CAT 2015 Comprehensive Analysis with Cutoffs

(There is a user who has posted the answer keys it seems for QA Slot 1 here)


That is the single word/feeling that comes to mind when one goes through an ordeal of preparing for, what most people think, the most important exam of one’s life!

Only later, much later in life and career does one realize that they wasted too much of time on this.


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Many students who came out of the hall proclaimed that the CAT paper was easy except that the Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning was pretty tough!

CAT 2015 was pretty much in the lines of what they have already given on the CAT website. The surprise, as they say, is that there was no surprise on the paper pattern!

Students reported that there was a minor glitch in the Instructions given at the start of the paper. The Instructions said that there would be DILR questions in sets of 2 or 4 and Reading Comprehension (RC) questions in sets of 4.  

With QA becoming slightly easier and more importantly, reduction in weightage for higher maths and the addition of an online calculator is a bit of help for non engineers, which may help increase diversity this year. Though I expect, engineers would still make up a large majority on all IIM campuses.

The IIMs and TCS should be commended on pulling off the CAT exam without any glitches. In fact, reducing the number of slots and therefore the days, make the exam less biased. CAT 2015 could be a precursor to making CAT 2016 a single slot paper on a single day. That way, the entire issue of normalization between sets can be done away with and every student is tested on the same questions! Having said this, the normalization should not be an issue as was seen in CAT 2014 as the normalization is clearly defined by the IIMs and therefore there is no scope for ambiguity, and heartburn, unlike when the exam was conducted by Prometric.

Let’s get back to the actual paper!

CAT 2015 Paper Analysis : SLOT 1 Paper Analysis

As has already been announced by the IIMs, for the first time in CAT, non-MCQ type questions made an appearance. There were 100 questions in all the three section put together, 28 questions of them were of the non-MCQ type.

As expected, non-MCQ questions did not carry any negative mark while the MCQ questions carried -1 mark negative for a wrong answer and +3 for a correct answer.

Section No. of MCQs No. of non-MCQs Total no of Qns Total Marks
Section I – Verbal & Reading Comprehension (VARC) 28 10 34 102
Section II – Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR) 24 8 32 96
Section III – Quantitative Aptitude (QA) 28 10 34 102
Total 72 28 100 300

*MCQ – Multiple Choice Questions

If one were to compare the difficulty level of CAT2015 over the last year’s paper, then CAT 2015 would be a shade more difficult (especially the DILR section) than the difficulty level of the CAT 2014 paper!

Summary of Cut offs

Section Total no of Qns Total Marks Cutoff (85%ile)
VARC 34 102 40
DILR 32 96 24
QA 34 102 45


Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)

The first section in the CAT2015 paper was VARC.

There were 5 passages of RC for 24 Questions overall. It was a pleasant surprise as the RC passages were not very long and quite a few questions were direct. The agonizingly close answer choices and the highly inferential choices were largely absent. The language and content was easy to read and there were no passages on abstract subjects.

In VA, the surprise was the complete absence of Sentence Correction (Grammar) questions. However, all the 10 VA Questions didn’t have answer choices (non MCQ). This clearly makes Para Jumbles questions significantly tougher to solve. Odd Para-Jumble questions (Finding out the odd sentence out of a sequence of 5 sentences) were easy and the Alternative Summary Questions were moderate.



The breakup of the VARC section is as under


Area No of MCQs No of Non-MCQs Total
RC – Humanities 3 3
RC – Economic Inequality 3 3
RC – World Bank Loan 6 6
RC – Economic Inequality 6 6
RC – Immigration and effects 6 6
Odd Para Jumbles 3 3
Para Completion 4 4
Para Summary 3 3
24 10 34


Many students have reported that they have done upwards of 20 questions in the section. A quick poll, at the time of writing this analysis, says that more than 60% of the students have attempted more than 20 questions. However, as is always the case, the mistakes in RC and VA are far more than in DILR or QA sections. Hence the cutoff expected at 85%ile will be in the range of 38 to 42 marks.


Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)

This section was probably the nightmare of CAT 2015. Especially the LR area. Of the four sets given, only one set appeared easy (family working together on five projects). While the Cubes set also was doable, the fact that it was given as non-MCQs made the solution long and difficult. Sudoku set and the set where Five students take ten tests and their marks distribution were decidedly lengthy.

The DI area had two relatively easy sets 1) Line Graph which gave information on Tourists arrivals and 2) Capacity utilization of 10 plants.

One set on Time & Work where Three jobs A, B and C have to be done by four people was doable but a bit lengthy.

The non-MCQ set (distribution of newspapers in a hotel of 60 rooms for four days) was probably most interesting and the toughest set. Most students would have left this set without bothering to waste time!


Area No of MCQs No of Non-MCQs Total
LR – Distribution 4 4
LR – Cubes 4 4
LR – Distribution 4 4
LR – Distribution /Games 4 4
DI – Table 4 4
DI – Table – Time & Work 4 4
DI – Line Graph 4 4
DI – Comprehension 4 4
24 8 32


A good student could have attempted around 17-18 questions in this set. Very few students would have touched the attempt of 25 in this section. Students who are careful in set selection and willing to cut their losses in case of tough sets would be able to get a decent score and good percentile.

The cutoff in this section would be pretty low as compared to the other two sections and can hover around 23 to 25 marks for a 85%ile.


Quantitative Ability

The relative easiness of the Quant section was overshadowed by the tougher section, which preceded QA (ie DILR). The fatigue factor

The huge emphasis on Arithmetic and Geometry (18 questions out of 34) could well be to give non-Engineers a better chance to crack this section. Though there were a couple of pure math questions, these two were very straight forward and easy to solve.

The break-up of the questions in Quantitative Ability

Area No of MCQs No of Non-MCQs Total
Arithmetic 8 3 12
Numbers 2 1 3
Algebra 5 3 9
Geometry/Mensuration 5 1 6
Pure Math 1 2 2
Venn Diagram 1 1
24 10 34


A good student aspiring to get into would have attempted upwards of 18 questions. A few students reported that they have attempted as high as 30 questions too.

The cutoff can be high and could be closer to 45 marks.


Overall Analysis

This paper, on the whole, was a relatively difficult paper as compared to the CAT 2014 paper. Also, since every student is forced to spend 60 minutes each on the three areas, there is no scope for maximizing the scores by giving disproportionate time to any one area of his strength. This means that the overall cutoffs for CAT 2015 would be lower by a significant level. Also, given that DILR section was much more difficult than the other two sections, the overall is therefore expected to be less by at least 20 to 25 marks than when one compares the same with CAT 2014.

As said earlier in this analysis, the IIMs are clearly trying to strive for a diverse representation of students at the IIMs. The relatively easier Quant and Verbal/RC puts almost everyone on an even keel. The joker in the pack is DILR and whoever has kept the cool in the exam and tried solving the easy ones, would be getting very good percentiles.


VistaMind team has put together a preliminary analysis of the Marks required for various percentiles in each section as well as the overall marks required.

Percentile VARC DILR QA Overall
99% 62 45 70 173
95% 52 32 59 138
90% 46 28 51 121
85% 40 24 45 105
80% 35 20 38 91
70% 30 17 30 75


Note: There is a tendency to claim high accuracy after every exam and it has never been proven to be correct*. Do not expect more than 80 to 85 percent accuracy in QA and probably even lower than this in Verbal and RC.

We will update this once more information comes through and once the SLOT 2 information comes from the students, we will give the normalized percentiles for the marks in each section!


Watch this space!

This has been prepared by VistaMind Team

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ARKS Srinivas

ARKS Srinivas is an alumnus of IIM Calcutta and has been the All India CAT Director at TIME. He is currently the National Head for MBA Prep at Career Launcher.