Types of Graphs Found on the CAT

types of graphs found on the cat-magoosh

Wondering about the types of graphs found on the CAT? Look no further! Photo by TheDigitalWay.

When you’re preparing for the CAT Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning section, it makes sense to research the types of graphs found on the CAT. After all, fully half of the 32 questions in that section cover data interpretation. And while the 16 data interpretation can cover a wide variety of stimuli, including charts and tables, familiarizing yourself with the CAT’s graph types is a great place to start.

Bar Graphs

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Bar graphs are one of the types of graphs found on the CAT. Image by OpenClipart-Vectors.

Bar graphs are exactly what they sound like: graphs in which data is represented by “bars,” or thick lines. Usually—but not always—the x-axis will explain the type of information analyzed. For example, the bars could represent companies, years, people, or any number of other variables. On the y-axis, you’ll usually see a label that defines the units there. These could be percentages, percent changes, actual numerical amounts, or other “measurements” for the x-axis subjects.

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CAT bar graphs may take several different forms (little man not included). Image by 3dman_eu.

Special Types of Bar Graphs

The CAT likes to use bar graphs, but it particularly likes to use special kinds of bar graphs. These may be more complex than the graphs you’re used to working with. The “special” types primarily fall into two categories: the multi-information bar, and bar clusters.

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Some CAT bar graphs may require comparing information from several different years or companies–or both. Image by Deedster.

In the former, the test may provide you with a bar that is comprised of two or more colors. These can represent different years, different consumer types—any different kinds of data stacked on top of each other. The same is true with clusters of bars. Usually found in groups of two or three, these bar “clusters” represent different types of subjects within a larger subject group. For example, you could have a multi-color bar with a red portion representing data from 1998 and a blue portion representing data from 1999. In a “cluster,” this data would be broken down into two separate bars and placed side-by-side. (The CAT will usually differentiate the bars in clusters by color, too, to make reading the graphs easier).

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Line graphs are another of the types of graphs found on the CAT. Image by OpenClipart-Vectors.

Line Graphs

On line graphs, data is represented as certain points, which are then connected by a line to show a trend (or, rarely on the CAT, the lack of a trend). On the CAT, you may see these as simple lines; as lines with the area beneath colored or shaded in; or as multiple lines.

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Line graphs on the CAT can take different forms. Image by janjf93.

When looking at multiple lines, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the points where the two lines are closest together and where they are farthest apart. It only takes a few seconds, and the CAT loves to ask these kinds of questions!

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Some CAT line graphs will require you to compare data from two or more sources. Image by Clkr-Free-Vector-Images.

Other Data and Graph Combinations

Because there are 16 data interpretation questions on the CAT, not all of them are devoted to graphs. You may see 2-3 questions sets devoted to graphs alone. On the other hand, CAT data interpretation will often ask you to take information you’ve acquired from a graph and combine it with information from a chart (like a pie chart) or a table full of data.

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It’s also not uncommon to find pie charts among the types of graphs found on the CAT. Image by Deedster.

Also, make sure that you’re fully prepared for all data interpretation problems on the CAT by brushing up your skills reading other types of charts and tables. In recent years, the CAT has featured several questions sets featuring tables, whether alone or in combination with other visual stimuli.

These more complex data interpretation questions can be problematic for unprepared test-takers, who anticipated simpler analysis. To make sure that you’re prepared for CAT data interpretation, practice with questions that are CAT-like—and make sure to check out older exams for an idea of what to expect! David has some great ideas about how to prepare for the CAT, including data interpretation, to get you prepared for the official test. Keep checking back here at the Magoosh blog for more prep tips. And in the meantime, best of luck!

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