CAT Exam Eligibility – Academic Qualification, Work Experience, Reservations

Common Aptitude Test or CAT is one of the most sought-after entrance exams for MBA/PGDM courses and is considered by more than 100 B-schools across the country. It is conducted by one of the top Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) every year. This year,  Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad will conduct the CAT 2021. 

While the exam is open for graduate students from all backgrounds and has no age limit, it is important to note that every participating B-school also holds its own eligibility criteria parallel to the one of CAT. Hence, the applicants must meet the independent criteria of colleges also, in order to secure an admission.

All the criteria, timeline, guidelines and other details are announced by IIM through an official notification which is released in the last week of July every year through its official website. The official notification stating the eligibility criteria for CAT 2021 is out, which students can check here. It is not difficult to have an idea about most of its rules, owing to the fact that they have remained unchanged over the years. In other words, on the basis of previous year’s guidelines for CAT eligibility, we can have a strong understanding of what to expect in terms of CAT eligibility for 2021. Before diving deep, here is the overview of the exam eligibility.

Eligibility for CAT Exam

Important Updates

  1. Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad has notified on its official website that the CAT 2021 will be conducted on 28th November 2021. The governing body of the exam will conduct the CAT 2021 in CBT mode.
  2. CAT 2021 registrations has commenced from today, 4th August 2021 whereas deadline for filling the registration form is 15th September 2021.

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CAT Exam Eligibility – Overview

Age Limit For CATNone
Educational EligibilityGraduate 
Work ExperienceNone
Minimum Marks in Graduation50% (45% for Reserved Category)
ReservationAs per Category

CAT Exam Eligibility – Key Points

1. There is no age limit in CAT.

2. The degree requirements for CAT are as follows –

a) 3 years bachelor’s degree with 50% of marks (45% for SC/ST/OBC), or

b) Professional degree (CA/CS/ICWA) with 50% of marks (45% for SC/ST/OBC), or

c) Final year bachelor’s students are allowed to sit for the CAT exam on a condition that they will clear their Bachelor’s with the required percentage (45% or 50%)

3. Conversion of marks from CGPA/Grades to percentage will be done according to the norms of the degree-granting University/Institution.

4. Fulfilment of minimum eligibility criteria does not guarantee selection.

5. Candidates must maintain a valid email account and a contact number for official communication, throughout the selection and admission process.

CAT Exam Eligibility – Academic Qualification

Academic qualification is the only prominent qualification an applicant needs to meet in order to apply for CAT. The academic qualification for CAT is as follows:

1. Bachelor’s Degree – Applicants must hold a Bachelor’s Degree from a recognized or statutory institute/college as incorporated by the Act of Parliament or State legislature of India or declared as a deemed University under Section 3 of the UGC Act, 1956, or an equivalent qualification recognised by the Ministry of HRD, Government of India. Candidates with professional degrees (CS/CA/ICWA) with a required percentage are also eligible.

2. Minimum Marks in Graduation – Students belonging to general, EWS and NC-OBC categories must secure an aggregate of at least 50% marks or equivalent CGPA. However, applicants who belong to the reserved category [Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Persons with Disability (PwD)], must have an aggregate of at least 45% or equivalent CGPA.

3. Final Year Graduation Students – Candidates awaiting their final year graduation results can also appear for the CAT exam. However, their admission will be provisional. Such students, if selected, must submit a certificate from the registrar/principal of their institute/university stating the fulfilment of all requirements necessary for obtaining the bachelor’s degree or equivalent qualification.

Here is a tabular representation of CAT eligibility criteria that the different kinds of candidates have to fulfill:

QualificationUniversityPass Percentage
Engineering Degree – B. Tech/ B.E.Recognized by MHRD/ UPSC/AICTE50% (45% for SC, ST, PWD candidates)
Bachelor’s Degree from any UniversityRecognized by UGC50% (45% for SC, ST, PWD candidates)
Students who are pursuing the final year of their Bachelor’s degree Continuing graduation from University Recognized by MHRD/ UPSC/AICTE or UGC50% (45% for SC, ST, PWD candidates)

CAT Exam Eligibility – Converting CGPA/Grades to Percentage of Marks

Many universities/institutions measure results in Grades or CGPA. In order to maintain uniformity, IIM converts them into percentage as per the following norms:

1. There are times when the candidates just provide their CGPA, and no percentage of marks is mentioned on their mark sheet. In such cases, the conversion to percentage of marks is based on the procedure laid by the respective university/institution.

2. If a certain university/institution does not have a procedure to convert CGPA into percentage of marks, the equivalence would be established by dividing the candidate’s CGPA by the maximum possible CGPA, and multiplying the result with 100.

Read More: CAT Syllabus – Sections-wise Topics, Marking Scheme, Preparation Books

CAT Exam Eligibility – Degrees Accepted

CAT eligibility states that all applicants with a graduation degree from a recognised institute/university/college are eligible for CAT. Additionally, there are certain degrees that stand equivalent to bachelor’s degrees. As a result, candidates who possess or are pursuing such degrees are also eligible to appear for the CAT 2021 examination. Qualifications valid for CAT eligibility are listed below:

1. 3-years bachelor’s degree from a university/institution/college recognised by University Grants Commission/Association of Indian Universities, New Delhi.

2. Bachelor’s degree in Engineering or Technology with a duration of 4-years after 10+2 or post-B.Sc. or post-diploma.

3. A degree equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in Engineering and Technology of Professional Societies recognized by MHRD/UPSC/AICTE such as AMIE by Institution of Engineers, India or AMICE by Institute of Civil Engineers of India.

4. Candidates with a CA/CS/ICWA degree (Gen: 50% & SC/ST/ PWD: 45%) can also apply.

5. A candidate with any other qualification not listed here can also apply but must produce an equivalency certificate issued by the Association of Indian Universities, New Delhi.

6. Candidates who hold a 2-year graduation degree which is recognised by University Grants Commission (UGC) are also eligible for CAT. However, these candidates are not eligible for admissions in any of the IIMs. 

Note: A recognized university is one that is constituted by an Act of the Central or State Legislature. It includes any university or institute which is established by an act of Parliament or is declared as a deemed University under Section 3 of the UGC Act of 1956.

CAT Exam Eligibility – For Final Year Students

Candidates who are studying in their final year of graduation or are awaiting their graduation results usually don’t have clarity about their eligibility for CAT. Here are a few facts on CAT eligibility for the final year students:

1. The eligibility criteria for CAT is a graduation degree.

2. However, candidates will only be admitted into a management course after securing an aggregate of at least 50% marks (45% for the reserved categories) in their final graduation result. In case they fail to do so, their admission will be considered null and void.

3. Selected final year candidates will be permitted to join an MBA/PGDM program provisionally only on the following grounds-

a). Applicants must submit a certificate stating that they have completed all the requirements (the results may, however, be awaited) for obtaining the bachelor’s degree/equivalent qualification with the date of the issue mentioned on the certificate.

b). The admission will be confirmed only after the submission of the original transcript of the mark sheet and degree certificate, issued by the Principal/Registrar of their college/institute.

c). Applicants must obtain at least 50% marks or equivalent in their final result (45% for SC, ST, PWD candidates). Candidates must submit a photocopy of the mark sheets and the degree certificate.

Note: 

1. Non-fulfilment of any of the mentioned conditions would result in the cancellation of the provisional admission.

2. IIMs will not permit any candidate to join the program in case of failure in completion of the requirements for a bachelor degree.

CAT Eligibility vs IIM Eligibility

After scoring the minimum cut-off marks in CAT, candidates also need to fulfil the eligibility criteria of the colleges they want to join. Incase of IIMs, the eligibility criteria isn’t much different than CAT. There is no age limit eligibility norms enforced by the IIMs or CAT. 

However, the 2-year bachelor’s degree recognised by the UGC is acceptable for CAT, but not recognized by the IIMs (where only 3 years degrees are accepted along with other equivalent degrees). Besides, work experience is greatly favoured in IIMs along with a variety of academic and co-curricular activities. This is not compulsory for CAT.

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CAT Exam Eligibility – Who isn’t Eligible?

The following candidates are not eligible for CAT 2021:

1. If the score of the candidate is less than 50% in graduation (45% for SC/ST/PwD candidates), he or she is not eligible to apply for CAT.

2. The candidates pursuing their bachelor’s degree as well as a professional degree, but are yet to complete both of them, are not eligible.

3. The candidates whose graduation degrees are not recognized by the UGC/AICTE/MHRD are not eligible as well.

CAT Exam Eligibility – Work Experience Requirement

CAT eligibility criteria does not mandate work experience as a must-have for the applicants. However, many of the leading MBA colleges, including IIMs give preference to candidates with suitable and demonstrated work experience. For those who want to study in these institutions, it is important for them to have an understanding of the following:

1. Although the CAT application form does have a work experience column, it is not compulsory for candidates to hold any prior work experience.

2. It must be noted that at the time of the final selection, work experience may be given weightage by the IIMs. However, the weightage is never revealed and it varies from one IIM to another.

3. The work experience does not matter much until the last stage of final selection, and even then, it does not play as a deciding factor.

4. IIMs are well-known to have a mixed batch including both fresh graduates and candidates with work experience.

CAT Reservation Criteria 2021

Majority of the students who are appearing for CAT aim to secure a seat in one of the IIMs simply because they are the most prestigious colleges in India offering management courses. All the IIMs are governed by the Government of India, and hence follow the reservation policies set by it for underprivileged categories. The reservations are made for marginalised sections of society and persons with disabilities defined by the Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPwD Act 2016). To avail the reservation, candidates need to submit the proof in the form of the certificate while submitting the application form. Candidates will have to submit the original certificates at the time of admission. 

Percentage of reserved seats at IIMs for different categories:

CategoryPercentage of Seats
Scheduled Caste15
Scheduled Tribe7.5
Other Backward Classes (Non-Creamy)27
Person with Disability5

Different Types of Reservations at IIMs 

1. IIMs follow the reservation guidelines by the central government for admission to MBA programs.

2. Accordingly, the reservation guidelines are also applicable to CAT 2021.

3. IIMs offer two types of reservations – Caste-based reservation and reservation for differently-abled individuals.

4. Candidates who belong to the SC or ST categories must hold an aggregate of at least 45% in their bachelor’s degree program.

5. Candidates who belong to the NC-OBC category must hold an aggregate of at least 50% in their Bachelor’s degree program.

Note – IIMs also introduced a 10% reservation for candidates from Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) but has halted it for the 2019-2021 academic years due to infrastructure restrictions. (Candidates who are not covered under the SCs, STs, and OBCs schemes and have a gross annual income below INR 8 lakh are identified as EWS).

Required Documents for Caste – Based Reservation

1. Candidates applying under the caste-based reservation must upload their SC/ST/NC-OBC certificate while filling the online application form.

2. Candidates must produce the original certificate at the time of interview and admission.

3. The format for caste certificate is available on the CAT official website.

4. Reservation under EWS will only be considered upon production of an income and asset certificate issued by a valid authority.

CAT Exam Eligibility – Reservation Policy for Differently-Abled Candidates

Guidelines for CAT define separate reservation policy for differently-abled candidates. A person with benchmark disability, as specified in the Schedule of the RPwD Act 2016 of the constitution, will be identified as a person with a disability and will be entitled to the reservation. The criteria for differently-abled candidates are mentioned below:

1. Hearing Impairment

2. Low Vision Blindness

3. Locomotor Disability/Cerebral Palsy

This reservation is, however, applicable only for those select candidates who suffer from the mentioned disabilities at least to an extent of about 40% or more. These candidates must hold a medical certificate stating the same, issued by an authorized medical authority.

CAT  Exam Eligibility – Reservation Norms for Differently-Abled Candidates 

IIMs provide the following benefits to the candidates reserved in PwD category:

1. Reservation of about 3% seats for differently-abled candidates in IIMs.

2. Persons with Disability need 45% marks in their qualifying exam (instead of 50% marks for general category).

3. Blind candidates or those affected with a locomotor disability, will be provided with a wheelchair at the examination centre.

4. Differently abled candidates in the low vision category are allowed to bring a scribe with them. There are no set eligibility criteria for scribes.

CAT Exam Eligibility – Essential Certificates for PwD

Candidates applying under the differently-abled category are required to upload a PwD/DA certificate at the time of application. They must produce an original certificate at the time of interview as per the cited format.

CAT Exam Eligibility – Documents Required by Special Categories at the time of Application

CategoryRequired Certificate
NC-OBCNC-OBC Certificate
Scheduled Castes /Scheduled TribesSC-ST Certificate
Persons with DisabilityDA/PwD Certificate
Final year studentsFormat for Final Year Certificate
NRIsFormat for Candidate Identification Affidavit

CAT  Exam Eligibility – FAQs

✔️ Who is eligible for the CAT exam?

According to CAT eligibility guidelines, candidates with a bachelor's degree or an equivalent degree from recognised institutions with minimum 50% marks (45% for reserved categories) are eligible to appear in CAT. Read this article for more details.

✔️ Can I give CAT after class 12?

No, class 12 passed students are not eligible to sit for the CAT exam. Candidates need to have at least a bachelor's degree or equivalent, in order to be eligible for CAT.

✔️ Is the CAT exam easy?

CAT is one of the most prestigious exams in the country for management courses. Lakhs of students sit for the exam in order to gain admission in some of the best management colleges in the country. As a result, the best-of-the-best apply for this exam and raise the level of competition. It is advised to prepare thoroughly for the exam with a lot of time in hand.

✔️ Is CAT more difficult than UPSC?

One cannot say that CAT is more difficult than UPSC exams. First of all, the number of applicants sitting for UPSC is roughly four times than that of CAT. Besides, UPSC offers fewer seats at the top spot, raising the competition many folds. Secondly, CAT preparation does not require as much in-depth knowledge as required in exams like UPSC or JEE. Therefore, the syllabus of CAT is much less complicated in comparison.

✔️ Is there any age criteria to apply for CAT?

No, there is no age limit criteria to apply for CAT.

✔️ Can I apply for CAT if I have a retest/compartment in my Bachelor's degree?

Yes, candidates can apply for CAT despite having a backlog in their bachelor’s degree (or even if the result is awaited). However, such candidates will have to fulfil all the criteria at the time of admission.

✔️ As per CAT eligibility 2021, who isn't eligible to sit for the CAT exam?

The following candidates are not eligible for CAT 2021:

1. If the score of the candidate is less than 50% in graduation (45% for SC/ST/PwD candidates), he or she is not eligible to apply for CAT.

2. The candidates pursuing their bachelor's degree as well as a professional degree but are yet to complete both of them.

3. The candidate whose graduation degree is not recognized by the UGC/AICTE/MHRD.