CAT 2021 Syllabus

Preparation is the key to success in all aspects of life. There are few, if any, instances where things will be handed to you on a golden platter. CAT (Common Admission Test) 2021 certainly does not represent such an instance. CAT 2021 Syllabus is the building block which a candidate cannot miss out on. And so, we have tried to break down and provide you an entire analysis of the CAT 2021 syllabus in the best way possible. 

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. Therefore in order to succeed in this brutal arena, the aspirant needs to ensure that he/she is putting in the right effort in the right way by turning their radar to the prime of the hour.

For this very reason, there needs to be a structure in which they prepare which is where the CAT exam pattern and the CAT 2021 syllabus come in. Before diving deep into the latter, an overview of the CAT Exam Pattern will also help.

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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).

The number of questions for the CAT 2021 Exam Pattern is likely to be confirmed by in the official CAT 2021 Notification which will be released in July, 2021 however the sections have been confirmed to remain the same:

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

If the CAT 2021 Exam follows the pattern of CAT 2020, each section will be allocated 40 minutes each meaning that the exam lasts for 2 hours or 120 minutes in total (20 minutes extra is provided in each section for candidates who have a disability).

Disclaimer: It is not possible to switch between sections although switching between questions within the section is allowed.

If the CAT 2021 Exam follows the pattern of the previous CAT Exams, each section will be allocated 60 minutes or 1 hour making the CAT 2021 Exam 3 hours long.

  • It is not possible to switch between sections although switching between questions within the section is allowed.

CAT 2020 Exam Pattern

For CAT 2020, the COVID restrictions led to a shorter 2 hour exam as stated earlier. This also meant a change in the CAT 2020 Exam Pattern which is given below:




Total Questions

















For CAT 2021, the CAT Exam Pattern may be derived from the CAT 2020 Exam Pattern or it can go back to the previous CAT Pattern that had remained constant from CAT 2015 - CAT 2019. Therefore, it would be wise to take a look at the CAT 2019 Pattern as well.

CAT 2019 Exam Pattern

In CAT 2019, there were a total of 34 questions in the VARC section:

  • 24 questions (5 sets) in the Reading Comprehension sub-section
  • 10 questions in the Verbal Ability Sub-section
  • There are TITA and Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) in each subsection with the majority in the Verbal Ability sub-section.
  • According to the CAT Exam Pattern in 2019, there were 7 TITA questions in the VA subsection and none in the RC sub-section, Which is why, the VA section does not incur any deduction of marks.

In CAT 2019, there were a total of 32 questions in the DILR section:

  • 16 questions each in the Data Interpretation (DI) and Logical Reasoning (LR) sub-sections
  • According to the CAT Exam Pattern in 2019, there were 8 TITA questions which were distributed across the sub-sections equally.

The final section is the QA section which had 34 questions in CAT 2019:

  • There were 11 TITA questions in the CAT Exam Pattern of 2019 although the number can change each year.

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.

VARC CAT 2021 Exam Syllabus

The VARC CAT Exam Syllabus, as compiled by experts at CL, is:

  • Synonyms Antonyms (Vocabulary Based)
  • Grammar or English Usage
  • Correction in Sentence
  • Fill in the blanks
  • Jumbled Paragraph and Cloze Passage
  • Analogies and Reverse Analogies
  • Meaning/Usage Match in terms of context of question
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Summary Questions
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Facts Inferences Judgments
  • Syllogisms
  • Usage of foreign language words
  • Multiple usage of one word
  • Idioms and phrases
  • One-word substitution
  • Odd sentence out

While it is a common spiel at every Coaching that Vocabulary will not be tested in the CAT Exam 2021, it is not necessarily true. The manner of testing Vocabulary has changed over the years and now CAT generally asks vocabulary questions through the Reading Comprehension passages so that students also stand a chance to deduce the meaning of the word from context. Apart from this, the synonyms and antonyms are regularly asked in other MBA Entrances Exams due to which they have to be prepared for as well.

Similarly, Fill in the Blanks, Grammar Usage, Facts, Inferences and Judgments and Correction in Sentence are loosely part of the CAT syllabus as they have been asked in the past but are no longer tested although they do play a significant role in other MBA entrance Exams.

You can also brush up on various idioms and phrases by having the correct approach to Reading Comprehension.Idioms and phrases are basically a group of words which are used metaphorically to explain a phenomenon. Candidates need to learn at least 500 idioms and phrases in order to enhance their vocab which would help them in both the sub sections of VARC I.e Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension. It is important to learn idioms like “landing in hot waters or can of worms” etc because such statements can be misinterpreted by the student that leads to marking a wrong answer and losing marks. Many a time, students tend to rule out grasping the meaning of different idioms as they think it might not be important. However, there have been several instances where a lot of VA questions are linked with idioms. This will be a useful addition to your knowledge and not just for CAT, but for other major MBA entrances as well.

Check : How to prepare for CAT in one month

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.

The estimated number of Verbal Ability problems

Here is the estimated number of Verbal Ability problems which will be asked in CAT 2021 :


Estimated Number of problems

Correction and Completion of sentence


Jumbled Paragraphs


Others (Fill ups, vocab based)


Odd sentence in a paragraph




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.

How to answer RC Passages?

While answering an RC Passage, a candidate has to be extremely scrupulous and not resort to any shortcuts/tricks. The best way to learn and win over VARC is to go an extra mile and “practice”. Some suggest that you need to find the “central words” or “triggering ideas” of the passage and not read it as a whole to answer questions. Based on the experience of candidates who have been tackling with the VARC section since years, this is termed as a bogus approach. You need to go through the entire passage first and then answer questions coming your way. The best way to do it is “speed reading” and not mindlessly getting stuck on the “vocabulary” part of the passage. The test setter generally uses difficult vocabulary to confuse and distract the candidate. Focus on the relevant details that has been significantly mentioned or stressed by the author and ensure you understand them. The details are generally present in a sequential and logical manner. Try to connect the dots between the details mentioned, in keeping with noticing the tone of the passage. Here is how you can answer different RC passages based on the type and tone of the passage: 

  • The subjective kind of questions are easier as the aspirant needs to choose the answer option favoring the question. These kinds of questions can be mostly expected in persuasive RCs I.e RC passages where the author holds a pre-decided stand and explains reasons to justify why his stand is correct. So, the candidate can mark an answer option which is on the lines of the author’s argument, regardless of the fact that the language of the answer option matches with the passage.

  • The objective kind of questions are again a little tricky to answer. These kinds of questions can be found mainly in analytical RC’s. Author, after expressing the pros and cons of both the sides mentioned in the passage, makes a neutral decision which he thinks is correct. Hence, an objective question holds an “object”, and has one specific answer which needs to strictly be of the language author used while writing the passage.

  • The critical/sarcastic/negative kind of passages usually “distortions” as answer options. Candidates need to be aware that critical/sarcastic passages are mild forms of expression. Usually, the answer options can turn extremely bitter/acerbic/caustic and deviate from the central idea of the passage. Students need to ensure the answer option is polite in tone and still delivers some amount of sarcasm/criticism.

  • For informative/scientific passages, the student needs to carefully read the facts mentioned in the passsages, as most of the questions will be based on it. If you are unable to understand some part of the passage that involves idiomatic expressions, you can leave it behind as reading it or trying to understand it hard would be a waste of time.

DILR CAT Exam Syllabus 2021

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:

  • Caselets and Tables
  • Bar Graphs and Column Graphs
  • Venn Diagrams
  • Line Charts & Pie Chart
  • Combination of two or more types linked to each other
  • Number and Letter Series
  • Calendars, Cubes and Clocks
  • Binary Logic
  • Seating Arrangement
  • Matching
  • Logical Sequence
  • Connectives
  • Blood Relations
  • Games and Tournaments
  • Routes and Networks
  • Venn Diagrams
  • Missing Information/Incorrect Information

Data Interpretation CAT Exam Syllabus 2021

From the above syllabus mentioned, the DI 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 this section, solving a limited number of questions with great accuracy would be enough to get a good percentile in this section.

Quantitative Ability CAT Exam Syllabus 2021

The QA syllabus 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.

For quantitive aptitude section of CAT: 

  • Section Weightage is : 34%

  • Type of questions are: Multiple choice based (24-27and TITA (7-10)

  • Scoring scheme is : 0 for TITA/-1 for MCQ

To bolster your mathematical foundation, start off with chapters related to arithmetic, algebra, geometry and unitary word problems. Go in for a “4-hour math concept revival” session. Solve multiple questions on your own, without referring to the answer key. After you are done, analyze what is it that you are doing in the wrong manner. It can be either not reading the question properly, not applying the correct formula and wrongly copying the numerical figures from the question. Accordingly, you can seek help from experts and build necessary conceptual knowledge. Also help understand the estimation methods or alternate methods to tackle some specific complex problems that would help you save on time and energy. Refer to the correct study material for practicing questions of CAT level difficulty and also solve questions in the last 5 years CAT papers for strengthening your understanding of formulas and corollaries.

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


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.

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.