Does CAT have a Pattern?

Trying to predict the CAT

One of the first thing that strikes someone preparing for the CAT is which IIM will conduct the test and how difficult will it be? 

In this article, I have listed down the pattern for the past few CATs and tried to see whether we can predict what the next CAT, i.e. CAT 2023 would be like (Unless some major changes happen, the results would also be valid for CAT 2024 and beyond). 

Which IIM next? What will be the difficulty? 

The table below shows the IIMs that have conducted the CAT over the past few years and the difficulty levels of individual sections. Note the color coding: Red means difficult, yellow-orange means moderate and green means easy. (Note: when I say easy, its not that anyone can just walk into the test and solve all the questions in 30 mins!)

As you can clearly see: 

  1. Which IIM conducts the test
    • Ahmedabad 2015
    • Bangalore 2016
    • Lucknow 2017
    • Calcutta 2018
    • Kozhikode 2019
    • Indore 2020
    • Ahmedabad 2021 (pattern repeats)
    • Bangalore 2022

So there is a very high probability that Lucknow will conduct CAT 2023. 

2. The difficulty of the test 

We cannot predict much here. The 2015 and 2021 CATs, both conducted by IIMA have almost completely different patterns. In 2015, it was an easy VA with moderate-difficult LRDI and QA; whereas in 2021, it was moderate-difficult VA and LRDI with an easier QA – only one thing is constant, that LRDI is tough. A similar observation can be made for 2016 and 2022 CATs, both conducted by IIMB. 

In fact, if you look at the LRDI section across the years, barring 2019, its always moderate-difficult or hard. So 2023 should not be an exception either, at least, not so soon. The VA and QA sections have more or less equal representation of easy, moderate and hard levels. 

Another point worth noting is that, barring slight variations, the difficulty levels across the slots in a particular year have largely been similar. 

Conclusion – There is no relation between the level of difficulty of the CAT and the IIM that conducts the CAT

Which topics are important?

Let us talk about the sections separately. 

Logical Reasoning & Data Interpretation:

For LRDI, there cannot be a topic list, simply for the fact that LR tests your logic and DI tests your data interpretation skills. So the type of set provided can actually be anything under the sun. There are hardly questions which we typically identify as LR – such as seating arrangements, puzzles, etc. Over the past few years, the overwhelming nature of questions are where you need to use logic and data both. 

There are questions where you need to observe data and figure out the relationship between those, where you need to study a partially-filled table and supply the missing numbers according to inferences made from given information, etc.

Verbal Ability:

The following table will make the pattern very clear: 



Approximately 70% of the Verbal section is all about Reading comprehension. Build your expertise in that section, starting now! If you can manage 70% accuracy in reading comprehension, that means you have got around 45-50% of the questions in the section correct (its now a matter of getting a few of the other non-RC questions correct). Remember that RC will will help you achieve that sectional percentile needed for the IIM call! 

Quantitative Ability:

Let us focus on the table below: 



More than 80% of all questions are from Arithmetic, Algebra and Geometry

Around 86% of all quantitative questions are from these three topics, in the order – Arithmetic > Algebra > Geometry (it is no longer that the most questions are from number properties, which used to be the case once).

Focus on

  • Arithmetic
    • Percentages (important) 
    • Profit & loss
    • Interest 
    • Ratios (important)
    • Averages (very important)
    • Mixtures  
    • Time work and distance
  • Algebra
    • Linear & quadratic equations
    • Functions (important)
    • Series
    • Exponents 
    • Logarithms (very important)
  • Geometry
    • Triangles (important)
    • Polygons
    • Circles (important)
    • Solids
    • Coordinates

If you can manage 80% accuracy here (its easy to do, if you practice well enough), it would mean you have got 60% of the questions in the QA section correct – enough to get you around 99 percentile. I am definitely NOT telling you to ignore the other topics. If you need that 99.9+ percentile, you must focus on those too. 

Hope you have now got a good idea about how to plan your CAT preparation. 

Have questions? Call us for a free consultation regarding your career moves – be it MBA in India (CAT) or study abroad programs through GMAT or GRE. Call us: +91 9433063089

Similar Posts