All about CAT: A to Z of the Common Admission Test (CAT)

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What is CAT?
Considered as the most popular MBA entrance exam, CAT is the national-level management entrance test conducted by Indian Institute of Management for admission into 20 IIMs and 100+ B-schools across India. Based on CAT scores, IIMs provide admission to almost 5000 candidates in various management programs. Around 2 lakh aspirants appear for CAT exam every year.
CAT offers a tough competition for admission to top B-schools accepting CAT scores. Over the years, the candidates applying for CAT have been increasing year after year.
What is the structure of CAT exam?
CAT is a computer-based test of three hours duration. The exam is divided into three sections:
  • Quantitative Aptitude
  • Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR)
  • Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC)
There are a total of 100 questions with minimum qualifying marks for each section. Apart from the sectional cut-offs, you are required to clear the overall cut off of the exam. There is no specific syllabus for CAT. The syllabus is predicted on the basis of previous years’ papers analysis and the topics covered. Since 2015, the pattern of the exam has remained same with 25 non-MCQs & 75 MCQs. MCQs carry a one-third negative marking per question and there is no negative marking for non-MCQs.
Generally, the CAT score is valid for one year except for the institutes offering deferred admission, taking into account the work experience of the candidate. The stated scores are a result of scaling and normalisation based on the performance of candidates appearing in multiple sessions. Most of the institutes base their cut offs on the basis of CAT percentiles.
When is the CAT exam conducted?
CAT is conducted in the month of November/December every year. The detailed notification is released around July/August on the official website ( You will get to know about the important dates, application fee, MBA/PGP programmes and other essential information from the notification.
This year, CAT will be conducted on the 25th of November.
CAT application form is to be submitted in an online mode only and you will have a time of around 40 days to apply for the exam. The exam is held at around 140 cities across the country. The admit card is issued about a month before the CAT exam date. You will be required to access it from the official site. Separate admit cards are issued for the designated slot-1 or slot-2 of the exam. You are allowed to appear in one slot only.
Who can appear for CAT exam?
There is no age bar to appear for CAT. Applicants are required to hold a Bachelor’s/ equivalent degree with at least 50% marks (for general category) and 45% (for reserved category). The final year students can also appear for the exam.
Which colleges/institutes accept CAT scores?
In 2017, 115 B-schools accepted CAT scores, out of which 114 are in India and one is in Singapore. More than 100 B-schools in India and abroad are expected to register as CAT participating Institutes in the coming years. Apart from 20 IIMs, CAT participating Institutes include other public and private Institutes. Some of the top B-schools accepting CAT scores are:
  • Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad
  • Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore
  • Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta
  • Indian Institute Of Management, Lucknow
  • S. P. Jain Institute of Management & Research (SPJIMR) Mumbai
  • Management Development Institute (MDI) Gurgaon
  • Indian Institute Of Management (IIM) Kozhikode
  • Indian Institute of management (IIM) Indore
  • International management Institute (IMI) New Delhi
  • Faculty of management studies (FMS) New Delhi
  • Institute Of Management Technology (IMT) Ghaziabad
  • National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE) Mumbai
  • Indian Institute of management (IIM) Trichy
  • Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of management (IIM) Shillong
  • Xavier Institute of management (XIM) Bhubaneswar
  • Indian Institute of management (IIM) Kashipur
  • Department of management studies (IIT Delhi) New Delhi
  • Sydenham Institute of management studies and Research and entrepreneurship education (SIMSREE) Mumbai
  • Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of management studies (JBIMS) Mumbai
  • Shailesh J Mehta school of management (IIT Bombay) Mumbai
  • Vinod Gupta school of management (VGSOM) IIT Kharagpur
After the declaration of CAT result, IIMs and other B-schools shortlist the candidates for the selection rounds – WAT (Written ability test/Essay writing), GD/CD (Group/case discussion) /Group Exercise and PI (Personal Interview). While IIMs and some other top B-schools declare their admission criteria and cutoff prior to the result, a majority of the B-schools announce their cutoffs only after the CAT result is declared.
The final merit list at the B-schools is based on candidates’ performance in CAT exam, selection rounds and profile.
What’s the ROI of top MBA programmes?
The best brains of country aspire to do MBA from IIMs, which are regarded as the top ranking management institutes of India. Return on investment (ROI) at IIMs is very high. The two years fees and the related expenses at IIMs are around Rs.15 to 20 lakhs. A high score in CAT promises to land you in a top recruiting company. Top recruiters from India and abroad eye these institutes for their placement season. The salary packages go as high as Rs.50 to 70 lakhs per annum to the students of top B-schools.
Finally, CAT doesn’t require you to be a specialist/graduate in English or Maths. The goal is to maximise the correct attempts and minimise the wrong attempts. Experts advise that you need around 6-8 months to prepare for CAT and get a good percentile for admission to a top ranking MBA college.
All you need: smart work and intelligent approach to crack questions accurately in less time.

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