CAT 2018 – Analysis By TIME, IMS, Career Launcher, 2iim And Hitbullseye

CAT 2018 was a paper with unexpected surprises and challenges, and the Quantitative Ability section caused many aspirants to struggle.

In this article, experts assess the difficulty level of the test and estimate cut-offs.

Career Launcher

Career Launcher
Section Good Attempts
VA-RC 28+
DI-LR 16+
QA 15+
Total 60+

Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension – CL describes the VA-RC section as a ‘feel good’ section. The RC passages were easy to read and a student could have attempted 20-21 questions easily with more than 85% accuracy. The Verbal Ability section was much easier than expected. Paragraph summary questions were of moderate difficulty, with 1-2 tough questions at the max. The VA-RC section was the easiest of the lot, according to CL.

Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning – CL describes the DI-LR section as a ‘pleasant surprise’. The theme of the DI-LR sets were more conventional as compared to the tricky sets in CAT ’17. The DI set was easy in terms of calculations, while the LR section was easy-moderate in terms of difficulty. “Overall,15-17 attempts, with an accuracy of 90% would be considered good.”

Quantitative Ability – CL describes this section as logic and calculation intensive, and not theory intensive.  Arithmetic and Geometry questions were predominant, and the section tested the clarity of concepts of aspirants. Even the MCQs were confusing. According to them, this was the toughest Quant section in the last 4 four years.


Slot 1
Percentile VA-RC DI-LR QA
85 46 ± 1 25 ± 1 25 ± 1
95 59 ± 1 35 ± 1 41 ± 1
99 70 ± 1 52 ± 1 50 ± 1
Slot 2
Percentile VARC DILR QA
85 45 ± 1 23 ± 1 22 ± 1
95 58 ± 1 33 ± 1 38 ± 1
99 69 ± 1 48 ± 1 49 ± 1

Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension – According to TIME, The RCs in this section were of higher difficulty level, compensated for by an easy VA section across both the slots. Summary questions in VA were tricky, but the overall difficulty level of the section was the same as CAT ’17.

Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning – According to TIME, the DI-LR set was much easier than last year but still presented a challenge for the test-takers. “Both the slots saw some straightforward set-types – Distributions/Venn-Diagrams/Calculation based sets. Nevertheless, the time that these sets demanded was a dampener which would contribute to lowering the cut-offs.”

Quantitative Ability – TIME describes the QA section as the “high tide” in both the slots. “The number of Easy questions saw a conspicuously drastic fall compared to last year which will contribute to a steep fall in the cut-offs this year.” The questions were lengthy and had additional twists that aspirants needed to watch out for. The focus on Arithmetic questions continued this year as well, along with Geometry.


Percentile VA-RC DI-LR QA Overall
85% 40 to 41 28 to 29 25 to 26 90 to 95
90% 45 to 46 32 to 33 29 to 30 95 to 100
95% 50 to 51 38 to 39 35 to 36 105 to 110
97 to 98% 54 to 55 46 to 47 44 to 45 120 to 125
99% 58 to 60 50 to 52 48 to 50 140 to 145

Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension – IMS describes the VA-RC section of CAT 2018 as easier than CAT 2017. VA difficulty was easy, while the RC passages were quite long and featured a shift from sets of 4&6 questions to sets of 5 questions per passage. The RCs were easy in difficulty level.

Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning – According to IMS, the DI-LR sets were time-consuming. However, 50% of the sets were easy and doable, and the overall difficulty level was lesser than last year’s DI-LR.  Attempting 5 sets with 85% accuracy would have been enough to be in the safe zone.

Quantitative Ability – IMS describes this section as moderate-difficult level. Approximately 30% of the questions were sitters, while approximately 25% of the questions were of high difficulty level. “Overall, an attempt of 19 to 21 questions in this section with 85% accuracy should be a good bet.”


Percentile Score VA-RC DI-LR QA
99.5 180+ 73+ 52+ 54+
99 145 66 42 43
97 130 60 37 38
90 105 44 24 25

(According to Rajesh Balasubramanian’s answer on Quora)

Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension – “VARC was not tough per se, but compared to CAT 2017 the passages were a touch longer and a touch trickier. Since the choices were also dicey, one had to be very careful. Students would have racked up a lot of attempts here, the accuracy variable will be uber-critical.”

Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning – “DILR had 2 do-able sets and a few tricky ones. There were a lot of “MUST be FALSE”, “MUST be TRUE” type questions which are always a pain in the neck.”

Quantitative Ability – “There no freebies, and almost every question was multi-layered. Gone were the “If Ram and Shyam take cookies in the ratio 2 : 3, and Shyam and Krishna take cookies in the ratio 2 : 3, which of the following could be the total number of cookies?” of yore.

Wherever possible, there was a minimum this or maximum that. And every now and then, as if the exam felt the need to rile you up more, it would throw the odd one from Logarithms or Functions. It was a classic paper. I might have enjoyed it more if I had been mentally prepared for it. As it is, by the time I realized how tough the paper was, I was at something similar to 26 for 5.

First principles based learning would have helped. There was no use for any shortcuts-related nonsense. Speed in framing the equations was crucial and one had to have the confidence to power through numbers such as 7/19 and 5/14.”


Overall Attempt VA & RC
DI & LR Attempt QA
Probable Score Expected Percentile
70+ 28-32 20-22 18-21 160 99.5
65-70 27-30 18-20 16-18 150 99
55-65 24-28 14-17 14-15 127 97
45-55 21-25 13-15 11-12 117 95
37-45 19-23 10-12 9-10 102 90
29-37 16-20 7-9 7-9 82 80

Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension – Hitbullseye describes the difficulty level of this section as easy to moderate. The RC was easier than last year, but accuracy suffered in the Verbal ability section due to close options, as reported by students of Hitbullseye.

Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning – Like Career Launcher, Hitbullseye describes the DI-LR section as a ‘pleasant surprise’. Both Slot 1 and Slot 2 were of moderate difficulty level, with Slot 2 being a tad more difficult than Slot 1.

Quantitative Ability – “The common perception is that the Quant section was really tough with no clear option. Algebra, Geometry and Arithmetic questions were difficult.”

My Analysis – 

I gave CAT 2017 with little preparation and gave CAT 2018 with quite a bit of preparation with various ups and downs. I gave my test in the first slot in Mumbai.

VA-RC this year had one significant change, i.e., the switch to sets of 5 questions in RCs. I don’t think that this impacted my outlook towards this section in any way at all. One of the RCs was quite long, but with a decent reading speed, it was quite easy and manageable. The options were close, but on close scrutiny, it wasn’t extraordinarily difficult to select the right options. Verbal Ability was surprisingly easy (based on what AIMCATs threw at me), but the paragraph summary questions had very close options (I had to leave one). I managed to attempt 31 questions.

DI-LR was actually enjoyable! I expected a lot of difficult sets, but the section turned out to be relatively simpler than the nightmare of CAT 2017. However, the section was still moderately difficult. The sets were not calculation intensive, and I spotted just 1 set which can be rated as easy (prima facie). I chose the strategy of solving 1 set completely and solving 2 questions each from 3 other sets. The sets were time-consuming and did have some twists. I managed to attempt a total of 10 questions.

Quantitative Ability this year made me question my life choices. This is any way my weak area, and till the first 10-15 questions, I wasn’t able to comprehend any of the questions and assumed that I would probably solve none of the questions in the section. However, I managed to pull it together and solved 10 questions from the section. Thankfully, the section was extremely difficult for everyone else as well, so that came as a relief. Arithmetic (strong suite) was very difficult. Geometry and Algebra were very lengthy, but there were some sitters in the overall paper as well. Anyone with QA as a strong area could have ideally solved around 18 questions.

One of the biggest surprises was the lack of unfathomable difficulty in DI-LR and the abundance of it in QA. I think Verbal ability was slightly easier than CAT 2017. (Also they didn’t make us take our shoes off this time).

For CAT ’19 aspirants, I think the pattern is very unlikely to change. The only experimentation can be done with the difficulty level of the questions. So once the answer key is released, CAT ’19 aspirants should probably focus on solving the paper along with the CAT ’17 paper which can give them a great idea of what to expect.

Chirag Shukla

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