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CAT Exam | Common Admission Test

CAT Exam | Common Admission Test

CAT Exam Date
29th November, 2020
Name of the Examination
Common Admission Test
Common Name
Conducting Body
Indian Institutes of Management (IIM)
Frequency of the Exam
Once a year
Mode of CAT Examination
Computer-Based Exam
Duration of the Exam
2 hours
Total Marks
What is the CAT exam?

Common Admission Test is a computer-based exam conducted by the IIMs. Any candidate who wants to join IIM must qualify in CAT as a prerequisite for admission. The exam is also a prerequisite for admission into many of the other top institutes of India apart from the IIMs. 

Since 2011, IITs and IISc started accepting CAT scores for admission into their management programs. Every year, more than 2 lakh candidates apply for the exam. Due to an increase in the number of competing students every year, the exam pattern has gradually evolved with time.

Some of the popular top institutes apart from IIMs that accept CAT scores are as follows:

  • S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR)
  • Faculty of Management Studies (FMS)
  • International Management Institute (IMI)
  • Management Development Institute 
  • Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies (JBIMS)
  • Institute of Management Technology (IMT)
  • National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE)

The dates of events of the CAT 2020 exam are mentioned in the table below:

CAT 2020 Events
Registration Begins
5th August, 2020
Last Date to Apply
16th September, 2020
Last Date for Fee Payment
23rd September, 2020
Application Form Correction Commences
27th September, 2020
Application Form Correction Ends
29th September, 2020
CAT Mock Test Release Date
16th October, 2020
Release of CAT Admit Card
28th October, 2020
CAT Exam Date
29th November, 2020
Release of Answer Key
2nd December, 2020
CAT Result Announcement
2nd week of January, 2021

CAT Exam Question Paper:

The question paper is designed based on the exam pattern released by the authorities. If students want to get an idea of the difficulty level of the question paper, then they should check the question papers of the previous years. It would give them a good idea of what kind of questions to expect in the exam.     

CAT Exam Pattern:

The CAT exam pattern is changed frequently to maintain the difficulty level of the exam. Therefore, candidates who are appearing for the examination must be well aware of the changes made in the exam pattern every year. The IIMs announce the changes made in the exam pattern through a notification. 

The exam details for the year 2020 are as follows: 

Total Number of Questions
Time Limit
2 hours
Type of Questions
MCQs and non-MCQs
Number of Answer Options for an MCQ Question
Marks awarded for the right answer
Negative Marking

1/3 negative marks for a wrong answer in MCQs

No negative marking applicable for Non-MCQs

Exam Difficulty Level
Number of Sections
Sectional Time Limit
40-minute time limit for each section

The exam pattern consists of three sections. The exam authorities do not reveal the exact number of questions that are asked in every section. They also don't reveal the number of MCQs and non-MCQs that will be asked in the exam.  

An approximate pattern followed in the exam is shown in the table below:

Name of the Section
Total Number of Questions
Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension
Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning
Quantitative Ability
MBA Colleges Accepting CAT Score:

The Common Admission Test is one of the toughest national exams for MBA. Therefore, many top management institutes in the country accept candidates with good scores into their management programmes. 

However, many of those institutes conduct their own counselling process. Candidates who desire to get into any of those colleges must undergo their selection procedure. Some of the top management institutes that are popular throughout India are as follows: 

  • Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs)
  • Faculty of Management Studies (FMS)
  • Management Development Institute (MDI)
  • S. P. Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR)
  • International Management Institute (IMI) 
  • Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) 
  • Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar (XIMB)

CAT Syllabus:

A management student needs to excel in verbal, analytical, and reasoning skills to be successful in their career. Therefore, the exam mainly focuses on testing these skills of the candidates. Therefore, the exam consists of sections of verbal ability, data interpretation, and quantitative ability. 

Candidates who are preparing for the exam must be well aware of the syllabus of each section of the exam. It would help them to create and follow a proper plan for preparation. It would also help them do a proper analysis of the topics and distribute those topics based on the level of difficulty. The syllabus of each individual section is mentioned below.  

Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension:

The verbal ability and reading comprehension section test the language skills of the candidates. It helps to analyze the candidate's understanding of the basics of the English language and also tests their ability to process and comprehend the information to arrive at a logical conclusion.  

The topics in Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension are as follows:

  • English Grammar
  • Synonyms and Antonyms
  • Sentence Correction
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Analogies or Reverse Analogies
  • Cloze Passage
  • Analogies or Reverse Analogies
  • Summary Questions
  • Fill in the blanks
  • Jumbled Paragraph
  • Meaning-Usage Match
  • Facts-Inferences-Judgments

Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning:

Data Interpretation is an important skill that any management student should possess. It helps them to analyze the given information and make important decisions based on that information. Therefore, the exam tests the candidates' interpretation and reasoning skills through the Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning section. 

The topics included in the Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning are as follows: 

  • Tables
  • Line Charts
  • Pie Chart
  • Caselets
  • Bar Graphs
  • Column Graphs
  • Venn Diagrams
  • Basic Reasoning Questions
  • Number and Letter Series
  • Calendars
  • Seating Arrangement
  • Logical Matching
  • Cubes
  • Clocks
  • Seating Arrangement
  • Logical Sequence
  • Logical Connectives
  • Binary Logic
  • Syllogism
  • Blood Relations

Quantitative Ability:

The quantitative ability section aims to test the candidate's understanding of data represented using numbers. Any business deals with data related to profit, loss, sales, etc. A candidate who is in a managerial position must be able to understand such kind of important data easily. It helps them to make the right decisions for the business. 

The topics included in the Quantitative Ability section is as follows:

  • Number Systems
  • Speed, Time, and Distance
  • Profit, Loss, and Discount
  • Percentages
  • LCM and HCF
  • Time and Work
  • Averages
  • Ratio and Proportion
  • Quadratic Equations & Linear Equations
  • Logarithm
  • Complex Numbers
  • Sequences and Series
  • Simple and Compound Interest
  • Probability
  • Inequalities
  • Surds and Indices
  • Permutation and Combination
  • Set Theory & Function
  • Mixtures and Alligations
  • Coordinate Geometry
  • Trigonometry
  • Geometry
  • Mensuration

Weightage for Admission:

Even though the exam is designed to test most of the skills of the candidates, the CAT scores cannot be a proper representative of the candidate's overall abilities. Therefore, the IIMs also consider the weightage of other parameters for admission. 

The table given below shows the weightage of each parameter taken into consideration by the IIMs for admission.

Common Admission Test
Written Ability Test
Personal Interview
Undergraduate Programme Final Score
Class 12 Board Results
Class 10 Board Results
Weighted Work Experience
CAT Registration:

Any candidate who wishes to appear for the Common Admission Test must complete the CAT registration and application process. Every year, the authorities release the registration dates through an official notification. Candidates must complete the registration and application process before the closing date of registration. 

If they fail to complete it, then they would not be eligible to appear for the exam. They must try to avoid any errors during the registration process to avoid being rejected. The candidates must follow the steps given below to complete the registration process:

  • Visit the CAT official website
  • Click on the link of New Candidate Registration
  • Enter the following details:
    • Name
    • Date of Birth
    • Nationality
    • Mobile Number
    • Email ID
  • Click on the link of 'Generate OTP'
  • An OTP will be sent on the registered mobile number
  • Complete the CAT registration by entering in the OTP received

CAT Application Form:

Completion of registration doesn't mean that the application process has been completed. The registration process only allows the candidate to create an account on the official website. If the candidates wish to be eligible for appearing for the exam, they must complete the application process. 

During the application process, the candidates are also required to upload the scanned images of the necessary documents. To complete the application process smoothly, the candidates should follow the steps given below: 

  • Enter the following details
    • Personal Details
    • Communication Address
    • Emergency contact details
  • Upload the following documents:
    • Photograph
    • Signature
    • Category Certificate (if applicable)
    • EWS Certificate (if applicable)
    • Final Year Qualification Certificate
    • PwD Certificate (if applicable)
  • Enter the following Academic Details
    • Class X/ SSC/ Equivalent Examination CertifiCATe and Scores
    • 12th/ Diploma/ Equivalent course details
    • Graduation Degree course details
    • Post Graduate course details
    • Other course details
  • Enter the work experience details
  • Select the preferred programmes and colleges
  • Select two preferred interview cities
  • Choose any of the preferred six cities as for CAT test centre
  • Once all the details have been entered in the form, complete the payment process through any of the following modes:
    • Bill Desk
    • Paytm
    • PayU
    • BillDesk - Net banking
    • Credit Cards
    • Debit Cards
  • The candidate will receive a confirmation email after completing the payment process
  • Keep the email safe as a proof of fee payment

The candidates have to pay the registration fee based on the category in which they belong. If the candidates belong to NC-OBC, SC, ST, and PwD categories, they must upload the certificates of their category to avail of the benefits. The registration fees that must be paid by the candidates is as follows:

Registration Fees
General and NC-OBC 
Rs. 2000
SC, ST, and PWD
Rs. 1000
CAT Admit Card:

The CAT Admit Card is an essential document that must be possessed by the candidate who wishes to appear for the exam. Without the Admit Card, candidates are not allowed to enter the CAT examination hall on the day of the examination. 

The Admit Card is released by the authorities after the completion of the correction window period. The date of the release of the Admit Card is announced through the official notification. 

Candidates can download their Admit Card by following the steps given below:

  • Visit the CAT official website
  • Click on the link of Download Admit Card
  • Enter your login credentials like user ID and password
  • After logging in, a popup will be displayed on the screen notifying that the application has been successfully accepted
  • Close the popup
  • A form will be displayed on the screen that shows all the candidate details
  • Click on the link that says 'Download Admit Card'
  • A new page opens that will display the information about the test centre
  • Click on the link of Admit Card on that page
  • The CAT admit card will be downloaded
  • Check all the details on the CAT Admit Card and take a print out

The candidates must check the details mentioned on the Admit Card after downloading it. They must make sure that all the details on the Admit Card are correct. Details mentioned on the Admit card are as follows:

  • Candidate's Name
  • CAT Registration Number
  • Date of Birth
  • Candidate's CATegory
  • Date of the CAT exam
  • Day of the CAT exam
  • CAT examination session and timings
  • Space provided for attesting the candidate's photograph
  • Name of the test city
  • Address of the test centre
  • Google Map link
  • Emergency contact number
  • Reference Number
  • Instructions to be followed

Forgot CAT User ID/ Password:

Sometimes, a few candidates lose their login ID and password. In such cases, they cannot log in to their account to download their Admit Card. If candidates come across such situations, they can easily recover their User ID and password by following the steps given below:  

  • Visit the CAT official website
  • Click on the Forgot User ID/ Password link
  • Enter the registered email ID
  • Enter the Captcha
  • The candidate will receive the User ID/ Password on the registered email ID

Highlights of CAT Admit Card:

The table given below shows the important highlights related to the exam and Admit Card:

CAT Admit Card Release Date
October 28, 2020
Authoritative Body that releases the CAT Admit Card
Indian Institute of Management Indore
Compatible Browsers to download CAT Admit Card
Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer
CAT Helpline Number
Last date to download CAT Admit Card

November 29, 2020

Points to Remember:

The candidates must keep certain points in mind before downloading the Admit Card. It would ensure the smooth downloading process of the Admit Card. Those points are as follows: 

  • Candidates must ensure that they have any of the following browsers:
    • Chrome
    • Firefox 
    • Internet Explorer
  • Note down the CAT user ID and password to log in
  • Save the CAT Admit in your email ID and Pendrive

CAT Exam Books:

If you want to get a good score in the exam, then it is necessary to buy good books written by the best authors and published by the best publication houses. Before buying a certain book, keep the following things in mind:

  • The book must be an updated version
  • It must be written by a well-established author
  • It should have been written in an easy to understand the language

Quantitative Ability:

The quantitative ability section is one of the most challenging sections of the exam. The following books would help the candidate to prepare thoroughly for the exam:

  • Quantitative Aptitude for the CAT by Nishit K. Sinha
  • Quantitative Aptitude Quantum CAT by Sarvesh K Verma

Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning:

The Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning section needs a separate strategy for preparation. The following books can help you to prepare effectively for this section:

  • How to Prepare for Data Interpretation for CAT by Arun Sharma
  • Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation for CAT by K. Sinha Nishit

Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension:

To prepare for the Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension, the candidates should focus on reading as many books as possible. However, the following books would also help in the preparation of the verbal ability section:   

  • How to Prepare for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for the CAT by Arun Sharma and Meenakshi Upadhyay
  • Mastering the Verbal Ability for CAT by Ajay Singh

CAT Exam Answer Key:

The CAT answer key is released after a few days of the completion of the exam. The date for the release of the answer key is announced through the official notification. It would help the candidates to analyze and compare their own answers and learn from their mistakes. It would also help them to calculate their own scores. 

Candidates who want to check the CAT answer key must follow the steps given below:

  • Visit the official website of CAT
  • Click on the login tab on the screen
  • Enter the login ID and password
  • The CAT Answer Key will be displayed on the screen
  • Take a printout of the answer key for future reference

The following details will be displayed on the CAT answer key

  • Candidate's Name
  • CAT registration number
  • Exam centre
  • Exam date
  • Exam timings
  • Question
  • Question type
  • Question ID
  • Status (your answer)
  • Right answer/option

Raising Objection for CAT Answer Key:

If the test takers feel that a particular answer in the answer key is wrong, then they can raise objections to that answer. If the objection is genuine, then the authorities will revise the official answer key.

  • Visit the official website of CAT
  • Click on the Login button
  • Enter your Login ID and password
  • Click on the Objection tab shown on the screen
  • To add an objection, click on the '+' sign
  • Refer to the number of the question for which you want to raise an objection from the PDF of the question paper on the website 
  • Check on the question number 
  • Provide relevant information
  • Pay Rs. 1000 as the objection fee through any one of the following payment methods:
    • Credit Card
    • Debit Card
    • Net Banking

Raising Objection: Points to remember 

  • The objection fee will not be refunded if  the objection fee is invalid
  • Objections cannot be edited after submitting
  • A candidate does not have any limits on the number of objections that he can make
  • The authorities will announce the CAT results only after the answer key objection process
  • The authorities will not encourage the raising of objections after the announcement of the results
  • The authorities will not re-check the question paper under any conditions

How to calculate the CAT score?

Since the exam contains negative marking schemes and also contains two types of questions, i.e., MCQ and non-MCQ, the candidates can find it a bit difficult to calculate their scores. In such cases, they must follow the instructions given below to get a correct score:

  • For each right answer, you will be awarded 3 marks
  • For every wrong answer in MCQ, one mark will be deducted
  • To obtain the total score, subtract the deducted marks from the total marks  

The marking scheme of the CAT exam is as follows:

Type of Questions
Marks awarded for the right answer
Marks deducted for the wrong answer
CAT Exam Result:

The CAT results are released by the authorities after the answer key objection period is completed. The results are based on the revised answer key, which is released after the objection period. Candidates can check the results of the exam by following the steps given below: 

  • Visit the official website of CAT
  • Click on the button of CAT login
  • Enter your CAT ID and password
  • Click on the scorecard tab after logging in to the website
  • Click on the download button to download the CAT scorecard

The following details will be mentioned on the CAT scorecard:

  • Candidate's name
  • Candidate's registration number
  • Candidate's category
  • Gender
  • Date of Birth
  • Date of examination
  • Day of examination
  • Contact details
  • Email ID
  • Overall CAT score
  • Section-wise CAT score
  • Overall CAT percentile score
  • Section-wise CAT percentile score

How is the CAT percentile calculated?

The authorities follow a certain procedure to calculate the CAT percentile. The procedure is as follows:

  • Each candidate gets scored section-wise, which are added to get the overall score
  • Then both the section-wise and the overall scores are normalized to obtain the CAT score
  • The obtained normalized scores are converted into percentiles
  • These percentile scores are reported on the CAT scorecard

CAT Normalization Process:

The CAT examination is conducted in two slots every year. The difficulty level of these two slots or sessions varies from each other. Therefore, to ensure in the examination process, the authorities of CAT follow a Normalization process to scale the candidate's score. 

The following parameters are considered during the CAT normalization process:

  • Lowest score
  • Highest score
  • Median score
  • Mean score
  • Lowest 10 percentiles
  • Top 10 percentiles

CAT Admission Process for IIMs:

The IIMs and other top colleges do not give admission to any student who gets a good CAT score. It is because the exam score is not representative of the entire skill set of the candidates. Therefore, they follow a selection procedure to filter out the best candidates.

The Admission Process consists of three stages:

  • Shortlisting candidates based on their CAT scores and academic history
  • Written Ability Test (WAT), Personal Interview (PI), Group Discussion (GD) Round
  • The final selection process of the candidates 


The Indian Institute of Management will initiate its shortlisting procedure after the announcement of results. After shortlisting the candidates, the IIMs upload the list on their respective websites. They also send the interview call letters directly to the candidates after shortlisting them. Candidates selected for by the IIMs must register for the selection process to be eligible for it.

The following information is mentioned in the call letter:

  • Link for registration
  • Last date to register for the selection process
  • Date, time, and venue of WAT, GD, and PI 

When candidates receive a call letter, they must complete the reporting and the document verification process. It consists of the following steps:

  • Report to the allocated venue on the date and time mentioned in the call letter
  • Carry the original copies and photocopies of all the required documents for verification

The following documents must be carried during the WAT, GD, and PI rounds

  • IIM call letter
  • CAT scorecard
  • Graduation Certificate and Marksheet
  • Class 10 Certificate and Marksheet
  • Class 12 Certificate and Marksheet
  • Certificate of Reservation Category

After the verification process of the candidates at the exam centre is completed, the candidates must complete the step of choice locking. The following steps must be followed to complete the step of choice locking:

  • Visit the official website of the college
  • Complete the filling of the application form
  • Lock your preferences after selecting before you submit the application form
  • You will receive the intimidation through the registered mobile number and email ID
  • Confirm the selected seat and to submit the allotment order, visit the allocated institute

The candidates who receive the call letter must go through the WAT, GD, and PI rounds. These rounds are designed to test the following areas of the candidates:

  • General Knowledge
  • Communication Skills
  • Overall performance 
  • Presence of mind

Points to remember about WAT, GD, and PI:

Students who receive the call letter must keep a few points in mind about the WAT, GD, and PI. they are as follows:

Written Ability Test (WAT):

  • It is designed to test the critical thinking ability of the candidate and their method of communicating their thought process
  • The candidate needs to write a detailed essay on the topic given to them by the institute
  • The time duration of the WAT session may vary from 15 to 30 minutes
  • The major aim of the candidate must be to complete the essay in the given period of time 

Group Discussion (GD):

  • Every group has around 8-10 members
  • The members are required to present their views on the given topics
  • It is conducted to test the candidate's ability to present and communicate his ideas
  • It also tests a candidate's ability to manage a team and understand the group dynamics

Personal Interview (PI):

  • This round is conducted by all the institutes accepting CAT scores
  • It is carried out by the panel of interviewers and has a weightage of 30-40 percent

After testing the above aspects of the candidates, the colleges shortlist the candidates for final admission. The following aspects are also taken into account during the final selection procedure:

  • Relevant work experience of the candidate
  • Previous academic performances of the candidates
  • Gender of the candidate and his academic diversity

The complete list of parameters for the final selection procedure at the IIM is as follows:

  • CAT score
  • Class 12 score
  • Class 10 score
  • Graduation score
  • WAT/ GD-PI Performance score
  • Work Experience
  • Gender Diversity
  • Academic Diversity

CAT Admission Process for Non-IIMs:

Many institutes accept CAT scores for admission. However, they may or may not follow the same admission process as that of IIMs. If the candidates want to get accepted in any of the non-IIM, they must undergo the selection process of that college.  

CAT Exam Preparation Tips:

Since CAT is a highly competitive exam, students should prepare for it rigorously. Candidates should follow the tips given below for effective CAT exam preparation:

Check the CAT syllabus:

Students who want to prepare for the exam must have all the awareness of the CAT exam details. They should start their CAT exam preparation by noting down the CAT syllabus. If they don't do it, then they would have a hard time preparing a proper plan for their exam preparation. If possible, students can paste their syllabus at a place where they can see it regularly. 

Follow a preparation plan:

Everyone has their own weak and strong subjects. Therefore, students who are preparing for the exam must follow a preparation plan that would help them to be thorough in both the weak and strong areas. It would help them to balance their own strengths and weaknesses during the exam time. The preparation plan must be created based on the CAT exam details released by the authorities.

Learn time management:

Time management is important not only for the exam but also for many other aspects of life. It is a highly important trait that students of management should possess. Therefore, students should practice their time management skills during the preparation and revision process. It would help them to score well in the examinations.

Practice decision-making skills:

Decision making skill is really important for students who want to minimize their negative marks for wrong answers. A candidate should not waste time in deciding if he/she should answer a particular question or not. Such decisions should be taken quickly to avoid wasting time. Therefore, it would be helpful for the candidates to practice decision-making skills through mock tests of the CAT exam.

Free CAT Mock Test:

There are many free CAT mock tests available online. Students can get familiar with the exam styles if they practice these free CAT mock tests. It would also help them to identify their weak areas and learn the skills of time management.


  1. Is the CAT score valid for two years?
    - No, CAT scores are valid only for one year.
  2. Can a candidate with a backlog appear for the CAT exam?
    - Yes, candidates with a backlog are eligible to appear for the CAT exam.
  3. How many times can you appear for the CAT exam?
    - There is no limit on the maximum number of attempts for the CAT exam. Therefore, you can appear for the CAT exam as many times as you want.
  4. Can a candidate appear for more than one slot of the exam?
    - No, a candidate cannot appear for more than one slot of the exam.
  5. How many MCQs and non-MCQs are present in each section of the CAT paper?
    - The number of MCQs and non-MCQs in each section of the CAT paper vary each year and cannot be disclosed.

Eligibility Criteria

The CAT eligibility criteria are decided by the Indian Institutes of Management. The eligibility criteria may or may not change every year. The eligibility criteria ensure that candidates have completed the minimum required qualification to study in postgraduate management courses. 

Candidates who wish to apply for the CAT exam must check their eligibility criteria. If they apply without checking the eligibility criteria, their application can get rejected as it does not fit the criteria. The CAT eligibility criteria are as follows: 

  • The candidate must be a graduate to be eligible for the exam
  • The exam does not have any age limit for the candidates
  • No work experience is required to apply for the exam
  • Candidates with backlogs studying in the final year of graduation are also eligible to apply for the exam

CAT Eligibility Criteria:

The CAT eligibility criteria based on individual degrees are as follows:

Affiliation Required
B.Tech or B.E.
Recognized by AICTE/ MHRD
Bachelor's Degree
Recognized by UGC
Students studying in the final year of Bachelor's Degree or any other equivalent
Continuing graduation from any University that is recognized by UGC or MHRD/AICTE

The candidates must have the pass percentage as follows for any of the above qualifications: 

  • 50% for general category
  • 45% for SC, ST, PWD candidates

The IIMs have provided reservations for people belonging to different categories. They are as follows:

Reserved Percentage
PwD (Person with Disability)
ST (Scheduled Tribe)
SC (Scheduled Caste)
NC-OBC (Non-creamy Other Backward Classes)

The candidates who belong to any of the above categories must submit their category certificate during the CAT registration process. They must also carry the same documents during the verification process. 

The list given below shows different categories of disabilities that are accepted under the PwD section:

  • Partial Blindness or Blindness
  • Locomotor Disabilities
  • Mental Disabilities like autism, and other learning disabilities
  • Hearing Disabilities

Age limit
  • No age limit

ID proof details
  • Admit card
  • Aadhaar Card/ PAN card/ Driving License/ Passport/ Voter ID

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