CAT Exam Pattern 2021: New Sectional and Overall Paper Pattern, Exam Duration, Marking Scheme

CAT Exam Pattern 2021: New Sectional and Overall Paper Pattern, Exam Duration, Marking Scheme

CAT Exam Pattern 2021: As per the latest media report on the CAT official website, in order to lessen the time pressure on students to complete the CAT 2021 exam, the number of questions from each CAT section will be reduced. However, the CAT exam pattern will remain the same with 2 hours duration.According to the media report, the CAT 2021 exam pattern is divided into three sections and it is expected to be a total of 64-66 questions. In VARC and QA sections, there will be 22-23 questions are expected, and in the DILR section, there will be 20-21 questions are expected.

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CAT Exam Pattern 2021 (Revised)

CAT 2021 convener MP Ram Mohan stated "last year CAT format changes were necessitated due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Since we are witnessing the same pandemic this year as well, the CAT exam format will largely remain the same. CAT 2020 followed the new format. However considering that even last year, there could have been time pressure on the students to complete the exam on account of changes made across all three sections."

According to CAT 2021 pattern, the duration of the CAT will be two hours (120 Minutes) and for each CAT section, the time limit will be 40 Minutes. Before going to start CAT preparation, the candidates must know the IIM CAT exam pattern 2021. For IIM shortlisting, the candidate must score high in each of the sections to clear the sectional score cut-offs.

ParticularsNumber of CAT questions
Total number of CAT 2021 questions64 to 66 questions
Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)22-23 questions
Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)20-21 questions
Quantitative Aptitude (QA)22-23 questions

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CAT Test Pattern 2021 - Overview

The CAT 2021 exam pattern and the test procedure have been announced along with the CAT 2021 exam dates. Candidates planning to opt for CAT 2021 should familiarize themselves with the latest CAT pattern and syllabus 2021. This will help them to understand the structure of the CAT question paper and marking scheme. The CAT exam 2021 is scheduled in three slots, that is in the morning, afternoon, and evening on the same day, as the Computer Based Test (CBT).

Before going to appear for the CAT 2021 exam, one should know what is CAT exam pattern? In this complete article, we clearly discussed the CAT exam pattern and CAT syllabus. By going through this article, the candidates can get an idea about the IIM CAT exam pattern 2021. Careers360 provides all the aspects of the CAT 2021 exam pattern such as highlights, mode of the exam, marking scheme, duration, etc.

Check the latest CAT 2021 exam pattern video here:

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The CAT official mock test generally reveals the overall and section-wise IIM CAT exam pattern 2021. The three sessions in which CAT 2021 will be conducted is;

  • Morning session (8:30 am - 10:30 pm)
  • Afternoon session (12:30 pm - 2:30 pm)
  • Evening session (4:30 pm - 6:30 pm).

Candidates will not be allowed to switch from one section to another while answering questions in one section. To know all the features of the CAT 2021 exam pattern, candidates can go through the following table;

CAT Exam Pattern 2021- Important points

  • Candidates can use an on-screen calculator for computation during CAT 2021 exam
  • By using an on-screen clock candidates can check the time
  • Sheets will be provided to candidates for rough work, which has to be submitted after the conclusion of the CAT exam for MBA.

CAT 2021 Exam Pattern



Duration of the CAT Exam

3 hours (180 Minutes)

2 Hours (120 Minutes)

Name of the Section

  • Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)

  • Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)

  • Quantitative Aptitude (QA)

Section-wise Duration

60 minutes per section (Total 180 minutes)

  • 40 Minutes for Each Section (VARC, DILR, QA).

  • 53 Minutes 20 Seconds for PwD candidates for each section.

Slot-wise Session

  • Slot 1: 8:30 am - 10:30 pm (Morning Session)

  • Slot 2: 12:30 pm - 2:30 pm (Afternoon Session)

  • Slot 3: 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm (Evening Session)

Number of Questions*

100 questions

76 Questions (54 MCQs and 22 Non-MCQs)

NOTE: Expected to be 64 to 66 questions

CAT exam total marks*

300 marks

228 marks

Mode of the CAT 2021 exam

Computer-Based Mode (CBT)

Marking Scheme

  • For every right answer, +3 will be awarded

  • For every wrong answer in MCQs, -1 will be deducted

  • No negative marks for Non-MCQs

*- The number of questions and the total marks will be reduced this year.

Read more-

  • Best Study Material for CAT 2021
  • CAT 2021 Preparation Material

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What's New in CAT Exam Pattern 2021?

CAT 2021 pattern is on the same lines as last year CAT pattern. However, the number of questions is reduced. From CAT 2020 onwards, the candidates from the PwD category now receive a total of 53 minutes and 20 seconds to complete a specific section of CAT 2021, while other candidates will receive 40 minutes. In 2019, the CAT exam was three hours, with 60 minutes allotted for candidates to answer for each section. From last year onwards, the total time duration of CAT will be 2 hours i.e. 120 minutes.

Number of MCQs and Non-MCQs in CAT 2021 Exam Pattern

The total number of MCQs and Non-MCQs questions asked according to the CAT exam pattern and syllabus 2021 are given below.

Section-wise CAT Exam Pattern 2021

Section as per IIM CAT Exam Pattern 2021

Total Questions*



Maximum Marks*

Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)





Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)





Quantitative Aptitude (QA)










*- These are based on the previous year's question paper of CAT. The questions have been revised for CAT 2021.

Know the detailed view of the expected CAT exam pattern 2021 here

Slot Wise Highlights in MBA CAT Exam Pattern 2021

  • VARC Section: 4 RC passages with 18 MCQs; VA 8 Non-MCQs are subdivided into Para Summaries, Para Jumbles, and Context Sentences.

  • DILR: Data Interpretation: 14 Questions, Logical Reasoning: 10 Questions, All in Sets of 6 & 4 Questions

  • QA: High on Arithmetic, Other on Geometry, Log, Algebra, Roots, etc.

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Overall and Sectional Duration of CAT Exam Pattern 2021

Candidates appearing for the Common Admission Test can verify the overall and sectional duration under the CAT exam pattern 2021. Each section has to be completed in 40 minutes, while PwD category candidates will get 53 minutes and 20 seconds to answer questions in each section. In CAT 2021, candidates will not be allowed to switch between sections. Only after completing the first section can they move on to the next section.

However, according to the CAT exam pattern 2021, candidates can switch between questions within a section. Through the CAT paper pattern and syllabus, it is possible to know the subjects and topics, marking schemes. Under the new exam pattern of CAT 2021, the method of examination, and the duration of the MBA will also be known. In this Careers360 article, candidates can check the CAT exam pattern pdf link. With the help of an IIM CAT 2021 exam pattern PDF file, candidates will easily know about the latest updated exam pattern and syllabus.

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Exam Pattern of CAT 2021: Time Distribution


Total Number of Questions*

Duration for all Category

Duration for PwD Category

Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)

26 Questions

40 Minutes

53 Minutes and 20 Seconds

Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)

24 Questions

40 Minutes

53 Minutes and 20 Seconds

Quantitative Ability (QA)

26 Questions

40 Minutes

53 Minutes and 20 Seconds


76 Questions

120 Minutes

159 Minutes and 60 Seconds

Also Read: How to Prepare for CAT 2021

CAT Exam 2021 Marking Scheme

CAT exam pattern includes the marking scheme under which the candidates get to know the total marks awarded for each correct answer and how many marks will be deducted if the candidate answers the question incorrectly.

  • For each correct answer, three marks will be awarded.

  • For each wrong answer, one mark will be deducted.

  • For unanswered questions, no marks will be deducted. Also for Non-MCQs, no marks will be deducted.

The following table summarizes the marking scheme for CAT 2021:

Type of QuestionsCorrect AnswerIncorrect Answer

Important Points About CAT 2021 Test Process

  • The use of a screen calculator for calculations during the CAT exam will be allowed.
  • A screen clock will help the candidates to check the time during the exam.
  • Papers will be provided for rough work, which should be submitted to the examination center once the examination is completed.
  • Candidates will not be allowed to start the test ahead of time. The computer screen will open only after the notification of the invigilator.
  • All computer screens in the exam hall will run simultaneously.
  • Candidates must sit in their designated area and will be disqualified if found sitting elsewhere.

How to move between sections when responding to CAT 2021?

Candidates should follow the instructions given on the computer screen while answering the questions in CAT 2021. According to the IIM CAT exam pattern 2021, the important points that candidates should keep in mind while answering the questions are as follows:

The moment the candidate logs in and starts answering questions, the timer clock 0n the upper right corner will start beating. After 40 minutes, the section will be locked and candidates will not be able to answer further questions.

How to answer the questions in CAT 2021?

Before going to start the CAT examination, the students should have to know how to answer questions. Candidates should use the following options when answering questions:

  • Save and Next: Candidates should select the answer, save it, and move on to the next one.

  • Clear Response: Candidates will have the option to delete the answer to the question they answered.

  • Mark for Review and Next: If the candidate is unsure about the answer, in such a case they have the option to mark it as a review, then answer it, and then move on to the next question.

NOTE: When answering questions, one should use the mouse provided. Using the system keyboard will lock the computer screen.

What does each color on the panel represent?

Panel Colour

What it Indicates


The question was not answered and is not marked for review.


The question was answered and not reviewed.


Question not viewed or visited.


The question is marked for review and not yet answered.

Violet with Green tick

The question was marked and answered for review.

Changes in CAT Exam Pattern Over The Years

CAT 2021 is all set to be conducted in different forms with fewer questions to reduce time pressure on candidates to complete the paper. CAT 2020 saw a major shift in exam patterns due to the COVID-19 epidemic. There were 76 questions in the CAT 2020 question paper, the test duration was 120 minutes. The same follows for CAT 2021 test pattern. Below is a table indicating changes in the CAT exam pattern over the years.

The test structure of the CAT exam saw the biggest change in the duration and number of questions in 2013-2014. The CAT 2013 paper had 60 questions, the duration was 140 minutes, in the CAT 2014 paper, the number of questions was increased to 100 and the duration to 170 minutes.

See the table below:

YearNumber of QuestionsTime DurationCAT Sections
202176120 MinutesQA, DILR, VARC
202076120 MinutesQA, DILR, VARC
202076120 MinutesQA, DILR, VARC
2019100180 MinutesQA, DILR, VARC
2018100180 MinutesQA, DILR, VARC
2017100180 MinutesQA, DILR, VARC
2016100180 MinutesQA, DILR, VARC
2015100180 MinutesQA, DILR, VARC
2014100180 MinutesQA & DI, LR & VARC
201360140 MinutesQA & DI, LR & VARC
201260140 MinutesQA & DI, LR & VARC
201160140 MinutesQA & DI, LR & VARC
201060140 MinutesQA, DILR, VARC

CAT Exam Analysis of Previous Years

The CAT 2020 paper was moderate overall in terms of difficulty, but the VARC section was difficult in all three shifts. The DILR and QA sections were easier compared to VARC.

SectionsNumber of MCQsNumber of Non-MCQs

Also Read: CAT Exam Analysis

CAT Exam Syllabus 2021

The Indian Institute of Management (IIM) which conducts the exam, did not announce the CAT exam syllabus 2021. However, based on last year’s CAT question papers, candidates can check the topics on which the questions are asked.

Section-Wise CAT Syllabus 2021



Verbal and Reading Comprehension (VARC)

  • Verbal Ability

  • English Usage or Grammar

  • Close Passage

  • Synonyms Antonyms

  • Facts-inferences-judgments

  • Jumbled Paragraph

  • Reading Comprehension

  • Verbal Reasoning

Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)

  • Caselets

  • Blood Relations

  • Calendars

  • Bar Graphs

  • Column Graphs

  • Tables

  • Cubes

  • Clocks

  • Binary Logic

  • Line Charts

  • Combination of two or more types linked to each other

  • Syllogism

  • Venn Diagrams

  • Pie Chart

  • Number and Letter Series

  • Seating Arrangement

Quantitative Aptitude (QA)

  • Algebra

  • Higher Maths

  • Geometry

  • Trigonometry

  • Mensuration

  • Arithmetic

CAT Mock Test 2021

The candidates who are all going to appear in the CAT 2021, can take the official CAT Mock Test 2021. IIM Ahmedabad will release the CAT 2021 mock test tentatively in the third week of October. It will help to face the main CAT exam without any fear and also help to attend to the questions within the given time. By appearing in the mock test, the aspirants can get an idea of how to move between different sections. Before appearing in the CAT 2021 mock test, students must know the CAT exam pattern 2021 and they must also go through the CAT exam sample papers.

Also Read:

  • How to Score 100 Percentile in CAT 2021?
  • One Year Study Plan for CAT 2021

How has the CAT Exam pattern evolved over the years?

Every year, the CAT exam pattern has been changed. By referring to the below table the candidates will be able to know a clear idea about how the exam pattern of CAT evolved over the year.

The CAT contains three sections such as,

  • Verbal and Reading Comprehension (VARC)

  • Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)

  • Quantitative Aptitude (QA)

There is no difference in the sections for each year. Also, there is no difference in the CAT exam pattern marking scheme.


Number of Question

Difficulty Level


Conducting body



Moderate to High (Expected)

2 hours

IIM Ahmedabad



Moderate to High

2 hours

IIM Indore



Moderate to High

3 hours

IIM Kozhikode



Moderate to High

3 hours

IIM Kolkata




3 hours

IIM Lucknow



Moderate to difficult

3 hours

IIM Bangalore



Moderate to difficult

3 hours

IIM Ahmedabad



Moderate to Easy

2.50 hours

IIM Indore



Moderate to Easy

2:20 hours

IIM Indore



Moderate to Easy

2.20 hours

IIM Indore




2.20 hours

IIM Calcutta

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