempt a question if you know the answer to.

  • Manage your time correctly; give an appropriate amount of time to each section. Try to improve your time by practicing as many online tests as possible. Youth4work provides online mock tests for all sections of CAT separately, and time limitation is attached to each question; this way, one can learn to finish the entire exam within the time limit.

  • Studying in a stretch for hours can be tedious and challenging and also not so good. Therefore, try to study several times in regular sessions during a day. This will make learning easy and fun. Also, you will have enough time to brush up the already studied topics in between intervals.

  • It is crucial to maintain proper health, so you don’t fall sick on the big day. Give appropriate time to your brain to refresh it. Don’t rush too much information into your head than its limit allows. Take it slow and steady. And get at least eight hours of sleep each night.

​Youth4work Prep Tests

  • Online practice tests for competitive exams, including a free mock test of youth4work, are unique and popular among aspirants. Aspirants can take self-designed mock-tests as well as practice for sections and topics separately in y4w. Youth4work’s unique and proprietary technology is helping lakhs of aspirants to reveal personal details on what are the most vital areas of aspirants for any exam and also suggest how they can improve the performance in mock tests.

  •  Exciting insights from youth4work is that nearly 3.3 lakh questions have been attempted on CAT exam practice tests on Youth4work. Every aspirant is rated on a Rating Scale—the rating ranking changes with every question attempt.


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