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

CAT Syllabus has been consistently the same since the last 10 years with a little variation in the type of questions and the number of questions from various topics. Therefore, it is expected to remain unchanged for CAT 2020 as well. However, if any changes are made in the CAT 2020 syllabus, they will be highlighted in the official notification which will be out by the last week of July, 2020.

Although the syllabus for CAT is vast, most of its Maths and English based questions are based on the middle school level (Class 9 and 10) curriculum. CAT is an annual, computer-based test conducted by IIM, which acts as a gateway for more than 100 B-schools in India, including all the IIMs. It is conducted in more than 156 cities across the country. 

Given the vast syllabus and stiff competition, CAT requires dedicated preparation. The exam is divided into three sections – Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC); Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DI & LR); and Quantitative Ability (QA). Each section is 60 minutes long and candidates cannot switch between the sections during the exam. The number of questions in each section varies between 32-34, but the total number of questions including all sections is 100. 

Get latest exam updates

CAT Syllabus – Sections

Sections Number of Questions Time Allotted
Quantitative Ability 32-34 60 Minutes
Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension 32-34 60 Minutes
Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning 30-32 60 Minutes
Total 100 180 Minutes

CAT Syllabus – Marking Scheme

The CAT marking scheme includes negative marks for wrong answers. Hence, candidates need to be very careful in answering questions. The final score is awarded out of 300. The CAT marking scheme for 2020 is expected to be same as CAT 2019 which was:

  • 3 marks will be awarded for each correct answer.
  • 1 mark will be deducted for each wrong answer (except in non MCQs).
  • If the candidate does not attempt a question, no marks will be awarded or deducted.

CAT Syllabus – Important Topics

The three sections of CAT contain many topics and subtopics which appear in the exam year after year. Some of these topics hold more weightage than others whereas some are easier to attempt. Here, we will understand about each section and what topics frequently appear in them.

1. Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VA-RC)  

CAT 2020 Syllabus for VA-RC covers a number of topics which test a candidate’s language and comprehension skills. A brief about the CAT 2019 syllabus for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension passages are given below: 

Verbal Ability: Key points

  • Number of questions asked range from 6-11.
  • The type of questions are all non-MCQs, which means the candidates have to type in the answer (TITA).
  • There is no negative marking in VA since the questions are the non-MCQ type.

Reading Comprehension (RC): Key points

  • Reading Comprehension (RC) includes true/false type questions based on the passage, author’s point of view on the issues raised in the passage, inference from the passage, the central idea of the passage and its purpose.  
  • Number of questions asked range from 24 to 28. Generally, 70% of VA-RC questions are from Reading Comprehension. 
  • The type of questions are all MCQs, hence there is negative marking of -1.
  • This section contains 3-4 long passages and 2-3 short passages.
  • Long passages are of 900 words and short passages are of 600 words (approx).
  • Topics of these passages range from science, history, politics, environment, society, literature, mythology and abstract topics.

Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VA-RC) – Important topics

  1. Verbal Reasoning
  2. Grammar
  3. Fill in the blanks
  4. Jumbled paragraphs
  5. Unseen Passages
  6. Para Completion and inference
  7. Contextual usage
  8. Foreign language words used in English
  9. Reading Comprehension
  10. Analogies
  11. Sentence correction
  12. Sentence completion
  13. Verbal Logic
  14. Different usage of the same word
  15. Reading Comprehension
  16. Syllogisms
  17. Idioms
  18. Para jumbles
  19. Antonyms
  20. One-word substitution
  21. Verbal Logic

2. Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DI & LR)

DI-LR is the second section of the CAT question paper and is to be solved after the completion of the VA – RC. The sectional time limit for DI – LR is 60 minutes.

Buddy4Study - IDFC FIRST

Some key points in this section are:

  • This section is expected to have 32 questions. 16 questions from DI and 16 questions from LR. 
  • Questions from Data Interpretation(DI) will focus on a candidate’s ability to derive conclusions from a given set of data.
  • Logical Reasoning (LR) section tests a candidate’s logical thinking and its application to everyday problems.
  • LR questions can be individual or be in a set of 4 or more questions.
  • DI – LR section is expected to have 24 MCQs and 8 non-MCQs. 
  • There is negative marking for MCQs as well as non-MCQs.

Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning – Important topics

  1. Blood Relations
  2. Series
  3. Proposition
  4. Direction Sense
  5. Coding-Decoding
  6. Assumptions
  7. Puzzles
  8. Clocks and Calendars
  9. Statements
  10. Data Arrangement
  11. Family Tree
  12. Binary Logic
  13. Seating Arrangement
  14. Sets & Caselets
  15. Syllogism
  16. Venn Diagram
  17. Data Structures
  18. Tables & Pie Charts
  19. Data Sufficiency
  20. Bars & Line Graphs

3. Quantitative Aptitude (QA)

This section is expected to be easier on difficulty levels for CAT 2020 as IIMs are trying to get more non-engineering students for better diversity. QA focuses on numerical problems and will test a candidate’s mathematical knowledge, speed, accuracy, and precision.

Some key points of this section are:

  • Questions are mostly based on topics from the Mathematics syllabus up to class 10.
  • This section is expected to have 27 MCQs and 7 Non-MCQs. 
  • Number of questions asked in this section is 34.
  • There is negative marking for MCQs.

Quantitative Aptitude – Important topics

  1. Geometry
  2. Trigonometry
  3. Algebra
  4. Mensuration
  5. Partnership (Accounts)
  6. Profit & Loss
  7. Ratios and Proportion
  8. Inequalities Quadratic and linear equations
  9. Surds and Indices
  10. Time-Speed-Distance
  11. Number System
  12. Geometric Progression
  13. Inequalities
  14. Work and Time
  15. Percentages
  16. Logarithms

CAT Syllabus – Summary

  1. There are a total of 100 questions asked in CAT.
  2. The exam is divided into three sections, namely Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC); Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DI & LR); and Quantitative Ability (QA).
  3. Each section is 60 minutes long, making the total duration of the exam to be 180 minutes.
  4. The number of questions from each section varies from 32-34.
  5. Most of the questions in CAT are MCQ type questions. For non-MCQ type questions, a direct answer has to be typed on the screen.
  6. Reading Comprehension takes 70% weightage in the VA-RC section with 24 questions in 5-6 sets. 
  7. Close to 20 questions from Data Interpretation and 12 questions on Logical Reasoning are expected in CAT 2020. However, this number can change.
  8. More than 25 non-MCQ questions can be expected in CAT 2020.

Stay updated with latest exam alerts

CAT Syllabus – All Topics  

Quantitative Aptitude Syllabus Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning Syllabus Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension Syllabus
Number Systems Tables English Usage or Grammar
Profit, Loss and Discount Caselets Vocabulary Based (Synonyms/ Antonyms)
LCM and HCF Bar Graphs Fill in the blanks
Speed, Time and Distance Line Charts Sentence Correction
Percentages Column Graphs Cloze Passage
Time and Work Venn Diagrams Jumbled Paragraph
Ratio and Proportion Pie Chart Meaning-Usage Match
Averages Other Basic Reasoning Questions Analogies or Reverse Analogies
Quadratic Equations & Linear Equations Calendars Summary Questions
Complex Numbers Number and Letter Series Verbal Reasoning
Simple and Compound Interest Clocks Facts-Inferences-Judgments
Logarithm Venn Diagrams Reading Comprehension
Sequences and Series Cubes
Inequalities Seating Arrangement
Probability Binary Logic
Surds and Indices Logical Matching
Set Theory & Function Logical Sequence
Permutation and Combination Syllogism
Mixtures and Alligations Logical Connectives
Trigonometry Blood Relations
Coordinate Geometry

CAT Syllabus – Preparation Books for CAT 2020

Sections Suggested Books for Preparation Author/s
Quantitative Aptitude How to Prepare for Quantitative Aptitude for the CAT Arun Sharma
Quantitative Aptitude Quantum CAT Common Admission Tests for Admission into IIMs Sarvesh K. Verma
Quantitative Aptitude for the CAT Nishit K. Sinha
Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning CAT 2020 Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning Gautam Puri
Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation for the CAT Nishit K. Sinha
Data Interpretation & Data Sufficiency Ananta Ashisha
How to Prepare for Data Interpretation for CAT Arun Sharma
Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension How to Prepare for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for CAT Arun Sharma and Meenakshi Upadhyay/Arihant
30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary Mass Market Paperback Wilfred Funk & Norman Lewis/ Simon & Schuster
How to Prepare for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for the CAT Sharma and Upadhyay
PSC for VA for CAT Nishit Sinha

CAT Syllabus – FAQs

Q. What are the subjects in the CAT exam?

The syllabus of CAT 2020 examination includes three sections – Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension, Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning, and Quantitative Aptitude. Each section has many sub-topics. Read this article to have a better understanding.

Q. Is the CAT exam tough?

CAT tests a number of things in a candidate. It tests knowledge, comprehension & verbal skills, data interpretation skills, pressure handling skills, time management and much more. Other than this, it also covers a vast syllabus. The competition level of the exam is also high with more than 2.44 lakhs applicants in CAT 2019. All of these factors combined make CAT a tough exam. However, a dedicated and planned preparation can help any candidate get a good percentile in the CAT exam.

Q. Is a calculator allowed in CAT?

Yes, calculators are allowed during the CAT exam. All the applicants will be provided with an on-screen calculator during the test. Personal calculators are not allowed.

Q. Are General Knowledge (GK) questions asked in CAT?

CAT does not ask General Knowledge questions. All the questions are from three sections namely Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension, Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning, and Quantitative Aptitude.

Q. Does the CAT syllabus and pattern change every year?

The IIMs do announce a test pattern along with CAT notification. Over the last 10 years, the variation in the number of questions from each section has been observed. However, the syllabus has remained almost unchanged.

Q. Who prescribes the CAT syllabus?

The CAT syllabus is prescribed by the IIM admission body which comprises representatives from all Indian Institutes of Management.

Q. What is the marking scheme in the CAT exam?

The total marks of the CAT exam is 300. Each question carries 3 marks which are awarded for the right answer. For each wrong answer in MCQ, 1 mark is deducted. Negative marks are not awarded in non-multiple-choice questions. Further, unattempted questions do not lead to any negative marking.

follow us for social updates


  1. Source of Information: Buddy4Study app compiles details on scholarships/fellowships from government websites and private scholarship sources. Links to the official sources accompany each listing detail pages.
  2. Non-affiliation: The Buddy4Study app is not associated with any government entity in India or elsewhere. When featuring government scholarships, we rely on publicly accessible information from central and state government websites in India.