1. A brief about the exam

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. 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 started using CAT Examination as the basis of the selection process for the 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 accept CAT scores. Whether it be an IIM or a Tier-3 B-School, all of them accept CAT scores. It has been observed that IIMs over the past few years have introduced several changes, therefore MBAP brings to you a detailed analysis of the CAT evolution for the last ten years to make candidates aware of the changes and changes that might appear in coming years. Let’s take a closer look.

2. 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

3. Number of registrations and number of candidates appeared over the year


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

4. Evolution over the years: Some of the major changes introduced in the last 10 years

The online form of the CAT examination was introduced first in the year 2009. It was a big change as 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 CAT Evolution.


Exam Duration

Due to the shift in the mode of CAT examination, the duration of the exam also increased to two hours and 15 minutes. As there were changes in the mode of examination and time limit, candidates witnessed many technical glitches which led to a re-test of CAT.


The most important change of 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 each : 

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

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

  • Sectional Time Limit

As there was a reduction in the number of sections, the authorities imposed the section-time limit to attempt a particular section. This particular 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 question.


Whatever changes occurred during the year 2011, those remained constant for the next couple of years. There was no such change during these years which added to the CAT Evolution


The most important change turned out to be the hike in the number of questions in each section. There used to be 30 questions per section, but this year the questions per section increased up to 50


Introduction to on-screen calculators

With the introduction of on-screen calculators, 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 exam pattern :

  • The number of the section was again increased from two to three as it was till 2010
  • The year witnessed the introduction of Non-MCQ questions
  • The duration of the examination increased from 170 minutes to 180 minutes


The most important change turned out to be the Change in Schedule

The CAT examination always takes 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 that is on December 4 in two slots


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 increased by Rs. 100, from Rs. 1800 to Rs. 1900 for general/NC-OBC categories. Also, it increased by Rs. 50 for SC/ST/PWD categories from Rs. 900 to Rs. 950

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


This year faced a lot of changes :

  • The duration of the examination was reduced to 2 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

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

One common thing about all the years was the Marking scheme:- (+3, -1, no negative for non MCQ) and the number of sections i.e. 3 – VARC, DILR, QA from 2015-2020, 2 sections – QA+DI and VA+LR from 2011-2014, 3 sections – DI+LR, QA, VARC in 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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