CAT 2021 Syllabus

CAT is one of the toughest and most competitive exams in the world with lakhs of aspirants vying for a few thousand seats in the best B-Schools. In order to stay a step ahead of your competition, you need to ensure that you have a solid preparation strategy which you can develop with the help of a detailed analysis on the CAT 2021 Syllabus. Amongst these sections, the common denominator in terms of the CAT Exam Syllabus is that it is limited to the topics and knowledge that one gains till Class 12.

The CAT Exam is comprised of 3 sections:

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

Amongst these sections, the common denominator in terms of the CAT Exam Syllabus is that it is limited to the topics and knowledge that one gains till Class 12.

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Overview of CAT 2021 Exam Pattern

The CAT Exam is a Computer Based Test (CBT) rather than an Online Test. The distinction between the two is that in the CBT, the questions are kept constant and simply presented to the students in an online format rather than an Online Test where the questions are stored in question banks and the computer decides the questions to be asked of the students (E.g. GMAT).

Read in detail: CAT 2021 Exam Pattern

CAT 2021 Syllabus

The CAT 2021 Exam Pattern gives us a good idea about how to go about preparing for CAT 2021. By going through each topic which is likely to be included in the CAT 2021 Syllabus will help each aspirant devise their own list of strengths and weaknesses and accordingly prepare a study plan for CAT 2021.

CAT 2021 VARC Syllabus

The VARC Syllabus of CAT 2021 is likely to consist of 3 major topics:

  • Reading Comprehension: This is likely to consist of approximately 70% weightage of the total VARC score. The RCs can be from a wide range of topics from abstract to scientific.
  • Parajumbles: There are 2 types of Parajumbles which are generally tested in the CAT Exam and are a part of the CAT 2021 Syllabus. The normal Parajumbles which are multiple choice and the Subjective Parajumbles where the answer needs to be filled in.
  • Parasummary: While there are other topics which have been tested in the CAT Exam, the Parasummary topic is tested practically every year and is therefore an immovable part of the CAT 2021 Syllabus.

CAT 2021 DILR Syllabus

The DILR Syllabus for CAT 2021 is the most undefined as compared to the other section in CAT 2021. The two sub-section of the DILR Syllabus are:

  • Data Interpretation: Data will be presented in the form a graph, chart or another form of visualization and you will be required to solve the questions given based on the information given.
  • Logical Reasoning: Here you may be given information in a non-structured manner and you may be required to structure it and derive the outcome to solve the questions given.

As indicated in the graphic, the number of questions in the DI and LR sub-section are generally equally distributed which means that students that are more comfortable in one of the sub-sections can still clear the cut off if they attempt that part of the CAT 2021 Paper well.

However the CAT DILR Section has been changing slightly in recent years towards questions which are a combination of DI and LR rather than the regimented, separate DI and LR questions which were tested earlier.

CAT 2021 QA Syllabus

The CAT 2021 QA Syllabus has the maximum portion since it covers everything that one studies till Class 12. Some of the major topics in CAT 2021 QA Syllabus are:

  • Arithmetic: This topic covers the maximum number of questions in the most CAT Exams and is a topic that all students should prepare for.
  • Algebra: This topic has the second highest weightage in terms of the questions asked in the CAT Exam.
  • Numbers: These are topics which are regularly tested in the CAT Exam and every aspirant should be clear about the basics of the topics to not lose out on easy marks.
  • Geometry: This is another regularly tested topic and consists of Geometry, Coordinate Geometry and Mensuration. Having a basic knowledge of the topic will allow aspirants to attempt at least a few questions from the topic in the CAT 2021 Exam.

Given the vastness of the CAT 2021 QA Syllabus, what aspirants need to understand is how to maximize their scores in the section. Therefore picking up the right questions and ensuring that the attempt accuracy is high, will ensure that you score well in the CAT Exam.

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In-Depth Look at CAT 2021 VARC Syllabus

Let us look at the Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension section by breaking it into its components and understand the CAT Syllabus for each subsection. Some of the important details about the CAT 2021 Syllabus of the VARC section are:

Verbal Ability CAT Exam Syllabus 2021

The Verbal Ability section over the past 3-4 years has focused majorly on 3 types of questions:

  • Summary Questions
  • Jumbled Paragraphs
  • Odd sentences in Paragraph Jumbles.

The Summary questions usually consist of:

  • Small passage (80-100 words) with 4 options
  • Objective is to find the best summary for the passage
  • In these types of questions usually, the key is to find the options which does not contradict the passage in any manner
  • Once you are able to eliminate the other options, the right answer would emerge.

The Jumbled Paragraph questions are usually TITA which means that there is no margin for error.

  • In these types of questions, there are 4-5 sentences given out of order
  • Together they form a paragraph and the aspirant has to find the order which best suits the group of sentences. In order to solve these types of questions
    • The first thing that each aspirant needs to do is identify the first and last sentence of the paragraph.
    • This is usually quite easy since the first sentence introduces a topic while the last sentence makes some kind of a judgment or conclusion.
    • Following this, the first sentence should lead to the second sentence and so and so forth.

The Odd Sentence in Paragraph Jumbles is also a TITA questions for the past 3-4 years:

  • The objective for this type of question is to identify the sentence which does not match with the theme established in the rest of the paragraph.
  • These questions may be easy or difficult depending on how it is presented.
  • For easy questions, the sentence will talk about something completely different from the theme of the rest of the passage.
  • On the other hand, in difficult questions, the sentence will be on the same topic as the rest of the passage but will differ slightly in terms of the opinion being offered or the theme being set.
  • It is also possible for the sentence to introduce a topic within the theme which is not pursued further.

Reading Comprehension CAT Exam Syllabus 2021

The Reading Comprehension consists of questions based on passages in the exam. The questions are generally of three types: Fact-based, Inference-based and Vocabulary-based. The Vocabulary based questions have already been discussed above. However, the CAT 2020 RC section included more inferential questions than CAT 2019, which made the section slightly more complex in terms of level of difficulty. The same can be expected from CAT 2021.

The fact based questions, as the name suggests, demand answers on the basis of facts mentioned in the passage. They are usually the easiest questions in the section.

The Inference-based questions are slightly trickier since the aspirant has to deduce the tone and theme of the author before answering these questions. In CAT 2018 and CAT 2019, these types of questions have been fairly limited.

In-Depth look at CAT 2021 DILR Syllabus

DILR was the trickiest section for aspirants in CAT 2016, CAT 2017 and CAT 2020 but the difficulty level was reduced in CAT 2018 and CAT 2019. One of the reasons for this difficulty is the unpredictability of the sections in terms of where the sets could be taken from. The CAT syllabus for the DILR section for CAT 2021 is:

Data Interpretation CAT Exam Syllabus 2021

The DI section of the CAT Syllabus consists of caselets and tables. These caselets have data in the form of bar graphs, column graphs, venn diagrams, lines and pie charts.

In this section of the CAT 2021 Syllabus, the aspirants will be asked to solve questions which are posed based on the data given in the above formats. In order to solve these questions, the data has to be structured in the most intuitive manner so that the questions can be solved. In certain questions, there will be variables that have to be left untouched since they may be provided in the questions. The only way to prepare for this section in the CAT exam is to solve as many problems as possible and go through the previous years’ CAT Exam Papers.

Logical Reasoning CAT Exam Syllabus 2021

The topics for Logical Reasoning in the CAT syllabus across the years consists of numbers and sequences, arrangements, syllogisms, logical sequences, blood relations, calendars, cubes and clocks. The questions are usually arrangements with a combination of the other topics. As can be seen, the number of topics for reasoning is quite numerous and the combination can lead to very tricky sets. This can be one of the reasons that CAT 2015 and CAT 2016 were considered to have difficult DILR sections. The reasoning topics can lead to very complicated sets when combined with each other.

The major concern with solving LR questions is not to solve them but solving them as expeditiously as possible.

In Depth Look at CAT Exam Syllabus 2021 for Quantitative Ability

The QA syllabus for CAT 2021 is quite vast and has been compiled according to CL's experts:

  • Number Systems
  • LCM & HCF
  • Profit, Loss & Discount
  • Percentages
  • Speed, Time & Distance
  • Time & Work
  • Simple & Compound Interest
  • Ratio & Proportion
  • Averages
  • Quadratic & Linear Equations
  • Complex Numbers
  • Logarithm
  • Binomial Theorem
  • Sequences & Series
  • Surds & Indices
  • Inequalities
  • Probability, Permutation and Combination
  • Set Theory
  • Functions & Geometry
  • Mixtures & Allegations
  • Trigonometry
  • Coordinate Geometry & Mensuration

The vast number of topics in the CAT syllabus means that it needs to be broken up into more manageable chunks. The sub-sections in the CAT 2021 Syllabus of QA may be broken down to:

  • Commercial Maths
  • Arithmetic
  • Geometry
  • Algebra
  • Trigonometry
  • Sequences and Series
  • Alligations and Mixtures

Commercial Mathematics is reasonably easy to prepare for since the number of questions is limited and the formulae to be learnt are fairly straightforward.

Arithmetic is also fairly basic and should be easy to prepare for. Most of the topics in Arithmetic are of Class X level and the only trick is to solve them as fast as possible.

Geometry has several rules and finding the most important Geometry rules would allow the aspirant to solve these problems as fast as possible.

Algebra and Trigonometry may be used in conjunction with other topics or may be tested in the CAT 2021 Exam. Sequence and Series is a topic which is occasionally tested in CAT and regularly in other MBA Entrance Exams. With practice, the questions in this topic can be easily solved.

Alligations and Mixtures are similar to Sequence and Series in the sense that it is occasionally tested in CAT. It is fairly easy to solve problems of this type with the right guidance.

Learn about the best books to prepare for CAT VARC, DILR and QA by clicking here

CAT 2020 Analysis

Apart from the basic syllabus for CAT preparation, it might be useful to have a look at the CAT 2020 and CAT 2019 to set a benchmark.

The CAT 2020 Exam Pattern was modified due to the COVID Pandemic. The time limit for CAT 2020 was reduced to 2 hours with 40 minutes given to each section. The number of questions was modified as well with 26 Questions in VARC, 24 Questions in DILR and 26 Questions in QA. The difficulty level varied somewhat with each slot.

The CAT Exam Pattern in CAT 2019 remained identical to CAT 2017 and CAT 2018 with 3 sections and 34 questions in VARC, 32 in DILR and 34 in QA.

The overall difficulty level of both slots was roughly the same. The QA and DILR was of a lower difficulty level in CAT 2019 than in CAT 2018 but the VARC was trickier in CAT 2019 compared to CAT 2017 or CAT 2018.

Find the detailed analysis of CAT 2020 and CAT 2019 on the following page.


There is no CAT 2021 Syllabus which is explicitly mentioned in the CAT Official Website due to which CAT does occasionally pull a surprise on the candidates. However every question in the CAT Exam is solvable since it tests the candidates on knowledge of the basics. Therefore every candidate should ensure that they are thorough in terms of their preparation of the basics. If the aspirant prepares according to the CAT 2021 syllabus, the room for unpleasant surprises is greatly reduced.