CAT Exam Pattern

Updated On: Friday, November 22 2017, 12:06 PM


CAT 2017 exam will be held on November 26, 2017 in accordance with the full length CAT 2017 Mock test released by IIMs on October 30 with number of changes. If the actual CAT 2017 exam remains on the pattern of CAT 2017 official Mock test, CAT aspirants will have 72 questions with the negative marking in CAT 2017 and only 28 questions without negative marking. Most of the no-negative penalty (Non-MCQ) type of questions in CAT 2017 will have no answer options and the answers to them will have to be typed on the computer screen in the given space. All the 72 MCQs bear a threat of 1/3 negative marking while there is no negative marking for wrong answers of Non-MCQs.


CAT exam is a computer based test with 3 test sections: Verbal Ability & Reading comprehension (VARC) with 34 questions; Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR) with 32 questions, and Quantitative Ability (QA) with 34 questions.


CAT 2017 exam like last 2 years, will be held in a single day in 2 sessions in morning and afternoon. There are 2.31 lakh candidates who have registered and applied to appear in CAT 2017 and explore admission opportunity in 20 IIMs, FMS Delhi, SPJIMR Mumbai, IMI New Delhi, IMT Ghaziabad, JBIMS Mumbai, XIM Bhubaneswar and hundreds of other prominent B-schools offering quality MBA programmes. 


One of the top 6 IIMs convene CAT exam every year. The convener of CAT 2017 exam is IIM Lucknow. The scoring pattern as announced by IIM Lucknow is:

3 marks for each correct answer

-1 mark for each wrong answer (For MCQs)

No negative marking for wrong answer in Non-MCQs


The level of difficulty in CAT exam varies from question to question and from section to section. The RC passages have increased and 70% questions in VARC section are based on RC passages only. 


Latest CAT Exam Pattern Updates:

CAT Exam pattern over the past 7 years since it was computerised in 2009 has gone for perceptible changes. CAT paper pattern prior to 2009 was paper-pen based. CAT exam format was changed from paper based exam to CAT online computer based test in 2009. Even after that CAT paper pattern continued changing from 3 sections to 2 and then in CAT 2015 pattern changed to 3 sections. CAT 2017 format remains the same as that of CAT exam 2016 pattern with 3 sections and 3 hours time although the number of MCQs and Non-MCQs have changed.


Take CAT 2017 official Mock test to know more


CAT 2017 Paper Pattern 

Year Total No of Qs VA  DI-LR Quant Difficulty level Q break up
CAT 2017 100 VARC-34, RC-24, (All MCQs), Verbal-10 (All non MCQs) DILR-32, DI-20, LR-12, MCQs-24, Non-MCQs-8 Quant-34, MCQ-24, Non-MCQs-10 Moderate to difficult CAT exam pattern on the same lines as of CAT exam pattern 2015 Non-MCQs in DILR, Quant reduced.

CAT 2017 will be conducted on November 26, 2017 in a single day divided in morning and afternoon sessions. IIM Lucknow is the Convener for CAT 2017 and has announced that CAT 2017 exam pattern will remain unchanged. Therefore, CAT 2017 will be a computer based test of 3 hours duration and will have 100 questions divided in 3 sections.  CAT exam pattern since 2015 has remained on the same lines. CAT 2017 exam format is also expected to remain unchanged. 


Is the CAT online test? Responding to this query IIMs, although accept that CAT paper pattern is computer based but whether CAT is online test, they say ‘No.’ Regarding the CAT exam pattern, IIMs say “CAT is not an online exam. It is a digital or Computer Based Test (CBT); not an Internet-Based Test (IBT); that is, a candidate will not take the exam on an internet site. Instead of reading the questions in a paper booklet and darkening the ovals on the answer-sheet, a candidate will read the questions on a computer terminal and choose an answer by clicking on the correct option.”

So the CAT exam pattern 2017, despite being a computer based exam, CAT exam 2017 pattern will not be an online exam. Sharing the key difference and USPs of CAT exam pattern, IIMs further elaborate “In the computer-based format, the candidate reads a question on a computer terminal and clicks on the correct answer. Additionally, the timer on the computer screen tells you the remaining time to complete the current section.”


CAT exam pattern 2017

  • CAT 2017 exam is Computer based Test (CBT) of 3 hours duration.
  • CAT exam is divided into 3 main sections of 60 minutes each
  • The 3 sections in CAT exam 2017 pattern are – Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC); Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR); Quantitative Aptitute (QA)
  • There will also be sub sections within the 3 sections in revised CAT exam 2017 pattern. For example, the revamped CAT exam pattern for VARC consists of Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension sub sections; DILR contains questions on Data Interpretation and Logical reasoning.
  • Candidates are not allowed to move between one section to other during the 1 hour assigned to the particular section.
  • CAT Test takers cannot leave their seats during the exam.
  • The questions in CAT 2017 exam pattern will be divided into Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) where you need to pick out 1 correct answer choice out of 4; then there are Non-MCQs where you have to type-in the correct answer on the computer screen.
  • It is not necessary that you will find the answer choices for Non-MCQs in revised pattern of CAT 2017.
  • Each correct answer in CAT exam pattern will be awarded 3 marks whether it is MCQ or Non-MCQ
  • Each wrong answer for MCQ in CAT exam 2017 will be imposed penalty of 1/3 negative mark (-1 mark)
  • There will be no penalty of negative marking on wrong answers to Non-MCQs in CAT 2017 exam pattern
  • There would be 28 Non-MCQs in CAT 2017 exam as per the CAT 2017 official Mock test released by IIMs on October 30. This number could change a bit in actual CAT 2017 exam.

CAT 2017 Sectional Exam pattern
CAT exam pattern was totally revamped in CAT 2015 and the last year CAT 2016 exam format also followed the same CAT exam pattern for all the 3 sections. The key features of CAT 2017 sectional exam pattern are as follows-


VARC: 1st section

  • Total questions: 34
  • MCQs: 24
  • Non-MCQs: 10
  • RC passages: 5
  • RC Based questions (All MCQs): 24
  • VA questions (All non-MCQs): 10
  • Lod: Moderate to Very difficult
  • Section Highlights:
  • No Grammar or vocabulary based questions since CAT 2015
  • Verbal Ability questions remain confined to 3 topics only – Jumbled paragraph; Para summary; picking the odd sentence out of the jumbled sentences

DILR: 2nd section

  • Total questions: 32
  • MCQs: 24
  • Non-MCQs: 8
  • Share of DI questions: 20
  • Share of LR questions: 12
  • LoD: Moderate to difficult
  • Section Highlights:
  • Questions appear in set of 4
  • Time crunch is faced by test takers as questions are more time consuming

Quant: 3rd section

  • Total questions: 34
  • MCQs: 24
  • Non-MCQs: 10
  • LoD: Moderate to difficult
  • Section Highlights:
  • More questions are on Arithmetic – Percentage, Profit & Loss, Time & speed, Work/days, Compound interest

CAT paper pattern since computerization

Year Total No of Qs VA  DI-LR Quant Difficulty level Q break up
CAT 2016 100 VARC-34, RC-24, (All MCQs), Verbal-10 (All non MCQs) DILR-32, DI-16, LR-16, MCQs-24, Non-MCQs-8 Quant-34, MCQ-27, Non-MCQs-7 Moderate to difficult CAT exam pattern on the same lines as of CAT exam pattern 2015 Non-MCQs in Quant reduced.
CAT 2015 100 VARC -34, RC-24 (MCQs), Verbal-10 (Non MCQs) DILR-32, DI-16, LR-16, MCQs-24, Non-MCQs-8 Quant-34, MCQs-24, Non-MCQs-10 Moderate to difficult Time limit increased to 180 minutes; Sectional time constration of 1 hour re-introduced; Non-MCQs without negative marking penalty for wrong answer No questions on error correction and vocabulary.
CAT 2014 100 50 VARC-34 LR-16 - 50 Quant-34 DI-16 Moderate to difficult Test time increased to 170 minutes; Sectional time constrain removed; More questions on error correction; RC questions based on reasoning Overall moderate exam.
CAT 2013 60 30 10 verbal 10 RC 10 LR   30 DI-10 Moderate to difficult On the same pattern as last year. No new surprise element.
CAT 2012  60

30 (LR 10) 10 verbal 10 RC 10 LR

- 30 (DI 10) Moderate to difficult (Difficulty level was more or less maintained to the same level.

Error correction-1 to 2, parajumbles-2, Completion of last sentence of paragraph-2, Out of context Sentence in jumbled paragraph -1 to 2, Fill in the blanks vocabulary words- 1 to 2, Words used in different ways-2, Reading comprehension – three passages with 3 to 4 questions each (Common question in almost all the sessions from 11th Oct.2012 to 6th Nov.2012 – Tone of the author-at least two questions in every session) New or surprise element – Two questions on ‘Out of context sentences in jumbled paragraph’ – Paragraph had to be placed in order and the out of context sentence had to be picked out. Permutations & Combinations, Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Mensuration, Number Systems, Modern Maths.

CAT 2011 60 30(LR 10) - 30(DI10) Moderate to difficult-LOD>2

Jumbled sentences, error correction, Vocabulary, RC, grammar Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Mensuration, Number Systems, Modern Maths 

CAT 2010 60 20 20 20 Moderate to difficult-LOD>2

RC, Grammar, Parajumbles, sentence correction & completion,

Quant was tougher compared to CAT 2009. The areas were more calculation intensive and needed conceptual understanding.

CAT 2009 60 20 20 20

LOD=2 overall

Sentence rearrangement, Grammar, comprehension, correction of errors, sentence completion, Usage Vocabulary
Number System, Algebra, Mensuration, and Commercial Math.


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