CAT Examination Pattern

Important points to note about the CAT exam pattern:

The question paper has three main sections

  • Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC)
  • Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DI-LR)
  • Quantitative Ability (QA)

Key Highlights

  • Total number of questions is 100 and are of both MCQ and non-MCQ format
  • Total time allotted is 180 minutes(3 hours)
  • Each section is for 60 minutes.
  • The exam is conducted in online mode

As per the latest notification released by IIMCAT, no changes have been made to the CAT 2020 exam pattern. The exam authorities will release the CAT tutorial on October 16, 2020 so that the candidates can get an idea of the actual CAT 2020 exam. The exam is to be held on 25th November 2020

Also Check CAT 2020 Admit Card

More details on the exam pattern and marking scheme are mentioned below:


CAT 2020 Pattern
Number of sections
Duration of exam60 minutes per section
Number of questions100
Total marks300
Language of question paperEnglish
Number of answer choices4


CAT 2020 – Overall and Sectional Time Limit

CAT exam has a sectional time limit, which means that the candidate cannot switch between sections or choose the section they want to start with. They will have to solve the CAT 2020 question paper in the order given, from sections 1 to 3. The order is as follows:

  • Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension
  • Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning 
  • Quantitative Aptitude

It is imperative to remember that each section has to be finished within one hour and after the end of each hour, the next section will start. Once the next section starts, changes or corrections cannot be made to the answers in the previous section.

Also Check CAT 2020 Question Papers

The number of questions in each section of CAT exam and the time allotted is summarized in the table below:


CAT 2020 SectionQuestionsAllotted Time
Quantitative Aptitude (QA)3460 minutes
Logical Reasoning & Data Interpretation (LRDI)3260 minutes
Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC)3460 minutes
Total100180 minutes


CAT Marking Scheme

It is essential to understand the CAT marking scheme before writing the exam so that you can choose the questions to solve based on the marks allotted.

  • The exam carries 300 marks in total
  • Each question is of 3 marks
  • Negative marking of -1 each for a wrong answer
  • No marks are deducted in case of questions left unattempted
  • Some questions in each section may not be of the multiple-choice type, and the answers will have to be typed on the screen

The marking scheme for CAT 2020 is given below:


Type of QuestionsCorrect AnswerIncorrect Answer


Important Points about CAT Exam Pattern

  • A basic onscreen calculator is there on each computer for calculations
  • An onscreen clock will help candidates keep a tab on time
  • A rough paper will be provided for rough work, which has to be given back once the exam is done
  • The candidates cannot attempt the exam before the time allotted
  • All the computer screens will start the exam at the same time
  • Candidates have to sit in the seats assigned to them for taking the test. If found sitting elsewhere, he/she will be debarred from the exam

Changes in CAT Exam Pattern over the Years

The test structure of the CAT exam underwent several changes in 2013-2014 in terms of duration and number of questions. While the CAT 2013 paper had 60 questions and the exam was for 140 minutes, in 2014, the number of questions increased to 100 and the time duration was increased to 170 minutes.

CAT 2018: Registration Opens On August 8, Exam on November 25

The exam has seen changes in the number of sections as well. It kept varying between two and three sections in the years from 2010 to 2015. In the years from 2011 to 2014, the CAT paper had only two sections. The DI section of CAT exam was initially clubbed with QA and the LR section was clubbed with VARC. However, from 2015 onwards, DI was clubbed with LR while QA and VARC became separate sections.

The table below reveals the changes in CAT exam pattern over the years:


YearNumber of questionsTime durationSections
201060150 minsQA, DILR, VARC
201160140 minsQA & DI, LR & VARC
201260140 minsQA & DI, LR & VARC
201360140 minsQA & DI, LR & VARC
2014100170 minsQA & DI, LR & VARC
2015100180 minsQA, DILR, VARC
2016100180 minsQA, DILR, VARC
2017100180 minsQA, DILR, VARC
2018100180 minsQA, DILR, VARC
2019100180 minsQA, DILR, VARC


CAT Question Paper Analysis 2018

The basic pattern of CAT exam has remained the same over the years but the exam has witnessed significant changes in the number of questions. Given below is the summary of the difficulty level of CAT 2018 paper and exam analysis.

Also Check CAT 2020 Examination Analysis

Slot-Wise Difficulty Level of CAT 2018 Question Papers

The section-wise difficulty level of both the slots of CAT 2018 is highlighted in the table below:


CAT sectionsCAT 2018: Slot 1CAT 2018: Slot 2
DILRModerate to DifficultModerate to Very Difficult


The CAT 2018 question paper saw a few changes in the pattern of questions as well, especially in the Quantitative Ability section.

  • The Quantitative Ability section was difficult. In fact, tougher than CAT 2017.
  • The Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning section of CAT 2018 were moderately difficult and the VARC section was the easiest.

Also read:

CAT Exam Pattern FAQs

Q: How many times in a year is the CAT exam conducted?

A: The CAT exam is conducted only once a year usually on the last Sunday of November or the first Sunday in December. CAT 2020 is scheduled for November 25, 2020.

Q: How many sections are there in CAT exam?

A: The CAT question paper has three sections:
Section 1: VARC (Verbal ability and reading comprehension)
Section 2: DILR (Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning)
Section 3: QA (Quantitative Aptitude)

Q: Is there negative marking in CAT 2020?

A: Yes, for every incorrect answer, 1 mark is deducted.

Q: Am I allowed to bring a calculator to the exam center?

A: No, you are not allowed to carry a calculator or any other electronic gadgets into the exam hall. The computer system allotted to you has an on-screen calculator.

Q: How many MCQs and Non-MCQs will be there in CAT 2020?

A: The CAT 2020 question paper is expected to have 72 MCQ and 28 non MCQ questions.

Q: What is the sectional time limit in the CAT exam?

A: The sectional time-limit is 60 minutes for General category students and 80 minutes for PWD category students.

Q: Can I answer the questions in any order, as per my choice?

A: No, you are required to answer based on the order of the sections. You cannot switch between sections.

Q: How many marks will be deducted if I skip a question in CAT paper?

A: No marks are deducted for unattempted answers.

Q: Can I carry my watch to the exam hall?

A: No, you will not be allowed to carry our watch inside the exam hall. The computer system allotted to you has an onscreen timer.

Q: Will CAT 2020 question paper be different in both the slots?

A: Yes, the question papers of both slots can be slightly different in terms of difficulty levels.

Q: Are the questions in slot 1 tougher than in slot 2, in CAT 2020?

A: There is no data to suggest that the questions in a particular slot are tougher than the other. It can be either way.

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