CAT: Syllabus and Pattern

CAT Syllabus

Like most competitive exams, CAT’s syllabus is vast and diverse. Aspiring students often find that, no matter how much they try, there’s always something left to cover in the entire syllabus. Moreover, CAT examiners never fail to surprise students with each exam. Understanding the CAT syllabus and important topics is the crucial first step in preparing effectively for the exam.

  • Although IIMs do not specify any standard syllabus for CAT, we have developed a comprehensive list of topics based on previous year CAT papers.
  • With slight changes every year, an overview of the syllabus under CAT is as follows:

VARC Syllabus –

TopicsNumber of Questions
Reading Comprehension16
Para-Jumbles and Misfit Sentences2 – 4
Para-Summary2 – 4
Para Completion2 – 4
Other Topics1 – 2
Other Topics Include – Sentence Completion, Grammar & Usage (including questions
based on common Grammar errors, Confusing Words, & Phrasal Verbs), Verbal Reasoning:
Fact-Inference-Judgement, Vocabulary-based questions (mainly Fill in the blanks).

DILR Syllabus –

TopicsNumber of Questions
Graphs & Bar diagram5-8
Tables & Charts4-8
Graphs & Charts7-9
Pie charts4-5
Main Topics – Case lets, Tables, Bar Graphs, Column Graphs, Line Charts, Venn Diagrams,
Pie Charts, Combination of two or more types linked to each other Games & Tournaments,
Number and Letter Series, Calendars, Cubes, Clocks, Venn Diagrams, Binary Logic, Seating
Arrangement, Syllogism, Logical Sequence, Logical Connectives; Blood Relations.

QA Syllabus –

TopicsSub-TopicsNumber of Questions
ArithmeticPercentages, TSD (Time, Speed, and Distance), Time and
Work, Ratio Proportion and Variation, Profit and Loss,
Simple and Compound Interest, Average Mixtures and
Number SystemNumbers and Number System2-4
Linear Equations and Quadratic Equations, Inequalities,
Functions, Logarithm, Sequence and Series
Geometry Geometry (Lines and Angles, Triangles, Polygons, Circles)
(3D Geometry), Mensuration, Coordinate Geometry.
Modern MathSet Theory, Permutation, and Combination, Probability,

Exam Pattern and Duration

The CAT exam pattern is ever-evolving, with slight changes every year and, at times, noticeable significant changes. The current CAT exam pattern is as follows –

  • Sectional Division – CAT comprises three sections, each with a specific number of questions and allotted time.
    • Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC) – This section assesses a candidate’s proficiency in comprehending passages and answering related questions.
    • Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR) – This section evaluates a candidate’s capability to interpret data presented in graphical or tabular formats and respond to questions accordingly.
    • Quantitative Ability (QA) – This section tests a candidate’s aptitude in recognizing patterns, relationships, and logical structures to solve problems effectively.
  • Types of Question and Duration –
    • The exam duration is typically 120 minutes (2 hours), with 40 minutes allocated to each section. CAT employs a computer-based format with both multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and non-MCQs (Type In The Answer – TITA).
    • The number of MCQs and TITA type is not fixed and tends to very every year. In the last few years, almost 25-33% of the questions have been non-MCQ (TITA) type.
  • Number of Question and Marks Distribution-
    • The CAT exam consists of a total of 66 questions, with a maximum achievable score of 198, equating to 3 marks for every correct answer. The change in the total number of questions and number of questions per section in CAT merely happens.
SectionNumber of QuestionsTotal ScoreTime Limit
VARC24 questions24 \( \times \) 3 = 7240 minutes (fixed)
DILR 20 questions20 \( \times \) 3 = 6040 minutes (fixed)
QA 22 questions22 \( \times \) 3 = 6640 minutes (fixed)
  • Order of Sections –
    • The order of the sections in the CAT exam is fixed, and students get 40 minutes for each section candidates. Due to sectional time limits, the students cannot switch between sections, they have to attempt all 3 sections in their respective orders i.e., the above mentioned order of VARC \( \longrightarrow \) DILR \( \longrightarrow \) QA .
  • Note :- In case of any changes in the CAT exam pattern, IIMs issue an official notification for candidates on their official website http://(

Eligibility for CAT

  • The CAT announcement highlights the eligibility criteria for the exam, which candidates must review before filling out the application form by the CAT 2024 deadline. This allows the candidates to know who can apply for CAT exam 2024.It’s important to note that meeting the qualifications doesn’t guarantee admission to the Indian Institute of Management.
  • Some Basic Information –
    • Age – There is no age limit for CAT. Students of any age can take this exam.
    • Educational Qualification – General category students must score 50% in their graduation, while for others, the percentage is 45%. CA and CS students are required to score 45%.
    • Educational Background – Students from any stream can take this exam.
    • Attempts – CAT is not restricted to attempts. Candidates can take as many attempts as they want.
  • Overall the candidate appearing for CAT must satisfy the below specified criteria –
    • Hold a bachelors degree, with not less than 50% or equal CGPA [45% for Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Persons with Disability (PWD)/Differently Able (DA) classification]
    • The degree should be granted by any of the universities consolidated by an act of the central or state statutory body in India or other instructive organizations built up by an act of Parliament or pronounced to be considered as a university under Section 3 of the UGC Act, 1956, or possess an equivalent qualification recognized by the Ministry of HRD, Government of India.
    • Competitors appearing for the final year of bachelor’s degree/equivalent qualification examination and the individuals who have finished degree prerequisites and are anticipating results can likewise apply. If selected, such applicants will be permitted to join the program temporarily, only if they present a certificate most recent by June 30, 2024, from the principal/registrar of their college/institute (issued at the latest June 30, 2024) expressing that the competitor has finished every one of the prerequisites for acquiring four-year or three-year college education/identical capability on the date of the issue of the certificate. \( \\ \) Note – It is essential to review the official notification for precise details.
    • CAT does not have an official age limit for candidates. However, regarding work experience, candidates with more than five years of work experience are generally advised against taking CAT as it is primarily designed for candidates with limited work experience or fresh graduates seeking admission to management programs.

Scoring System and Normalization Process

  • The stated scores of CAT are a result of scaling and normalization based on the performance of candidates appearing in multiple sessions. Most of the institutes set their cut-offs based on CAT percentiles.
  • For every correct attempt, 3 marks are allotted, while for every wrong attempt, 1 mark is deducted, except for TITA type questions. There is no negative marking for questions left attempted or for TITA type questions. \( \\ \)
  • CAT, like most competitive exams involves two types of scores : –
    • Raw Score – \( \\\ \) The raw score is calculated for each section based on the number of questions one answered correctly, incorrectly, or left attempted. Candidates are given +3 points for each correct answer and -1 point for each incorrect answer ,no negative marking for TITA ( Type in the Answer) questions . No points are given for questions that are not answered.
    • Scaled Score – \( \\ \) Once raw scores are calculated , they are adjusted through a process called equating. Equated raw scores are then placed on a common scale or metric to ensure appropriate interpretation of the scores. This process is called scaling.
  • Normalization –
    • Normalization of scores under CAT refers to the process of adjusting the raw scores obtained by candidates in different slots or sessions of the CAT exam to a common scale. This is done to ensure fairness in evaluation despite potential variations in the difficulty level of different exam sessions.
    • CAT normalization process is conducted in two steps:
      • IIMs adjust exam scores for scale differences in the distribution of CAT scores in different forms.
      • Scores of different sections are scared and normalized in the second step. CAT-scaled scores are subsequently converted into percentiles.
    • The result of CAT 2023 will include detailed information on sectional and overall scaled scores.
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