CAT Preparation Strategy: How to Prepare for CAT

With around 5 months to go for CAT 2021, every serious MBA aspirant should have a clear plan of action and an effective CAT preparation strategy to give CAT 2021 the best shot possible. While many mentors suggest starting your preparation at least 8 Months before CAT, 5 Months is still sufficient time to get yourself into gear and ensure that you can attempt CAT 2021 to the best of your ability. What you need to do is ensure that you have the right CAT Preparation strategy in place and that you follow it to the best of your ability. This also means not overestimating your abilities and falling short of your preparation plan nor does it mean underestimating your ability and going too slow.

Once the introspection about the CAT preparation is done, a detailed plan on how to prepare for CAT in 5 months has to be set in place. In this article, we bring you a detailed study plan on how to prepare for CAT 2021 with insights on how much time you should dedicate per day and every week to each section for a comprehensive preparation.

How to Prepare for CAT: What is the right CAT Preparation strategy?

CAT is a national level management entrance examination conducted every year by one of the top IIMs (Institute of Indian Management) with Tata Consultancy Services as the Information Technology Partner. Now the question that arises in the mind and heart of every aspirant is how to prepare for CAT effectively.


If you are beginning your CAT preparation today, you should dedicate close to 8-10 hours per week depending on your level of preparation. This is the point in your preparation when you should be building on your basics and ensuring that you complete your syllabus to the maximum extent possible. What this will allow you to do is to make sure that you have the concepts in place to attempt at least easy questions in most topics.

How you decide to distribute these 8-10 hours in a week depends on how much time you can dedicate on weekdays and weekends. However, they should be equally divided between each section i.e. 2-3 hours each for VARC, DILR, and Quant with the remaining time dedicated to either the attempting mock tests or focusing on the section where you feel you need the most preparation time.

Overview of CAT Preparation Strategy

The overall CAT Preparation can be divided into four distinct phases:

Learn your ABCs: Perfect your basics for Verbal Ability & Reading comprehension, Data Interpretation & Logical reasoning and Quantitative Aptitude.

Identify your Strengths and Weaknesses: Go through the CAT Syllabus in its entirety and start dividing topics into strengths and weaknesses.

Focus on the most important topics:While CAT throws in surprises almost every year, there is still some continuity in terms of the topics being tested. RC will cover around 70% of the VARC section as per the previous formats and DI & LR will be evenly distributed in the DILR section. In QA, Arithmetic, Algebra and Geometry are the most frequently tested topics. You should keep this in mind while working on your CAT Preparation.

Mock simulation:While you are preparing, it is essential for you to keep taking mocks and keeping track of your progress. Knowing how to solve the problem is one thing but solving the problem under the time pressure of the exam is something completely different.


How many questions should you attempt from each section?

To get an inside track of the CAT 2021, you might want to read up on how much you need to score to score a 99%ile. This will allow you to identify how to prepare for CAT and what your exam strategy should be. Now, since CAT 2021 is at a crossroads in terms of the exam pattern that it might follow, it is important to understand what the scoring would be like. If the exam pattern would be like CAT 2019:



Attempted Qs














For an exam pattern like CAT 2020, the breakup of scores is likely to be:



Attempted Qs














The exact number of questions that you wish to attempt will depend on your comfort level in different sections. The above table only shows how someone who has prepared for CAT with equal weightage to each section would attempt to score a 99%ile. As you can see a 99%ile in the CAT 2019 pattern can be achieved with a score of around 180 while the CAT 2020 exam pattern saw a score of around 100 as sufficient for a 99%ile.

Another thing to be kept in mind is that this table shows the score assuming 100% accuracy which is not very practical in an exam scenario. This table wishes to convey that scoring high marks in CAT is very achievable with a good CAT Preparation Strategy.

More detailed plans on how to prepare for CAT sections is given below:

How to Prepare for CAT Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC)

One of the most important ways of preparing for the CAT VARC section is by reading as much as possible. Reading Speed plays a vital role in this section since the aspirant is expected to read and answer 5(4) passages apart from the 10(8) Verbal Ability Question (representing the CAT 2020 Exam Pattern). Hence increasing your reading speed such that you can complete the RC section in 40 minutes with 20 minutes for the VA section would allow you to attempt as many questions as possible with reasonable accuracy.

You should ideally dedicate one hour sessions daily for the VARC section to boost your CAT Preparation.

Out of the 1 hour dedicated daily, 40-45 minutes should be spent on attempting 4 Reading Comprehension (RC) passages. This means attempting 24 RC passages per week. Practice is the only way to ensure success and so by attempting more questions will get you a 99 percentile in CAT and your preparation will be on the right track. It will also ensure that you have attempted 700 RCs before CAT excluding mocks which only increases your comfort level with passages of different types.

In the remaining 15-20 minutes, you should attempt 8-10 questions of Verbal Ability. Given consistent practice, this should be ample preparation for the section. Apart from this, the analysis of the mocks will allow the candidates to identify the types of questions that he/she is most comfortable with. These are the questions that the aspirant should jump to if they are short on time.

How to Prepare for CAT Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR)

Similarly, if you are looking at attempting 15-16 questions of DILR in CAT 2019 or 10-12 questions in CAT 2020 with high accuracy, you should be able to score a good percentile.

Like for VARC, you should dedicate at least 2 hour per week for DILR. Within the 1 hour session, you should try to complete 2 sets each of Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation questions. CAT has been shifting towards questions which are a combination of Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning which has blurred the lines in the topics of the section. Therefore, you might be better off, attempting as many DILR Questions as possible.

By attempting 2 Logical Reasoning and 2 Data Interpretation sets per day, you'll be completing 4 sets of LR and DI questions each within a week. You will need to ramp up this practice rate as the CAT Exam draws closer. This will ensure that you have attempted around 100-150 DILR sets before CAT excluding mocks!

The image below shows the ratio in which most students attempt their DILR section (12 questions in LR and 4 questions in DI). This is purely indicative and aspirants who are more comfortable with DI can attempt more questions in DI than in LR.

It is important to go through both sections since the section would have 1 DI and 1 LR at least which are easy to solve. Identifying and solving these questions is a must if the candidates wishes to score a high percentile

How to Prepare for CAT Quantitative Ability (QA)

According to the CAT 2019 Pattern, you need to attempt around 23 questions out of 34 with reasonably high accuracy in order to break the 99%ile barrier. For the CAT 2020 Pattern, an attempt of 12-15 questions would allow you to breach the 99%ile barrier in the section.

After studying the CAT Exam papers for the past 4 years, one thing that stands out is the concentration of questions from algebra and arithmetic. These cover 1/3rd of the portion but 70% of the questions.

Thus, your core focus should be on Arithmetic, Numbers, and Algebra. You should prioritize numbers because between 40-50% of your basic concepts of Numbers will help you in Algebra.

This however does not mean that you focus only on these topics because CAT is known to surprise candidates every once in a while. Thus, Geometry and Modern Math should also be thoroughly studied so that you are able to attempt every question in the paper.

Once you decide on how to prepare for CAT, the important thing is to improve your speed of solving. Most candidates have the ability to solve almost all the questions in the paper. The difference between the toppers and the have-beens is that toppers practice enough to increase their speed such that they can solve these questions within the time frame.

When should you start writing mocks?

There is no better time to start writing mocks than now. Even if you attempt a mock and merely get a handful of questions right that should give you enough confidence and perspective on what you need to focus on next. Another factor in favour of giving as many mocks as possible is that it develops your time management skills which are quite difficult to inculcate from any other method. It also builds the candidate's stamina to function at a high level throughout the 3-hour exam.

Attempting mocks followed by an in-depth analysis would help you measure your level of preparation unlike any other preparation strategy.

Initially, you could start off with a single mock or a couple of mocks every week. As time passes and CAT 2021 draws nears, the number of mocks should be increased so that the candidate is able to ensure that they are able to direct the final leg of their CAT preparation as effectively as possible.

Our proctored and non-proctored CAT Test Series is now available for all MBA aspirants. Now you can attempt 30+ mocks based on the latest exam pattern and improve your performance with Overall Performance Analysis, Drill-down analysis, and Time Wasted analysis tools which will help you gain a better understanding of where you can maximise your score.


CAT Preparation is something that needs to be given utmost importance by all serious candidates. In order to properly decide on how to prepare for CAT, the candidate needs to build his/her own time table. This time table has to not only cover all the topics but should also include the time spent on tests and revision. Once the time table is made, the aspirant has to stick to it religiously in order to ensure that the CAT Preparation is done properly.

If you dedicate 2 hours per week (per section) on your VARC, DILR and Quant concepts, and test them every week by taking a mock test (3 hours) and understanding its analysis (5 hours), you'll be right on track to score more than 99 percentile in CAT.

This is what your CAT Preparation strategy should look like with 5 months to CAT. Stay tuned as we bring more detailed exam strategy pages so that you can maximize your potential and stay on the right track to ace the CAT 2021 exam. All the best!

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