CAT 2015 Test Taking Strategies

Every time the pattern of the CAT exam changes, a need to calibrate your strategy arises.

Why is Strategy needed?

In Short the two reasons for using an effective strategy are


  1. Utilise time effectively
  2. Maximise scores.

It is the not the most knowledgeable who cracks entrance exams. The student who can utilize the resources available viz., his knowledge and the time available for the exam, makes it to the top list.

Many students miss out on solving easy questions in the exam due to lack of time management. Building a strategy to attempt the paper ensure that one solves all the questions that one is capable of (It is not that one has to know everything. Cracking CAT is about ensuring that you solve correctly, and within time available, all the questions that you would otherwise solve given infinite time!).

CAT 2015 pattern

The pattern has undergone a change from the previous year. However, this change is going to affect only those students who have written the exam in 2014. For all others, there is nothing like change in pattern.

Incidentally, the IIM authorities have made the life of students simpler by simplifying the CAT pattern. Also, by introducing the onscreen calculator, they are enticing a lot of math phobia students to attempt CAT!

Let’s understand the pattern and time limits.


    No of Questions Time Limit (in Min)
Sec -I Quantitative Ability 34 60
Sec -II English – VA & RC 34 60
Sec -III Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning 32 60
Total   100 180


The type of questions are again going to be Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) save a few which may require a directing typing of the answer. But this does not mean that CAT will have descriptive questions. In the non-MCQs , the student is expected to type a NUMBER or an ALPHABET in the space provided.



The best to approach CAT2015 is to consider that you are writing THREE Exams.

Each paper is for 60 minutes! It is just a mindset issue. Instead of considering that there are three sections of the same papers, by considering that each section in an exam in itself, you will be on your toes throughout the THREE hours.

After the completion of every 60 minutes, you should close your eyes, take a deep breadth, forget of the section (nay exam) you have written, and jump headlong into the next exam!

While the IMs have made the job easier for the students by giving time limits for each of the sections, there is a need for proper strategy within each section. Let us look at what needs to be done for each area.

Strategy for Quantitative Ability

Typically, there are two strategies that one can follow in QA section.

Strategy I : Solve the paper in two rounds of 35 min and 25 min.

In the first round, the emphasis is on solving all easy questions (the ones that can be solved within a minute or minute and a half) and marking some questions that you know you can solve but may take about 2 minutes or more, for the second round.

By the end of the first 35 minutes, you are expected to have read all 34 questions  (Typically would take about 12 minutes if one has to only read all questions) while solving about 12 to 16 questions in the first round. In the process you would have gone through all questions and marked another 10-12 questions for the second round.

In the second round, you will only touch those 10 to 12 questions that you have already marked and try solving each of them in 2 minutes or less.
Strategy II : Divide the 60 minutes into 6 slots of 10 minutes.

Here, the idea is to not worry about the whole of 60 minutes, but further subdivide the section into 10 min slots, which will help you concentrate on ONLY 5 to 6 questions per slot of 10 minutes. In this strategy however, there is no scope for coming back to a question at a later time. Hence, whatever one knows, one has to just answer and keep moving.


Strategy for English – Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension

It is expected that there could be around 4 RC passages for 15 to 16 questions. The remaining questions in the section would be of Verbal area – Grammar, Vocab and Verbal Reasoning.

Once again, it is very important to give certain time to each of these sub sections/areas. Typically about 32 minutes can be given to the RC section (4 passages, an average of 8 minutes per passage).

Similarly, it is imperative that for each type of questions within the verbal area, a certain time is allotted and adhered to.

Ideally, in the English section, one should aim to attempt all the questions (expect those ones where ne has to purely guess).


Strategy for Data Interpretation (DI) and Logical Reasoning (LR).

It is expected that there would be 16 questions each of DI and LR. Also, these 16 questions could be given in four sets each. Since there is a possibility of non-MCQs in this section too, there could be a couple of questions, which would require the student to input a numerical in the answer slot provided.

The recommend strategy for DI and LR is simple. Give 7 minutes to each set of questions (assuming there are 4 questions). If for any reason you are not able to finish the set in 7 minutes, leave the set and come back to the same in the buffer time of 4 minutes available.

There will always be a set or two that you may not be able to solve. In such cases, you will spend only about 2 to 3 minutes for such a set and save 4 minutes.

Potentially therefore, you will get another 4 to 8 minutes to give to the 6 odd sets that you decide to solve.


Important Dos and Don’ts



  1. Answer all non-MCQs without fail. There are NO Negative marks for non-MCQ questions.
  2. Do not spend more than 2 minutes on any single question. If you are unable to get the answer in 2 minutes, chances are that you will not get the answer in the exam
  3. Leave your EGO out before attempting the paper. This is typically seen in engineers who are supposedly good in math! Many a time, a student continues to solve a question (especially an easy question) even after not getting in the first couple of minutes. Similarly, if a particular set in LR is not getting cracked then, JUST LEAVE IT.
  4. Don’t waste your time in re-calculating an answer by using the On-screen Calculator if you have already solve a question. The urge to verify will slow you down.
  5. Keep track of the time within the section time limit and strictly stick to the plan you have made.
  6. Stop thinking of the result/marks/cutoffs etc. while solving the paper. The same can be reminisced once you finish the three hours!


There will be enough easy questions in the CAT exam. It is very important to keep your calm and not panic if some of the questions appear very difficult. It is your recourse management that is being tested and hence leaving out difficult questions is a part of strategy.

All the best!


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The Author is an alumnus of IIM Calcutta and has been the All India CAT Director at TIME. He is currently the CEO of VistaMind Education. VistaMind is the only National Level Training institute, which prepares students for CAT through LIVE ONLINE CLASSES. For more information, write to OR Visit

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.