CAT Previous Year Papers


The CAT 2022 Exam, for many candidates, is a their ticket to their dream. CAT 2022 is expected to be held in November 2022, and the notification will be released by July 2022.

One thing about Exam Preparation that has remained true since our school days is looking up previous year's papers. Since CAT 2017, when the CAT Exam went online, the CAT Question Paper and Answer Key have been released and Career Launcher allows you to attempt these actual papers as mocks. Fill out the form on the right side to access the actual CAT Previous Year Paper.

CAT Previous Year Papers: Key Changes

Prior to 2009, CAT was held as a Paper-based test and established itself as one of the toughest exams in the country. Since CAT 2010, it has moved into the computer-based test mode.

In terms of the Paper Pattern, CAT has shifted quite frequently from having 2 sections (CAT 2011-CAT 2014) and 3 sections since then.

  • The basic syllabus remained the same with students studying for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR) and Quantitative Aptitude (QA).
  • When CAT had 2 sections, the sections for VARC and LR were merged while the other section consisted of QA and DI.
  • During the CAT Exam, there was also a sectional time limit of 1-hour for each of the 3 sections over the past 3 to 4 years. In CAT 2020, there were significant changes to this aspect as the duration of the CAT Exam was reduced to 2 hours with 40 minutes each for the individual sections. These changes were brought keeping in mind the COVID restrictions.
  • On the other hand, the marking scheme has remained the same with the aspirant awarded 3 marks for each correct answer and penalized 1 mark for each incorrect attempt.
  • For non-MCQs, there is no negative marking although the reward for a correct attempt remains the same.

Almost all the top colleges also have an individual sectional cut-off that aspirants must clear. If the aspirant fails to meet the sectional cut-off, the overall score will not matter and they will not be called for further rounds of the admission process.

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CAT Previous Year Papers: Overview

The easiest way to improve and score well in the CAT exam is by practising as many CAT previous year question papers as possible. However, before jumping into the tests series and mocks a candidate must understand the paper pattern and structure. The exam pattern for CAT has also changed over the past few years owing to the pandemic. Here is a brief understanding of the CAT 2021 exam pattern:



Total time

2 hours

Total No. of Questions


Questions per section

VARC- 24

DILR- 20

QA- 22

Time per section

40 minutes per section

Marking scheme

+3 for every correct answer

-1 for every incorrect answer

TITA has no negative marking

CAT Previous Year Papers: CAT Preparation

The CAT Previous Year Papers are one step in the CAT Preparation that no candidate can ignore. It gives the aspirants an idea of the actual level of questions that appear in the CAT paper as well as the language and style of questions.

Solving the CAT Previous Year Papers will allow the aspirant to look for trends of the question topics as well as identify the best approach for both attempting the CAT Question Paper as well as individual questions.

CAT 2021 was convened by IIM Ahmedabad and released the CAT Question Paper as expected. While earlier CAT Question Papers are available as well, they are mostly based on memory and hence slightly less reliable.

CAT Previous Year Papers: CAT 2021 Analysis

The CAT 2021 Paper was significantly different from the other CAT Previous Year Papers. The time limit remained the same but the no of questions was reduced to 66 overall. In terms of the sectional difficulty level, the VARC section of CAT 2021 difficulty level was moderate. The DILR section of CAT 2021too was quite moderate with the level of difficulty being similar to the DILR section of CAT 2020. The QA section as expected was similar in terms of difficulty level to the QA section of CAT 2020 and CAT 2018.

The reduced questions and time limit meant that the cut off in terms of the value was reduced and a 99%ile could be obtained at a score of around 96.


CAT 2021

CAT 2020

CAT 2019

CAT 2018

CAT 2017

CAT 2016




































As this table shows, the cut-off shifts by a huge amount depending on the level of difficulty of the paper. With the easy paper in 2017, 150 would have been only a mediocre score but with the same score in a more difficult paper of CAT 2016 or CAT 2018, it would have been almost equal to a 99%ile. CAT 2019 was somewhere in between CAT 2017 and CAT 2018 with the 99%ile, 95%ile and 90%ile marks lying in between the values in the corresponding years. CAT 2020 is an aberration since the pattern changed during this CAT Exam. CAT 2021 again witnessed a change in the number of questions being reduced to 66 overall.

CAT Previous Year Papers: CAT 2020 Analysis

CAT 2020 was held in three slots: the morning, afternoon and evening slots. Apart from this, there were a host of changes including the reduced time limit (2 hours instead of 3 hours) and the paper pattern being unknown. One thing which remained the same was the sections:

  • Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC)
  • Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR)
  • Quantitative Aptitude (QA)

The number of questions in the CAT Question Paper 2020 was reduced to 76 questions with 26 questions each in VARC and QA while DILR accounted for 24 questions. The table given below shows the trends of the number of non-MCQs over the previous years.

Year Number of non-MCQs
CAT 2016 33
CAT 2017 26
CAT 2018 25
CAT 2019 26
CAT 2020 17

The number of non-MCQs in CAT has been around 25-26 in recent times with a dip to 17 due to the reduced number of questions in CAT 2020 from 100 to 76 questions. This can be a double-edged sword for the aspirants since the non-MCQs offered a chance for aspirants to attempt the questions without any penalty but the lack of options also increased the difficulty of the question.

CAT Previous Year Papers: CAT 2019 Analysis

CAT 2019: Slot 1

CAT 2019 did not throw any surprises in terms of the CAT exam pattern. In terms of the level of difficulty, VARC was slightly trickier compared to last year, with 2 passages on the difficult side. Both DILR and Quant were slightly easier than last year. Overall, the paper was slightly less difficult, as compared to CAT 2018. An overall raw score of around 157-160 would have fetched a 99%ile in CAT 2019.

CAT 2019: Slot 2

CAT 2019 Slot 2 was similar to Slot 1 in terms of the level of difficulty. VARC was tougher than CAT 2018 with a 99%ile at around 60-62 marks. DILR was 1-2 questions easier than last year with a 99%ile at 46-49 marks. The level of difficulty of QA was between that of CAT 2017 and CAT 2018. 99%ile in QA would be anywhere between 57 and 60 marks.

Overall, the paper was similar to 1-2 questions easier than last year. A 99%ile would have been around 158-160.

Questions from CAT Previous Year Papers

Some of the questions from the CAT previous year question papers are given below to get an overall idea of the types of questions that appear in CAT Question Papers and learn about the approach to solve them as well.

Several approaches can be taken to solve these questions. The approaches shown are the simplest ones solved using only the basics and no shortcuts.

CAT Previous Year Question Paper: VARC Section

Q) The passage given below is followed by four summaries. Choose the option that best captures the author’s position. Artificial embryo twinning is a relatively low-tech way to make clones. As the name suggests, this technique mimics the natural process that creates identical twins. In nature, twins form very early in development when the embryo splits in two. Twinning happens in the first days after egg and sperm join, while the embryo is made of just a small number of unspecialized cells. Each half of the embryo continues dividing on its own, ultimately developing into separate, complete individuals. Since they developed from the same fertilized egg, the resulting individuals are genetically identical.


  1. 1. Artificial embryo twinning is low-tech and mimetic of the natural development of genetically identical twins from the embryo after fertilization.
  2. 2. Artificial embryo twinning is just like the natural development of twins, where during fertilization twins are formed.
  3. 3. Artificial embryo twinning is low-tech unlike the natural development of identical twins from the embryo after fertilization.
  4. 4. Artificial embryo twinning is low-tech and is close to the natural development of twins where the embryo splits into two identical twins


In order to ascertain the answer, let us go through the options one by one. The first option talks about the technique being low-tech and similar to the natural development of genetically identical twins from the embryo rather than the egg. The second option mentions that it is just like the natural development of twins which is untrue because the twins are formed before the embryo is even created. The third option contradicts the first option which appears to cover the facts so it cannot be true. The fourth option is very similar to the first option but talks about being close to the natural development of twins which is slightly vague.

Thus from the options given above, the answer appears to be Option 1.

CAT Previous Year Question Paper: QA Section

Q) Humans and robots can both perform a job but at different efficiencies. Fifteen humans and five robots working together take thirty days to finish the job, whereas five humans and fifteen robots working together take sixty days to finish it. How many days will fifteen humans working together (without any robot) take to finish it?


  1. 1. 36
  2. 2. 45
  3. 3. 32
  4. 4. 40


If we take the efficiency of each human to be H and each robot to be R. The equation formed is:
15H + 5R = 1/30
5H + 15R = 1/60
Using the second equation,
15H + 5R = 2* (5H + 15R)
15H + 5R = 10H + 30R
5H = 25R
H= 5R or R= H/5
Thus we can say,
15H + H =1/30
H= 1/480
For 15 Humans to complete their job,
15H = 15/480
= 1/32
Thus the answer is Option 3.

CAT Previous Year Question Paper: DILR Section

Q) Ganga, Kaveri, and Narmada are three women who buy four raw materials (Mango, Apple, Banana and Milk) and sell five finished products (Mango smoothie, Apple smoothie, Banana smoothie, Mixed fruit smoothie and Fruit salad). Table-1 gives information about the raw materials required to produce the five finished products. One unit of a finished product requires one unit of each of the raw materials mentioned in the second column of the table.


Finished product Raw materials required

Mango smoothie

Mango, Milk

Apple smoothie

Apple, Milk

Banana smoothie

Banana, Milk

Mixed fruit smoothie

Mango, Apple, Banana, Milk

Fruit salad

Mango, Apple, Banana

  • One unit of milk, mango, apple, and banana cost ₹5, ₹3, ₹2, and ₹1 respectively. Each unit of a finished product is sold for a profit equal to two times the number of raw materials used to make that product. For example, apple smoothie is made with two raw materials (apple and milk) and will be sold for a profit of ₹4 per unit. Leftover raw materials are sold during the last business hour of the day for a loss of ₹1 per unit.

    The amount, in rupees, received from sales (revenue) for each woman in each of the four business hours of the day is given in Table-2.


Business Hour




Hour 1




Hour 2




Hour 3




Hour 4 (last hour)




  • The following additional facts are known.
    1. No one except possibly Ganga sold any Mango smoothie.
    2. Each woman sold either zero or one unit of any single finished product in any hour.
    3. Each woman had exactly one unit each of two different raw materials as leftovers.
    4. No one had any banana leftover.

Q. What BEST can be concluded about the number of units of fruit salad sold in the first hour?


  1. Either 0 or 1 or 2.
  2. Exactly 1.
  3. Exactly 2.
  4. Either 1 or 2.

Answer: Either 0 or 1 or 2