CAT Exam Pattern


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Updated on
February 17, 2020

CAT 2020 will be held on November 29, 2020 as a computer based test of 3 hours duration in Morning and afternoon slots. IIM Indore is conducting CAT 2020. Except for some aspirant friendly changes, no major change in CAT pattern 2020 is expected.  

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CAT 2020 Pattern & Test Taking Instructions

  • CAT 2020 Exam duration remains of 3 hours
  • CAT exam 2020 will be conducted in two separate sessions-Morning and Afternoon
  • CAT 2020 Exam will be divided into MCQs and Non-MCQ type questions
  • MCQs have negative marking for wrong answer and Non-MCQs do not carry penalty of negative marking
  • IIMs will release tutorial to understand the format of CAT 2020 Test and question pattern on the CAT 2020 website around Oct 16-17, 2020
  • CAT 2020 exam will be held in more than 150 test cities across the country
  • A few days before CAT 2020 exam date, IIMs release CAT exam day guide, key features of CAT exam pattern, CAT exam navigation guide to answer MCQ and Non-MCQ questions with important instructions
  • CAT Test Day Workflow for Candidates for slot-1 and slot-2 CAT exam is published on official CAT website by IIMs.
  • IIMs also release the CAT exam day important Do’s and Don’ts - before, during and after the CAT exam. It includes how to get ready for CAT exam day, and how to go through the key activities from the time of entering the CAT exam centre to leaving the testing hall.
  • No candidate is allowed to wear jackets, jewellery, shoes, watch or carry the mobile phone, bag, wallets, electronic gadgets, stationary items inside the CAT testing hall.  

CAT Pattern

As per the revised CAT exam pattern 2020, CAT 2020 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 2020 

  • Total Questions: 100
  • Number of sections: 3
  • Questions with negative marking (MCQs): 70 to 75
  • Questions without negative marking (Non-MCQs): 25 to 30
  • Score awarded for each correct answer: 3 marks
  • Negative marking (Applicable for  wrong answers in MCQs): -1 mark

CAT 2020 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 2020: Computer Based Exam But Not Online Test
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 2020, despite being a computer based exam, is not 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.”


Section Wise CAT 2020 Exam Pattern: Sections, sub-sections, Expected difficulty level
CAT exam pattern was totally revamped by IIM Ahmedabad in 2015 and since then CAT exam pattern has followed the same CAT pattern for all the 3 sections. The section wise key features of CAT 2020 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 in CAT 2020
  • Verbal Ability questions confined to 3 topics – 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 2020: Sub-Sections
There are sub sections within the 3 sections in revised CAT exam 2020 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.


Important Facts about CAT Exam 2020

  • Candidates are not allowed to move between one section to other during the 1 hour assigned to each section.
  • CAT Test takers cannot leave their seats during the exam.
  • MCQs in CAT 2020 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 2020
  • 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 2020 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 2020 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 10 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 2020 pattern also remains the same as that of CAT exam 2019 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 2020 (Expected)
VARC-34. RC-24, (All MCQs), Verbal-10 (non MCQs)
DILR-32, DI-16, LR-16, MCQs-24, Non-MCQs-8
QA-Total-34. MCQs 23, Non-MCQs-10
Moderate to High
CAT 2020 is expected on last year pattern. Grammar & Vocab based questions can be re-introduced
CAT 2019
VARC-34. RC-24, (All MCQs), Verbal-10 (non MCQs)
DILR-32, DI-16, LR-16, MCQs-24, Non-MCQs-8
QA-Total-34. MCQs 23, Non-MCQs-11
Moderate to High
CAT on last year pattern with changes in number of MCQs & non-MCQs as given section wise
CAT 2018
VARC-34. RC-24, (All MCQs), Verbal-10 (2 MCQs, 7 non MCQs)
DILR-32, DI-16, LR-16, MCQs-24, Non-MCQs-8
Total-34. MCQs 22, Non-MCQs-12
Moderate to High
CAT Pattern in the lines of last year with changes in number of MCQs & non-MCQs in each section
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.

Will CAT 2020 be Different?
CAT exam pattern may carry slight changes for CAT 2020. The exam 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 2020 Exam pattern.  However, despite number of changes brought about during last 5 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 2019 exam was also on expected pattern without any surprises. However, there could be some minor changes in number and type of questions and their sectional composition.  To make sure to bell the CAT 2020 with high score you need to begin your CAT exam preparation 2020 without waiting any longer.


Read More: CAT 2020- Exam Date, Registration, Syllabus, Preparation, Books

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