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CAT Exam Pattern 2021: Check Subject Wise Exam Pattern, Marking Scheme and Important Books

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Shekhar Sumann

Exams Prep Master | Updated On - Nov 29, 2021

CAT Exam Pattern 2021 has been revised with the reduction in overall and section wise number of questions. IIM has reduced the overall count of questions to 66 from 76 and the section wise change in the total number of questions is as follows:

  • Verbal Ability and Reading comprehension- 24 from 26
  • Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning- 20 from 24
  • Quantitative Aptitude- 22 from 26
  • No information regarding the changes in CAT Exam Pattern was mentioned in the official notification but CAT Question Paper 2021 was prepared based on the updated exam pattern. The count of sections is still the same i.e. 3 sections CAT VARCCAT DILR, and CAT Quant.
  • The time duration to complete the paper was 120 minutes i.e. 2 hours. For every correct answer candidates will get the +3 makes where are for wrong answers -1 mark will be deducted. No negative will be there for wrong TITA-type question answers. Download CAT Previous Year Question Paper

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CAT 2021 Exam Pattern

CAT Exam Pattern 2021

  • Quantitative Aptitude- 22 questions from different disciplines of mathematics. Expect an increased number of non-MCQs.
  • Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension- Total of 24 questions where RC to have high weightage in the VARC section.
  • Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning- 20 questions from CAT DILR were asked in CAT 2021. This section is expected to be the toughest.
CAT Exam Pattern 2021
Mode  Online
Duration 120 Minutes
Nature of Questions Objective (MCQ Based) and Subjective
Sections Verbal & Reading Comprehension
Quantitative Ability
Data adequacy and logical reasoning
Number of Questions 76 66
Total Marks 228 198
Marks Awarded +3 Marks for every correct answer
Negative Marking No Negative Marking for subjective questions
-1 marks for every wrong answer in objective questions
Medium English

CAT Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension Pattern

The primary motive of the CAT VARC section is to check the English language skills of the test takers, the understanding and interpretation of the paragraphs.

  • CAT VARC section comprises 24 questions. The questions in verbal ability section are asked from para jumbles, sentence correction and completion, and summary based questions.
Particulars  Details
Total Questions in VARC 24
Total Marks in VARC  72 

CAT Logical Reasoning & Data Interpretation Pattern

This section aims to test the data interpretation proficiency of CAT test takers and their understanding of logical assumption. A total of 20 questions are asked in CAT LR & DI.

  • Logical Reasoning comprises of 16 questions varying from topics like inequalities to symbol operations, direction sense test, etc. Since the questions are easy to solve, the scoring level of this section is high.
  • Data Interpretation consists of many caselets which are a bit difficult and time consuming. It is necessary for the candidates to understand data caselets properly to be able to answer all the questions. 
  • A total of 8-9 TITA questions are included in CAT LR-DI section
Particulars  Details
Total Questions in DILR  20
Total Marks in DILR  60

CAT Quantitative Aptitude Pattern

It is the CAT quantitative aptitude section that comprises of only numerical-based questions from different maths topics. The section comprises of a total of 22 questions. The complete quantitative section consists of mainly 5 topics:

  • Basic Arithmetic
  • Number System
  • Geometry
  • Algebra
  • Modern Maths
Particulars  Details
Total Questions in QA  22
Total Marks in QA  66

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CAT 2021 Marking Scheme

  • There will be a total of 66 questions in the CAT
  • For each correct answer, candidates will score 3 marks. 
  • For each wrong answer in the objective questions, candidates will get a negative marking of 1 mark. 
  • There will be no negative marks in the subjective questions. 

Here is the section wise distribution of marks for CAT 2021 - 

Subject Marks Allotted 2021 Number of Questions 2021 Positive Marks Negative Marks
Verbal & Reading Comprehension 78 72 26 24 +3 for both MCQ & TITA type

-1 for MCQ
0 for TITA type

Quantitative Ability 78 66 26 22
Data adequacy and logical reasoning 72 60 24 20
Total 228 198 76 66

CAT 2021 Answer Key

Based on the marking scheme and CAT 2021 Answer Key, candidates can calculate their rough scores. CAT 2021 Answer key is expected in the 1st week of December 2021 along with a response sheet. Candidates can use both to calculate raw scores which can be used to predict the list of colleges accepting that score. Also Check CAT 2021 College Predictor

CAT 2021 Overall and Sectional Time Limit

CAT 2021 Section Questions Allotted Time in Minutes
Quantitative Aptitude (QA) 22 40
Logical Reasoning & Data Interpretation (LRDI) 20 40
Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC) 24 40 
Total 66 120 

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CAT Previous Years Pattern

CAT Previous Years Exam Pattern (2011-2020)

Ever since the change of CAT exam mode from offline to online in 2009, the exam has seen several changes in the exam pattern. Read below to find out the major changes in the Exam Pattern from 2015 to 2020:

  • In 2018 Non-MCQ questions in total increased to 27 as compared to 26 in 2017.
  • Reading Comprehension was reduced to 4 from 5, each passage having 5 questions.
  • Quant had a good number of 12 Non-MCQ’s. Arithmetic questions were given a good weightage.

The Computer based tests were introduced in 2009, and CAT was held in pen-paper mode earlier. Since the past 4 years the paper pattern has not been through any major changes. There were a lot of changes made in CAT Exam pattern 2020, such as a reduced number of questions(76 from 100 in previous exams), reduced duration of 40 minutes per section instead of 60 minutes due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

Year of Exam Number of Questions VARC DILR Quant
CAT 2021 66 VARC - 24 DILR - 20 QA - 22
CAT 2020 76 VARC - 26 DILR - 24 QA - 26
CAT 2019 100 VARC-34; RC-24 DILR-32; DI-16 LR-16  Quant-34 
CAT 2018 100 VARC-34; RC-24 DILR-32; DI-16 LR-16  Quant-34 
CAT 2017 100 VARC-34; RC-24 DILR-32; DI-16 LR-16 Quant-34 
CAT 2016 100 VARC-34; RC-24 DILR-32; DI-16 LR-16 Quant-34 
CAT 2015 100 VARC -34; RC-24 DILR-32; DI-16 LR-16 Quant-34
CAT 2014 100 VARC -34; RC-24 DILR-32 Quant-34

Before 2014 only 2 sections were there i.e. QA & DI and LR & VARC:

Year of Exam Number of Questions QA & DI LR & VARC 
CAT 2013 60 30 30
CAT 2012 60 30 30
CAT 2011 60 30 30

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CAT vs XAT Pattern

CAT vs XAT vs MAT vs SNAP Exam Pattern- Comparative Analysis 

Mode of Exam Computer Based Test Computer Based Test Computer Based Test Computer Based Test
Number of Questions 100  100  60 200
Total Time Duration 180 minutes 180 minutes 60 minutes 150 minutes
Type of Questions MCQs MCQ and Subjective Type MCQs MCQs
Marking Scheme +1 mark for a correct answer +3 mark for a correct answer +1 mark for a correct answer +1 mark for a correct answer
- 0.25 mark for an incorrect answer No Negative Marking for subjective questions - 0.25 mark for an incorrect answer - 0.25 mark for an incorrect answer
Beyond 8 unanswered questions, 0.05 marks will be deducted for each unanswered question. -1 marks for every wrong answer in objective questions
Sectional Time Limit None 1 hour for each section None None
Sections Verbal & Reading Comprehension Verbal and Logical Ability Analytical & Logical Reasoning Indian and Global Environment
Quantitative Ability Decision Making Quantitative, Data Interpretation & Data Sufficiency Data Analysis and Sufficiency
Data adequacy and logical reasoning Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation General English: Reading Comprehension, Verbal Reasoning, Verbal Ability Mathematical Skills
General Knowledge Intelligence and Critical Reasoning

CAT 2021 Syllabus

CAT 2021 Syllabus

CAT Syllabus 2021 is very vast and includes various topics. Some of the important topics for each section is given below: 

Section Subjects Important Topics
Data adequacy and logical reasoning Data Interpretation Data Sufficiency, Combination of Graphs, Bar Graph, Line Graph, Pie Chart, Caselet, and Tables etc.
Logical Reasoning Seating Arrangement, Statements, Matching Puzzles, Binary Logic, Blood Relations, Family Tree, Clocks and Calendars, Proposition, Sets, Venn Diagram, Syllogism, etc.
Quantitative Ability Mathematics Algebra, Geometry, Arithmetic, Number System, Time & Work, Mensuration, Simple Interest, Modern Mathematics and Trigonometry etc
Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension Passages, Fact Inference Judgment
Fill in the blanks
Vocab based questions, Para Completion
Para Jumble
English Grammar Grammar and verbal reasoning like Sentence Correction, Fill in the blanks, Direct-Indirect, Active Voice Passive Voice, Verbal Reasoning, Antonyms, Synonyms, and jumbled sentences etc

Also Check CAT 2021 Online Preparation

CAT 2021 Recommended Books

CAT 2021 Recommended Books

Getting the right books for each subject can be a difficult task, as there are so many different books in the market. Different books suggest different methods, so it becomes very important to find the right books according to your preferences and understanding and use those books to study for the CAT exam. We have curated a list of books for each section, which you can refer to for preparation. Check CAT 2021 Important Books by Nishit Sinha

Section Book Name Author Name/Publisher
Quantitative Ability How to Prepare for Quantitative Aptitude for the CAT Arun Sharma
Quantitative Aptitude Quantum CAT Common Admission Tests for Admission into IIMs Sarvesh K. Verma
Quantitative Aptitude for the CAT Nishit K. Sinha
Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension How to Prepare for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for CAT Arun Sharma and Meenakshi Upadhyay/Arihant
30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary Mass Market Paperback Wilfred Funk & Norman Lewis/ Simon & Schuster
How to Prepare for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for the CAT Sharma and Upadhyay
PSC for VA for CAT Exam Nishit Sinha
Data adequacy and logical reasoning CAT Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning Gautam Puri
Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation for the CAT Nishit K. Sinha
Data Interpretation & Data Sufficiency Ananta Ashisha
How to Prepare for Data Interpretation for CAT Arun Sharma

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CAT 2021 Exam Pattern FAQs

CAT Exam Pattern 2021 FAQs

Ques.: Can I take the CAT 2021 exam from any computer?

Ans. A candidate will take the exam on a workstation assigned at the test center. No candidate can take the exam on their personal laptop or computer system.

Ques.: Are there negative marks for questions other than MCQs in CAT 2021?

Ans. No, there are no negative marks for non-MCQ type questions.

Ques.: How many non-MCQs are there in each section of CAT?

Ans. The number of questions as Non-MCQs may vary in each section. Generally- VARC has 7 Non-MCQs and 27 MCQs, DILR has 8 Non-MCQs and 24 MCQs whereas Quants ahs 12 Non-MCQs and 22 MCQs

Ques.: Is there a specific order for answering sections?

Ans. You must answer the sections in a pre-specified order, and this order will remain the same for all the candidates. The time duration is 180 minutes.

Ques.: What is the difference between the Computer-Based test and Pen-paper Based Test?

Ans. The Computer-based test is where the applicants read the questions on a computer terminal and click on the right answer. In the Pen-Paper based test, the applicants will be provided with a paper booklet, and they are needed to use a pencil or pen and darken the ovals against the right answers.

Ques.: How to know more about the CBT?

Ans. For more details on the CBT, check out the CAT 2021 Practice tests and the CAT 2021 Mock Test.

Ques.: What are the sections in CAT 2021?

Ans. There are three sections in the CAT 2021 question paper –

  • Section I – Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension
  • Section II – Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning
  • Section III – Quantitative Ability. Check CAT 2021 Syllabus

Ques.: Can I Bring a calculator to the exam?

Ans. No, the applicants are not allowed to bring in any electronic devices to the exam center. An on-screen calculator will be provided in the exam.

Ques.: How many MCQ and Non-MCQ in CAT? 

Ans. There are 59 MCQ and 17 Non MCQ Questions.

Section MCQs Non-MCQs Total
VARC 21 5 26
DILR 18 6 24
QA 20 6 26
Overall 59 17 76

Ques.: Do the MCQs and non-MCQs carry equal scores?

Ans. Yes, all the questions carry equal scores.

Ques.: What is the syllabus for CAT? How should I prepare?

Ans. There is no fixed syllabus for CAT. However, applicants can check the numerous tips provided by professionals or join a coaching Institute. Also, the applicants can also check the numerous CAT preparation tips accessible online.

Ques.: What is the marking scheme for CAT? Is there any negative marking?

Ans. For every right answer, the applicants will be awarded 3 marks. However, an insight answer will fetch -1 mark.

Ques.: What is the weightage of Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension?

Ans. There are 26 questions for 78 marks for 40 minutes.

Ques.: What is the Weightage of Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning?

Ans. There are 24 questions for 72 marks for 40 minutes.

Ques.: What is the Weightage of Quantitative Ability?

Ans. There are 26 questions for 78 marks for 40 minutes.

Ques.: What is the syllabus for Quantitative Ability?

Ans. There are important topics for quantitative ability:

Linear and Quadratics Equations Time and Work Inequalities
Variation Mensuration and Geometry Time, Speed and Distance
Probability/ Profit or Loss Surds and Indices Tables and Case lets
Logarithms Critical Path Averages and Partnerships
Allegations and Mixtures Algebra Percentage

Ques.: What is the CAT Exam Pattern for Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning?

Ans. These are the important topics to cover in Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning:

Bar Graph Case lets Seating Arrangement Blood Relations Statements
Line Graph Combination of Graphs Syllogism Venn Diagram Sets
Pie Chart Data Sufficiency Propositions Data Arrangement Clocks and Calendars
Tables Venn Diagram Puzzles Assumptions -

Ques.: What is the CAT Exam Pattern for Verbal & Reading Comprehension?

Ans. These are the major topics to cover in Verbal & Reading Comprehension:

Sentence Correction Word usage
Fill in the blanks Para Jumble
Para completion Fact Inference Judgement
Analogies Idioms

Ques.: Is there any help for computation in CAT Exam?

Ans. To help applicants with general computations, a non-scientific on-screen calculator is offered. Candidates have to use the mouse to carry out calculations on the on-screen calculator.

Ques.: From where can I get the list of exam centers?

Ans. The list of CAT 2019 exam centers will be accessible on the official website Currently, applicants can see the test cities where CAT 2019 will take place.

Ques: What are TITA questions?

Ans: TITA or “Type in the answer” type questions are those questions in which no options are provided. Candidates have to go through the questions and solve the same to type the answer in the text box provided. These are also referred to as Non-MCQs. 25-30% of the questions asked in the paper are non-MCQs. 

Ques: Which among TITA and MCQs, help in gaining a higher score in CAT?

Ans: If we analyse the CAT exam paper, the percentage of MCQs are more than that of non-MCQs. But there is a negative marking of -1 in MCQs for each correct answer while no negative marking in non-MCQs. Therefore, if the non-MCQs do not add one to your number, it won’t decrease your number as well. Therefore, candidates may get a good score if they answered each and every TITA question correctly along with more than 60% right multiple-choice questions. 

Ques: Which is more time consuming among CAT MCQs and TITA questions?

Ans: TITA questions are more time consuming than that of traditional non- MCQs and there are chances that these questions do not give accurate answers.

Ques: Is there any specific section in which only MCQs are asked?

Ans: No, CAT exam contain both MCQs and non-MCQs type questions in each and every section. 

Ques.: What are the time slots for the CAT 2021?

Ans. CAT 2021 will be conducted in two sessions or time slots. Applicants will be allotted a single session time slot based on the availability of test center and city of selection.

Ques.: Can I appear for more than one slot for CAT 2021?

Ans. No, you cannot appear for more than one slot for CAT 2021. If any applicant attempts to appear for CAT 2021 in two distinctive time slots, it would be considered as a fraudulent activity. To maintain the distance from any fraudulent activity on this front, CAT 2021 applicants will be subject to verification of Admit Cards, applicant pictures, photo IDs, and biometric verification.

Ques.: Where can I select my preference for shift and test date?

Ans. The examination shift (forenoon or afternoon) is distributed to each registered applicant based on the selection of the city, which was made at the time of application. An applicant cannot select the shift.

Ques.: What are the timings to contact the Applicant Helpdesk?

Ans. CAT 2021 help desk is accessible to applicants via telephone from Monday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. CAT Applicant Helpdesk is shut on Sundays and National/Public holidays.

*The article might have information for the previous academic years, which will be updated soon subject to the notification issued by the University/College.


What is the syllabus for Data Interpretation?
manika gupta

Hi Shruti, Data Interpretation is the section which consists of charts and tables, myriad of graphs, from which candidates will have to analyze and glean data. For more information, please refer to the following link, CAT Syllabus.

Topic-wise question distribution is fixed or random in the CAT exam?
mohit sarohi

Hello Deep,

The topic-wise distribution of the questions is random in the CAT exam. Though, there’s a prescribed range of questions that will be asked from a particular topic. For more details, visit: CAT Exam Pattern

Want to weightage of topics for quants in order to priortize my preparation.
mohit sarohi

Hello Shivam,

Arithmetic and Algebra holds maximum weightage in the quants section. For a detailed analysis of the section, refer to this link: CAT Quantitative Aptitude Analysis

I am a teacher in a govt.sponsored school in Kolkata-119. But my dream is to crack CAT 2020 and become a man of holding MBA degree in FINANCE and to work in MNC.Can you tell me how to crack CAT 2020 and pursue MBA in FINANCE while contiuing my job or someone may tell me how to achieve my dream.
I have approx 4 years of experience. Am I eligible for cat?
what can be good institute for cat preparation for 99-100 percentile?
bachlor of art student taken cat exam
Btech students eligible for CAT
Are there any changes in the CAT Exam Pattern?

Hi Pushpendra, Currently no update has been released on changes in the exam pattern. But CAT is famous for throwing surprises in the exam pattern which is not even notified before the exam. In the case of any release of notification, the same will be updated on our website. For more details, click here- Details

Can I Bring a calculator to the exam?

Hi Yashika, No calculator is allowed in the exam hall. However, a virtual calculator would be provided for the calculation work.

What are the sections in CAT 2017?

Hi Vivek, There are 3 sections in the CAT 2017 exam:

  • Section I: Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension
  • Section II: Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning
  • Section III: Quantitative Ability
Where can I fill the form for a scribe/reader?

Hi Ruby, At the time of filling the application form, you have to indicate that you will be using a service of the scribe. Under the physical disability section, you need to fill the details regarding the requirement of a scribe.

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