CAT Exam Pattern

CAT exam pattern has gone with perceptible changes since 2014 not only in CAT structure but also in content. Going by the tradition in changes in different type of questions in CAT, you cannot rule out a different CAT 2018 Exam pattern. CAT 2018 exam is expected to be held in the month of November/December 2018. Next 6 months will be a crucial period to devise a well chalked out plan for your CAT preparation as per the CAT 2018 pattern.


However, despite number of changes brought about during last 4 years in CAT exam pattern, the basics of the CAT exam have not changed. CAT exam pattern since 2015 has remained on the same lines. CAT 2018 exam pattern is also expected to remain as per the last 3 years CAT pattern, although there could be some minor changes in number and type of questions and their sectional composition.   To make sure to bell the CAT 2018 with high score you need to begin your CAT exam preparation 2018 without waiting any longer.


As per the revised CAT exam pattern 2018, CAT 2018 will consist of 3 sections with a total of 100 questions. Each section is timed with the individual time limit of 1 hour. You need to ensure high score in each of the 3 sections as there is also a sectional score cut off in IIMs for shortlisting.


CAT Pattern 2018 

  • Total Questions: 100
  • Number of sections: 3
  • Questions with negative marking (MCQs): 75
  • Questions without negative marking (Non-MCQs): 25
  • Score awarded for each correct answer: 3 marks
  • Negative marking (Applicable for  wrong answers in MCQs): -1 mark

CAT 2018 pattern: Sectional composition


Section name
Total questions
Total MCQs (With negative marking)
Total Non-MCQs (Without negative marking)
Total maximum marks
24 to 27
7 to 10
23 to 27
7 to 11

*VARC: Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension

*DILR: Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning

*Quant: Quantitative Ability


CAT 2018 exam will be conducted on the 3rd or last Sunday of November, 2018 or on the 1st Sunday in December 2018 in a single day divided in morning and afternoon sessions. One of the top six IIMs will be the Convener for CAT 2018 and has announced that CAT 2018 exam pattern will 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 2018, despite being a computer based exam, 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 2018 Exam pattern: Sections, sub-sections, Expected difficulty level
CAT exam pattern was totally revamped in CAT 2015 by IIM Ahmedabad and since then CAT exam pattern has followed the same CAT pattern for all the 3 sections. The key features of CAT 2018 sectional exam pattern are:


VARC: 1st section

  • Total questions: 34
  • MCQs: 24 to 27
  • Non-MCQs: 7 to 10
  • RC passages: 5
  • RC Based questions (All MCQs): 24
  • VA questions (Mix of MCQs & 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: 28
  • Non-MCQs: 8
  • Share of DI questions: 16
  • Share of LR questions: 16
  • 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: 23 to 27
  • Non-MCQs: 7 to 11
  • LoD: Moderate to difficult
  • Section Highlights:
  • More questions are on Arithmetic – Percentage, Profit & Loss, Time & speed, Work/days, Compound interest

CAT exam pattern 2018: Key facts

  • CAT 2018 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 2018 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 2018 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.
  • MCQs in CAT 2018 exam pattern will need you to pick out 1 correct answer choice out of 4
  • Non-MCQs in CAT exam pattern will require you to type-in the correct answer on the computer screen.
  • There may not be any answer choices for Non-MCQs in revised pattern of CAT 2018.
  • 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 2018 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 2018 exam pattern
  • CAT exam pattern remains on the lines of CAT official Mock test released by IIMs a month before the CAT exam.

CAT Pattern: Changes since Computerization

CAT Exam pattern over the past 8 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 CAT pattern was changed to 3 sections in 2015. Since then CAT is following similar pattern. CAT 2018 pattern also remains the same as that of CAT exam 2017 pattern with 3 sections and 3 hours time although the number of MCQs and Non-MCQs may change.

Total No of Qs
Difficulty level
Q break up
CAT 2017
VARC-34. RC-24, (All MCQs), Verbal-10 (3 MCQs, 7 non MCQs)
DILR-32, DI-16, LR-16, MCQs-24, Non-MCQs-8
Total-34. MCQs 23, Non-MCQs-11
CAT Pattern in the lines of last year with changes in non-MCQs in each section
CAT 2016
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
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
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
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 
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
30(LR 10)
Moderate to difficult-LOD>2
Jumbled sentences, error correction, Vocabulary, RC, grammar Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Mensuration, Number Systems, Modern Maths 
CAT 2010
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
LOD=2 overall
Sentence rearrangement, Grammar, comprehension, correction of errors, sentence completion, Usage Vocabulary
Number System, Algebra, Mensuration, and Commercial Math.