CAT Exam Pattern: What to Expect on Test Day

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Don’t let the CAT exam pattern overwhelm you! Learn how the test is organized to master it on test day. Image by Pixapopz.

Once you’ve decided to take the Common Admission Test, figuring out the CAT exam pattern is one of the first things you can do to make taking the exam more manageable. While the test can—and does—change from year to year, varying factors from the number of questions to the test date, having a firm grasp of the exam pattern and the materials previously covered on the CAT will provide you with a solid basis for beginning your test preparation. You can find more about preparing for the CAT, and the CAT syllabus, here on the Magoosh blog when you’re ready to start studying. In the meantime, familiarizing yourself with the basics is a great first step!

The Overall CAT Exam Pattern

In 2016, the CAT was divided into three sections, in the following order:

  • Verbal and Reading Comprehension (34 questions)
  • Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (32 questions)
  • Quantitative Ability (34 questions)

Students had one hour for each section, making a total of 100 questions to answer in 180 minutes. The format of the exam was primarily multiple-choice, though there were several fill-in-the-blank numerical questions in each section.

CAT Exam Pattern for Verbal and Reading Comprehension

On the 2016 exam, students encountered questions covering a variety of topics related to English language comprehension. These included items testing their vocabulary, understanding of grammar, and comprehension of longer passages. Overall, the official test provided by the Indian Institutes of Management (that’s the testmaker) presented the following question types in the following order:

  • Passage-based questions (8 passages with 3 questions each for a total of 24 questions): These items asked students to read short passages (several paragraphs long, approximately 300-500 words), and then answer a series of questions about them. Subjects tested include vocabulary, grammar, summary, and tone.
  • Summary-based questions (3 questions): These items provide a brief passage, then summaries of that passage. Students choose the summary that best matches the passage.
  • Sentence order (4 questions): These items provide five sentences, out of sequence, that when in sequence create a logical paragraph. Test-takers put them in the most logical order.
  • Odd sentence out (3 questions): Students choose which from among five possible sentences makes the least amount of sense in a paragraph with the others.

CAT Exam Pattern for Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning

In Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning, students work with information provided in graphics, word problems, or a combination of the two to answer questions. Each graphic has four accompanying questions, and students can expect to see any of the following types of stimuli:

  • Line Graphs
  • Bar Graphs
  • Pie Charts
  • Tables
  • Word Problems

The official mock exam in 2016 had two series of questions using tables and two based on word problems, though future exams may favor other types of stimuli.

CAT Exam Pattern for Quantitative Ability

The Quantitative Ability section of the CAT exam has the widest variety of topics, though students should note that several topics, including ratios, triangles, circles, combined rates of work, and proportions, all appeared repeatedly on the official mock exam. Overall, subjects tested included the following:

  • Functions
  • Exponents
  • Percentages and fractions
  • Ratios
  • Triangles
  • Circles
  • Squares (especially in combination with other geometric figures)
  • Rectangles (especially in combination with other geometric figures)
  • Word problems
  • Sequences
  • Sets
  • Rates and combined rates (including speed)
  • Averages
  • Mixtures
  • Algebraic expressions
  • Proportions

A Final Word

While these topics may seem overwhelming, remember that you’re already off to a good start. By familiarizing yourself with the materials on the test and the CAT exam pattern, you’ve already provided yourself with a great basis for further study. Now, you have the first tool you need to be methodical in your exam preparation as you move forward to greater success. Good luck!

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