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Evolution of CAT Exam Pattern - Trend of Last 10 Years

Evolution of the CAT Exam Pattern over last 10 years

A brief about the exam

CAT Exam Pattern history – Common Admission Test, also known as CAT, has evolved over the years in terms of mode of examination, type of questions, number of registered students, exam pattern, and so forth. Previously, The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institute of Science (IIS) used to select candidates based on their scores in the Joint Management Entrance Test (JMET), but since 2011 they adopted CAT Examination as the basis of the selection process for their Management Program. Similarly, the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi (FMS) had their entrance test – FMS which got discontinued from 2012, after which CAT was used. Thus, the evolution of the CAT examination has been widespread. Currently, almost all the B-schools abide by the CAT exam pattern and accept CAT scores. Be it an IIM or a Tier-3 B-School, all of them have accepted CAT exam scores as their criteria for selection.

It has been observed that IIMs over the past few years have introduced several changes, therefore MBAP brings you a detailed analysis of the CAT evolution for the last ten years to make candidates aware of the changes and suggests changes that might appear in the coming years. Let’s take a closer look.

The Number of slots per year

The table below states the number of slots and windows in which the CAT was held over the last ten years.


YearTest-taking window (days)Slots

Number of registrations and number of candidates appeared over the years:


YearNo. of Applications Registered (In Lakhs)No. Of Applicants Appeared (In Lakhs)

CAT exam pattern evolution over the years: Some of the major changes introduced in the last 10 years

The online format of the CAT examination was introduced first in the year 2009. It was a big change for the 2009 CAT takers as it was happening for the first time. It turned out to be a huge challenge for them because before 2009 the examination used to be conducted in paper-based mode, wherein the students used to mark their answers on the OMR sheet. This was the first step towards the evolution of CAT.

Exam Duration:


Due to the shift in the mode of CAT examination, the duration of the exam was also increased to 2 hours and 15 minutes. Candidates also witnessed many technical glitches as the mode was new and the time limit was exceeded thus leading to a re-test.


The most important change in this year turned out to be a reduction in the number of sections.

It was IIM-A who conducted the CAT Examination this year. The authorities reduced the number of sections in CAT from three to two. The two sections were a combination of 2 subjects namely: 

  • Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation
  • Logical Reasoning and Verbal Ability

Both these sections had 30 questions each, making a total of 60 questions.

  • Sectional Time Limit

As there was a reduction in the number of sections, the authorities imposed the section wise time limit to attempt a particular section. This change was very much welcomed by the students as it helped them in effective decision making and reduced the chances of wasting time on a particular CAT question.

2012 – 2013:

Whatever changes occurred during the year 2011, remained constant for the next couple of years. There were no significant changes in the CAT exam pattern during these years.


An important change turned out to be an increment in the number of questions in each section. Each section used to have 30 questions previously. But it was increased to 50 per section since 2014.


Introduction to on-screen calculators.

With the introduction of calculators embedded within the screen, it became very easy for the candidates to do all the complex calculations in no time. This addition to the exam served as an upper hand for the candidates in the CAT Examination. 

The second change was the change in the CAT exam pattern:

  • The number of the sections was again increased from two to three. Similar to the pattern which was in practice till 2010.
  • This year witnessed the introduction of Non-MCQ questions.
  • The duration of the examination was increased from 170 minutes to 180 minutes.


The key change this year happened to be the change in the schedule.

CAT examination usually used to take place in the last week of November. But in 2016 it was for the first time that CAT was held in the first week of December (December 4th). There were 2 slots this year.

2017 – 2018:

Whatever minimal changes happened in the previous years, they remained constant. There was no change in any step for these two years.


In 2019, several changes were introduced in the application process for the CAT examination.

The registration fee was increased from Rs.1800 to Rs.1900 for general/NC-OBC categories. Also, it was increased from Rs.900 to Rs.950 for SC/ST/PWD categories.

  • Addition of new exam centers.
  • New payment partners were added:  PayU, Bill desk, and Paytm.


This year faced a lot of changes in the CAT exam pattern:

  • The total duration of the examination was reduced to 2 hours from 3 hours.
  • Section-wise time limit got reduced to 40 minutes for the general category and those belonging to the PwD category got a total of 53 minutes and 20 seconds.
  • The entire examination had 76 questions in total.

Changes in CAT Exam Pattern Year-wise: An Overall view of No. of questions, marking scheme and all other information

One common thing in the CAT exam pattern in all the years was the scheme in which questions of CAT were marked:

  • +3 for a correct answer
  • -1 for an incorrect answer and
  • no negative marks for non MCQ (TITA) questions.

The number of sections i.e., 3 – VARC, DILR, QA however kept changing over the years. 

  • 2 sections – QA and DI for the years 2015 – 2020
  • VA + LR for the years 2011-2014
  • 3 sections – DI+LR, QA VARC for the years 2008-2010.


YearNumber of QuestionsTotal no of QuestionsDuration (In minutes)Conducing BodyOverall Difficulty level
76120IIM IndoreDifficult
100180IIM Kozhikode,
IIM Calcutta,
IIM Lucknow and
IIM Bangalore
Moderate – Difficult
100180IIM AhmedabadModerate
100170IIM IndoreDifficult
60140IIM Indore, IIM KozhikodeModerate – Difficult
90150Very Difficult

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