CAT syllabus is the first thing that must be understood by an aspirant who is planning to prepare for CAT 2019. Knowing the CAT syllabus 2019 is one thing, and understanding the contents of that syllabus is quite another. By contents of the syllabus for CAT, we mean the individual topics and subtopics that fall in that syllabus.
It is for this reason that we recommend the student to understand the syllabus by getting into the details of the different topics and subtopics, by understanding the different types of questions that have come from those topics and subtopics, and by understanding their relevance in the context of the latest CAT exam pattern.
Before we go ahead into the nitty-gritty of the CAT syllabus, we would let you know that there is no official syllabus of CAT. The syllabus that you see here and that you come across through other sources is just an accumulation of topics that have come in the recent CAT papers.
To create a list of topics, we have gone through the past year papers, and have listed the topics and subtopics that we feel are important from the preparation of CAT Exam perspective. The topics and the subtopics have been fairly consistent for the past many years. You can learn more about the pattern in which these topics and subtopics come in the CAT exam by reading our article on CAT exam pattern.
The CAT exam tests the aspirants’ aptitude in three areas:
- Quantitative Aptitude
- Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension
- Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning
We will discuss the syllabus for CAT in the same order in which the sections come in the exam.
CAT Syllabus: Quantitative Aptitude
We can categorize the CAT quant syllabus into five broad topics
- Number System
- Modern Maths
A common mistake which a first timer aspirant makes is that they give equal importance to each topic for their preparations. In fact, consistently in recent CAT, around 90% of the questions are from three topics. These topics are Arithmetic, Algebra and Geometry. The following chart depicts the CAT quant section question distribution in CAT 2018.
Therefore, a smart aspirant must focus more on these three topics to prepare for CAT quant section.
There are many subtopics in each of these topics from which the questions are framed for CAT quant section. From a preparation point of view, some subtopics are more important than the rest. In this section we will discuss each of these topics in detail, based on the following parameter:
- Priority of the subtopic
- Type of questions asked in CAT from these subtopics.
- Syllabus to focus for the subtopics
CAT Syllabus: Arithmetic
Over 40% of the total questions in CAT quant section are from arithmetic. This fact, brought on by the recent changes in the cat quant section, has given a big relief to students from a non-maths background. Due to an increase in the number of questions from arithmetic, now, questions from all the subtopics of arithmetic appear. Also, the difficulty level of arithmetic questions is easy to moderate.
|Sub Topic||Priority||Types of Questions||Syllabus to focus|
|Percentages||5/5||Percentages questions are mainly around the percentages change (increase/decrease).
|Basic per cent change formula and understanding of percentage base are primarily tested.|
|Profit Loss and Discount||5/5||Profit and Loss questions are just an extension of the concept of percentages. The questions revolve around the relation between profit/loss, cost price, selling price, discount and market price.
Questions on false weight are also popular in this segment.
|Fundamental concepts of percentages along with basic formulas of profit loss and discount. Some shortcut formulas and tricks give ease in solving such questions quickly.|
|Simple and Compound Interest||3/5||These questions have appeared less frequently in CAT. However, the nature of the questions on SI CI is mostly calculative. In 2018, a question on instalment did appear.
|Straightforward formulas of CI, SI and Installments are sufficient to get the answers.
The formulas are also very important to questions related to the rate of increase in population etc.
|Ratio and Proportion||5/5||A wide variety of questions have appeared from ratio and proportion. The questions generally are based on multiple concepts, in which the fundamental concepts of ratio and proportion are also used to get to the answer.
|Concepts of ratio and proportion are vital in solving many problems on time and work, time speed and distance, mixtures and allegation, geometry etc.
Normally, ratio concepts are used as shortcut tricks to avoid heavy calculations in many arithmetic based questions.
|Averages, Mixtures and Alligation||5/5||Questions from both the topics have frequently featured in CAT exam. The problems are mainly based on “which the two things are mixed in different proportions to get a new mixture.”||The beauty of these topics is that it collates concepts of averages, percentages, and ratio & proportion.
Direct formulas for mixture and allegation are also available to solve the problems. We also recommend learning the method of deviation for averages.
|Time and Work||5/5||The variety of questions on time and work in more than 100. Questions on Pipes and cisterns are also included in this section, as the core concepts used to solve them is the same.
|If you go by the formula, then you need to remember at least 20 of them.
The smartest way is to use the basic concepts of ratio and proportion and apply the method of LCM, which is often preferred over formulas to get to the answer quickly.
|Time Speed and Distance||5/5||The topic is quite vast and is favourite of test setters. The questions from the topics like average speed, relative speed, meeting points, and boats and streams get preference over rest of the topics like circular races and escalators.||A sound understanding of relative speed and shortcut tricks of meeting points based problems are sufficient to solve most of the problems on this topic.
CAT Syllabus: Algebra
Increase in the number of questions from algebra in recent CAT has compelled aspirants to ponder in depth on this topic. Questions from algebra have appeared in decent numbers throughout in past CAT papers. The following table shows the detailed CAT syllabus for algebra and its important components.
|Sub Topic||Priority||Types of Questions||Concepts to Focus|
|Equations||5/5||Questions on quadratic equations are the most widely found in past CAT papers. Often, the questions ask you to find integral solutions for the variable.
|Concepts on the fundamentals of quadratic equations, nature of roots, and integral solutions.|
|Progression||4/5||Usually, the questions are on arithmetic and geometric progressions. At times, questions on the summation of series too have been seen.
|Working with formulas on the number of terms and sum of AP and GP series and knowledge of their means are sufficient.|
|Functions & Graphs||3/5||Basic questions on functions which require simplification have predominately appeared. Modulus functions appear frequently. Questions on graphs too have been seen on a couple of occasions
|Basic definition and understanding of functions, working with composite functions are a must.
Understanding of graphs of some functions like modulus, greatest integer, log, etc gives an extra edge.
|Maxima Minima||3/5||In the past, we have seen three types of questions based on
1. AM-GM Concept
3. Functions / graphsSample Question
|Specific methods of solving all three types of questions are used by the students.|
|Logarithms||4/5||CAT 2018 saw the maximum number of questions from logarithm. Most of the questions are in the form of equations.
|Elementary properties of the logarithm in addition to the basic formula on algebra are commonly used to arrive at the answers.|
CAT Syllabus: Number System
Questions on number system dominated CAT quant section over decades. It was very popular when CAT used to be pen and paper-based. Over the years, it lost its weightage. However, to be good at CAT Quantitative Aptitude, it is vital to be good at number system. The fundamentals of the number system are crucial in all other topics.
Like Arithmetic, Number system too can be divided into various heads. We are discussing all the subtopics of number system keeping in mind their relevancy to the CAT exam.
|Sub Topic||Priority||Types of Questions||Concepts to Focus|
|Properties of numbers||5/5||Questions on prime numbers, perfect squares, integers, fractions etc are the most frequently found.
Usually, the questions are moderate to tough.
|Elementary concepts and properties of numbers|
|Divisibility Rules||4/5||Straightforward questions which test the various divisibility rule of few initial sets of natural numbers.
|Divisibility Rules of numbers like 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12 and 13.|
|Remainders||2/5||Few easy to moderate level questions have appeared in past CAT exam. In recent years, questions form remainder have not been seen.
|Basic concepts of remainders and negative remainders are sufficient to tackle problems.
However, very advance theorems like Fermat, Wilson, Chinese Remainder theorem etc also taught to the students; but looking at the recent trend you can keep them on low priority.
|Factors and HCF & LCM||2/5||Questions pertaining to finding the number of integral solutions and HCF-LCM have appeared.
Some questions requiring multiple concepts of factors and remainders have also featured in past CAT papers.
|Prime factorization and approach of finding integral solutions|
|Factorials||1/5||Usually, the questions are based on finding the number of trailing zeros.||The exponent of a prime number of factorial of any composite number|
|Unit and Last two digits||2/5||In such questions, a single digit number raised to an exponent is given and we are asked to get the last or second last digit in its expansion.
|Power Cycles and tricks for last two digits.|
|Base System||1/5||The questions check the method of converting numbers from one base to another.||Fundamental concepts of base system|
CAT Syllabus: Geometry
Though Geometry has a huge syllabus and varieties in questions, CAT has kept itself limited to testing the elementary concepts of well defined geometrical figures like triangles, circles, quadrilaterals, polygons and mensuration.
Below table gives the details of CAT geometry syllabus.
|Sub Topics||Priority||Types of Questions||Syllabus|
|Triangles||5/5||Typical questions which test the fundamental theorems on triangles in geometry.
|Pythagoras theorem, special triangles like 30-60-90, isosceles, equilateral mass point geometry etc., important Theorems on triangles, and concepts of similar triangles.|
|Circles||5/5||Questions which tests elementary concepts on the circle.
Questions involving more than one circles tangent each other or any other geometrical figures.
|Elementary theorems on the circle. Formulas for areas of the sector, segment etc.
Tangent circles concepts.
|Quadrilaterals||4/5||Questions on Rectangles, parallelogram, trapezium and squares are more popular.
|Formulas of perimeters and areas of various quadrilateral figures.|
|Polygons||2/5||Not many problems on polygon have appeared. But, problems on Hexagon have been the most popular.
|Basic formulas of interior angles, and exterior angles.
Some shortcut formulas on the hexagon
Direct Formula of number of diagonals in a polygon
|3D mensuration||5/5||Problems on mensuration have consistently started featuring in CAT.
|Area and Volume formulas for Cylinder, Cone, Cuboid, Cube, Sphere etc.|
|Coordinate Geometry||1/5||Not very Popular in CAT exam.||Just remembering few formulas of basics of coordinate geometry is sufficient.
You can completely ignore the conic section
CAT Syllabus: Modern Maths
|Sub Topics||Priority||Types of Questions||Syllabus|
|Permutation and Combination||3/5||Questions which are based on counting, the formation of committees and arrangements have been favourite from P and C.
|Fundamental Principles of Counting.
Elementary formulas of permutation and combinations.
Note: The topic has gained more importance in the LRDI section
|Probability||1/5||Questions on probability have almost stopped featuring in CAT exam.||You may skip this section|
|Set Theory||3/5||2 and Three Variable Venn diagram based problems including maxima and minima||Get a complete understanding of working of Venn diagram concepts in solving set theory based problems.
Note: Very important for LRDI section
CAT syllabus for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension
The Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension syllabus comprises the following two broad areas: Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension.
The VARC section of CAT 2018 paper had the following sectional composition:
|Topic||No of questions||MCQ||Non-MCQ||Marks per correct question||Negative Marking||Total Weightage|
The above table shows that the CAT VARC syllabus is simple and less extensive. But the cat exam pattern keeps on changing and so do the questions asked in the exam. If we take into account the papers of the past fifteen years, we see that there are plenty of topics that have been in and out of the CAT VARC section.
Since the questions from these topics have not been consistently coming, it is difficult for us to say whether such types of questions will come again or not. Nevertheless, the students must be prepared with these topics to face any uncertainties on the day of the CAT exam.
Here is the list of the Verbal Ability topics that have come in the CAT exam or are still a part of the VARC section of the CAT exam.
- Odd Sentence
- Paragraph Summary
- Paragraph Completion
- Critical Reasoning
- Word Usage
- Identifying the grammatical errors
- Vocabulary based fill in the blanks
- Confusing words
- Vocabulary based match the column
- Fact Inference and Judgement
- Vocabulary based odd one out
Now we turn our attention to the reading comprehension section of the CAT VARC section. The reading comprehension section does not have any variety, except for the type of questions that come in the exam. However, we have observed that CAT reading comprehension passages are plucked from a wide variety of sources. We would shed some light on those sources, informing the students the kind of substance they must read to become better adapted to the reading comprehension section of CAT.
Though the reading comprehension is just one unit, we have seen that the passages come from:
- Science: Passages from the science have become quite common in the recent CAT papers. In CAT 2018, the morning slot had five passages. Out of the five passages, one was from science. In the afternoon slot, two passages came from pure sciences. By the word science, we mean passages that have research and experiment pertaining to the physical or the biological world around us.
- Environment: Passages from Environment and its impact on human beings have become a feature of the CAT reading comprehension passages. The CAT 2018 exam had reading comprehension passages that talked about plastic and its bad effects on the environment. There was a passage on the aggressive behaviour of elephants, brought on by human beings’ destruction of their habitat.
- Business and Management: If we go by numbers, then business and management as a subject of reading comprehension passages dominated the reading comprehension section of both CAT 17 and CAT 18. For instance, in CAT 2018 in the second slot, we had passages that were based on management topics such as ‘metric fixation’ and ‘meritocracy’. In the morning slot too, we had passages from the world of business and management. There was one on ‘happiness shaping global economics’.
- Technology: In recent years, we have seen occasional passages from the world of technology, passages that discussed the socio-economic consequences of technology. For instance, in CAT 2017 there was a passage on how electric car might shape the future of the automobile industry. In CAT 2018 too, there was a passage on how too much of technology might have an adverse effect on the performance of the teaching staff in government schools.
- Politics and Social Science: Though few and far, passages from social sciences and politics have featured in the cat reading comprehension of CAT. The passages don’t discuss purely political or purely social science but have an interlinking with some other subject. For instance, there are plenty of passages that discuss the impact of public policies on human happiness, progress and wellbeing. Passages have also been seen from the world of politics, in which the impact of politics on innovation, trade and business have been discussed by the author.
- Philosophy: Passages from philosophy were once so common that test takers dreaded the CAT reading comprehension section. Such passages were quite common during the pen-pencil era, but have not been seen much in the recent CAT papers. This is a good sign, suggesting that CAT has become more logical and less complicated.
Since we have seen the verbal ability and reading comprehension syllabus of CAT, we must now prioritise these topics, depending on which topic comes with what weightage and frequency. We have assigned a priority ranking to each topic and have also given a link to the sample question from that topic. In the remarks column, we have discussed what an aspirant should do to better prepare for such topics. Thus we see that this is not just a syllabus copy, but a preparation guide for those who are planning to prepare for CAT 2019.
We will discuss the relevance of each of the above VARC topics to the CAT 2019 exam, keeping the recent CAT papers in mind. Simultaneously, we will also add some sample questions from past year CAT papers, on the above topics and subtopics. This will help the student get a fair idea of what exactly the questions look like. The idea of this exercise is to not just lay out the syllabus but highlight the question format and its difficulty level.
CAT Syllabus: Reading Comprehension
|Subtopic||Priority||Types of RC Passages||Sample Question|
|Passages from Science||5/5 (high priority)||Passages from science are quite common; we, therefore advise the students, to practice reading comprehension passages that deal with scientific stuff. Bodhee Prep has collected science passages from different sources. You may find them here: CAT RC passages on Science|
|Passages from Business and Management||5/5 (high priority)||Business and Management passages are easy to find. Newspapers and Magazines have business and management news, by going through which students can make themselves familiar with the technicalities and the linguistic jargons of such articles. You may also find reading comprehension passages dealing with such subject matter here:|
|Passages from Technology||5/5 (high priority)||Though we would have like to club, science and technology in one group, we have not done so because the passages of pure sciences are based solely on research and scientific observations, while passages on technology are interwoven with other social issues.
Passages from science are to come by in newspapers and magazines, while passages from technology can be found in prominent dailies.
Bodhee Prep has collated reading comprehension passages on technology here:
|Passages from Environmental Sciences||5/5 (high priority)||Reading Comprehension passages from environmental sciences have exponentially increased in recent years. The simple reason for this is the ever-increasing relevance of environmental issues to management and technology.
You can find some passages dealing with environmental issues here:
|Passages from politics and social science||4/5 (high priority)||Passages from politics and social sciences are not as common as the passages from the other four areas discussed above. However, we recommend that the student be familiar with such as passages, in order to better understand such issues.|
|Passages from philosophy||3/5 (low priority)||Passages from the philosophy that were so common in the CAT reading comprehension section once upon a time, have not been seen in recent CAT papers. Thankfully, the CAT has finally realized that such topics have nothing to do with contemporary issues and are not relevant to management science.
However, if you want to ensure that you don’t leave any stone unturned to score well in the VARC section of CAT, then you can practice philosophy passages from here:
CAT Syllabus: Verbal Ability
|Subtopic||Priority||Types of Questions||Sample question|
|Parajumbles without option (TITA Parajumbles)||5/5 (high priority)||Until CAT 2014, the parajumbles came with options. The question asked the candidate to arrange four or five sentences to form a coherent paragraph. The parajumbles with options were doable and did not take much time.
However, since CAT 2015, the parajumbles with options have stopped coming. Now we have the parajumbles in the form of non-MCQ. Four questions came from this topic in CAT 2018.
You can practice such questions from here:
|Parajumbles with option||4/5 (high priority)||The parajumbles in the form of MCQs are far easier than the non-MCQ parajumbles. Though in the recent CAT papers, we haven’t seen the MCQ parajumbles, it is advisable for the student to practice questions in the MCQ form as well. You never know when the CAT might change its pattern again.
Moreover, the MCQ parajumbles are very important and form an integral part of the verbal ability section of other exams such as NMAT, IIFT, SNAP and XAT.
|Odd Sentence||5/5 (high priority)||After parajumbles, Odd sentence or sentence exclusion is the second most important topic of CAT verbal ability.
Though a recent addition to CAT verbal ability, odd sentence questions are relatively easier than the parajumbles, though both are based on a similar concept and have a similar approach. This is a high scoring area and should not be missed by the aspirant planning to maximise their score in the VARC section of CAT.
You can read more about the approach to the odd sentence here:
|Paragraph Summary||5/5 (high priority)||Paragraph Summary questions are as important and as doable as the odd sentence questions. In CAT 2018, the verbal ability section comprised of only the parajumbles, the odd sentence, and paragraph summary. The paragraph summary questions were the easiest of all the three.
You can read more about the approach to paragraph summary here:
|Paragraph Completion||4/5 (high priority)||The paragraph completion questions did not come in CAT 2017 and CAT 2018, but questions from para completion were there in CAT 2014 and CAT 2015. We cannot rule out the possibility of these questions making a comeback in the coming years.
We suggest that the aspirant make himself comfortable with questions coming from this area. You can read more about paragraph completion here:
|Critical Reasoning||4/5 (high priority)||There are no direct questions from Critical Reasoning in CAT exam. But if you want to know the importance of critical reasoning, then you should have a look at the reading comprehension questions of CAT. 2018. Plenty of questions in the RC section were framed in the form of critical reasoning questions. Critical Reasoning helps you become good in Reading comprehension. You must be familiar with this variety, even if there are not many questions from this area|
|Word Usage||1/5 (low priority)||These type of questions were seen in CAT paper as recently as CAT 2014. They have stopped coming since then. These questions were based on simple word usage. Some of the questions were easy but some is based on academic concepts, were difficult to crack.
We would say that students should ignore this area entirely.
|GRAMMAR (MCQ form)||3/5 (high priority)||We haven’t seen many grammar questions in CAT since 2014. In your mocks, at times you might come across grammar questions that are in the form of MCQ. You are provided with the options from which you have to select the right answer. Such questions are easy and should be practised by the students.
Grammar questions often feature in exams other than CAT.
You can learn more about CAT grammar here:
|Fact Inference and Judgement||1/5 (low priority)||The FIJ questions came in CAT only twice, the last time when it came was in 2006. This is not at all important and can be ignored by the aspirant.
In case you are curious to know a little about it, you can watch Bodhee Prep’s video here:
|Fill in the blanks||3/5 (high priority)||The last time we saw a vocabulary question in CAT was in 2014. Since then we haven’t seen a single direct vocabulary question in CAT. But the verbal ability section of CAT, once upon a time, was dominated by the fill in the blanks kind of vocabulary question. Since these questions are quite common in exams other than CAT, we suggest that the students be acquainted with such types of questions.
Moreover, solving such questions will make the student better in vocabulary and, as a result, in reading and comprehension as well.
You can get plenty of such questions here:
|Confusing words||2/5 (low priority)||We haven’t seen such questions for the last ten years. The last time we saw such questions in 2008 CAT paper. Still, such questions can be found in XAT and the student should take note of words that sound similar but have a widely different meaning.|
|Syllogism||1/5 (very low priority)||Though found in some of the past year papers, these questions have completely stopped coming in CAT. Such questions are now better left.|
The two tables above represent the entire VARC syllabus of CAT exam. Nothing outside this is likely to come in CAT. If the student makes thoroughly himself familiar with most of the above topics, keeping their priority in mind, he is most likely to do well.
CAT Syllabus: Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation [LRDI]
The Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation (LRDI) section of CAT has undergone a significant change over the last few years. In the past CAT papers, the LRDI section had an equal number of question sets (4 sets each) from LR and DI. But in the past few years, logical based DI sets have replaced the calculation intensive DI sets. The calculation intensive DI set was a scoring area for many students, but now this area too has become LR centric.
Aspirants often wonder about the CAT syllabus of LRDI. The LRDI section does not have defined problems. What we have in this section is a passage with a set of numerical or logical conditions, followed by four to five questions. We can rate the questions from easy to very difficult, depending on the ease with which one can arrive at the answers to those questions. Though it is difficult for us to define the syllabus, based on the trend of the last few years, we can categorize the problems. Here are some of the most frequently found LRDI question sets
CAT LRDI Syllabus: Fixing the missing numbers:
CAT has replaced the traditional calculation intensive DI sets with sets that have the numbers missing in them. The students must be carefully studying the logical conditions in the question. Once the numbers have been fixed, the task of calculation is just a final step towards finding the right answer. These kinds of questions have come in the past year CAT papers.
CAT LRDI Syllabus: Breaking of numbers:
Aspirants might wonder as to what is the difference between ‘fixing the number’ and ‘breaking the numbers’. The difference is that in fixing the numbers, you have to arrive at the figure by logically breaking down the conditions, and by smartly using the already given data. But in the breaking of numbers, you might have to use the mathematical concepts of number systems to arrive at the right answer. In these cases, you will have to distribute the numbers among different entities based on the conditions given to you.
CAT LRDI Syllabus: Games and Tournaments:
The Games and Tournaments kind of LRDI sets were quite common in the pen-pencil era of CAT, but have not come in the last few years. The aspirants, however, must become familiar with this category because the techniques learnt here can be put to effective use in other variety of sets as well. The Games and Tournaments kind of sets will develop in the aspirant the stamina to stick to a set for a more extended period. Bodhee Prep has worked out a solution for the LRDI sets that have come in past year CAT papers:
CAT LRDI Syllabus: Maxima Minima set theory / Venn diagram:
The maxima-minima set theory has been one of the favourite areas of CAT LRDI. The level of difficulty of these tests is by far the highest. You have to be very careful in your approach because the chances of going wrong in these kinds of sets are very high. But, these sets are less time consuming than the others.
CAT LRDI Syllabus: Data arrangements/matrix based (tabular form):
These are the conventional sort of LR sets, with which we are quite familiar. In fact, the matrix based sets are very tempting, and indeed should be the first preference of the student while solving mocks. Every year we have at least one or two sets of this kind, and more often than the students get these questions correct. You must practice a good number of these kinds of sets to get them right on the exam day.
CAT LRDI Syllabus: Linear Arrangement sets:
Like the conventional matrix based sets, the linear arrangement types of LRDI sets are usually not very difficult. But in past many years in CAT exams, such questions have not appeared. However, aspirants must make themselves familiar with these kinds of sets as they are easy pickings. Here are some high difficulty linear arrangement kind of LR sets:
CAT LRDI Syllabus: Circular Arrangement sets:
The circular arrangement LRDI sets are slightly tricky, and may not be as straightforward as the linear type. Though this variety has not been much seen in the recent CAT papers, the concepts learnt from this kind can be effectively used in other lesser known varieties. Here are some high difficulty circular arrangement kind of LR sets:
CAT LRDI Syllabus: Sequencing and arrangement:
Sequencing and arrangement kind of LR sets are not difficult but need caution and care while being attempted. The slightest negligence may result in the wrong choice. Such types of sets were seen in good numbers in CAT 2017, and, therefore, should be expected in LRDI section of CAT 2019