All You Need to Know About CAT

November not only brings in the chilly winds, the festive shenanigans but also, a large number of butterflies coming to settle in our stomachs in the light of approaching exams. The pattern of the exam will see some major changes this year.

Earlier, the exam had two sections-Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation (QA) and Verbal ability and logical reasoning (VA) with 50 questions from each. But now, the 100 questions will be divided among three sections- Quantitative Aptitude (QA), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR) and Verbal and Reading Comprehension (VRC). QA and VRC will have 34 questions each while DILR will have 32 questions.

“Last year, people who were weak in quant could score well in QA by doing data interpretation well. But now, since, quantitative aptitude is a separate section, some of them will find it difficult to clear the cut-offs,” says Akhil Nair, a student appearing for CAT this year.

One of the most comforting things while taking an exam is being able to switch between sections and flexibility in managing time as we all have our own stronger areas. But this time, students will not be able to switch between the sections and will have to complete each section within a time limit of an hour. Though this increases the overall time by 10 minutes but that hardly makes much of a difference making time management a defining factor in the performance of students.

Some of the questions in all the sections will be descriptive questions where the answers will have to be typed which effaces the use of elimination to find the answer. The second and the happier side of this coin is that such questions will not carry any negative marking. However, the marking for all other MCQs remain the same i.e. +3 for the correct and -1 for the incorrect answers.

The best part about these changes is the use of onscreen calculator. This is the first time in history of CAT that calculators will be allowed which brings great relief to students who are not really quick with calculations.

“As the CAT conducting body keeps experimenting year on year, this is another way for them to gauge student’s aptitude. So, we just have to accept whatever is thrown at us,” thinks Aishwarya another CAT aspirant.

Looks like IIMs truly believe in change being the only constant.

The change in the pattern this year will subject the students to both advantages and disadvantages. Here is the comprehensive guide to all of them:

  • Change Introduced: Time Bound Sections

The goal behind this is to keep the duration of the exam equal for each component. This is reportedly supposed to help students put equal effort in each section and give a balanced performance.  It will also ensure that the candidates are well versed with and have equal competency in all the sections.


This change will definitely help reduce the stress of planning how much time needs to be allocated to each section. It will also make sure that while attempting one section the students do not entertain the idea of deflecting to another. This may potentially improve concentration and lead to a better result.


This will take the power of choice away from the students. Till last year, the aspirants had the liberty to attempt questions from areas they were confident in and avoid the questions they found difficult. However, this will not be possible with the changes that have been introduced.

  • Change Introduced: Non MCQ Questions

For the first time, CAT will have descriptive type question in which the test-takers will have to write the correct answer.

Advantage and Disadvantage:

There will be no negative marking for the non-MCQ questions. As there will be no negative marking students will be able to attempt all questions of this type unlike the MCQ questions where they had to attempt questions they were absolutely confident of to avoid losing marks.

  • Change Introduced: On Screen Calculator

This change has been reportedly introduced to allow the students to focus more on the problem than on the computation.


It will save time in the Quant and DI & LR sections. The underlying concept is that is imperative that students know “what to calculate” rather than “how to calculate”.

  • Preparation Guidelines:

-Get acquainted with the new pattern of the paper. Focus on improving time management as it will be crucial in the paper with each section being time bound and students being unable to attempt questions across sections.

-Since the basic syllabus and question time remains the same, the effort of students who have already started preparing will not be wasted. However it will be beneficial to attempt mock papers to get comfortable with the paper structure.

-With time management becoming more important than ever, it is important to devise a test-taking strategy i.e. the time allocated to each question, which questions to choose etc.

-It will be imperative for students to work on topics they are relatively weak in, since the new pattern of the paper aims at giving equal importance to all the sections of the paper.


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