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CAT previous year papers analysis (2014-2017)

Common Admission Test is the most prestigious MBA admission test in the country. It has more than 150 business schools under it, and more importantly, the 20 IIMs grant admission through it. Nearly 2 lakh candidates have been appearing for it every year, however, the seats in all the IIMs collectively are only around 4500.Today, we bring you the CAT previous year analysis of past 4 years.

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In such a tough competition, one needs a systematic preparation to prepare for the exam. One important step in your preparation is to understand CAT itself. Knowing its difficulty levels, trends and weightage of topics can really help you a lot in acing this exam


CAT previous year Analysis will help you understand the trends of this exam, and will also give you a slight idea about your target score.

So let us see the CAT previous year analysis of past 4 years:

CAT 2017 Analysis

CAT 2017 was held on 4th December, 2017 and gathered a mixed response from candidates. IIM Lucknow conducted the test. The test had almost similar pattern to CAT 2016 and thus there were no major surprises regarding the pattern. There 100 questions, and the pattern was 34-32-34 questions in VARC, DILR and QA sections. The time allotted was 3 hours and the test was held in 2 slots. Let us take a look at the complete analysis of the paper: –

Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension

VARC section had 24 questions on Reading Comprehension and 10 on Verbal Ability. There were 5 RCs, 3 with 6 questions each and 2 with 3 questions each. There were 4 parajumbles, and topics Paragraph Summary and Odd Sentence Out had 3 questions each.
CAT previous year analysis
In both the slots, Reading Comprehensions were pretty easy to read. The length of the passages was also not very long, at around 600 words each. However, some questions were a bit tricky as the options were very close. But all in all, all the passages were very easy and thus way below the level which students see in mock test.

mixture of straight forward and tricky questions. However, the parajumbles were tough and one needed a real level of mastery over these to get any scores from these. One little surprise was that the summary questions were MCQ and not Type In The Answer type.

Overall, a score of 66-72 should remain the score for 99th percentile. We can say that this section was much close to CAT 2016’s VARC section.

Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning

From past 3-4 years, the scenario of DILR section has completely changes. It has actually become the most difficult section of CAT and the real game changer as well. The level of difficulty is increasing every year and so was the case this year CAT 2018 as well

DILR section had 8 sets with 4 questions each. In Slot 1, there 3 sets which can be called doable, but the rest 5 were very difficult. DILR was also time consuming and some questions had additional data too. More importantly, in most of the sets, you had to solve each question with its own calculation, and these were not like normal DILR sets in which you make a table and every question gets solved.

Slot 2 was slightly easier than Slot 1, but there was not a lot of difference. Again, similar story was there you have do calculations for each question.

If we talk about DILR overall, the key thing was that in almost every set, there were 2 questions which were on the easier side and 2 were very tough, which raised the difficulty to another level. Much like 2016, there was no specific divide between DI and LR, and all questions were logic based DI. This section can be termed as the toughest DILR section so far and we expect that a score of 42-48 can lead you to a 99th percentile.

Quantitative Ability

QA section of CAT 2017 was a real surprise. It was the easiest of all 3 sections and carried basic level questions, much to the delight of non-engineers. The section had 8 non-MCQs and rest were multiple choice questions. Take a look at the division of this section according to topics: –

Topic Questions
Arithmetic 11-12
Algaebra 10-11
Geometry 4-6
Number System 4-5
Modern Mathematics 2-3

The division was pretty similar in both the slots and we expect a score of 65 or more would lead to a 99th percentile.

Overall Feel

Overall the paper can be termed as easy-moderate. Only the DILR section was tougher than CAT 2016. However, the slot 2 can be said a bit easier than slot 1. We expect a score of 155-165 will be the score required for 99th percentile.

CAT 2016 Analysis

CAT 2016 is notably known as one of the toughest CAT papers of all time. It was conducted by IIM Bangalore. The pattern followed the similar path like CAT 2015 here. 100 questions, 3 hours and a divide of 34-32-34 in the three sections of the paper was seen. Let us see how the paper was: –

Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension

VARC section was the easiest of all 3 sections. The RCs were short, easy and interesting to read. There was 5 RCs in all, with 24 questions.

There were 10 questions based on verbal ability, with all being type in the answer type. These cannot be called tough, and thus were easy moderate only.

Like expected, there were some questions which had pretty close options. But overall, this section was really an easy one and should not have troubled much of the candidates.

The easiness can be known by the fact that to get a 99th percentile in this section, you needed a scaled score more than 70 out of 102.

Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning

DILR was real tough section this time. 8 sets were there and the sets were neither pure DI nor pure LR. Candidates reported that slot 2 DILR was much tougher than that of slot 1.

However, the success of a candidate depended on selection of sets. Most of the sets demanded a little critical thinking, and once a candidate got hold of what the data was saying, the whole set became a cakewalk. But overall, the DILR section really troubled most of the candidates.

A scaled score of 48 led to 99th percentile in CAT 2017 DILR section.

Quantitative Ability

If we take a general view of CAT 2016 QA section, it can be concluded that it was moderate – not easy, not tough. There were some tricky questions, but again, the success also depended on the choice of questions.

A person, who is not that good in QA could only score well if he/she picks the easier ones. Both the slots were quite identical in terms of difficulty. There were 27 MCQ questions and rest were non-MCQs. The topic wise division went like this: –

Topic Questions
Modern Mathematics 6-7
Arithmetic 11-12
Algaebra 7-8
Geometry 4-5
Number System 4-5

A score of around 52-53 was enough to get a 99th percentile in QA section of CAT 2016, which shows the toughness of this section.

Overall Feel

Overall, as we mentioned above as well, this paper was amongst the toughest of all times as two sections were on the difficult side. A score of 156 led to a 99th percentile in CAT 2016.

CAT 2015 Analysis

CAT 2015 had its own inherent toughness as this year a new pattern was announced. It was conducted by IIM Ahmedabad and the institute introduced the 34-32-34 exam pattern for the first time ever. Well, IIM A was pretty successful in surprising students through its CAT paper. Let us see how: –

Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension

The new pattern included 24 RC based questions and 10 VA based, much like what we see in the modern day CAT papers. There were 5 RCs and mostly were facts based so did not cause too many problems to candidates. However, 2 RCs were slightly tougher than the others, but overall, the RCs were easy-moderate.

VA section was a surprise. No grammar or vocabulary based questions were a new and unusual phenomena. These questions also were of easy to moderate level.

For a 99th percentile, candidates needed a score of 70 out of 102.

Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning

DILR was the biggest bombshell of CAT 2015 as this probably the first time when CAT featured such a difficult DILR Section. There were 2 non-MCQ sets and 6 MCQ based sets in both the slots.

First slot has 3 easy, 2 moderate and 3 difficult sets. While slot 2 has 3 easy, 1 moderate and 4 tough sets which really made this section pretty uneasy for candidates.

In slot 1, DI was on the easier side, while LR was the easier side of the section in slot 2. Both the slots featured 4 sets each from DI and LR.

Majority of the candidates could not perform well as they were surprised by the level and thus panicked. But those who held their nerves, picked the doable ones were able to nail the exam. A score of 46-48 was enough to score a 99th percentile in this section CAT 2015.

Quantitative Ability

IIM Ahmedabad did a very good job to make this section easy for non-engineers. The weightage of Arithmetic increased this time and for most of the students the QA section was a sigh of relief after going through a tough DILR section.

Surprisingly, Slot 1 had no question from Number System which was a bit disappointing for numbers enthusiasts. It seemed pretty clear that IIMs had made the paper in such a way so that it was neutral for all kinds of candidates, whether engineers or non-engineers.

The division of topics went as follows: –

Topic Questions
Arithmetic 11-12
Algaebra 10-12
Geometry 5-7
Number System 0-3
Modern Mathematics 3

This way, QA section of CAT 2016 was pretty easy. A score of 72 this section was needed to get a 99th percentile.

Overall Feel

If we ignore DILR section for a moment, then it is clear that CAT 2015 was not really a tough paper. But DILR introduced that spice of trickiness in the exam. The exam can be called as of easy-moderate level on a whole. Overall, one needed to score more than 170 marks to get a 99+ percentile.

CAT 2014 Analysis

CAT 2014 was conducted by IIM Indore. CAT 2014 did not carry the same pattern as we have seen in last 3 years. It had two sections, VARL and QADI. Both carried 50 questions each, and each question carried 3 marks. There was negative marking of 1 mark for each. The total time allotted to candidates was 170 minutes. Let us take a look at the analysis of this paper: –

Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning

This section had 16 questions based on RCs, 18 on VA and 16 on LR. Talking about the RCs, these were short and easy to read. These were not dull, and were interesting to read. However, some of the questions were tricky. All in all, the RCs were easy to moderate.

Talking about VA, it had questions from sentence correction, parajumbles, critical reasoning, grammar and para summary. This set of questions was also not that tough, but needed a good practice of eliminating options.

LR can be called as the toughest part of this section. One set was really tough and the other one was time consuming. 2 sets were doable, and the selection of sets really mattered here.

Quantitative Aptitude and Data Interpretation

In this section, 16 questions were from Data Interpretation and rest were from QA. This section also surprised candidates with its easy QA part. Some people also say that CAT 2014’s QA was the easiest ever seen in modern day CAT papers. Here, around 7-8 questions were from number system, 8-9 from arithmetic, 10 were from algebra and 5 from geometry and rest from other topics. Most of the questions were based on basic concepts.

The DI part was tougher that QA but overall it was also easy. There were 3 easy to moderate sets and 1 was tough.

Overall Feel

Overall, CAT 2014 was on the easier side. Most of the candidates depended on QA and VARC for their success. However, those who sneaked some questions from LR and DI were the real winners. A score of around 190-192 led to a 99th percentile in CAT 2014.

CAT is generally not a very tough kind of paper; rather, it is the level of competition that makes it tough. We hope that this article helped you to understand the exam’s nature.

We wish you best of luck for your CAT 2018 exam.


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