CAT Syllabus | CAT Syllabus 2021

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CAT Syllabus

1. What is CAT Syllabus ?
2. CAT Exam Pattern
3. Section-wise CAT Syllabus
4. CAT Syllabus for VARC
5. CAT Syllabus for Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning for CAT
6. CAT Syllabus for Quantitative Aptitude

More than 2 lakh candidates appear for the Common Admission Test (CAT) every year for admissions to 20 Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and over 100 B-schools in India. The exam is held in November or December, once a year, by one of the IIMs. CAT 2019 was held on 24th November, 2019.
Officially, the IIMs do not prescribe a CAT syllabus as such. Still, the exam follows a broad pattern, from which we can infer what the CAT syllabus is.

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:

  • CAT Exam is a 3-hour (180 min), computer-based exam. It is not held in offline mode.
    One of many things that swayed away from normal in 2020 was the CAT exam duration.
    CAT 2020 was conducted in three slots of 2 hours each.
  • The exam is held in two slots—morning and afternoon—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 100 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

CAT 2020 had the following pattern:

Section Duration No. of MCQs No. of non MCQs Total
VARC 40 minutes 21 5 26
DI LR 40 minutes 18 6 24
QA 40 minutes 18 8 26
Total 2 hours 57 19 76

The actual CAT 2020 slot 1, slot 2 and slot 3 analysis can be found here : CAT 2020 Analysis

The actual CAT 2019 slot 1 and slot 2 analysis can be found here : CAT 2019 Analysis

The actual CAT 2018 slot 1 and slot 2 analysis can be found here : CAT 2018 Analysis

CAT Syllabus Video

CAT Syllabus details in video format. CAT does not give a definite syllabus. But, we can broadly categorize and list the syllabus across the three sections. Watch the video to know more.

Section-wise CAT Syllabus

This CAT syllabus is drawn up based on the pattern of the exam over the last few years. In general, the CAT syllabus includes topics from Mathematics and English taught in schools up to 10th standard. However, the questions are application-oriented and test conceptual understanding.

CAT Syllabus for VARC

The VARC section of CAT is primarily a test of your reading ability, that is, your ability to understand and reflect on ideas given in a passage or paragraph.
To know how to prepare for CAT, Click here.

For information on how to prepare for the VARC section of CAT Exam, go to How to Prepare for CAT Verbal Ability.

The CAT syllabus, in terms of the topics tested in the VARC section of CAT is as follows:

VARC Sub-Section Description Question Type No. of Questions
CAT Reading Comprehension This section comprises of 5 RC passages which are usually 600-700 words in length 4-5 MCQs based on each passage 24
CAT Verbal Ability Paragraph Jumbles

Paragraph Summary

Sentence Elimination

3-4 questions, usually TITA, involving rearrangement of sentences in the right order.
2-3 questions, MCQs, involving identification of the best summary for a given paragraph.
2-3 questions, involving identification of the odd sentence in a given set of sentences.
Questions of these types are less common:
• Paragraph Completion
• Sentence Correction
• Critical Reasoning
• Fact Inference Judgement

To prepare for VARC questions of different types in the CAT syllabus, have a go at solving these from 2IIM’s free CAT question bank. 2IIM CAT Questions - Click to learn
You should also check out the Past CAT Question papers, available with detailed Video solutions.

CAT Syllabus for Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning for CAT

The DI LR section of CAT comprises of puzzles based on data sets. This section tests your ability to understand, identify patterns and derive conclusions based on the given data/clues.
In total, there are 32 questions in this section, including 8-9 TITA questions.

For further information on how to prepare for the DI LR section of CAT, watch this video on CAT DI LR preparation or Visit this page.

Broadly, the CAT syllabus, in terms of the topics tested in the DI/LR section of CAT is as follows:

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

2IIM’s free CAT Questions has a number of CAT-level DI LR puzzles you can solve - Click to learn

CAT Syllabus for Quantitative Aptitude

The QA section of CAT tests your understanding of some key mathematical concepts.

For further information on how to prepare for the Quant section, see - CAT Quantitative Aptitude and for a deep dive into, How to prepare for CAT Quant preparation head on here.

The CAT syllabus for Quantitative Aptitude, in terms of the topics tested, is as follows:

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
11 - 12
Geometry Triangles, Circles, Quadrilaterals
Coordinate Geometry
7 - 8
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
6 - 8

For loads of free practice questions in various Quantitative Aptitude topics in the CAT syllabus, have a look at - CAT Questions

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CAT 2020 Exam Analysis

Given the pattern change this year, the uncertainty regarding the number of questions and difficulty level was palpable throughout the test center. We at 2IIM had predicted a proportional decrease in the number of questions within each section, which proved to be on point.

VARC: With respect to Slot 1 & 2, it was a smidgen easier compared to CAT 2019. The passages were tough, the questions were mildly tricky, but ultimately it was doable. But Slot 3 was an entirely different story... It was tougher than VARC of 2019 the passages were difficult to digest and several questions with double negatives compounded the difficulty level. The sentences in Para Jumbling were unconventionally long.

DILR: DILR has been consistently tougher since 2015. we feel it has retained that state this year as well. There were 2 sets with 6 questions each, and 3 sets with 4 questions each, thereby adding the total number of questions for DILR to be 24.

Quant: The Quant section had about 10 questions in arithmetic (as we guessed earlier), about 4 in Geometry. The rest were a couple of questions from logarithms, functions, and exponents. 1 or 2 questions were from Number Theory. There were no questions from Permutations and Probability. Overall, the Quant Section had 26 questions. In deviation with the previous year CAT examinations, the section wise breakup was not the same for all the three slots. For instance, Slot 3 was more loaded with co-ordinate geometry, while Slot 1 didn't have any...

CAT 2020 Slot 1 percentile
CAT 2020 Slot 2 percentile
CAT 2020 Slot 3 percentile

To know the full CAT 2020 exam analysis, please go to this page - CAT 2020 Exam Analysis
To know the full CAT 2020 score analysis, please go to this page - CAT 2020 Score Analysis

CAT 2019 Exam Analysis

DILR was at the same level as seen in the past 4–5 years, perhaps a little easier. Quant was easier than 2018 but far tougher than the levels seen in 2017, 2016 or 2015. VARC was the elephant in the room. The passages were tough, the questions reveled in double-negatives. We have given a quick snapshot of what we think could be the cut-offs. Note that these are, at best, wild guesses.

Our estimates for CAT Exam 2019 percentiles and scores are given below for both slot 1 and slot 2.Note that these are merely estimates and are not based on statistical analysis.

CAT 2019 Slot 1 percentile
CAT 2019 Slot 2 percentile

To know the full CAT 2019 exam analysis, please go to this page - CAT 2019 Exam Analysis

CAT 2018 Exam Analysis

The story of CAT Exam 2018 was the level of difficulty of the Quant section. I (Rajesh Balasubramanian) have taken 8 of the last 10 CATs and I can confidently say that this was the toughest Quant section I have seen thus far. We have done a CAT 2018 Analysis of Slot 1 and Slot 2 on Youtube. Scroll down to have a look at that.

Our estimates for CAT Exam 2018 percentiles and scores are given below for both slot 1 and slot 2.Note that these are merely estimates and are not based on statistical analysis.

CAT 2018 Slot 1 percentile
CAT 2018 Slot 2 percentile

To know the full CAT 2018 exam analysis, please go to this page - CAT 2018 Exam Analysis

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

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Let's talk CAT 2021

It is not too early to start preparation. If you took CAT 2020 merely as a precursor to CAT 2021, then it is about time to start thinking about a pleasant 1-year preparation cycle. If you are not already one, sign up as a trial user to the 2IIM Online Course and see why so many students say so many good things about us (review link here )

2IIM’s CAT 2020 online students can renew the course at very reasonable rates. The price for renewal is pegged at a level where students pay the difference between our current 2020 price point and what they have paid already. Effectively, for students who are renewing the course, the price for preparation for CAT 2020 and CAT 2021 would be merely the price for CAT 2020 (In other words CAT 2020 prep came for free).

Those of you just beginning on this CAT preparation journey, click here to know about every aspect of How to Prepare for CAT? . Those of you feeling a little lost amidst all this talk of percentiles, slots, analysis, syllabus etc, click here to learn What is CAT all about?

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