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CAT Exam Pattern Trend Analysis - From 1995 to 2019

Urvashi Singhal Urvashi Singhal
Exams Prep Master

CAT (Common Admission Test) exam, conducted for admission in graduate management program is an entrance test that has witnessed many changes in its exam pattern over a period of years. Whether it is moving from pen-paper mode to online test in 2009, or changes in the number of sections in 2011; the exam has always surprised students with its changes. Now, when CAT 2019 is scheduled for November 24, it becomes important to know how the exam has evolved itself from the 1990’s. The exam pattern of CAT has always added something extra almost every year to cope up with the growing competition among the candidates of the exam. Here, in this article we will discuss the significant changes in the exam pattern and standard of CAT questions from 1990s to the year 2019. The article will also provide you the expected exam pattern of CAT 2019.

CAT 2019 Exam Pattern

Though CAT Exam pattern has changed over the years, it has remained constant since the past 3 years.

  • CAT 2019 will comprise 3 sections: Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR), and Quantitative Ability (QA).
  • Each section has an allocated time of one hour.
  • Number of Non-MCQ questions with no negative marking will be less in CAT 2019.

Following table gives a better analysis of 2019 CAT Exam pattern.

ParticularsDetails
Total Time Duration3 hours
Duration of Each Section60 minutes
Total Number of Questions100
Sections3
Questions Per SectionVARC – 34 DILR – 32 QA – 34
Marking SchemeCandidates will be allotted 3 marks for each correct answer. There will be a deduction of 1 mark on each incorrect answer.

CAT 1995-98 vs CAT 2019

CAT exam pattern has experienced so many changes in the past decade that it is difficult for for candidates of today’s time to think of appearing for CAT paper at that time. There is a lot of difference between CAT 1995-98 and CAT 2019.

  • CAT 1995 was conducted in offline mode as a pen-paper exam while CAT 2019 will be conducted as a computer-based test.

  • The Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension sections were grouped in 1995 and 1996 and had a time limit of 1 hour.

The following table will explain the difference between the paper pattern of both times.

Category

CAT 1995-98

CAT 2019

Exam Mode

Offline

Online

Total Questions

185

100

Sections

Four

Three

Questions per Section

  • Verbal Ability - 50

  • Reading Comprehension - 50

  • Problem Solving - 45

  • Data Interpretation - 40

  • Quantitative Ability (QA)- 34

  • Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)- 34

  • Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)- 32

Level of Questions in CAT

If we look at the level of questions asked in CAT exam over the years, then the difficulty level of the exam has increased with every passing year. Take for consideration, CAT 2010, where the questions in Verbal Ability and Quantitative Aptitude sections were moderate while Data Interpretation/Logical Reasoning was relatively tough and involved tedious calculations.

  • Examining the level of questions asked in CAT 2018, the overall difficulty level of each section was very high in comparison to 2010.

  • The DI-LR section in CAT 2018 was quite difficult while the Quant section was highly calculative.

  • In CAT 2014, the exam had only two sections- Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation & Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning. The Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation was moderate and questions of Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning ranged between easy to moderate. Both sections had 50 questions each.

Consider the following table to understand the level of questions asked in CAT from 2015 to 2018.

Year

Level of Questions in Sections

Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension

Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning

Quantitative Ability

2018

Moderate

Difficult

Moderate-Difficult

2017

Easy-Moderate

Difficult

Easy-Moderate

2016

Easy

Moderate-Difficult

Moderate

2015

Easy

Moderate-Difficult

Moderate

Significant Changes in CAT over Years

CAT 2009 Exam Pattern

  • Exam Mode- In CAT 2009, the exam mode was changed from pen-paper mode to computer-based test.

  • Time Duration- The time duration in the year 2009 was 2 hours 15 minutes.

CAT 2011 Exam Pattern

  • Change from 3 sections to 2 sections- In CAT 2011, the three sections of the exam were combined into two sections- Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation & Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning.

  • Two Sections with section-wise time limit- Along with the change in sections, time limit of 1 hour per section was set in the year 2011.

CAT 2015 Exam Pattern

CAT 2015 saw most number of changes in the exam pattern. Changes in the pattern were-

  • Introduction of on-screen calculator and non-MCQs.

  • Number of sections again converted to three.

  • Time duration of exam increased from 170 minutes to 180 minutes.

A detailed analysis of changes observed in CAT Exam pattern from the past years have been given below:

Year

Number of questions

Time duration (mins)

Number of sections

Sections

Set by

2010

60

150

3

QA, DI & LR, VA

IIM Lucknow

2011

60

140

2

QA & DI, LR & VA

IIM Calcutta

2012

60

140

2

QA & DI, LR & VA

IIM Kozhikode

2013

60

140

2

QA & DI, LR & VA

IIM Indore

2014

100

170

2

QA & DI, LR & VA

IIM Indore

2015

100

180

3

QA, DI & LR, VA

IIM Ahmedabad

2016

100

180

3

QA, DI & LR, VA

IIM Bangalore

2017

100

180

3

QA, DI & LR, VA

IIM Calcutta

2018

100

180

3

QA, DI & LR, VA

IIM Bangalore

A graph is provided below for a better understanding of the data above.

trend

As evident from the graph above, in the initial years of the past decade, there was a great difference between the number of questions in CAT Exam and time allotted for each section, making it easier for candidates to attempt the paper. However, since 2014, there has been a rise in the number of questions and reduction in sectional time allotted, making CAT exam more competitive.

MCQ - Non-MCQ Questions Ratio from 2015 to 2018

Weightage to number of MCQ and Non-MCQ questions have been given much since the clause of negative marking is involved. The table below gives a brief idea about the variance in the number of MCQ and Non-MCQ questions from 2015 till 2018.

ParticularsCAT 2018CAT 2017CAT 2016CAT 2015
Number of MCQs75747572
Number of Non-MCQs25262528
Number of Questions per sectionVARC – 34 DILR – 32 QA – 34VARC – 34 DILR – 32 QA – 34VARC – 34 DILR – 32 QA – 34VARC – 34 DILR – 32 QA – 34

Previous Year CAT Papers

Candidates can download previous year CAT papers compiled here. These papers will help you understand the paper pattern of CAT in previous years. 

YearCAT Question Paper with Solutions
CAT 2018 Shift 1 PaperClick Here
CAT 2018 Shift 2 PaperClick Here
CAT 2017Click Here

After referring to the above papers, any CAT aspirant can get a clear idea about the upcoming CAT exam pattern and how one should be prepared for it by laying focus on the highest scoring areas.

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