CAT Exam Syllabus And Paper Pattern – 2020

If your child knows the CAT 2020 exam syllabus and pattern, she would understand how to prepare for CAT quant, DILR and VARC exams. Read on to know more about CAT syllabus, exam pattern and details.

By Arun Sharma  • 10 min read

CAT Exam Syllabus And Paper Pattern – 2020

Qualifying in the CAT or Common Admission Test is a must to get admission into any of the top business schools of India.

Conducted by the IIMs (Indian Institute of Management) on a rotation basis, the CAT is a computer-based exam. It is one of the toughest exams which not only measures a candidate’s knowledge but also his aptitude for business administration programmes.

However, preparing for the CAT exam becomes a little easier when a candidate is aware of the CAT syllabus and CAT exam pattern.

If your child too is preparing for the CAT exam, here are details of the CAT syllabus and CAT exam pattern to help with his preparation.

CAT Syllabus 2020 and CAT Exam pattern

The CAT exam is divided into three sections. These are:

  1. Verbal ability and Reading comprehension
  2. Data interpretation and Logical reasoning
  3. Quantitative aptitude

Let’s look at the CAT syllabus and exam pattern in detail for each section.

CAT Verbal ability and Reading comprehension

The test for this section is divided into two parts. The first part deals with Reading comprehension and the second part deals with Verbal ability.

The CAT Verbal ability section can be divided into three parts. These are (1) Vocabulary, (2) Grammar and (3) Verbal reasoning.

The questions related to Vocabulary test a candidate’s ability to understand the meaning of words, idioms and phrases, synonyms and antonyms, critical reasoning and usage of words.

The questions related to Grammar test how well the candidate understands high school level grammar, for example, articles, prepositions, subject-verb agreement and grammatical errors.

CAT Reading comprehension is a very important section of the test. In this section, passages are given from different topics which are followed by questions.

These passages are usually based on Current events, Arts, Culture, Literature, Philosophy, Science, and Business and Economics.

CAT syllabus for Verbal ability and Reading comprehension

  • Paragraph completion
  • Jumbled paragraph
  • Close passage
  • Critical reasoning
  • Para-jumbles
  • Sentence/Error corrections
  • Synonyms/antonyms
  • Meaning/usage match
  • Summary writing
  • Verbal reasoning
  • Analogies and reverse analogies
  • Facts-inferences-judgments
  • Reading comprehension

CAT exam pattern

  • There are 34 questions in this section. The time limit is 60 minutes
  • The Verbal ability section has a mix of multiple choice questions (MCQs) and non-MCQs.
  • The Reading comprehension section has 4 – 5 passages followed by MCQs.
  • There are around 24 – 27 MCQs and around 7 – 10 non-MCQs. 
  • A correct answer fetches 3 marks and a wrong one (only MCQ) gets a negative marking of –1. Unmarked questions score 0 marks.
  • The questions are of moderate to very difficult type.

Books for CAT Verbal ability and Reading comprehension

  • How to Prepare for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for CAT (by Arun Sharma and Meenakshi Upadhyay)
  • Word Power made easy (Norman Lewis)
  • Wren & Martin High School English Grammar and Composition
  • Quick Learning Objective General English (by R S Aggarwal and Vikas Aggarwal)
  • PSC for VA for CAT (Nishit Sinha)

CAT Data interpretation and Logical reasoning

This section tests the decision-making ability of the candidate. The problems are based on situations that a manager will face in real life.

CAT Data interpretation problems are based on data provided in tables, graphs and charts. The answers to the questions must be derived by analysing the data. A large amount of data may be given to make the task appear a little more difficult than it actually is.

The Logical reasoning section consists of problems that must be worked out based on information provided in images, graphs and boxes. The candidate must think in a logical or methodical manner to come up with the solution.

CAT syllabus for Data interpretation and Logical reasoning

  • Graphs
  • Charts
  • Tables
  • Matrix
  • Syllogism
  • Venn diagram
  • Data caselets
  • Binary logic
  • Order and ranking
  • Logical grouping
  • Logical sequence
  • Blood relations
  • Number and letter series
  • Seating arrangement
  • Dice-related problems

CAT exam pattern

  • There are 32 questions in this section. The time limit is 60 minutes.
  • The Data interpretation section has four sets of questions with four questions in each set.
  • The Logical reasoning section has four sets of questions.
  • The Data interpretation section consists of both MCQs and non-MCQs (also called TITA or Type in The Answer)
  • Around 24 of the 32 questions are MCQs and the remaining 8 non-MCQs (TITA).
  • A correct answer fetches 3 marks and a wrong one (only MCQ) gets a negative marking of –1. Unmarked questions score 0 marks.
  • The questions are of moderate to very difficult type.

Books for CAT Data interpretation and Logical reasoning

  • How to Prepare for Data Interpretation for CAT (by Arun Sharma)
  • Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation for CAT (by Nishit Sinha)
  • A Modern Approach to Logical Reasoning (by R S Agarwal)
  • CAT Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (by Gautam Puri)

CAT Quantitative aptitude

The objective of this section is to test a candidate’s mathematical skills, understanding of pattern and symmetry, and the ability to correlate.

CAT syllabus for Quantitative aptitude 

  • The questions asked are from Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry and Modern maths.
  • The subtopics from which questions are asked include Number system, Profit and loss, LCM and HCF, Ratio and proportion, Averages, Speed, time and distance, Simple and compound interest, Linear and quadratic equations, Probability, Surds and indices, Permutation and combination, Trigonometry, Mensuration and Coordinate geometry/Geometry.

CAT exam pattern

  • This section has 34 questions. The time allotted to complete the paper is 60 minutes.
  • There are 22–24 MCQs and 10–12 non-MCQs.
  • A correct answer fetches 3 marks and a wrong one (only MCQ) gets a negative marking of –1. Unmarked questions score 0 marks.
  • The questions are of moderate to difficult type.
  • Usually, there is a higher chance of more questions being asked from topics like Time and speed, Profit and loss, Compound interest and Percentage.

Books for CAT Quantitative aptitude

  • How to Prepare for Quantitative Aptitude for CAT (by Arun Sharma)
  • Quantum CAT (by Sarvesh Verma)
  • Quantitative Aptitude for Competitive Examinations (by Abhijit Guha)
  • Quantitative Aptitude for CAT (by Nishit K Sinha)

CAT 2020 exam details

  • Notification release date — Last week of July 2020
  • Online Registration starts — First week of August 2020
  • Registration closes — Last week of September 2020
  • Admit card issue date — Third week of October 2020
  • Exam date — Last week of November 2020
  • Answer key release date — First week of December 2020
  • Exam result declaration — Second week of January 2021

The CAT syllabus has been changed in the past. So, while preparing for the CAT exam, a candidate should be prepared to make changes to her study plan, depending on the changes made in the syllabus.

About the author:

Written by Arun Sharma on 23 April 2020.

The author was associated with the healthcare industry before becoming a full-time writer and editor. A doting father to two preteens, he believes in experiential learning for his children. Also, he loves mountain trekking and nature trips.

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