How to crack CAT

CAT is the mother of all aptitude tests and the most widely accepted MBA entrance exam. Therefore, how to crack CAT 2021 is a serious concern for candidates aspiring to secure their future. Apart from testing the knowledge of the candidate, it is also an evaluation of presence of mind. The reason why candidates stress so much about this is that they understand the level of competition they face out in the examination. When it is a question of how to crack CAT 2021 in one go, a candidate needs to stand up on his own and derive a personalized strategy. Apart from the fact CAT 2021 is edging closer; it is also crucial to know that you have still got ample time at hand to go back to the drawing board and perfect your canvas. For executing CAT 2021 preparation, timestamp every activity of yours for the next 6 months and follow it religiously without deception. If you follow your lead, nothing can stop you from passing CAT with flying colors!

CAT is a national level entrance test which is also the only qualifying criterion to get into a coveted IIM. Students across various specializations take CAT to land in one of the top B-Schools of the country. CAT 2021 scores will be accepted by over 500 MBA colleges, including twenty IIMs. CAT 2021 scores are primarily considered as the qualifying criterion for shortlisting the candidates for a call, followed by other selection rounds of WAT/GD/PI. This makes the process of preparation even more challenging. Each candidate has his/her own set of strengths and weaknesses. Having said that, all have a specific signature ability to improve themselves. In this article, we have tried to create a stepwise approach that if followed with sincerity and dedication, will convert your current attempt into the only attempt you will ever make to crack CAT 2021. However, before we get into that, let us start with the basics and work our way upwards to give you the required eye for detail regarding the “November-held" CAT exam.

CAT 2021 Expected Exam Pattern

CAT 2021 Exam Pattern will be a leading parameter in deciding how you should frame your CAT preparation strategy. The exam pattern for CAT has been revamped several times from 2009 to 2020. Here is the overlay of the recent CAT exam pattern:

CAT 2019 Exam Pattern

CAT 2019 Exam was held on Sunday, November 24th 2019. Following are the important points related to CAT 2019 Exam Pattern which will help you help you learn the ropes at CAT 2021 preparation without any hindrance:

  • CAT 2019 was conducted by IIM Kozhikode
  • The duration of the CAT 2019 exam was 3 hours
  • The exam was conducted in two slots. The morning slot was from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM and the afternoon slot was 2:00 PM and 5:00 PM.
  • There are three sections in the examination I.e., Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR), Quantitative Aptitude (QA).
  • The medium of instructions was English.
  • The exam was held in an ascending order I,e VARC (First), DIR (Second) and QA (Third).
  • The total number of questions in the examination were 100 (VARC = 34 questions, DILR = 32 questions and QA = 34 questions).
  • The questions were of 2 types I.e., Multiple choice and TITA.
  • The total marks were out of 300
  • Candidates received 3 marks for correctly answered questions and negative marking of 1/3 for incorrectly answered questions. There was no negative marking for TITA (type in the answer) questions.

Know more about CAT 2019

To read in detail, click here

Let us have a look at the previous year’s modified CAT Exam Pattern

CAT 2020 Exam Pattern

CAT 2020 was held among the fires of the coronavirus pandemic. Hence the convener, IIM Indore, enforced proper safety guidelines in the interest of almost 2.4 lakh students who registered for it. The time duration and number of questions were reduced drastically. TCS (Tata Consultancy Services), the testing agency for CAT exam, ensured that safety of the aspirants is taken care of in the examination lab. Having said that, the convenors at IIM Indore did not compromise with the quality of the exam due to this. The overall number of questions was 76 and IIM Indore shortened the overall time limit by 1 hour. Meaning, each section’s time duration was reduced by 20 minutes. This happened for the first time in the history of CAT exam.

Keeping in mind that given the prevailing pandemic situation, it is a fair possibility that the same pattern can be anticipated this year by the convening IIM:


Number of Questions

Nature of Questions



4 reading comprehension questions with 18 multiple choice questions and 8 Verbal Ability questions consisting of para summary, odd sentence out, Para jumbles, Error Handling, sentence completion, facts and judgements, assumption reasoning, fill ups, synonyms-antonyms etc.



Logical Reasoning: 10 questions

Data Interpretation: 14 questions

All the questions were in the sets of 6 or 4

LR - 10 Ques

DI - 14 Ques

All in Sets of 6 & 4 Qs

Venn Diagrams, word problems combined with data forms, linear arrangement, tables, graphs, charts, routes and networks, games and tournaments etc.



Arithmetic (30% of total questions), Numbers (15-20% of total questions) Logarithms, Geometry (10-15% of total questions) Roots and equations, algebra (20-25% of total questions), Modern maths (1-2 questions)



Moderate to difficult in terms of difficulty level

Read in detail CAT 2021 Exam Pattern

How to Crack CAT: Step by Step

In order to understand how to start preparing for CAT, it is essential to first get your basics clear This will ensure that the candidate is preparing in the right manner which will help them crack CAT and give them an opportunity to get into their dream B-School.
Thus, in this fold, we will discuss some CAT preparation tips according to the different sections, i.e., VARC, DILR and QA
Here are some tips to form a study plan which can streamline and refine the preparation to a large extent:

CAT Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension

CAT VARC section pattern has remained the same in the last 5 years, apart from a few minor modifications. The CAT 2021 VARC is going to be the first section of the CAT exam and often, the trickiest one. Out of 34 VARC questions, you should aim to attempt at least 24-26 questions to count yourself on the safer side. I.e clearing the sectional cut off. Your CAT score depends majorly on your VARC score. Hence, it would be best if you improved your VARC to the extent that you can ace the examination within the stipulated period without compromising with your stamina. Do not stress by thinking that only “elitists” would make it through the VARC section. Even if you have been a below-average or an average student in English, you still have as many chances to clear CAT VARC as the English experts. Only, you need to follow the commandments stated in this article consistently and work on increasing your accuracy simultaneously along with your knowledge base.

Reading Comprehension

Verbal Ability

Expected number of Total Questions



Negative Marking



Marks for correct answer



Difficulty level

Moderate to difficult


Total Time Duration

60 minutes

Reading Comprehension for CAT

Reading comprehension is the first topic and better half of the VARC section. There are 24 questions in Reading Comprehension for CAT, which constitutes 70% of the VARC section. All the Reading comprehension questions are multiple choice based. It mainly assesses your reading ability based on how accurately you answer a set of questions related to the information (mostly unseen passages) provided to you.

Reading Comprehension for CAT has faced some changes in the past years where the length of the passages has been shortened, but the overall complexity has been increased in terms of complex vocabulary usage in the passage. The Reading Comprehension passages usually center around a specific idea which is also known as the "main idea" of the passage. To actively understand this section, you want to focus on your speed and accuracy in terms of reading and brush up your vocabulary skills so that you do not get stuck during the examination.

Reading Comprehension basically consists of “unseen passages'' are entirely based on the protocol of active reading. Given you already have decided whether you want to go for online classes for CAT or prepare on your own, you must have bought the various books/study material for CAT preparation beforehand. Un piling the same, reach out for the book that explicitly mentions “reading comprehension for CAT". Do a quick read through. You will notice that the book accommodates hundreds of RC passages based on the type of passage, weightage and author’s tone. Try to begin your RC journey by solving descriptive or informative RCs first as they are the easiest to understand. Once you develop mastery over them, move up the ladder and work on other types of RCs. Try to devote at least 2 hours every day to solving RCs and ensure you solve at least 700 RCs before the CAT exam. The more RCs you solve, the better your reading accuracy and grasping strength, which is required to answer a question correctly. Now, to further understand how this particular section is designed in terms of marking scheme, difficulty level and nature, have a look at the information provided below:

Reading Comprehension for CAT: Section Pattern

Here are a few points for regarding the Reading Comprehension for CAT section pattern as per the current CAT Exam Pattern

  • There are 24 RC questions out of 34 VARC questions in CAT.
  • You get +3 marks for each correct answer and deduction of - 1 for incorrect answer.
  • The RC questions will be of the type "moderate to difficult"
  • The questions will be only multiple choice based.
  • Each of the 24 RC questions is entitled to negative marking if answered incorrectly.

Type 1: Lengthy Passages (800 to 900 words)

Passage No.

Nature of Passage

Expected No. of total questions

Level of difficulty






Opinion based with complex vocabulary/Persuasive


Moderate to difficult


Abstract topic or literature based with complex vocabulary/Analytical



Total long Passages = 3


Moderate to difficult

Type 2: Short Passages (400 to 500 words)


Based on Economy or Geography/Scientific


Moderate to difficult


Based on judgements, history, future plans with complex vocabulary or Abstract topics/Satirtical/Critical



Total Short Passages = 2



Type 2: Short Passages (400 to 500 words)


Based on Economy or Geography/Scientific


Moderate to difficult


Based on judgements, history, future plans with complex vocabulary or Abstract topics/Satirtical/Critical



Total Short Passages = 2



How to prepare for Reading Comprehension for CAT

Preparing for Reading Comprehension for CAT can prove to be a little taxing in the beginning. The initial step in the preparation process should be reading. Reading novels, editorials, philosophy, newspapers etc. will broaden your horizon and visualize the main idea of the author. The RC section, as mentioned, contains 4-5 RC passages with which consist of 3-4 questions a student is required to answer in order to clear the sectional cut-off.

Here are the steps you can follow in order to tackle the RC passages:

  1. Noting down the important words from the passages
    • While long passages are laid out neatly with details, short ones are fixed into one to two paragraphs. The first trick is to do a quick but sincere read-through to get a rough picture. Then proceed with the search for structural words in each paragraph. Once you start to understand the content, map out those words and mark it/note it.
  1. Reading the Passage carefully
    • Speed reading can only help you get so far. For every noteworthy entrance examination in the world, speed reading will only exhibit only your learning ability. You need to interpret what's going on in the passage, which means that it would help you understand the passage as it is, the medium of instructions and mindful interpretation of the question. Be smart enough to read the entire passage carefully rather than skipping on it.
  1. Rule out the complex word or a complex sentence
    • Popularly known as the POE strategy (process of elimination), it is a must to implement this technique while working on the RC passage as it saves on a lot of time and helps you figure out the central idea of the passage. Now what does this mean? There are some heavy adjectival sentences or words embedded somewhere in every RC which are out of students understanding. You need to have a keen eye and ignore such sentences, however long they might be. Reason is simple and straightforward; such words or sentences are a distraction in the overall picture. They have been included to confuse the candidate and check a candidate’s logical rationale and the ability to connect the dots. Once you steer clear of such distortions and do not let these words or sentences hamper your reading flow, you will be able to understand an RC passage very well.
  1. Understand the theme of the passage
    • You need to understand the theme of the passage to identify the context on a microscopic level, to answer the questions. The theme of the passage can be historical, geographical or social. Sure, reading can help you know the language. But, identifying the theme would help you to examine the dense usage of what's written in the paragraph and understand the dominating and the weak part of the paragraph while searching for answers. This is also very important for inference-based questions related to the passage.
  1. Focus on the opening lines of the passage
    • Look closely to the opening lines of a paragraph. Find out if the following lines are a direct extension of the first or if it is jumping to a new explanation. If an idea is stretched directly into 3-4 lines, it probably contains the information. This is very crucial especially for the short paragraph because of the limited structure flow.
  1. Pay Special Attention to "formative words" in the passage
    • The formative words which connect or project a detail such as 'but', 'however, 'if’, ‘only if’, ‘although’, 'while', Regardless of’, etc., are mostly clues to the answer. So, once you have marked or taken a note of it, start paying full concentration on it. These words are an indication of the main idea/argument behind the paragraph.
  1. Practice for 4-5 RC questions per day
    • It is all about throwing yourself open to challenges and successfully testing your power to extract the correct meaning from passages. Practicing a good number of RC questions everyday will strengthen your command on the section and boost your confidence in the main CAT examination.

Also read : How to prepare for CAT in a month?

Additional Tips to Prepare for Reading Comprehension

According to CAT toppers, the most effective way of getting a command over RC section is to start its preparation as early as possible. Here are some additional tips that would help you master Reading Comprehension for CAT:

  1. Practice diverse reading to increase vocabulary: Read different magazines, fiction novels, editorials and take time to read different articles and note down the newly found words.
  2. Learn at least 30 new Idioms and Phrases to strengthen your word bank: Idioms and Phrases are a part of the glossary of every RC book. Make sure you visit the section and learn them.
  3. Do not be agitated if you are unable to solve any question. A calm and a composed mind goes a long way. Read what you wish to read at your comfort.
  4. If you feel drowsy, voice the passage. The recital of the passage can help you with understanding the passage orally and kick out the exhaustion.
  5. Pay attention to the closing lines of the passage. The closing lines wrap up the entire paragraph and lay down the intentions of the author. This stands true for both long and short passages.
  6. Choose to share your knowledge with your friends. Knowledge grows when it is shared. You can verbally exchange newly learnt words or idioms with your friends who are fellow CAT aspirants as well for your revision.

Verbal Ability for CAT 2021

Verbal Ability is a second section of CAT VARC (Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension) which purely checks your English language skills combined with verbal reasoning skills. The VA section comprises 8-10 questions which are TITA (Type in the answer) type questions. The main topics of Verbal Ability for CAT are either vocabulary based or grammar based. Also, there is no negative marking for VA questions in CAT

Verbal Ability for CAT 2021: Section Pattern

The Verbal Ability section had been quite consistent for 3 consecutive years I.e. 2016, 2017 and 2018. The CAT 2019 verbal section was slightly more difficult as compared to previous years. However, there was no considerable change in the overall section pattern. CAT 2021 Verbal Ability is expected to follow the lead of CAT 2019 Verbal Ability in terms of section pattern and type of questions.
Here are some important details regarding Verbal Ability for CAT that will help you understand the section:

  • The section will comprise of 8-10 questions (33% of the VARC section)
  • For every correct answer, you will be awarded 3 marks.
  • For every wrong answer, no marks will be deducted.
  • The questions will be of Non-MCQ type (TITA).
  • The level of difficulty is moderate to difficult.

Verbal Ability for CAT: Type of questions

Here are three major kinds of questions that can be asked in the CAT 2020 examination.

Jumbled Paragraphs

Five jumbled sentences that make a paragraph

Summary/Inference of short paragraphs/Match the sentences

Small paragraph consisting of 5 sentences from which one sentence contains the summary/inference of the paragraph

Odd sentence out

Jumbled sentences where the odd one needs to be ruled out


Parts of Speech, Nouns, Tenses related errors, Adjectives, Adverbs, subject-predicate, verb tense errors etc

Other than this, questions related to Analogies & contextual usage, fill in the blanks, sentence correction, parallelism and preposition errors and subject verb concord can also be asked.

Verbal Ability for CAT: Preparation Strategy

Here are some preparation tips to tackle the verbal ability section of CAT:

  1. Choosing the right study material
    • It is essential to select the appropriate reading material which would enlighten you with the basics of the VA section. As VA is highly grammar and verbal reasoning influenced, you would need the material which would be a culmination of these two major segments and which also contains detailed explanatory answers for every question.
  1. Earmark one mock every week
    • It is advisable to earmark one topic-wise mock for verbal ability and one VARC sectional mock every week to give substance to your preparation and revise the concepts consistently.
  1. Refer to effective online VARC programs
    • As Verbal Ability questions have nothing to do with written practice, you can explore each and every type of Verbal Ability questions online and the methodology of solving these questions. VARC 1000 is one such online programme that combines basic concepts of Reading Comprehension and Verbal Ability along with at least 8 sectional tests to help the candidates learn more effectively and crack the VARC section with 100% accuracy.
  1. Pick out a random phrase and try to write a paragraph based on it:
    • This is a very intuitive technique of perfecting your written English. All you need to do is pick a random phrase, something like a free hand and try to write a story, including this phrase in every sentence of the story. Working on your written English broadens your vision and helps you enhance your verbal skills. In return, you would become viable to figure out the context of a Verbal Ability question.
  1. Subscribe to online vocabulary enhancers, newsletter or quiz competitions for added fun and knowledge
    • Break the monotony of traditional CAT preparation by switching to online quizzes and competitions. Participate in online quiz competitions to sharpen your general knowledge, vocabulary enhancers to learn proofreading strategy, and newsletters to know how one word or sentence can be utilized in multiple ways. Correct grammar, general knowledge, and vocabulary are the "must haves'' you need to possess to ace Verbal Ability questions. Perfect your English communication skills first. Learn to differentiate between confusing words like affect and effect and their usage. If you follow this technique, your range of vocabulary will expand instinctively and you will witness noticeable change in the way you solve your RC passages.

Still scared of the VARC section? Now it's time for you to overcome this fear as we introduce you to an effective solution named VARC 1000 led by Gejo, the master blaster of VARC coaching. VARC 1000 is a unique online programme that combines basic concepts of Reading Comprehension and Verbal Ability along with at least 8 sectional tests to help the candidates learn more effectively and crack the VARC section with 100% accuracy. And what’s more, you’d like it.

Know more about VARC 1000
If the candidate follows these steps, understanding how to crack CAT VARC should be an easy task.

How to Crack CAT DILR

CAT 2021 is expected to resemble CAT 2019 in terms of exam pattern. Out of the 32 questions asked in CAT 2019, if one attempted 18-19 questions of DILR with high accuracy, he/she would have been able to score a good percentile.

It is important to understand the syllabus when it comes to DILR preparation . The DILR section commonly has questions related to linear and matrix arrangements, blood relations, family tree, directions, coding-decoding, sequence and series, syllogisms and Analogy. Given below are the list of steps which would help you gauge your DILR preparation:

  • Strengthen your computation skills by engaging in brain calculations rather than paper calculations.
  • Concentrate more on linear arrangements and linear arrangements with quantitative approach questions. They form the majority of questions in LR.
  • For Coding-decoding, remember the index of some frequently used letters i.e (e=5, N=14,P=16 and X=24) which give a gander of what will be the number for other subsequent letters.
  • For sequence and series, learn the squares, decimal equivalents, percentages and the cubes of the numbers from 1 to 30. That is the only thing which can help you solve 99% of sequence and series problems.
  • For Directions, You just need to draw a small cardinal map in the corner of your rough sheet and you are sorted. showcasing east, west, north, south, north east, north west, south east and south west. Also remember what is meant by clockwise and counterclockwise directions. Knowing this will help you solve all direction sense problems.
  • For blood relations, just draw a family tree. You can classify the roots as ancestral relationships, the branches as parental relationships and the leaves as children or cousins. You can also draw pyramids to solve this type of question.
  • Build a robust foundation by learning the basics of a new concept, followed by easy sets. After you feel confident about a concept, proceed on to complex sets.
  • For circular arrangements, draw a circle and mark the left and the right directions in the beginning of time. This is what I mean by that:

  • For circular arrangements, draw a circle and mark the clockwise and anti-clockwise directions in the beginning of time.
  • For data interpretations, questions will be majorly based on Percentages, missing information and incorrect information. Get hold of this section and you will ace the DI section.
  • Use a stopwatch while solving every question. At around 2-minute time lapse, stop solving the question irrespective of the fact that you completed it or not. Kick yourself mentally to see how many questions can you actually solve under 2 minutes to enhance your accuracy and speed at the same time.
  • Do not go slow. It is not a school or a college examination; it is an aptitude test.
  • Also practice topics like games and tournaments, routes and networking, maps and Venn diagrams.
  • Earmark one sectional mock per day followed by explanatory solution analysis of 3-4 hours to bolster your conceptual understanding and revise all what you have learned.

Read in detail : How to prepare for CAT DILR

How to Crack CAT QA

Here is how you can win over CAT 2021 QA section:

  • Divide the quant syllabus into areas to play and areas to improve. Consider topics you feel you are not proficient in or have forgotten. Brush those 10-year-old concepts and formulas all over again.
  • Build your basics, immediately. Develop your core focus on Arithmetic, Numbers, and Algebra. Prioritize chapters related to the number system because most of the questions in CAT will be based on old number system/vedic maths concepts.
  • If you are not comfortable in starting with any of the above-mentioned topics, start with the next most important quant topic I.e geometry. Practice triangles, quadrilaterals, Circle along with Basic Coordinate geometry. The reason candidates should focus on geometry is concepts related to this chapter tend to wipe-out very soon. Practice as much as you can.
  • Solve difficult questions first. In quantitative aptitude, tackling difficult questions in a bulk will help you develop familiarity towards a concept much faster than tackling easy questions. Juxtapose the questions with respect to the total time allotted to the section.
  • If you are unable to tackle a problem for more than 2 minutes, leave it and proceed to the next problem. There is a meagre amount of time in which a candidate has to solve a high number of questions. Hence, you should only solve questions pertaining to the topics you feel you are efficient in.
  • Make sure you complete the basics by mid-October and then after, devote the majority of your time towards solving mocks. Analyze which topics are the most comfortable for you, which topics you require more practice in and which topics are completely out of your head.
  • Do not attempt questions you are not able to understand. Most of the time, they trick questions included deliberately to break the continuity of the candidate. It would be wise to score a zero for these questions than to embrace negative marking.

Read in detail: How to prepare for CAT QA

Also Read: Why is it important to take CAT mocks?

Do not stress, it is just an examination!

In the end, the best way to prepare for CAT is their own. Anyone can share the strategy they follow with you but it is a necessity for you to stay in your own element and think of it as an aptitude screening, not a class/college examination. There will be certain sums which no one will be able to solve and such sums are basically trick sums which you are advised not to attempt. They can bring down your otherwise decent percentage. Final lap of your preparations should revolve around giving continuous mocks and improving your performance. Rely on your rigor and think you can do it. Believe in yourself and start preparing right away.

Some last-minute saviors to CAT!

Okay, let me be very clear. Being confused and reading articles online, one after another to satisfy your quest of CAT preparation would not aid in the actual preparation. If you are serious regarding CAT and know the benefits of scoring well in the CAT exam, I suggest it’s time to set a few ground rules. Merely sitting with rose colored spectacles and not contributing substantial time during the prep stage is bound to land you into hot waters, not an IIM! So, pull up your socks, sit on a chair and relax! It all begins with opening a notebook and chalking out a timetable. Yes, a timetable! Remember that even if you studied 60-70% of CAT syllabus with devotion, you can score a 99%ile! Structure your “to-do” list for every day until the CAT exam and ensure, if not all, you are able to achieve some milestones in a day. Just the way I achieved writing this article. During studying, put a little music on and sway left to right as you solve questions. If that’s not your thing, then try mimicking your favorite teacher from school and explain the concepts to an imaginary class of sixty students. If there is a formula or a concept you’re struggling with, stick it on your wardrobe or study table. All of these strategies are a source of paying attention to “yourself” first. This can be achieved by introducing variations in your learning and making your studying routine fun and interesting. If you achieved this, you will be able to bell your CAT better than anyone else!

Hope this helps. All the best!

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