CAT 2020 Exam Pattern, Syllabus, Marking Scheme, Important Books and Paper Analysis

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By Anam Shams - Content Writer Dec 27 2019 Share this blog

Over the years CAT 2020 Exam Pattern has undergone perceptible changes in structure. In 2015 some major changes were done by IIM Ahmedabad, the conducting body for that year when sectional time limit and Non-MCQ (Type in the Answer) type questions were introduced. This pattern has remained unchanged since then. Keeping in mind the level of competition a comprehensive CAT 2020 Preparation Strategy is necessary to ace the exam.

CAT is an aptitude test in order to select the best minds from a large pool of candidates aiming to pursue MBA from elite B-Schools in India. It is a computer based test conducted annually in the month of November in two sessions-Morning and Evening. 20 IIMs and more than 100+ management institutes admit candidates taking into account CAT scores.

Understanding the CAT 2020 Exam Pattern and its sectional details is necessary to devise a personal preparation plan. The 3 hour paper test candidates skills on: Quantitative aptitude, Verbal ability and Reading Comprehension and Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning. Each section is to be completed in one hour each.

CAT 2020 Exam Pattern: Key Features

There is a sectional time limit of 60 minutes for each section. After which candidates have to submit the section and move onto the next. PwD candidates have the leverage to submit their response between 60 minutes to 80 minutes. There are three options available with the candidates for each question:

  • Save and Next
  • Clear Response
  • Mark for review and Next
Total Number of Questions100
Number of Sections3
Questions with Negative Marking70 to 75
Questions Without Negative Marking25 to 30
Marking Pattern+3 for a correct response
-1 for an incorrect response

Know CAT 2020 Application Process

The Color panel on the question paper is as follows:

GreenAnswered and not marked for review
RedQuestion neither answered nor reviewed
GreyQuestion that is not visited or viewed
VioletQuestion marked for review and not answered
Violet with a green tickQuestion marked for review and answered

CAT 2020 Exam Pattern - Sectional Distribution

CAT is a digital or computer based test rather than an online exam. It is not an internet based exam, candidates are supposed to read the question on the computer screen assigned to them and mark their responses. A detailed section wise pattern is mentioned below: 

Section NameNumber of QuestionsTime Allotted
SectionNumber of QuestionsNumber of MCQsNumber of Non-MCQsDuration
Quantitative Aptitude (QA)3422-2410-1260 minutes
Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VALR)3424-277-1060 minutes
Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning(DILR)3224860 minutes
Total1003 hours

CAT 2020 Exam Pattern - Marking Scheme

There are two types of questions asked in CAT 2020 exams - MCQs and Non-MCQs. Given below is the marking scheme for CAT examination:

Correct Answer+3 Marks
Incorrect Answer-1 Marks
Unattempted QuestionNot Marked

CAT 2020 Exam Pattern - Comparison with XAT

CAT Exam Pattern vs XAT Exam Pattern

The following table will help you give a better understanding of how the CAT 2020 Exam Pattern is slightly different from XAT.

Nature of ComparisonXAT by XLRICAT by IIM
Mode of ExaminationComputer Based TestComputer Based Test
Duration of the Exam210 minutes180 minutes
Sectional Time LimitNo time limit1 Hour for each section
Number of Questions100100
Types of Questions99 MCQs; 1 Essay-type 72-75 MCQs, others non-MCQs
Number of options 44
Number of sections5 (Decision Making, General Awareness, Essay Writing, Quants/DI, English Aptitude)3 (DILR, VARC, Quants)
Marking Scheme+1 for a correct answer; ¼ negative for 74 MCQs; No negative marking for 25 MCQs and Essay-type question+3 for correct answer; ? for negative answer; No negative marking for Non-MCQ type question

CAT 2020 Syllabus

After knowing the CAT 2020 Exam Pattern, the next step is to know the syllabus. The CAT exam is set by the conducting authority, which are the IIMs in this case. No set syllabus is released before the exam but there are topics that frequently appear in each year's paper. As described in the previous section, the exam has three sections: Quantitative Ability, Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning and Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension. The topics that are covered in the exam under each section are as follows:

CAT 2020 Exam Pattern for Quantitative Ability (QA) 

The Quantitative Ability section has numerical questions. It has different mathematics topics ranging from arithmetic, geometry, algebra to modern mathematics. The section has a total of 34 questions. Following table will show you the sectional distribution of the questions:

SectionsNumber of questions
Algebra 9
Number System2
Modern Maths2

The syllabus for Quantitative Ability is tabulated in the following section.

VariationLinear and Quadratics EquationsLogarithms
Time and WorkSpeed, Distance and TimeSurds and Indices
Mensuration and GeometryTables and Case LetsProbability/ Profit and Loss
Allegations and MixturesAlgebraPercentage
Critical PathAverages and PartnershipsInequalities

CAT 2020 Exam Pattern for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC)

The Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension section is meant to check and understand the student’s English proficiency levels. Candidates are judged on basic grammar, sentence completions and para jumbles. There are also reading comprehension questions where one has to read through a paragraph and answer questions based on the paragraph. The VARC section too has a total of 34 questions out of which 10 are of Verbal Ability and rest are of reading comprehension. Following table shows the sectional distribution of the questions.

Reading Comprehension24
Sentence Correction3
Para Jumble4

You also need to know about the syllabus of VARC. The following table will give you an idea of it.

Sentence CorrectionFill in the Blanks
Word usage Para Jumble
Para CompletionFact Inference Judgement

CAT 2020 Exam Pattern for Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation

The Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation section has been designed to judge each candidate’s ability to read and understand data. The questions are set to judge the logical reasoning of each candidate. This section has a total of 32 questions. The LRDI section requires a lot of concentration and caution while attempting. The section has witnessed 16 questions of Logical Reasoning and 16 from the Data Interpretation section in the past papers.

The syllabus for this section is tabulated below:

Pie ChartVenn Diagram
Bar GraphBlood Relations
Line GraphCombination of Graphs
Seating ArrangementsCase Lets
TablesData Sufficiency
StatementsClocks and Calendars
SyllogismData Arrangements

The most important topics from each section, as per the pattern witnessed in previous year’s papers are as follows:

Quantitative AptitudeLogical Reasoning and Data InterpretationVerbal Ability and Reading Comprehension
Number SystemsCalendarsGrammar and Usage
Profit, Loss and DiscountGraphs and ChartsVocabulary
LCM and HCFNumber and Letter seriesFill in the blanks
PercentagesSeating ArrangementSentence correction
Time and WorkMatchingAnalogies
ProbabilitySequenceMeaning-Usage Match
Permutation CombinationsBlood RelationsReading Comprehension questions
TrigonometrySyllogismInferences and Judgements

Recommended books for CAT 2020

The market has a variety of books marketed for CAT preparation. It is very easy to get confused with which books to pick, as a beginner. The good news is that if one book is harder to understand one can always pick up another book that is easier.

A good starting point to buy any CAT 2020 preparation book is to make sure that it is the latest edition. All CAT books are updated yearly to include that year’s CAT paper. Another point to look out for is to make sure the book is as per CAT 2020 exam pattern, syllabus and covers all the topics necessary.

Some of the popular writers that have quality CAT preparation books are Arun Sharma and Arihant’s CAT preparation books. Both types of books are recommended often by toppers and teachers.

Some of the best books that are recommended for CAT 2020 preparation are:

Book NameAuthor Name
How to Prepare for Quantitative Aptitude for the CATArun Sharma
How to Prepare for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for CATArun Sharma
How to Prepare for Logical Reasoning for CATArun Sharma
How to Prepare for Data Interpretation for CATArun Sharma
Word Power Made EasyNorman Lewis
Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation for the CATNishit K.Sinha
Quantitative Aptitude for the CATNishit K.Sinha
Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for the CATNishit K.Sinha
Quantitative Aptitude for Quantitative CATSarvesh K. Verma
A Modern Approach to Logical ReasoningR.S. Agarwal

Recommended books for CAT 2020

CAT 2019 Paper Analysis

General feedback from all candidates was that the 2019 CAT paper had a difficult Verbal section. As compared to it, the Quantitative and the LRDI section were easier as compared to the previous year’s paper. There were two slots in which the exam was conducted. Candidates have reported that there has been not much difference between the papers of both slots for CAT 2019. In regards to the structure and the overall difficulty level of the paper, it was not too difficult than the 2018 paper.

The number of questions that appeared in each section of both slots was:

Section NameNumber of QuestionsMCQsNon-MCQ
Quantitative Aptitude (QA)342311
Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VALR)34277
Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning(DILR)32248

Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension section analysis

 The verbal section for CAT 2019 was easy to moderate. The more accurate the answers the higher will be the score. 

  • The slot 1 paper did not have any grammar and vocabulary questions, like in 2018’s paper. 
  • There were 5 reading comprehension passages with 5 to 4 questions. There were also sentence rearrangement, para-jumbles and summary questions too.
  •  The slot 2 paper was difficult. One passage was especially difficult. 
  • There were no grammar and vocab questions. There were also 7 TITA questions.

Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning section analysis 

  • Slot 1 of the DILR section was moderate and was easier than last year’s paper. 
  • There were 8 sets of 4 questions. There were 3 sets that were easier and candidates reported that they could comfortably attempt 2 to 3 sets. 
  • There were also 8 TITA questions. 
  • The slot 2 paper was difficult and has a couple of tricky question sets. One graph set question was difficult. 
  • Time management was easy with 8 sets of 4 questions each.

Quantitative Aptitude section analysis

 The slot of the quant section was the same as the previous year’s paper and has moderate difficulty. 

  • There were 11 TITA questions.
  •  Commercial maths and arithmetic saw the most questions from 11 to 12. 
  • The slot 2 of CAT 2019 saw the quant section was the same as slot 1’s. It was slightly easier than previous year’s papers. 
  • There were 11 TITA questions.

CAT aspirants who sit for the exam are on the rise every year. With an increase in the standard of living and better-paying jobs, more and more students are choosing the CAT exam route to complete their post-graduation. CAT is one of the toughest management entrance examinations. It requires a lot of preparation but at the same time gives a running start to an illustrious career later.


Ques. Is there any change in CAT 2020 Exam Pattern?

Ans. No, there are no major changes in the CAT 2020 Exam Pattern. Although, the difficulty level and the number of questions in each section may vary.

Ques. Is CAT 2020 an online exam?

Ans. CAT 2020 is not an online exam. It is a computer-based exam, i.e, the exam does not take place on an internet site.

Ques. How many MCQs are there in each section in the CAT 2020 Examination?

Ans. the number of questions in each section may vary. Generally, there are 24 MCQs in VARC, 24 MCQs in DL/RI and 22 MCQs in Quants.

Ques. What is the time duration of the CAT 2020 examination?

Ans. The duration of the examination is 180 minutes.

Ques. How many sections are there in the CAT 2020 Examination?

Ans. There are 3 sections in the CAT examination, namely, Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DL/RI) and Quantitative Ability.

Ques. What are TITA questions?

Ans. TITA questions or the “Type in the answer” questions are non-MCQ types questions. Candidates have to write the answer in the box provided to them.

Ques. Can I appear for more than one slot in the CAT 2020 Examination?

Ans. No, you cannot appear for more than one slot in the examination.