CAT Duration, Pattern and Online Tips

CAT Duration, Pattern and Online Tips

The actual time duration of the test is 3 hours (180 minutes). Each section has a time limit of 60 minutes (1 hour). You cannot switch over from one section to another section at any point. An on-screen timer is available for you to check how much time you have left.

Number of Sections and Questions

There are three sections within the test:

  1. Quantitative Ability (QA) : 34 Questions
  2. Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR) : 32 questions
  3. Verbal & Reading Comprehension (VRC) : 34 questions

The questions are divided into MCQs and Non-MCQ type questions. Three points are awarded for each correct answer, one point is deducted for each wrong answer. There is no penalty for questions that are left unanswered. Non-MCQs do not carry penalty of negative marking.

Type of Questions


For objective multiple-choice questions, every question has 4 options - A, B, C and D. Read the question on the screen and click on the circle next to your selected answer. You can change their answer simply by clicking on any other circle. If you’ve already selected an answer but later decide that you would prefer not to answer that question, all you need to do is click on the clicked circle again.

Direct Answer Type

Some questions in each section may not be of multiple choice type. Instead, direct answers are to be typed on the screen.

Marking Questions for Review

If you are unable to answer a particular question or unsure if your response is correct, you may ‘mark’ it and return to review it later. Simply click on the ‘Mark’ button on the bottom of the screen. Once clicked, the button changes to red so you know that it has been marked successfully. To unmark it, click the red ‘Marked’ button. Note that if you have selected an answer, it will be evaluated even if it remains ‘Marked’ when you end the test. The ‘Mark’ feature only serves as a reminder to you.

Reviewing Questions

At any time during the test, you can go to the review screen to see which questions you have completed, marked, or are incomplete. Click on the ‘Review’ button on the bottom of any question screen to do so. The review screen shows a list of all the questions, along with a symbol next to it which indicates if it is marked, complete or incomplete. From here, you can double-click on a particular question to go directly to it, or select ‘Review Incomplete’ or ‘Review Marked’ from the bottom of the screen. Selecting ‘Review Incomplete’ or ‘Review Marked’ takes you to the first ‘Incomplete’ or ‘Marked’ question respectively.

Time Management

The on-screen timer is found on the top right corner of every screen. For example, 00:35:48 means the time remaining is 35 minutes and 48 seconds to complete that section. Do check this timer regularly and allocate your time carefully to ensure you have sufficient time to attempt all the questions. Remember, once a section has ended, you will no longer be able to go back to it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. Is CAT an online exam?

CAT is not an online exam. It is a digital or Computer Based Test (CBT); not an Internet-Based Test (IBT); that is, a candidate will not take the exam on an internet site. Instead of reading the questions in a paper booklet and darkening the ovals on the answer-sheet, a candidate will read the questions on a computer terminal and choose an answer by clicking on the correct option.

Q2. How is the computer-based format different from the paper-based format?

In the computer-based format, the candidate reads a question on a computer terminal and clicks on the correct answer. Additionally, the timer on the computer screen tells you the remaining time to complete the current section.In the paper-based format, the candidate reads a question on a paper booklet and uses a pencil to darken the ovals on an answer-sheet. Additionally, a timer will be displayed on the screen that tells you how many more minutes to complete the current section.

Q3. Can I take the exam from any computer?

A candidate must take the exam on a workstation assigned at the exam venue based on the city selected while registering for CAT. The venue details are printed on the Admit Card.

Q4. What does a CBT exam look like?

A practice test is available on the CAT website: You can familiarize yourself with the functionality and navigation of the actual exam.

Q5. Where can I select my preference of shift and test date?

The exam shift (forenoon or afternoon) is allocated for each registered candidate based on the city preference made at the time of application. A candidate cannot select the shift.

Q6. How many sections are there in CAT?

CAT will have three sections:

  • Section I: Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension
  • Section II: Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning
  • Section III: Quantitative Ability

Q7. Can I bring a calculator to the testing centre?

Candidates are prohibited from bringing calculators to the testing centre. You may use the onscreen calculator that will be available throughout the exam.

Q8. Are there negative marks for questions other than MCQs?

No, there are no negative marks for non-MCQ type questions.

Q9. Do the non-MCQ type questions carry equal marks as MCQs?

Yes, all questions carry equal marks. However, for non-MCQ type questions, you must type the answer.

Q10. How many non-MCQs are there in each section?

The number of questions varies and cannot be disclosed.

Q11. Is there a specific order for answering sections? Can I attempt sections the way I want?

You must answer the sections in a pre-specified order and this order will remain same for all the candidates.

Q12. Does CAT have a syllabus for exam preparation?

No, the CAT exam does not have a defined syllabus for CAT preparation. However, you can attempt the mock test to understand the pattern of exam and types of questions. Check the CAT website regularly for the announcement of mock test.

Q13. What is the marking/grading scheme for CAT? Is there negative marking for a wrong answer?

For questions other than MCQs, 3 marks are assigned for ‘correct answer’ and no marks for ‘incorrect answer or no attempt'. The scoring scheme for Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs) is as follows:

  • Each correct answer is awarded 3 marks.
  • An incorrect answer fetches -1.
  • No marks are given or deducted for unattempted questions.