CAT 2020 Exam Pattern Changed! Check India’s Top CAT Experts’ Advice on impact, preparation – Exclusive


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September 16, 2020
IIM Indore has announced big changes in CAT 2020 Exam pattern and duration and has extended the last date for CAT Registration to September 23 till 5 PM. CAT 2020 will now be held in three slots on November 29, 2020 with each slot of 2 hours duration. India’s Top CAT Experts – Arun Sharma, Hemang Panchmatia, Arks Srinivas, Nishit Sinha have shared with the impact of the CAT exam pattern Change and their advice on preparation strategy
CAT 2020 Registration Extended; Pattern changedImpact of CAT 2020 Pattern Changes: Analysis by Experts

IIM Indore announced important changes in CAT 2020 Exam in late evening on September 15, 2020. CAT Registration Deadline is extended to September 23 till 5 PM.

Sharing these changes with, CAT 2020 Convenor Prof Harshal Lowalekar said, “Yes, the registration date has been extended to September 23, looking at COVID situation for the benefit of candidates. Some other changes are also mentioned in the new media release. The process of updating the CAT website is going on and by the end of this week it will reflect all the relevant changes.” 

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Here are 5 big changes announced by CAT Center 2020 at IIM Indore:

  1. Registration Deadline Extended to Sep 23: Registration for CAT 2020 will now close at 5.00 pm on September 23, 2020. There will be not be any further extension of registration. The CAT convenor urges test takers to register well in advance to allow themselves a hassle-free registration process and to avoid a last-minute rush.
  1. CAT 2020 Exam in Three Session: Will be conducted on November 29, 2020 (Sunday) in three sessions. Earliest there were two sessions announced. So, there will be an extra session this year to accommodate social distancing norms.
  2. CAT 2020 Exam Duration Reduced to only 2 Hrs: The revised duration of the test will be 120 minutes. This is a big change.
  3. CAT 2020 to have Three Sections:
  • Section I: Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension 
  • Section II: Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning  
  • Section III: Quantitative Ability
  1. Section wise time limit set to 40 mins: Candidates will be allotted only 40 minutes for answering questions in each section. They will not be allowed to switch from one section to another while answering questions in a section. This will change the way candidates prepare and take the exam.

Impact of CAT 2020 Pattern Changes: Analysis by Experts
According to the experts’ analysis on revised CAT pattern, following key changes are expected from CAT this year:

  1. Fewer Questions: Experts feel that around 33% drop in number of questions across the three sections in CAT exam is expected as the time duration to attempt the exam has been reduced to two hours from earlier three hours
  2. Test takers might starve for more time as the candidates with more questions and longer time duration have more options to skip questions
  3. The cut offs are expected to be reduced giving more chances for shortlisting
  4. The preparation strategy and Mock taking strategy should be changed as per the sectional time limit of 40 minutes 

Top Experts’ Detailed Analysis on Impact of Revised CAT Pattern 2020
Top experts on CAT preparation, Hemang Panchmatia, Program Director, PG-India, IMS; Mr Arun Sharma, Founder, Mindworkzz and Bestselling Author; Arks Srinivas IIM Calcutta alumnus and National Head MBA Prep, (India & Abroad) at Career Launcher; and Nishit Sinha IIM Lucknow alumnus, Author of best selling CAT books published by Pearson publication have analysed the impact of changes in CAT pattern and share with the impact of the Revised CAT 2020 exam Pattern 

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5 Point Analysis by Hemang Panchmatia, Program Director, PG-India, IMS

Hemang Panchmatia

Hemang Panchmatia, Program Director, PG-India, IMS  shares with the indepth analysis and impact on changes in CAT 2020 preparation and test taking strategy in the revised pattern

  1. The core preparation does not change as the three sections remain as they were.
  2. It is quite possible, that the number of questions will drop down by 25-33%. So, test-taking strategy might have to be tweaked . Question selection strategy will continue to be important.
  3. At the end of the day, percentiles matter - the number of questions & time limit will change for all aspirants. So, it is like a 5o ODI changing to 40-overs. the core skills & strategy will not change much
  4. Mental stamina will not be as much as an factor as it was previously. If you have already taken 3 hrs mocks. 2 hours should be easy for you :)
  5. We expect the level of difficulty & paper composition to be more or less the same. More clarity will emerge after the announcement on 20th Sept.

6 Point analysis by Bestselling Author Mr Arun Sharma: Founder, Mindworkzz 

Arun Sharma

Mr Arun Sharma, IIM Bangalore alumnus, Founder, Mindworkzz and Bestselling Author shares with six point analysis and impact of  revised CAT 2020 Pattern

  1. A forced change, not by design: I think this change in CAT 2020 Pattern is due to COVID 19, and the need for following social distancing norms. Since Exam is planned only on 1 day (Nov 29) IIM Indore had to reduce the duration to accommodate 3 tests instead of 2. It’s unlikely to be repeated next year - However, it's too early to speculate on that, and we should wait to see how this plays out.
  2. Expect 33% Drop in Questions: Proportionate to the drop in time, I expect 33% drop in questions. This will mean there will be appx 66 questions in CAT 2020 - However, be prepared for anything between 60-70 questions in the test, with maybe an even mix amongst the 3 sections (like 22-22-22) or maybe a 23-20-23. However, these are logical guesstimates. We will need to wait a little bit more for exact number of questions (which is of academic interest only, since a 22 or 23 or 21 question paper would not be very different in the experience and feel) 
  3. New CAT 2020 pattern may be beneficial for average students: A longer duration of test is a better indicator of student skills. An average cricket team can beat world’s top team in T 20 on a given day, but to win a 5 day test is nearly impossible. So CAT 2020 with reduced duration may be beneficial for average students. 
  4. No significant change expected in “Quality” of questions: I don’t expect any significant change in quality of exam paper. However, there might be a valid argument for raising difficulty level for the questions, if the IIMs decide to restore back the skills advantage for the stronger skilled students.
  5. Mock Test Strategy must change: Students must immediately reduce total number of questions and duration for their mock test. This will give them a real feel of new CAT pattern. I expect most serious players in the CAT mock test space will provide tests based on the new expected pattern and the reduced number of questions.
  6. No change in core preparation strategy needed: Other than Mocks, there is no change in preparation strategy needed. New CAT 2020 will test the same skills as were tested in the older one!

Watch this Video for more insights

Detailed Analysis by Arks Srinivas: National Head MBA Prep, (India & Abroad), Career Launcher

Arks Srinivas

Arks Srinivas IIM Calcutta alumnus and National Head MBA Prep, (India & Abroad) at Career Launcher shares indepth analysis and impact of changes in CAT 2020, as under:

“When it was time to take a break after a hectic day schedule and hoping that the Year 2020 would not come out with any more surprises, there comes a major surprise from the makers of the CAT!

Yes, IIM Indore has announced on the CAT website ( that the pattern has changed. No prizes for guessing the reason – COVID 19! And instead of two slots , the CAT exam is now going to be a three slot exam!

How has Covid19 to do with changing the 3-hour exam to a 2-hour exam is beyond comprehension. However, the fact that it has been made is final and the best a student can do is adapt to the same.

Given the history of CAT since 1990, and actually come to think of it, the CAT exam was, for a long time, a 2-hour paper only. Till 2005, the CAT paper was a 120 minute paper. The years 2006 to 2008 saw the time available increased to 150 minutes.

From 2015 onwards, when the IIMs have taken back the conduct of the paper from Prometric, the exam has been a 3-hour paper.

What is the new CAT 2020 paper pattern?

Time Limit (in minutes)
No of Questions (Expected)
Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension
25 – 26
Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning
25 – 24
Quantitative Ability
25 - 26

What to expect in a 2-hour paper?
While it may appear a change for a lot of students who are currently preparing for CAT and probably have already spent considerable time, the first thing to note is this

  1. There need not be any change in the Preparation. One should just continue to prepare exactly the same way one has been preparing.
  2. Instead of 60 minutes, now one has only 40 minutes. We can reasonably expect that the number of questions will reduce and probably reduce to 24 to 26 questions for each section.
  3. The Cutoff in each section therefore will change relatively (and reduce proportionately!)

What will Career launcher do to help students?
Career Launcher will come back with the latest pattern and ensure that there are enough MOCKS and Sectional tests that will reflect the actual CAT 2020 pattern.

In Depth Analysis by Nishit Sinha: Author of best selling CAT books published by Pearson

Nishit Sinha

In view of Nishit Sinha, Alumnus, IIM Lucknow and Author of best selling CAT books published by Pearson publication, the changes will have following impact: 

  • Number of questions ( overall and across sections) is expected to go down
  • Expected number of Questions: Overall 75 questions, with 25 from each section.
  • Ratio of  MCQs and Non-MCQs is also to change. More importantly, the ratio of easy-moderate-difficult questions is also expected to change, higher towards easy to moderate side.  
  • Reduction in the overall time limit is a mixed bag for students. During last couple of years, CAT had become standardized in terms of overall duration, and number of questions. So, this change in pattern may create (i) psychological disconnect with the actual CAT and  mock tests pattern students have been preparing with, (ii) reduction in time limit, generally, makes section-handling more difficult for students who are not-so-well-prepared than who are well prepared in the section, (iii) students will be required to devise and adapt to a new test-taking strategy, (IV) the good news is - the test-fatigue, which many students complain by the time they arrive at third section, may be low.

CAT Centre 2020 is yet to release the complete details on CAT 2020 changed pattern, number of overall and sectional questions among others. In addition to these five big changes, IIM Indore has said that due to COVID 19 related disruptions, CAT 2020 may undergo more changes in future. “CAT 2020 process is to be conducted taking into account the COVID crisis. The information provided by the CAT website is contingent upon the decisions and directions issued from time to time by the Central & State governments and IIMs. Candidates are advised to regularly check the CAT website for further information,” said IIM Indore.

Stay tuned to for analysis of CAT 2020 changes by India’s top CAT experts.