What is CAT exam?

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What is CAT Exam?

1. What is CAT Exam pattern?
2. What is CAT syllabus?
3. CAT Exam Eligibility
4. CAT Exam Selection Process
5. What are the best b-schools in India?
6. What exams to take up other than CAT exam?

Scroll down the page to know the answers to the above mentioned questions.

What is CAT Exam Pattern ?

Common Admission Test (CAT Exam) is a computer based test for admission in graduate management programs(MBA). It consist of 3 sections i.e., Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning(DILR), Quantitative Aptitude (Quant). Historically, CAT exam has been a 3 hour exam but the pandemic changed the scene. For the past 3 years, it has been a 2 hour exam. It's most likely that CAT might become a 2 hour exam forever but until we know for sure, let us look at the key facts about both the formats.

CAT 2023 (2 hour Format)

Total no. of Questions: 66 questions in CAT exam
Overall Duration of CAT Exam : 2 hours
Number of sections in CAT Exam: 3
Sectional Time Limit for each section in CAT Exam: 40 minutes each
Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ) : +3 for correct and -1 for incorrect
Non-MCQ type Questions(TITA): +3 for correct and no negative marking
No. of questions in VARC: 24
No. of questions in DILR: 20
No. of questions in Quant: 22

CAT 2019 (3 hour Format)

Total no. of Questions: 100 questions in CAT exam
Overall Duration of CAT Exam : 3 hours
Number of sections in CAT Exam: 3
Sectional Time Limit for each section in CAT Exam: 60 minutes each
Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ) : +3 for correct and -1 for incorrect
Non-MCQ type Questions(TITA): +3 for correct and no negative marking
No. of questions in VARC: 34
No. of questions in DILR: 32
No. of questions in Quant: 34

If you like to see the actual CAT Papers to understand the pattern better and to get a feel for it, click on this link to see Actual CAT 2022 question paper, Actual CAT 2021 question paper, CAT 2020 question paper, CAT 2019 question paper and PDF's that contain the actual question paper in a student friendly format with embedded Video solution links.

What is CAT Syllabus?

CAT exam officially does not prescribe a syllabus. But based on what we have seen in CAT exam over the past many years, we can reasonably infer some things. Watch the video to know the outline, or of course you can click on this link - CAT syllabus to get an overview of all topics discussed as a part of 2IIM's online CAT coaching and how to schedule your preparation (downloadable) as a bonus to getting to know the syllabus.

CAT Exam Eligibility

To be eligible for CAT exam, there are a bunch of requirements. Eligibility criteria for admission through CAT may be different and specific to the institute.
1. A CAT exam aspirant must be a Graduate with minimum 50% marks in aggregate or equivalent from a recognised university
2. The CAT exam aspirant must have completed education upto Graduation.
3. Candidates in their final year of Graduation are also eligible to apply.

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CAT Exam Selection Process

The CAT exam selection process can be broadly categorised into:
1. Stage 1: Shortlisting of candidates on the basis of CAT exam score, Past Academic Scores, Work Experience.
2. Stage 2: Written Ability Test, Group Discussion, Personal Interview (WAT/GD/PI)
3. Final shortlist or admission offer based on performance in Stage 1 and Stage 2.

What are the Best B-schools in India?

Tier 1

These institutes are top of the line, considered to be the best B-schools in the country. List of colleges follow (in no particular order)
IIMs (IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore, IIM Calcutta, IIM Lucknow, IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore), FMS, SJMSOM - IIT B, XLRI, ISB, IIM Mumbai (formerly NITIE)

Tier 2

These institutes are next in line, having established their brand name and consistent placement records. List of colleges follow (Again, in no particular order):
IIM Shillong, New IIMs (IIM Ranchi, IIM Rohtak, IIM Raipur, IIM Udaipur, IIM Kashipur, IIM Trichy), IIFT Delhi, IITs (VGSOM - IIT Kharagpur, DMS - IIT Delhi, DOMS - IIT M, IIT Kanpur), SPJIMR, XIMB, Baby IIMs ( IIM Amritsar, IIM Nagpur, IIM Bodh Gaya, IIM Visakhapatnam, IIM Jammu, IIM Sambalpur, IIM Sirmaur), Great Lakes Institute of Management (GLIM)

Tier 3

These colleges come next. While it is still not a bad bet to join these colleges, take an informed decision before you decide to join. List of colleges follow(Time and again, in no particular order):

What exams to take up other than CAT: XAT, GMAT, IIFT, SNAP, NMAT

There are so many of these entrance exams that it is all very overwhelming. So, let us see if we can get some clarity out of these.

As far as India is concerned, the biggest fish is CAT

Give or take 90 out of the top 100 select based on CAT Exam scores, with quite of a few of these selecting based only on CAT exam. This includes the IIMs (20 of these), IITs, SP Jain, FMS, Bajaj, IIM Mumbai(formerly NITIE) MDI, IMT, among a great many others

For international MBAs, it is GMAT

Almost all universities in the US, UK, Australia, Singapore, Europe select based on GMAT. In India ISB and Great Lakes select based on GMAT. All the IIMs (+ MDI, XLRI etc) use the GMAT score for admissions into their executive MBA programs.

CAT or GMAT, which one should I take?

There are two simple rules:
1. If you want to do in India, take CAT. If you want to go abroad, take GMAT.
2. If you are a fresher, take CAT. If you have more than 8 years of experience, give preference to GMAT
If you have 2-4 years of experience, and not sure whether you want to do MBA in India or abroad, then the decision is even simpler. Take both.

What about XAT?

There are around 30 decent colleges that select based on XAT. Within this, probably XLRI is the only college that selects only through XAT. Almost everyone else accepts CAT also (XIMB, LIBA GIM etc)
The big two are CAT and GMAT really, XAT is important because it can give you a second option.

What about these other exams?

Now, IIFT selects based on a separate exam. Symbiosis uses SNAP, NMIMS has NMAT. These three give you access to narrow groups of colleges, so write these based on whether you like that particular college. There is a government-mandated CMAT and then MAT. Of these, CMAT is more or less useless. MAT is accepted in a lot of private colleges, but there is practically no college that accepts MAT that will not give you a seat based on a good CAT score. If you are confident of getting 90th percentile in CAT, then skip MAT.

What about the quality of the CAT exam?

CAT is of a good quality (note high quality, not difficulty). The quality of the GMAT exam is even better. Now, what do I mean by quality? The questions are challenging but not impossible, the level of difficulty is consistent, the framework is well defined and the exam is generally well conducted. Among the others, IIFT and NMAT are alright, at least they care enough to set decent papers.
The not so good papers are XAT and SNAP. XAT papers usually carry errors and have wild variances in difficulty across sections. SNAP also do not care much about the way they set their papers. Symbiosis probably thinks it is a good idea to sell some applications and create some excitement around the college name. SNAP has been accused of even picking some questions from freely available sources on the web.
The following chart should give an idea about all these exams, their level of difficulty, their quality (subjective opinion, bear this in mind) and how many people take these exams.
Note that the bubble size broadly outlines how many prepare for these exams

CAT, XAT and other b schools in India

So, how does one prepare for all of these?

Prepare for CAT, forget all other Indian exams. If you are taking any of the other Indian exams, all you will need to do is make are a few some adjustments that shouldn’t take more than 3-4 days. Focus slightly more on XAT; because even though the paper is inconsistent XAT can open more doors than most of the other exams.
Plan for GMAT separately. Since it is an American exam, you will need to make some adjustments regarding what is more vital. GMAT tests concepts better, and de-emphasizes computation. GMAT verbal is also tougher than that of CAT. So, even though more than 75% of the syllabus is common across CAT and GMAT, a few adjustments need to be made.

How CAT, XAT and GMAT are different, syllabus-wise?

CAT, XAT exams difference

Explaining the abbreviations used in the diagram FIJ – Fact, Inference Judgement. Even CAT Seems to be phasing this out. You should see a maximum of 1-2 questions from this in the exam.
SE – Sentence Elimination
LR – Logical Reasoning (puzzle)
WU – Word Usage
TC – Text Completion (Fill in the blanks)
PC – Paragraph Completion
DI – Data Interpretation
Trig – Trigonometry
BDM – Business Decision Making
RC – Reading Comprehension
AWA – Analytical Writing Assessment
IR – Integrated Reasoning
CR – Critical Reasoning
SC – Sentence Correction
GK – General Knowledge
P&C – Permutation and Combination.

Note: that this is a broadly indicative chart. Kindly do more research on your own after keeping this as a starting point. Dont get all officious about it if I have missed some topic or category.

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FAQs - CAT Frequently Asked Questions

How has the CAT Syllabus changed over the past 10 years?
People pick and choose ways to find loopholes in the system at multiple places. Systems are created to be overlooked is the usual premise with which Indians work. This was also applicable to CAT Exam as well, to a great extent. CAT has removed the gaming ability in the exam to maximum extent possible. How did they do this section wise, slowly, year after year, is detailed below.
Read the Quora Answer: Quora
YouTube Video: Watch the video
Who conducts the CAT exam?
CAT is conducted by a different IIM each year. CAT 2016 was conducted by IIM Bangalore, CAT 2017 was conducted by IIM Lucknow, CAT 2018 was conducted by IIM Calcutta, CAT 2019 was conducted by IIM Kozhikode, CAT 2020 by IIM Indore, CAT 2021 by IIM Ahmedabad, CAT 2022 by IIM Bangalore.
What are some motivational stories of Common Admission Test (CAT)?
Every day, we are conditioned to hearing of great stories of back-to-the-walls, against-the-odds efforts from people that take them to great heights. CAT preparation journeys are likely to be far more mundane and regular than that. CAT is a patently non genius exam. So, get tuned to the idea of preparing for it diligently, regularly and relentlessly, albeit with a lot of fun.

Read the Quora Answer: Quora Story
What are the few things that a CAT aspirant must keep in mind in the first few months of preparation?
Read. A lot. Learn from first principles. If you know the test of divisibility by 9, know why it works. Spend less than 30 minutes each day on social platforms - this includes FB, Quora, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever other nonsense comes up and takes your precious time. Stay away from free advice and people who babble on about preparing.

Read the Quora Answer: Quora Answer
What are some common myths about CAT results?
2IIM's Article: Quora Blog
Another Myth: Do IITians have a easier time getting into IIMs? Watch
Another Myth: Is it true that IIMs don't Call based on Merit ? Watch Video
How important is having a good vocabulary for CAT?
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Is it possible to cover the entire CAT syllabus within 6 months?
Most definitely yes. Because, remember that CAT exam tests basic intelligence of class VIII, IX and X level in a standardized format. Allocating 15–18 hours per week will suffice. But the thing is those 15–18 hours should be high quality hours, Distraction-free hours with intense concentration and focus to the exam. Always remember that the Quality matters more than Quantity. Throw that in and you will be surprised at how easy this course is and you will be comfortably over the line.

P.S: Get out of Quora, Facebook etc. for 6 months and most of them can find their hours for preparation.

Read the Quora Answer: Quora Story
I got 98.54 percentile in cat this year but wasn't able to secure call from IIM A,B or C. Should I try again next year or should I settle for newer IIM's?
This Question has no direct simple answer. There are set of points to be seen to reach at the final decision.
• 98.54 is not good enough or even 99.54 is not good enough either. So, if you want to be in any of ABC next year, you need to go from 98.54 to 99.7+. Evaluate with all those factors in mind.
• If all of your XAT, SNAP, IIFT, NMAT went well in the same year, then you can think of the getting 98th percentile as a guarantee next year too and so give this a go.
• If you are a fresher, then take your chances next year. But if you already 3 years of experience then plan to take the best option available.
• Think of the salary package you have. If you are employed at Rs.2.5 lpa then choosing this offer will be a pragmatic decision. But whereas, if you are employed at Rs.10+ lpa then new IIMs will not be the best option.

P.S: This question is about risk appetite and is deeply personal as it will differ from person to person. So, think about your factors and take the decision.
But anyways, 98.54 is a damn neat percentile. Congratulations on it.
Read the Quora Answer: Quora Story YouTube Video: Watch the video
Do IIMs take into account the institute while considering the graduation score?
In the initial stages, there are no such bias. But usually, the quality of work experience, the value of the degree from college and all other intangible factors get factored in in the second round of selection.

To make it simple, a score of 82% in Correspondence Course in BA Geography done from Annamalai University will be treated as better academic qualification that a CG of 7.8 in IIT Madras Computer Science even though apples and oranges cannot be compared. This is the reality.

Read the Quora Answer: Quora Answer
What is the difference (preparation and other factors) between a 97, a 98, and a 99+ Percentiler in CAT? Are they equally good, but had different performances on the D-day?
• The Climb from 97th percentile to 99.5th percentile is a substantial leap. One would probably have to increase the score by around 30% to make this climb. Any score gives you some kind of signal of underlying performance. Anyone can underperform or outperform in a 3-hour test. A score usually gives a signal like this graph below.

• The 97th, 98th and 99th +Percentiles, the curves probably look like this picture below.

97, 98 and 99 percentile

• There are candidates who have scored 97th percentile and better than a few of those who scored 99th percentile in the exam. The ones at the right end of the 97th curve in the picture above are better than the ones at the left end of the 99th percentile curve. Primarily because of this variance, many colleges use other metrics beyond merely CAT performance to select the best candidates. They definitely want to acknowledge that percentile numbers probably carry some noise.

• Do they equally good give or take some luck? They may be or they may not be.

• As far as The CAT Exam is concerned, it is a reasonably high quality exam and is a reasonable predictor of underlying potential.

Read the Quora Answer: Quora Answer
What are some less known facts about CAT scores?
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