CAT 2000 , Paper pattern, an analysis


Kartik Raichura
Staff member
CAT 2000

Pattern of CAT 2000 Paper

The paper had three sections each with 55 questions a total of 165 questions. The composition of the three sections is as follows.

Section I

Verbal Ability : 15 questions

Paragraph Forming (with 4 or 5 sentences) : 5 questions

Paragraph Forming (with 6 sentences of which
the First and the Sixth are given) : 5 questions

Fill in the Blanks (two blanks in each) : 5 questions

Reading Comprehension : 5 passages with a total of about
6000 words and 40 questions

Passage No. Content Approx. No. of Words No. of Questions

1 Future of Abstractionist Art 1250 8

2 Agricultural Research and TRIPs 1280 8

3 Electronic & Magnetic Storage Technologies 1250 8

4 North Indian Classical & Western Music 1000 8

5 Bereavement Counselling 1190 8

Section II

Quantitative Ability : 50 questions

Analytical Reasoning : 5 questions

Section III (Data Interpretation, Data Sufficiency, Analytical Reasoning and Critical reasoning)

Data Interpretation : 30 questions

DI Set No. Data Type Content No. of Questions

1 Table External Transactions of India Corporate Sector 4

2 Line Graph Marginal Costing / Variable Costing 6

3 Bar Graph Annual Growth Rate in 4 Sectors of the Economy 6

4 Table Information Technology Industry in India 5

5 Table Factory Sector by Type of Ownership 5

6 Bar Graph Foreign Equity Inflows of Five Countries 4

Data Sufficiency : 10 questions

Analytical Reasoning : 5 questions

Critical Reasoning : 10 questions
(Logical Reasoning)


Candidates who wrote the CAT2000 paper had the unique, though dubious, distinction of participating in the toughest CAT paper in the recent history in the last 10-12 years. All the three sections were extremely lengthy and the result was that the number of attempts and expected scores fell drastically.

Test takers need to take heart from the fact that the very best of candidates across the country attempted far fewer questions than usual. When we analysed CAT 99 paper last year, we said that that paper was probably the most difficult paper in about a decade. Now, we find that CAT2000 paper is a couple of steps above CAT 99 paper in terms of the difficulty level.

Three factors contributed to the overall difficulty level of the paper when compared with last year paper.

1) The absence of Deductions/Syllogisms and questions on either/or and if…then. Such questions had proved very useful in previous years – enabling most students to pick up some easy marks without spending too much time.

2) This year, a number of questions in Quant were very lengthy and required a lot of time just to read and understand – let alone solve. In fact, one student commented outside the exam hall after CAT was over “This year, in the paper, Section I is RC, Section II is RC and Section III also is RC.” Also, there were virtually no questions on relatively simpler areas like Percentages, Time and Work and Averages.

3) In DI, most questions required careful reading and understanding before a student could venture to solve them. This meant that many problems required 60 to 90 seconds and this brought down the number of attempts in Section III quite significantly.

What all this goes to show is that there is really no alternative for a student but to be thoroughly prepared in all areas of the exam. For instance, students who did serious RC practice, as advocated time and again by our faculty members, would definitely have gained an edge. Similarly, those students who had solved all the various models of DI that were given in the TIME TGs, would have found the going in that section much easier. Two other areas that were covered in a number of TIME test papers – functions and graphs – appeared in this year’s paper and all those who had studied those papers carefully would have benefitted immensely.

The paper certainly goes to prove what we have often told students – “do not assume anything about the likely nature of the paper and prepare thoroughly for all the areas that we have covered for you in the TGs, CTs and Mock CATs, apart from those covered in the basics classes.”

Let us look at each of the sections of CAT2000 paper in detail.


The paper had a total of 165 questions with three sections each having 55 questions. There was no time limit given for each of the sections –a total of 120 minutes was given which could be apportioned over the three sections the way the student wanted. However, each section in this paper would require 40 minutes spent on it. Also, as usual, there was a mention that the student has to show competence in all the sections.

Section I

There were 15 questions in Verbal Ability and 40 questions in Reading Comprehension in this section. The Verbal Ability part had 5 questions of Paragraph Forming with 4 or 5 sentences, 5 questions of Paragraph Forming with six sentences (where the first and the sixth sentences are given) and 5 questions of Fill in the Blanks. The Reading Comprehension part had 5 passages each with 8 questions. The passages were each about 1000-1300 words long with the total number of words in all the passages adding up to about 6000 words.

The Paragraph Forming questions were reasonably simple but the questions on the Fill in the Blanks required very good understanding of the usage of words besides a reasonably good vocabulary.

The Reading Comprehension was not only quite lengthy but also difficult to comprehend. These were not passages for casual readers of the English language. The sentence construction was fairly complex and the topics were as unfamiliar as ever. Careful reading was required to understand at least three of the five passages and it is difficult to see even the very good students attempting more than four passages in about 30 minutes that can be spent on Reading Comprehension.


Difficulty Level : High

Expected Attempts : 32 to 36 questions

Time to be spent : 40 min.

Good Score : 25-30 marks (counting 1/3 neg. mark for
every wrong answer)

Cut-off expected : 15-17 marks

Section II

Out of the 55 questions in this section, there were only 5 questions on Reasoning and the rest were based on Quant. This year’s Quantitative Ability section was by far the toughest section in recent history. The questions were extremely complicated and very lengthy. There was a significant shift towards fundamental mathematics as seen by the absence of problems from chapters like Percentages, Ratio & Proportion, Simple Interest & Compound Interest and Time & Work. The emphasis was on Numbers, Functions and Basic Co-ordinate Geometry.

Of the 55 questions, hardly 10 or 11 questions could be categorised as “easy.” Another 7 or 8 questions were of the type which could be solved by good students but were very time consuming and would take ever the best of students about 60 to 90 seconds to solve.

There were at least about 15-20 questions of very high difficulty level which should not have been attempted unnder any circumstances in the exam. Even the best of students would have stumbled on these questions.

Most students were stunned by the difficulty level in this section but have a mental block in accepting that an IIM-level cut-off could be as low as 8 or 9. We have no hesitation in suggesting that this year’s CAT paper would undoubtedly fall to such unprecedented low scores in the Quant. Section.

It should not be forgotten that any analysis done in the cool confines of an office will throw up higher scores than those that will be possible for a harried and pressurised student who feels his/her chances of an IIM-admission are vanishing with every additional question he/she reads in the section.


Difficulty level : Very High

Expected Attempts : 16-20 questions

Time to be spent : 40 min.

Good Score : 10-14 marks (counting 1/3 neg. mark for
every wrong answer)

Cut-off Expected : 8-9 marks

Section III

This section had 30 questions on Data Interpretation (with six sets of questions
three of them with Tables, two with Bar Graphs and one with Line Graph), 10 questions on Data Sufficiency, 5 questions on Analytical Reasoning and 10 questions on Critical Reasoning (Logical Reasoning).

Of the 30 DI questions, it was possible to attempt 12-14 questions in about 20 min. that could be spent on this part of the section. Although the calculations were reasonably straight-forward, in most cases they were fairly time-consuming. Students would have taken 60-80 seconds to solve each problem and a net score of 12 marks in 20 min. should be considered an excellent one.

Data Sufficiency was on of the easier groups of questions in this paper. Of the 10 questions in this area, it should have been possible to attempt 5 to 7 questions in about 10 min.

The 5 analytical reasoning questions of this set were generally lengthy and not many students would have attempted more than two of these. Overall, these questions were fairly time-consuming and should probably not be touched.

The 10 questions on Critical Reasoning (Logical Reasoning) were fairly simple for anyone who had practised such questions well. At the end of the day, students should have attempted 6 to 7 questions of this set in about 10 min.


Difficulty Level : Moderate to High

Expected Attempts : 24-28 questions

Time : 40 min.

Good Score : 17-19 marks (counting 1/3 neg. mark for
wrong answer)

Cut-off expected : 10-12 marks

Overall Summary

On the whole, it was a very difficult paper in terms of the complexity of the questions. This was further compounded by the fact that the questions in all the three sections were very lengthy and there were very few easy questions.

Attempting more than 75 questions properly can be said to be pretty good for this paper.

A student getting a net score of 55 marks (counting 1/3 negative mark for every wrong answer) should be able to get an interview call from at least one IIM.

A student getting a net score of 65 marks should be able to get interview calls from 3 or 4 IIMs.

A student getting a net score of 75 marks can hope for getting interview calls from 5 or 6 IIMs.

A net score of about 45 to 50 marks should get calls from institutes like S. P. Jain, MDI, TAPMI which take CAT scores for selection. The other institutes that take CAT scores for selection will probably need a net score of about 40 marks. It goes without saying that the section-wise cut-offs for institutes other than the IIMs will be lower than those indicated above.

All the above estimates are subject to the condition that the student has shown competence in all the three sections as required by the exam. It should be borne in mind that different IIMs are expected to give different weightages to different sections in the paper.

The overall picture for the paper can be summarised as follows:

Section Ref. Good No. of Attempts Good Score Probable Cut-off for the IIMs

Section I 32-36 25-30 15-17

Section II 1 6-20 17-19 8-9

Section III 24-28 10-14 10-12

Total 75-90 55-70 55

Please do not think that these cut-offs are too low. Given the difficulty level of the paper and the exam pressure on the students, these are the most-likely marks required to demonstrate competence in all the sections of the paper. Obviously, the overall score required to get calls from the IIMs will be a little higher than the sum of the individual sectional cut-offs.

All in all, keeping in mind the unprecedented difficulty level of the paper, students should not be unnecessarily perturbed by the low number of questions attempted or the low score expected by them as this is happening for students across the country. Obviously, relative performances are what matter and good students will get selected regardless the difficulty level of the paper