How to prepare for CAT Exam

CAT (known as Common Admission Test) is one of the hardest exams to crack on. Approximately 2-2.5lac students appear every year for CAT and only ~3500 students get selected. Many undergraduate students have dream of joining esteem Post Graduate Program (Commonly known as PGP) in IIMs. But getting in to IIMs is not an easier task. It requires immense amount of focus, dedication and smart preparation.

You heard it right “Smart Preparation” is different from just preparation. All those who get into IIM do more than just preparing for exams.

CAT 2020 Eligibility

In order to give the CAT Exam, the candidates have to be eligible for it according to the CAT Exam Eligibility Criteria of 2020. CAT Exam Eligibility 2020 has not changed too much from the CAT Exam Eligibility Criteria of 2019 and CAT Exam Eligibility Criteria of 2018.

  • In order to be eligible for the CAT Exam, the candidate has to pass at least their Bachelor’s degree with at least 50% (for General Category and for candidates from the NC-OBC caste). For SC/ST and Differently Abled (DA) candidates, the percentage required is 45%.
  • For the Degree to be counted, the University who has awarded the degree has to be recognized by the MHRD.
  • If the University awards grades or CGPA instead of marks, the conversion factor given by the University has to be used. If there is no conversion factor specified by the University, the CGPA has to be converted into percentage by direct conversion i.e. divide the CGPA received by the highest CGPA possible and multiply the result by 100.
  • Candidates who have completed their professional degrees with over 50% (45% for SC/ST/PwD) are also eligible for CAT.
  • There is no age limit on the CAT Exam according to the CAT Exam Eligibility Criteria

For Final Year Student:

A common doubt among final year students planning on giving CAT is regarding their eligibility for the CAT Exam. The final year students of all Bachelor’s degrees are welcome to give CAT with the caveat that they will clear their Bachelor’s with the required percentage (45% or 50%). If the candidate is unable to clear their Bachelor’s with the required percentage, their results in the further admission processes will be rendered null and void.

CAT 2020 Criteria

CAT 2020 is expected to be conducted on November 29th and the result will be announced in the first week of January 2021. The IIM admission process begin soon after result announcements with shortlisting of candidates for Written Ability Test (WAT), Group Discussion (GD) and Personal Interview (PI) round.

Once the CAT result is declared, the 20 IIM campuses screen the test takers on the basis of their respective CAT scores and academic record (performance in Class 10th, Class 12th and Graduation). CAT cut off percentiles are fixed for each IIM, section wise and category wise. Cut off percentiles and weight allotted to CAT (and other parameters) for the WAT/GD-PI round varies for each IIM.

IIMs Selection Process

IIMs are among the Top MBA colleges in India. IIM admission process is divided into three stages. Given below is an overview of the three stages of IIM admission:

Select Process
Selection ParametersDetails
CAT scoreOverall percentile score obtained in CAT exam.
Graduation ScoreThe aggregate percentage obtained in three-year degree course or equivalent.
Class 12 ScoreThe aggregate percentage scored in class 12 or equivalent.
Class 10 ScoreThe aggregate percentage scored in class 10 or equivalent.
WAT/GD-PIEach candidate’s performance in WAT/GD-PI is assessed and marks are allotted accordingly.
Academic DiversityCandidates from non-engineering background are given extra points to ensure fair representation of students from other streams. The points for academic diversity vary for each campus.
Gender DiversityThe IIMs give extra points to female/transgender candidates to encourage fair representation of each gender. The points for Gender diversity vary for each campus.
Work ExperienceExtra points (from 1-5) are given to candidates having work experience. For this, a range is defined from lowest to highest. The points for work experience vary for each campus.

CAT 2020 Exam Pattern

CAT 2020 pattern with Sectional composition

The table below shares the CAT exam sectional order from Section-1 to Section-3, number and type of questions in each section, questions with and without negative marking and total maximum marks available for each section

Section as per CAT exam PatternTotal questionsTotal MCQs (With negative marking)Total Non-MCQs (Without negative marking)Total maximum marks
Section-1: Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)3424 to 277 to 10102
Section-2: Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)32248  96
Section-3: Quantitative Ability (QA)3423 to 277 to 11102

CAT exams are CBT (Computer Based Test). Which are conducted at different centres at different cities


CAT 2020 is a computer based test with 100 questions divided into 3 sections of VARC, DILR and QA

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
  • Level of Difficulty: 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
  • Level of Difficulty: 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
  • Level of Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
  • Section Highlights:
  • More questions are on Arithmetic – Percentage, Profit & Loss, Time & speed, Work/days, Compound interest

Sub-Sections in CAT Exam

There are sub sections within the 3 sections in revised pattern for CAT exam 2020. For example, the revamped VARC section in CAT consists of Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension sub sections; DILR contains questions on Data Interpretation and Logical reasoning.

Smart Preparation

A minimum of six months preparation is required to score 99+ percentile in the exam. There are three elements in CAT preparation – conceptual clarity, practice and revision. Those taking CAT exam for the first time, should first get familiar with the syllabus and exam pattern. We have listed some key tips on how to start CAT preparation below:

  • Make a list of topics according to your strengths and weaknesses. (Give test & know your strength & weaknesses)
  • Create study plan for each topic and module. Study plan should have learning and practicing time-table separately
  • Join online study groups on platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Telegram, Mentee etc.
  • Collect relevant study material and recommended books for CAT preparation
  • Make a day-wise plan and allot one topic each from VARC, DILR and QA
  • Practice two-three questions from the topic studied on the same day to assess how much you have learnt
  • Gradually, increase the speed in covering the number of topics each day
  • Practice more: CBT (online computer based test), solve mock papers
  • Analyze your learning : Know your level of solving difficult problems, Improve time utilization (Login for full assessment)

Important Dates

S. NO.EventDate
1Issue of CAT 2020 notificationSunday, August 2, 2020
2Start date for filling CAT 2020 application formWednesday, August 5, 2020
3Last date to register for CAT 2020Wednesday, September 16, 2020
4Start and end date to make corrections in CAT registration formLast week of September 2020
5Release of CAT Mock Test 2020Friday, October 16, 2020
6Availability of CAT admit card 2020Wednesday, October 28, 2020
7Issue of CAT 2020 guidelinesSecond week of November 2020
8CAT 2020 Exam DateSunday, November 29, 2020
9Release of CAT 2020 response sheet and question paperLast week of November 2020
10Start and end date to challenge the CAT Answer Key 2020First week of December 2020
11Release of Final Answer key of CAT 2020First-Second week of December
12Announcement of CAT Result 2020Second week of January 2020
13CAT 2020 Selection ProcessApril- June 2020

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