CAT 2001 : Paper pattern , an analysis


Kartik Raichura
Staff member
CAT 2001

CAT 2001- Paper Pattern

No. of sections : 3
Total no. of questions : 150
Section Ref. Areas covered No. of questions
Section I Quantitative Ability 50
Section II Verbal Ability and RC 50
Section III DI & Logical Reasoning 50

Other Details
No time limit was given for each section separately
There was negative marking but the level of negative marking was not specified
The candidate was expected to show competence in all the sections

The pattern was very much expected: 3 sections, 150 questions. So students used to a pattern of 3 sections were comfortable. The number of questions is decreasing with the years: Remember the times when CAT had 240 questions! One can be rest assured that in future it will have 150 questions, or even lesser number of questions.

Section I
The Verbal Section had a mix of comprehension and English; and the surprise was that there was some direct vocabulary this time. Fortunately the words were all from our wordlists: parsimonious, mellow, disuse, facetious, and the like. The difference was that this time dictionary usage was given and one had to pick out the choice which was not part of the usage. Children who had done our word exercises were definitely at an advantage, since not a single word was asked that we had not done in class. Some of the questions were expected: parajumbles though this time there were ABCDE and even ABCDEF, that is sentence arrangement of 5 or 6 sentences.

The passages too were more or less expected: There were 6 of them, on the following topics:
1) Racial Discrimination,
2) History of Universe,
3) Children’s phonetic skills,
4) Billy Holiday,
5) Kurusawa’s characters, and
6) Democracy.
The numbers of questions per passage were slightly less, and there were a total of 30 questions on comprehension. There was no technical passage this time.

Section II
The Maths section had some surprises too. No questions on functions, or higher maths. This time there was some arithmetic, with some direct questions. The question on dry grapes was asked (answer 2.5!) as also one on roots. Fortunately we had done many such questions. Surprise, there was also a question on calendars this time (find the day on 9 Dec 1971) and something on averages. On the whole, the section was attemptible though, as I said before, there was need for calculation and one should not have hurried. There were some questions on umber systems as well. The idea was to keep cool and keep attempting the questions you knew. The tendency in these type or papers is to lose patience and mark blindly, in the hope that some will be right at least. This is terrible. So, even if you were able to do just 10-20 questions out of 55, that was all right. At least they would be right. I have always been saying that no matter how difficult the paper, there will always be 10-15 questions which you can do. The same applied this year too.

Section III
The DI section was comparatively easier. Some sets were quite difficult but others were easy. The question on Data Sufficiency were relatively simple, though some graphs required some calculations. This section was comparatively easy. The questions on Reasoning were scary, since they were stand-alone questions, but some of these should also have been attempted.


Students who wrote CAT 2001 on the 9th of December would undoubtedly have felt like the girl in one of Aesop’s Fables – a little glad and a little sad. A little glad because after CAT 2000, this year the questions did not appear quite so difficult. A little sad because after thorough analysis, the questions were quite a bit more difficult than they appeared to be! This then is the story of CAT 2001- the paper was just a wee bit easier than last year’s. Certainly the cut-off scores and the marks levels expected for the much sought after IIM calls will be a little more than last year.

A High Power team of TIME’s best brains have carefully analysed the CAT2001 paper and the consensus is that a net score of around 65 (may be even a jot less) should get students at least one IIM call. The best brains in the country who gun for all the six IIM calls should need to get a score of 75-80. All this, provided, of course, you clear the sectional cut-offs.
The calls for the next level of institutes – the MDIs, the S.P.Jains and the TAPMIs – should come to students who get a net score of anywhere between 58 and 65.
The paper had a small surprise right at the beginning – the number of questions were down to 150 (from 165 in each of the last two years). TIME students, who discussed Test Taking Strategies in detail, would not have let this bother them at all. What difference does the number of questions make? No serious candidate would ever be planning to attempt all the questions!
As usual, the instructions clearly specified that while dividing the total time of two hours, candidates had to ensure that they displayed their competence in all three sections of the paper. The best strategy for the paper would have been to spend an equal amount of time – 40 minutes – for each of the three sections.
Summary of scores and cut-offs:

Section I Section II Section III Total
Number of questions 50 50 50 150
Recommended time to be spent 40 min. 40 min. 40 min. 120 min.
No. of attempts considered good 25 33-35 28-30 80-85
Net score considered good 18-20 24-25 20-22 65*
Section-wise cut-offs 13-15 18-19 15-16 --
* Required to get at least one IIM call

Section I
For a change, the paper setters made Quantitative Ability the first section in the CAT paper. The section was a total turnaround from CAT2000 where Coordinate Geometry, Functions, Graphs had thrown students off-guard. This year the old favourites were back - Averages, Time & Work, Time & Distance, Progressions and Percentages were back in style. The all-important chapters of Numbers and Geometry/Mensuration continued to play a dominant role in CAT. All this went a long way in vindicating our stand that while preparing for an exam like CAT, students need to understand carefully the long term trends of the paper and not go by just the most recent papers.
Although the questions in this section appeared simple, many of them were wolves in sheep’s clothing --confusing and time-consuming. A number of the very best students would have attempted only about 25 questions in 40 minutes. This means that 18-20 in this section would be a very good score and the cut off would be a very good score and the cut off would probably be in the 13 to 15 range.

Section II

This was the Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension section of the paper. As was the case in the last two years, this year also there was a single section covering these two areas.
The RC part of the section had six passages with about a total of about 4500 words and 30 questions. While many of the passages required a good grasp of the English language, the questions however were quite straight-forward and unambiguous. It was RC in the true CAT tradition - passages that appeared long and difficult to understand, but questions that were direct and options that did not have ambiguity. Overall, the good students would have been able to attempt a total of 17 to 19 questions from four passages in about 25 to 28 minutes. All said and done, it was an RC of medium difficulty.
This section also had 20 questions on Verbal Ability. There were five questions on Paragraph Forming, five on Fill-in-the-Blanks (two blanks) and ten questions based on Vocabulary/Usage of words. The level of vocab required was certainly not very simple, and this paper busts the myth that CAT papers do not require any significant knowledge of English vocabulary. A good performer would have attempted around 15-17 questions, in about 12-15 minutes.
Overall, about 33-35 attempts in this section can be considered to be very good. This means that a score of around 24 or 25 would be a good score. The cut-off for this section would be in the 18-19 range.

Section III

This section consisted of 23 questions on Data Interpretation (across six sets), 7 questions on Data Sufficiency and 20 questions on Analytical Reasoning. This year, Critical Reasoning was conspicuous by its absence.
The DI was widely perceived to be very easy. However, careful study showed that one or two of the sets were slightly ambiguously worded and would have troubled even the best of students – especially under the pressure cooker conditions that CAT creates. It would have been a good job done to have attempted about 17-18 of the 23 questions.
The 7 DS questions were probably the easiest in the recent history. There were, of course, a couple of tricky questions – but overall an easy area. Many students would have attempted most of these questions.
The Analytical Reasoning area had 11 single questions, one set of 3 questions (Selection), one set of 2 questions (Greater than/Less than variety) and one set of 4 questions (based on Logical Connectives & Set Theory). All the 11 “singles” questions were pretty lengthy and a student would have been better off by leaving out these questions but attempting the questions that were given in the other three sets.
The best of students would have been able to attempt 28-30 questions. With some mistakes being inevitable, 20-22 would be a pretty good net score in this section. The cut-off would probably be 15-16.


Overall, this paper was certainly easier than CAT 2000 paper. If a student managed to keep his cool and consciously looked out for easy questions, he or she would have been able to do fairly well. It was a paper that was fairly reminiscent of older CAT papers and went a long way to prove that carefully planned preparation and cool head under pressure is the recipe for success. The paper was easier than expected, but then the questions were not straightforward. They required some thought and needed some calculations. The verbal section threw a surprise, but an easy one at that. The passages in reading comprehension were also attemptible.

Once again, CAT looked for mental toughness, or, the ability to perform under pressure. What is one to do when each question is a challenge of sorts? When one is aware of the clock ticking away, the pressure mounts and one is tempted to make blind guesses. Hopefully, CAT aspirants did not make that mistake.

What could have been done in such a paper? Depending on your area of strength, you should have started with Maths or Verbal, done the easy questions and sailed through, avoiding the speed breakers. The first round should have seen you spot at least 15 questions in Maths, another 15 in Verbal and 12-15 in Data. One to two passages in Comprehension should have been attempted in the first round. Having done 50 questions or so, your confidence would have been gained and then you should have attempted the rest of the questions, taking each one separately and figured out the logic.

The paper was certainly not for people who had not done difficult type of tests, nor for the guess-makers. Thought was needed on each and every question; the paper could not have been done in a hurry. Some questions required quick wits -- again this would be difficult if one was tense. But I wonder if students were able to spot the completely easy ones.

Children who gave the CAT this year have brought in a large number of questions. We should be able to offer the complete paper in a few days.

It is being said that the score for IIMs this year would be 70+. Students who did the paper intelligently, will be able to reach that score. However, in such a paper, the number of attempts is no criteria for judging one’s performance. What matters is whether it was a balanced score and whether one was able to control the number of mistakes.