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CAT Exam Syllabus

CAT is a computer-based objective exam that has 3 sections – Verbal Ability, Logical Reasoning and Quantitative Ability. The sections have nearly equal weightage. For a long time, from 2010-2019 roughly it was a 3-hour exam. The pandemic has seen it transform into a 2-hour exam. Around 75% of the questions are MCQs (Multiple-Choice Questions) while the rest are TITA (Type in the Answer). The MCQs carry negative marks for incorrect answers, while TITA ones do not.

Broadly, the CAT syllabus covered comprises of math learnt in classes VI to X of schooling. Although the framework has been broadly constant throughout the past 15 years, there are some specific patterns that emerge if we scroll through the data. The video below gives a wonderful overview of what we can take away from the past few years’ papers.

CAT Exam Overview (CAT 2023)

Section Duration No. of MCQs No. of non MCQs Total
VARC 40 minutes 20 4 24
DI LR 40 minutes 12 8 20
QA 40 minutes 14 8 22
Total 2 hours 46 20 66

As we dive deeper into the sections and take them up one by one, we will take you through the CAT Syllabus followed by our analysis of the CAT previous year papers to give you a glimpse of what you can expect in the upcoming CAT exam.

Overall CAT Syllabus and CAT Exam Pattern

Before we look into the CAT syllabus, here is a quick recap of key facts about the exam:

  • Historically, CAT Exam is a 3-hour (180 min), computer-based exam. It is not held in offline mode. After 2020, it became a 2-hour exam and it is likely to stay that way for CAT 2024 as well.
  • The exam is held in three slots—morning, afternoon, and evening—on the same day. The papers are different in these sessions, but the scores are normalized to account for the differences.
  • The exam comprises of 3 sections— Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DI/LR) and Quantitative Ability (QA).
  • In the last few CATs, the order of the sections has been VARC first, followed by DILR, followed by QA. Switching between sections is not possible. There are no breaks between sections.
  • There are 66 questions in all. Most questions are Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs), with 4 answer choices, one of which is right. About one-third of the paper, however, consists of objective but non-MCQ questions. These are of the Type-In-The-Answer (TITA) kind.
  • MCQs carry 3 marks for a right answer and -1 mark for a wrong answer, but there is no negative marking for TITA questions.
  • A simple, on-screen calculator is provided for the QA and DI/LR sections.
  • Any Bachelor’s degree holder (with 50% at least marks) and any candidate in the final year of their graduation can write CAT.
  • The official website for CAT: CAT Website

Diving deeper into CAT VARC Syllabus

In terms of CAT Syllabus across the sections, the VARC section is the simplest to describe. ​Building a habit of reading is the closest to what one might call as Syllabus. If you are looking at a timeline north of 4 months, you have a great time window to build up the habit of reading. You should check out the video on the left for more information than just Reading, how to make the most of this etc.

VARC Sub-Section Description Question Type No. of Questions
CAT Reading Comprehension This section comprises of 4 RC passages which are usually 600-700 words in length 4 MCQs based on each passage 24
CAT Verbal Ability Paragraph Jumbles

Paragraph Summary

Sentence Elimination(Odd One Out)

Sentence Placement

2 questions, usually TITA, involving rearrangement of sentences in the right order.
2 questions, MCQs, involving identification of the best summary for a given paragraph.
2 questions, involving identification of the odd sentence in a given set of sentences.
2 questions,MCQ/TITA, involving placing the given sentence in the most appropriate position in the given paragraph.
Questions of these types are less common:
• Paragraph Completion
• Sentence Correction
• Critical Reasoning
• Fact Inference Judgement
CAT VARC pie chart

CAT VARC breakdown

Success Factor Key Resource Big Takeaway
Reading Habit Bharath's Reading List RC is the Elephant in the room

Diving deeper into CAT LRDI Syllabus

The DILR section has been elusive in terms of giving us a definitive syllabus for this section. We can of course paint a broad picture with the information we have obtained through taking this exam over the years. In case you are looking to know how to prepare for this section, head out to this link. But if you are keen to understand the section first, watch this video and then scroll down!

Data Interpretation Bar graph, line graphs, pie charts, tables, Venn diagrams, word problems, combination of graphs
Logical Reasoning Puzzles based on visualization, math puzzles, games and tournaments, calendar, sequencing, grid puzzles, seating arrangement, direction- based puzzles

CAT DILR Breakdown

CAT DILR Breakdown

CAT DILR Breakdown CAT DILR Breakdown

Success Factor Key Free Resource Big Focus Area
1. Variety in puzzles
2. Detailed solutions
2IIM Free Question Bank CAT Previous year Papers

Diving deeper into CAT Quant Syllabus

The Quantitative Aptitude section is the most robust section in terms of something that can give you a definitive syllabus. Do not fret looking at the enormous list of topics listed below. Following the Pareto principle, a collection of a few key topics can help you get upto 90+ percentile. Watch the video on the left to get more clarity on the CAT syllabus for the Quantitative Aptitude section of the CAT exam.

General Trend

QA Topic Key Concepts Approx. No. of Questions
Arithmetic Percentages
Time Speed Distance
Pipe Cisterns, Work Time
Profit and Loss
Ratios and Proportion
Simple Interest Compound Interest
10 - 11
Geometry Triangles, Circles, Quadrilaterals
Coordinate Geometry
5 - 6
Algebra Linear and Quadratic Equations
Arithmetic and Geometric Progressions
6 - 8
Number Theory and Modern Math HCF LCM
Factors and Multiples
Factorials, Remainders
Set Theory
Permutation Combination, Probability
2 - 3

Further breaking down the segments topic-wise:

CAT Quant Breakdown

CAT Quant Breakdown

CAT Quant Breakdown

Success Factor Key Free Resource Big Focus Area
1. Strong Fundamentals
2. Excellent Drill
1. 2IIM Free Question Bank
2. 2IIM YouTube Channel
Arithmetic has been the major part of quants section forever but in the last 2 years algebra has become increasingly important. Arithmetic and Algebra can easily take you to 90+ percentile.

How much should you score for 99th percentile?

CAT 2019
CAT 2023

If you are someone looking to cross the 99th percentile, based on CAT 2023, the table above depicts the required score for 99th percentile across sections.

For instance, In the VARC section in CAT 2023 99th percentile is 40 marks, or to put things in perspective, 13.xx correct answers could have fetched a 99th percentile in the VARC section. People worry a lot about answering all RC’s and answering all questions in this section. Answering slightly more than half the paper correctly can help you get the coveted 99th percentile.

For the DILR Section this statistic falls even further down. To obtain 99th percentile one needs about 28 marks, which is about 9.xx correct answers. Two correct puzzles could have brought you more than 99th percentile.

For the Quantitative Aptitude Section, about 9 right answers in the CAT 2023 obtained 99th percentile. 5 helped you cross 90th percentile. And for sure the paper had lot more than 5 questions from arithmetic.

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CAT Exam - CAT Question Papers

CAT Exam Pattern changes frequently and the best way to get a sense of the CAT Syllabus is to go through the CAT Question papers of the most recent years. We at 2IIM have created a student-friendly version that lets students see CAT Questions one at a time, attempt to solve these and then choose to either see the answer or view a detailed video lecture solution. To see past year CAT question papers, please go to this page - CAT question papers

Let's talk CAT 2024

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