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CAT 2018 Exam Pattern, Marking Scheme, Syllabus

Last Updated: Aug 1, 2018 @ 12:49 pm

CAT is the most prestigious MBA entrance test in the country for IIMs and other popular B-Schools in the country. Common Admission Test (CAT) is conducted in online mode (computer-based exam). The difficulty level is hard to determine because of the unpredictable scheme of examination which has now become a typical characteristic of CAT Exam Pattern.

May 09: CAT 2018 Official Date released, exam to be held on November 25. Click Here

CAT 2018 Exam Pattern will comprise three sections namely Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR) and Quantitative Aptitude (QA). Candidates must solve 100 MCQs (multiple choice questions) within a stipulated period of three hours. This article covers all the nuances of the exam pattern as well as major changes introduced in the pattern of CAT over a period of last few years.

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  • Section A and Section B contain same number of questions i.e. 34. Section C contain less number of questions i.e. 32.
  • CAT 2018 is a national level entrance exam conducted for the candidates seeking admission in MBA programs in various IIMs. CAT 2018 is conducted by the Indian Institute of Management.
  • Candidates should carefully follow the instructions given by invigilator. If the candidates found making nuisance or breaking discipline he/she will be disqualified.
  • The tentative exam pattern for CAT is expected to be intimated through the CAT Official Mock Test released at iimcat.ac.in a month before the scheduled exam date.

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CAT 2018 Exam pattern highlights

Candidates can check below the salient highlights of CAT 2018 Exam Pattern:

Exam Mode CBT- Computer based test  (Online)
Number of papers  1
Number of questions  100 questions
Number of sections Three
Questions in each section Section A: 34

Section B: 34

Section C: 32

Question Paper Type Both objective and subjective
HPU MAT Total marks 300
Exam duration One and half hour
Exam language  English
Marking Scheme 3 mark per question
Negative Marking Objective: 1 mark

Subjective: No negative marking

CAT 2018 Exam Pattern
CAT 2018 Detailed Exam Pattern

The test will be conducted in CBT (Computer Based Test) mode. CAT question paper contain 100 questions divided in three sections – Quantitative Ability, Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension, Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning. Section A and B comprised 34 questions whereas Section C comprised 32 questions in CAT 2017. The total marks of the question paper is 300. Total duration allotted for CAT 2018 is 3 hours.

The medium of CAT Question Paper is English only. The questions in CAT will be both objective and subjective in nature. Every question contains equal marks in question paper. There is also a negative marking of 1 mark. For every single correct answer candidate will be awarded 3 marks. In subjective questions there is no negative marking.

Given below is the expected subject wise distribution of questions among the three sections based on last year’s scheme of examination. Candidates can also view the division of objective type and subjective type questions in each section in CAT 2017.

Section name Total questions Total MCQs (With negative marking) Total Non-MCQs (Without negative marking) Total maximum marks
VARC* 34 24 to 27 7 to 10 102
DILR* 32 24 8 96
Quant* 34 23 to 27 7 to 11 102

CAT 2018 Marking Scheme

The total marks allotted for CAT Exam is 300. All the questions will carry equal weightage. Candidates will be awarded 3 marks for every correct answer. There is 1/3rd negative marking in the question paper while an incorrect response will lead to deduction of 1 mark. There is no deduction of marks for questions not attempted and subjective questions.

The marking scheme applicable for CAT 2018 is indicated below:

Question Marks
Every single correct answer will get 3 marks
Every single wrong answer result in deduction of 1 Mark
Deduction of marks for wrong subjective answer No Deduction
Deduction of marks for un-attempted questions No Deduction

Major Changes in CAT Exam Pattern

Since its computerization, CAT Exam Pattern has undergone several major transformations. The conventional pen and paper based test was replaced by computer based test in 2009. The number of sections kept flipping back and forth between 2 and 3 till 2015 when IIMs decided to stick with three sections. The number of sections has not changed since then, though the number of number of MCQs and non-MCQs remains unpredictable.

The list of structural and content wise changes in CAT Exam Pattern has been tabulated below for reference:

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 (3 MCQs, 7 non MCQs) DILR-32, DI-16, LR-16, MCQs-24, Non-MCQs-8 Total-34. MCQs 23, Non-MCQs-11 Moderate CAT Pattern in the lines of last year with changes in non-MCQs in each section
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 Moderate-
LOD=2 overall
Sentence rearrangement, Grammar, comprehension, correction of errors, sentence completion, Usage Vocabulary
Number System, Algebra, Mensuration, and Commercial Math.

Syllabus for CAT 2018

The syllabus for CAT 2018 is not based on any particular prescribed curriculum. In general, candidates are advised to check the 10+2 level syllabi for Logical Reasoning, Data Interpretation, Quantitative Aptitude.

Subjects Topics
Quantitative Ability Number Systems



Profit, Loss and Discount

Simple Interest

Compound Interest

Speed, Time and Distance

Time and Work


Ratio and Proportion

Linear Equations

Quadratic Equations

Complex Numbers


Progressions (Sequences and Series)

Binomial Theorem

Surds and Indices


Permutation and Combination


Functions and Graphs

Set Theory

Mixtures and Alligations


Co-ordinate Geometry




Data interpretation Interpretation and analysis of data based on

Text, tables

Graphs (line, area)

Charts (column, bar, pie)

Venn diagram, etc.


Logical reasoning Direction sense

Clocks & Calendars


Binary logic

Seating arrangement

Coding & Decoding

Blood relations

Logical sequence

Data structure




Linear and matrix arrangement, etc.


Verbal Ability Reading comprehension

Verbal reasoning



Antonyms and synonyms

Fill in the blanks

Sentence correction

Idioms, etc.


CAT 2018 Recommended Books

Although the syllabus for CAT is not prescribed on any particular syllabus, candidates are advised to go through the textbooks of 10+2 curriculum. Besides the textbooks, we have enlisted below some useful reference books to prepare for CAT Exam.

These books are shortlisted based on their overall popularity among CAT aspirants and toppers recommendations. Give below are some of the important and recommended books for the candidates preparing for CAT 2018 Exam.

Reference Books and preparation Material for Quantitative Ability

  1. How to Prepare for Quantitative Aptitude for the CAT by Arun Sharma, Publisher- Tata Mcgraw Hill.
  2. Pearson Guide to Quantitative Aptitude and Data Interpretation for CAT by Nishit Sinha, Publisher- Pearson.
  3. Quantum CAT: Quantitative Aptitude Common Admission Test for Admission into IIMs by Sarvesh K Verma, Publisher- Arihant
  4. Quantitative Aptitude for Competitive Examination Tips, Techniques, and Short-cut Methods by Abhijit Guha.
  5. NCERT Mathematics books for class 8th, 9th, 10th and 10+2.

Reference Books and Preparation Material for Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation

  1. Pearson Guide to Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning for CAT by Nishit Sinha, Publisher- Pearson.
  2. How to Prepare for Logical Reasoning for the CAT by Arun Sharma, Publisher- Tata Mcgraw Hill.
  3. How to Prepare for Data Interpretation for the CAT by Arun Sharma, Publisher- Tata Mcgraw Hill.

Reference Books and Preparation Material for Verbal and Reading Comprehension

  1. Mastering the Verbal Ability for Cat Common Admission Test, Publisher – Arihant.
  2. 30 Days to More Powerful Vocabulary by Wilfred Funk & Norman Lewis, Publisher- Simon & Schuster.
  3. High School English Grammar and Composition Book – Wren & Martin by N.D.V Prasada Rao, Publisher – S.Chand Publications
  4. Business English and Communication by Clark Zimmer, Publisher- Mcgraw Hill Ryerson.

Preparation Tips for CAT 2018

Students often tend to devote anywhere from a year to six months to prepare exclusively for CAT. The reason is quite clear as CAT Exam Pattern is highly unpredictable in terms of content and structure. However, merely devoting hours of study may not be enough to crack CAT 2018 without a robust strategy and key tips which have allowed toppers in the password to perform well.

Here are some handy tips while formulating your revision plan:

  1. Primary step is to collect all the relevant study material. Join a coaching center, as they can help immensely in this endeavor. Also, enroll for some popular test series.
  2. Start by learning the concepts of each topic. CAT syllabus includes Class X and XII level mathematics, logical reasoning, and English.
  3. Practice with a timer and avoid using calculator, especially while revising Data Interpretation.
  4. Revise each topic properly. Assessing your strengths and weakness is not possible without this. Instead of solving 20 questions of one type, solve 4 questions of 5 types from each topic.
  5. Make a list of your strong and weak areas. In the initial stage, put emphasis strengthening your weak areas.
  6. Don’t wait for the closing months to attempt mocks. Don’t be disheartened if you score less. Mocks are for you to recognize the areas you need to put more efforts in.
  7. Analyzing every mock is a must. The more mocks you take, the better strategy you will be able to form. It is recommended to take minimum 1 and maximum 3 mocks in a week.
  8. Finish the entire syllabus, focus primarily on mocks and sectional tests. In the final 2 months, do not prepare for any new topics. Work on strengthening the ones you are good at.
  9. Attempt previous years’ CAT question papers. Question papers from 1990-2008 are easily available for the purpose. Click Here to download CAT Previous Year Question Papers
  10. Take adequate breaks, and get enough sleep while preparing for CAT.

Guidelines for CAT 2018 Computer Based Test

Given below are some of the important instruction for CAT 2018 candidates should follow to avoid any discrepancy.

  • Gather both your documents – CAT Admit Card with recent passport size pasted on it and a valid id proof as indicated on the hall ticket.
  • Check Test System Number printed on the hall ticket. Seats are allocated at the venue according to the system number allotted for a designated workstation.
  • No 15 minutes tutorial for taking the exam will be available on your system. Therefore, be aware about the process to take the exam along with checking out the sectional time constraints.
  • Candidates are not allowed to touch the keyboard at any point during the course of exam. This will lock the allotted terminal. Choices must be provided using the mouse.
  • Use the navigation tools proficiently by viewing the mock test. Question Palette displayed on the right side of the screen will show the status of each question. Four colors are used to indicated different status:
    • Green – Answered Question
    • Red – Unanswered Question
    • White – Question not viewed
    • Violet – Question marked for review
  • Try to answer the Non-MCQs first in the online exam. Candidates don’t need to answer questions in a particular order. Just need to key in the right answer and there is no negative marking for these questions.
  • Use on-screen calculators only if you are well versed at using it else the calculations could prove to be time consuming in this fast paced entrance test.


    • I would like to suggest you to focus on important topics and solve previous year question papers as much as possible.

    • The difficulty level is hard to determine because of the unpredictable scheme of examination which has now become a typical characteristic of CAT Exam Pattern.

    • CAT 2018 Exam Pattern will comprise three sections namely Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR) and Quantitative Aptitude (QA).

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