CAT 2021 Paper Analysis - Know Question Pattern and Difficulty Level

CAT 2021 is over and it came with a couple of surprises. As IIM Ahmedabad said, they were attempting to reduce the number of questions in CAT 2021, the total number of questions came down to 66.

As always, our BYJU’S experts predicted the number of questions for each section. The total number of questions in CAT 2021 came down to 66 spread across three sections namely Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension, Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning & Quantitative Aptitude with 24, 20 and 22 questions for each section respectively.

CAT 2021 Slot 1 Paper was Easy to Moderate in terms of difficulty level with DILR section being the toughest among the three sections.

An overall raw score of around 99-104 should fetch a 99%ile in CAT 2021.

CAT 2021 Exam Pattern breakup is mentioned below:

Section

Number of Questions

Number of Non-MCQ Ques.

Time (in minutes)

Difficulty Level

Expected Score for 99%ile

VARC

24

5

40

Easy – Moderate

42-43

DILR

20

5

40

DI – Easy – Moderate

25-28

LR – Moderate – Difficult

QA

22

8

40

Easy – Moderate

42-45

Total

48

18

120

Slightly easier than CAT 2020

99-104


The CAT 2021 Exam Slot 1 highlights are mentioned below:

  • Overall slightly easier than CAT 2020
  • VARC section has 16 Question in RC and 8 Questions in VA
  • DILR had 4 sets in total
  • In Quantitative Aptitude, Arithmetic and Algebra dominated the Quantitative Aptitude section with 16-17 Questions.
  • An overall score 99-104 should fetch a 99%ile


CAT 2021 Slot 1 Question Paper:
There were some key changes in the CAT 2021 Slot 1 question paper with regards to the question pattern and sectional composition. The CAT exam pattern had 66 total number of questions compared to the CAT 2020 Question Paper. This year, IIM Ahmedabad, which is conducting the CAT exam in 2021. Other details of the CAT 2021 Question Paper are as follows:

  • Test duration: 2 hrs
  • Total questions: 66

    In 2020, there were a total of 76 questions in the CAT exam. But, this year due to COVID-19 pandemic, as expected the number of questions were reduced to 66.
  • Total score: 198
  • Total questions in VARC Section: 24
  • Total Questions in DILR section: 20
  • Total Questions in QA section: 22

CAT 2021 Paper Analysis: Sectional Composition of 2 Hour Exam

Here is the breakdown of the order in which questions are asked in the two-hour CAT 2021 exam, the types of questions in each section, and the maximum marks available for each section.

The CAT 2021 is conducted by IIM Ahmedabad for two hours. As shown in the following table reflecting this year’s structure basis the CAT 2021 Slot 1 paper: Section-1 to Section-3 will be grouped as follows, MCQs and Non-MCQs in each section will be provided, and the maximum marks for each section will be given.

CAT 2021 Exam

Total Number of Questions

Total Number of MCQs (with negative marking)

Total Number of Non-MCQs (Without negative marking)

Key Points

Section-1: VARC- Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension

24

19

5

4 RC Passages comprising;

VA had 5 Non-MCQs (3 Para Jumbles & 2 Odd-sentence Jumbles)

Section-2: DILR- Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning

20

15

5

20 Questions with 1-2 sets doable and 2-3 sets difficult to solve

Section-3: QA- Quantitative Ability

22

14

8

High on Arithmetic & Algebra

Total

66

48

18

CAT 2021 Slot wise Timing Analysis


CAT Exam Slot – 1: Morning Session

As expected the CAT 2021 Slot 1 exam paper pattern is presented in a tabular form below:

Section

Number of Questions

Number of MCQ Ques.

Number of Non-MCQ Ques.

VARC

24

19

5

DILR

20

15

5

QA

22

14

8

Total

66

48

18

Some of the key features of the paper are mentioned below:

  • 66 total number of questions were asked in CAT 2021 Slot 1
  • VARC section was the easiest section in CAT 2021
  • 99%ile can be achieved on a score between 99-104

The CAT 2021 Slot 1 paper was conducted on the following timings:

CAT Exam SLOT-1 Time (Gen/OBC/SC/ST Candidates)

8.30 AM to 10.30 AM

CAT Exam SLOT-1 Reporting Time

7 AM

CAT Exam SLOT-1 Entry Closing Time

8:15 AM


CAT Exam SLOT-2: Afternoon Session

As expected the CAT 2021 Slot 2 exam paper pattern is presented in a tabular form below:

Section

Number of Questions

Number of MCQ Ques.

Number of Non-MCQ Ques.

VARC

24

19

5

DILR

20

15

5

QA

22

14

8

Total

66

48

18

Some of the key features of the paper are mentioned below:

  • 66 total number of questions were asked in CAT 2021 Slot 2
  • VARC section was the toughest section in CAT 2021 with lengthy passages
  • DILR & QA were similar to CAT 2021 Slot 1 in terms of level of difficulty
  • 99%ile can be achieved on a score between 95-100

The CAT 2021 Slot 2 paper was conducted on the following timings:

CAT Exam SLOT-2 Time (Gen/OBC/SC/ST Candidates)

12.30 PM to 2.30 PM

CAT Exam SLOT-2 Reporting Time

11 AM

CAT Exam SLOT-2 Entry Closing Time

12:15 PM

CAT Exam SLOT-3: Evening Session

As expected the CAT 2021 Slot 3 exam paper pattern is presented in a tabular form below:

Section

Number of Questions

Number of MCQ Ques.

Number of Non-MCQ Ques.

VARC

24

19

5

DILR

20

15

5

QA

22

14

8

Total

66

48

18

Some of the key features of the paper are mentioned below:

  • Time and Clock RC in VARC section was tricky to solve making VARC slightly moderate compared to Slot 2 in terms of difficulty level
  • DILR & QA were similar to CAT 2021 Slot 1 in terms of level of difficulty. Arithmetic and Algebra dominated the QA section
  • 99%ile can be achieved on a score between 95-100


The CAT 2021 Slot 3 paper was conducted on the following timings:

CAT Exam SLOT-3 Time (Gen/OBC/SC/ST Candidates)

4.30 PM to 6.30 PM

CAT Exam SLOT-3 Reporting Time

3 PM

CAT Exam SLOT-3 Entry Closing Time

3:15 PM

CAT Analysis for Previous Exams

Last Five Years CAT Exam Pattern:

In 2015, the CAT examination pattern was completely changed by IIM Ahmedabad. Major changes have continued since then till the last CAT exam. The 2020 CAT exam pattern was substantially changed by the IIM Indore with shorter test duration, shorter sectional time limits, additional time SLOTs, and fewer questions. Below are some of the changes that have been made to the CAT exam over the past 5 years:

  • Number of questions had reduced to 76 in 2020
  • CAT exam now has 3 sections instead of 2
  • CAT question paper has two types of questions: MCQs with negative marking and non-MCQs without negative marking
  • In CAT, there were 70-72% MCQ questions and 25-30% non-MCQ questions
  • Analysis of the CAT exam 2020 indicates that the difficulty level and type of questions has changed

CAT 2020 Exam Analysis of Last Year

The exam pattern for CAT 2020 has been substantially changed by CAT 2020 Center:

  • As opposed to 100 questions earlier, there were only 76 in the 2020 CAT exam
  • As with previous CAT exams, CAT 2020 was relatively difficult
  • The CAT 2020 examination period has been reduced to two hours from three hours previously
  • A total of 40 minutes was allotted to each section instead of the previous 60 minutes
  • MCQs carry a penalty of 1/3, whereas non-MCQs do not
  • Each MCQ type question has four possible answers
  • The answer was typed on the computer screen in the given space for non-MCQ questions
  • For each correct answer, 3 marks will be awarded
  • In case of incorrect answers to MCQs, a negative mark will be deducted: -1 point

CAT 2020 SLOT 1 Examination Analysis highlights the following:

  • A total of 120 minutes was allotted
  • 76 questions were asked
  • There were 17 non-MCQ questions
  • The following questions were asked in the Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC) section: 26
  • There were 24 questions in Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR)
  • There were 26 questions in Quantitative Ability (QA)
  • Difficulty level overall: The paper was lengthy and moderate in difficulty
  • The nature of the questions was similar to last year

Sectional Analysis of the CAT 2020 Exam: Highlights

In contrast to earlier CAT exams, this year’s official CAT mock test did not reveal the expected number of total questions or their division by sections. Details are as given below, in this article:

Section-1: CAT 2020 VARC Analysis

Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension was the first section in the CAT 2020 question paper. Key highlights of the section are:

  • The VARC section now has 26 questions rather than 34
  • There were 78 maximum marks in the section as opposed to 102 earlier
  • The number of MCQs were 18
  • The number of TITA questions (non-MCQs) were 5
  • The number of RC passages were 4
  • The number of RC questions were 18
  • In RC-based questions, you were asked to explain phrases, vocabulary and inferences contained in the passages, and to state the main idea
  • There were 8 VA questions
  • VA questions were non-MCQ in nature
  • Jumbled paragraphs, Out of context sentence in a Jumbled paragraph, Paragraph Summary of a paragraph
  • There was a high degree of difficulty in this task
  • Cut off for 99 percentile: 42 marks
Question Topics Number of Questions Type of Questions
Reading Comprehension 18 MCQ
RC-1: China’s complex financial system during Tang Dynasty (618-907) 4
RC- 2: Northern Elephant Seal Population 4
RC-3: Vocabulary used in Speech or Writing 5
RC-4: Anarchy free Greek 5
Verbal Ability 8 Non MCQ
Parajumbles ( 4 sentences) 3
Out of Context sentence 2
Para Summary 3

Section-2: CAT 2020 DILR Analysis

In CAT 2020, the second section was Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning. CAT 2020 DILR highlights are as follows:

  • There were 24 questions in the DILR section
  • The maximum marks for the section were 72 as opposed to 96 previously
  • There were 18 MCQs
  • The number of non-MCQ TITA questions were six
  • The number of DI questions decreased to 14 from 16 in CAT 2020
  • There were three different types of DI-based questions.
  • There were 4 or 6 questions in each DI problem set. The DI sets were based on comparison tables and data analysis, but there were no graphs and diagrams in the question papers
  • In CAT 2020, there were 10 LR questions, as opposed to 16 previously
  • Questions based on LR: All questions were based on two sets
  • Each LR problem set contains 6 and 4 questions
  • The level of difficulty was moderate to high
  • Cut-off for 99 Percentile: 38-44 marks
Question Topics Number of Questions Type of Questions
DI: 6 students appearing for exam in 5 subjects 6 4 MCQs + 2 TITA
LR: 4 companies competing for contracts 6 6 MCQ
DI: 1000 patients getting treated with 4 different drugs 4 4 TITA
LR: 10 Musicians expert in at least one of the 3 instruments 4 4 MCQ
DI: Payment to taxi drivers 4 4 MCQ

Section-3: CAT 2020 QA Analysis

In the question paper for CAT 2020, the last section was Quantitative Ability (QA). The highlights of the QA section for SLOT-1 were:

  • The QA section now has 26 questions instead of 34
  • The maximum marks for this section were 78, compared to 102 previously
  • There were 18 MCQs
  • The number of TITA questions (non-MCQs) was 6
  • The following questions were based on arithmetic
  • Maths based questions include percentages, ratios, interest, number systems, time and speed
  • Topics covered in other QA Questions include: Algebra, Geometry, Modern Math, Trigonometry
  • The difficulty level was moderate
  • Expected cut-off for 99 percentile: 42-48 marks
Type of Questions Number of Questions
Numbers 2
Arithmetic 10
Algebra 8
Geometry 3
Modern Maths 3

CAT 2020 SLOT 2 Examination Analysis highlights the following:

CAT 2020 SLOT-2 has a higher overall and sectional difficulty level than SLOT-1.

Sectional Analysis of the CAT 2020 Exam: Highlights

Here’s the sectional analysis for CAT 2020 SLOT-2:

Section-1: CAT 2020 VARC Analysis

Reading Comprehension and Verbal Ability comprised the first section of the CAT 2020 question paper. Here are its key features:

  • The VARC section had 26 questions as opposed to 34 last year
  • As compared to last year, there were 78 maximum marks for the section
  • The number of MCQs were 18
  • Non-MCQs accounted for 5 questions
  • The number of RC passages were 4
  • The number of RC questions were 18
  • Questions based on RC: MCQs asked to explain the phrases, vocabulary, inferences, and the main idea from the passage.
  • There were 8 VA questions.
  • VA questions were non-MCQ in nature
  • The following topics pertain to verbal questions: Para Summary, Jumbled Paragraphs, Out of Context Sentences in Jumbled Paragraphs
  • Level of difficulty: higher than SLOT-1
  • Cut-off for 99 Percentile: 38-44 marks

Section-2: CAT 2020 DILR Analysis

The second part of the CAT 2020 SLOT-2 question paper dealt with data interpretation and logical reasoning. SLOT-2’s section was more difficult and time-consuming than SLOT-1’s. The following are the key points, difficulty level and likely cut-off for DILR in CAT 2020 SLOT-2:

  • The DILR section contained 24 questions
  • As compared to last year, 72 maximum marks were awarded for the section
  • The number of MCQs were 18
  • TITA questions (other than MCQs) were 6
  • DI questions in CAT 2020 were 14 as opposed to 16 in CAT 2019
  • DI-based questions: All questions were based on sets.
  • DI Problem Sets: Each with six or four questions. These sets were compiled based on comparison tables.
  • In CAT 2020, there were 10 LR questions, compared to 16 last year
  • The LR-based questions were all set-based
  • An LR problem set consists of six and four questions.
  • DILR Difficulty in SLOT-2 was higher than in SLOT-1
  • Cut off for 99 Percentile: 28-33 marks

Section-3: CAT 2020 QA Analysis

CAT 2020 SLOT-2 question paper contains Quantitative Ability (QA). This section had more questions based on Arithmetic. Key highlights of the QA section in CAT 2020 SLOT-2 were:

  • In the QA section, there were 26 questions as opposed to 34 last year
  • As compared to last year, there were 78 maximum marks for the section
  • The number of MCQs were 18
  • The number of TITA questions (non-MCQs) were 6
  • The following questions were based on arithmetic
  • Arithmetic-based questions: Percentage, Ratio, Interest, Number System, Time, Speed
  • Topics covered in other QA Questions include: Algebra, Geometry, Modern Math, Trigonometry
  • A higher level of difficulty than SLOT-1
  • Expected cut-off for 99th percentile: 38-45 marks

Overall & Sectional Cut off for CAT Exam 2020 SLOT-2

Overall Good Attempts VA and RC Good Attempts DI and RL Good Attempts QA Good Attempts Raw Score Expected Percentile
52-55 17-21 13-17 16-19 115 99.5
47-52 16-19 12-15 14-17 105 99
42-45 13-17 9-14 11-15 93 97
31-35 11-15 6-10 10-14 74 95
22-30 9-13 5-9 7-11 50 90
15-22 7-11 4-8 5-8 40 80

CAT 2020 SLOT 3 Examination Analysis highlights the following:

For SLOT-3 of the CAT 2020 examination, the pattern and sectional composition was as follows. From Section-1 to Section-3, the total number of questions, type of questions, negative marking policies, and maximum marks for each section are as follows:

Sectional Analysis of the CAT 2020 Exam: Highlights

Overall and sectional difficulty level in CAT 2020 SLOT-3 was higher than SLOT-1 and SLOT-2. Details are given below:

Section-1: CAT 2020 VARC Analysis

Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)

The first section of the CAT 2020 SLOT-3 question paper was Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension. The section consisted of the following:

  • VARC had 26 Questions to last year’s 34
  • In the section, the maximum marks were 78 as compared to last year’s 102
  • The number of MCQs were 18
  • A total of 5 non-MCQs were answered
  • The number of RC passages were 4
  • The number of RC questions were 18
  • Questions based on RC: MCQs asking to explain the phrases, vocabulary, inferences, and the main idea from the passage.
  • The following VA questions were asked: 8
  • VA questions were non-MCQ in nature
  • Verbal Question Topics: Template, Jumbled paragraphs, Out of context sentence in jumbled paragraph
  • A higher level of difficulty than earlier SLOT
  • Expected cut off for 99 percentile: 35-40 marks

Section-2: CAT 2020 DILR Analysis

The second section of the CAT 2020 SLOT-3 question paper was Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning. Following are the highlights, difficulty level, and likely cut-off for DILR section in CAT 2020 SLOT-3:

  • There were 24 questions in the DILR section
  • For this section, the score total was 72 as opposed to 96 last year
  • There were 18 MCQs
  • 6 TITA questions were asked (non-MCQs)
  • DI questions in CAT 2020 were 14 as opposed to 16 in CAT 2019
  • DI-based questions: All questions were based on sets
  • DI Problem Set: Each followed by 6 or 4 questions. DI Sets were based on Comparison Tables, data analysis
  • CAT 2020 had 10 LR questions as opposed to 16 last year
  • All LR questions were based on sets
  • LR Problem Sets: Each with 6 and 4 questions
  • DILR Difficulty was higher for SLOT-3 than for SLOT-2 and SLOT-1
  • Cut off Expected for 99 Percentile: 24-26 marks

Section-3: CAT 2020 QA Analysis SLOT-3

The CAT 2020 SLOT-3 question paper includes the Quantitative Ability (QA). Among the highlights of the QA section in CAT 2020 SLOT-3 were:

  • In the QA section, there were 26 questions as opposed to 34 last year
  • As compared to last year, there were 78 maximum marks for the section
  • The number of MCQs was 18
  • The number of TITA questions (non-MCQs) was 6
  • Additional Arithmetic Questions
  • Arithmetic-based questions: Percentage, Ratio, Interest, Number System, Time, Speed
  • QA Question topics include Algebra, Geometry, Modern Math, and Trigonometry
  • A higher difficulty level than SLOT-2 and SLOT-1
  • Expected cut-off for 99 percentile: 38-42 marks

Overall & Sectional Cut off for CAT Exam 2020 SLOT-3

Overall Good Attempts VA and RC Good Attempts DI and RL Good Attempts QA Good Attempts Raw Score Expected Percentile
51-53 17-20 13-15 16-18 105 99.5
45-50 15-17 12-14 14-16 95 99
41-44 12-15 9-12 10-14 92 97
32-35 11-14 6-9 8-12 72 95
21-23 8-12 5-8 6-10 50 90
15-20 7-11 4-8 5-8 40 80

 

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