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Everything you need to know before applying for CAT

Online Manipal Editorial Team | November 02, 2021

The Common Admission Test (CAT) exam is mandatory for getting admission in MBA courses offered by the best MBA colleges in India. The CAT exam consists of both multiple choice questions (MCQs) and non-MCQs from verbal ability & reading comprehension (VARC), data interpretation & logical reasoning (DILR) and quantitative ability (QA). The difficulty level of this exam is moderate to high. More than two lakh students appear in the CAT exam every year to get admission in the best MBA colleges. 

Last year, the CAT exam structure was revised due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The duration of the exam was reduced to two hours which was initially three hours and the total number of questions were also reduced from 100 to 76. There were three exam slots instead of two. The CAT exam 2021 pattern is on the same line as last year.

Eligibility criteria

The eligibility criteria for the CAT exam is as follows:

  • The candidate must have a bachelor degree with a minimum 50% aggregate or equivalent CGPA (45% aggregate for SC, ST and PWD/DA category) from a recognised board or university.
  • The candidate who has a professional degree (CA/CS/ICWA) with the required percentage is eligible to appear in the CAT exam.
  • Candidates in the final year of bachelor degree or equivalent qualification or awaiting result are also eligible to take the CAT exam.

Exam pattern and test structure

CAT is a computer-based test that is conducted at designated centres in 159 cities. The candidates are allotted a computer system inside the examination hall where they need to log in with their CAT 2021 exam credentials. For the MCQ test, the candidates need to use the mouse pad, and for non-MCQ tests, the candidates need to use the keyboard. Very limited time is allotted to the candidates for each section of the question paper so the candidates must use their time wisely. 

The question paper is divided into three main sections: 

  • Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC)
  • Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR)
  • Quantitative Aptitude

CAT 2021 exam pattern is given below:

Sections VARC, DILR and QA
Duration of Exam 40 minutes per section
Total number of questions 76
Section-wise number of questions VARC- 26



Total marks 228
Language of question paper English
Number of answer choices Four
Type of questions MCQs and Non-MCQs
Marking scheme
  • 3 marks for every correct response
  • Negative marking of 1/3 (-1) for every wrong MCQ response
  • No negative marking for wrong non-MCQ response

CAT Preparation Tips

There are three primary elements in the preparation of the CAT 2021 exam – conceptual clarity, practice and revision. The candidates who are appearing for the CAT exam for the first time must start their preparation much earlier. After getting familiar with the syllabus and exam pattern, the candidate should prepare the study plan. Here are some important tips on how to start CAT exam preparation:

  • Prepare a list of topics as per your strengths and weaknesses
  • Collect appropriate study material and recommended books for CAT preparation
  • Schedule your day carefully by preparing a day-wise plan and taking one topic each from VARC, DILR and QA
  • Practice some questions from each topic studied on the same day to evaluate your learning
  • Cover more topics by gradually increasing your speed each day
  • Join online CAT preparation groups for learning resources that are available online at no extra cost

After the CAT exam results, the next big step for the aspirant is to look for the best MBA college that accepts your CAT percentile. No need to worry, after getting your CAT score, you can conveniently apply for a UGC-entitled online MBA degree at Manipal University Jaipur, the best university for MBA in India and enhance your skill sets for diverse job profiles.

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