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CAT: Does 'reasoning' puzzle you?

Dr Shelly Verma | August 30, 2005

What is reasoning?

Reasoning is something that requires you to use your intellectual faculty to draw conclusions. While solving problems on reasoning, you try to reach conclusions by connecting various thoughts.

CAT is the first hurdle you need to cross to get admission in most of India's top educational institutions. Broadly, CAT aims to assess your aptitude -- Quantitative, Verbal and Logical.

Cracking CATOne of the ways it does this through the reasoning section. The problem you could face in this section is the fact that many of the questions you are asked to answer may not have been part of your school syllabus.

Have you tried solving Suduko (a mathematical puzzle being carried in the national dailies, the current craze all over the world), done crosswords, trick questions or puzzles? If not, then start now.

In CAT, the reasoning section may be separate or clubbed with either the Quantitative Reasoning or Data Interpretation sections. In the past two years, there have been 12 questions (two marks each) in 2004 and 24 questions (one mark each) in the 2003 retest (the CAT paper leak in 2003 led to a new test).

The number of questions and marks allotted fluctuate within 20 to 30 marks range.

Components of Verbal Ability

This section tests your verbal, numerical and visio-spatial skills (questions related to figures and cubes). There are questions on:

  • Analytical Reasoning: Puzzles, coding-decoding, mathematical reasoning
  • Logical Reasoning: Argument analysis

Variety of questions

The range of questions is wide and varies with each test. The paper setters try to change the nature of this section quite often. To make sure you are adequately prepared, here are some question patterns you should be familiar with:

i. Data arrangements or puzzles

These are based on comparison, sequential order, seating/ placing arrangements and classifications.

These are clue-based questions and involve an analysis of given information (conditions). You will then be required to condense it in a suitable pattern (with the help of diagrams or tables) and answer the questions asked.

All this requires sharp observation and presence of mind. Remember, conditionality questions in CAT seem fairly complex but actually have the simplest solutions once you put them in a pattern using abbreviations or matrix tables.

For example, six lecturers Pankaj, Qadir, Ratnam, Shiva, Tanmay and Udit are sitting around a circular table facing the center. S is seated between U and Q. P is second to the left of S and second to the right of T.

Questions: Who is facing Pankaj? Who among them is facing Shiva?

Solution: Make a diagram, and use abbreviations instead of names, that is P,Q,R, S, T ,U. Make an arrangement according to given information. The problem can now have the following solutions.

a. Either Udit or Qadir are facing Pankaj
b. Ratnam is facing Shiva

Tip: Remember it is only stated that S is between U and Q. Whether U is to the left or right of S is not given. So there are two possible diagrams. Read carefully and then draw accordingly.

ii. A series

These are based on choosing an odd numeral, fitting in a missing numeral/ alphabet or completing the series.

A group of numbers or letters are given and you have to derive a solution. Let's look at an example:

Question: MHB, NIC, OJD, PKE, ?

Solution: QLF

How did we reach this answer?

Look at the above question. The first letters in each of the four examples are M-N-O-P


The second letters are H-I-J-K


The third set of letter are B-C-D-E


Continuing in this pattern, it is clear the fourth set of letters would be QLF.

Tip: While preparing, do not waste time practising. Just read the question and try and decipher the pattern.

There is no standard format in the series, so practice sessions will not help. Just updtate yourself on new patterns.


A code is a method of sending a secret message between two parties that cannot be deciphered by a third party. Questions may be based on codes on English alphabets or numbers assigned to different letters.

You may be required to find a word by analysing the given code. This is the process of decoding or forming the code for a new word. Let's look at an example.

Question 1: If EODGH is the code for BLADE, what is the code for CRICKET?

Solution: FULFNHW

(Each letter of the word is three steps ahead of the corresponding letter of the code; for example, the code for B is E (the third letter after B) so the code for C will be F (the third letter after C)).

Question 2: If EARTH is coded as 41590 and PALE as 2134, what is the code for PEARL?

Solution: 24153

(codes for letters are: P=2, E=4, A=1, R=5 and L=3)

Question: In a certain language, 'put tir fin' means 'delicious juicy fruit'; 'tie dip sig' means 'beautiful white lily', and 'sig lon fin' means 'lily and fruit'. What is the code for 'and'?

Solution: 'lon'

(Common code from first and third statement for 'fin' is 'fruit'. From second and third statement, 'sig' is 'lily'. So 'lon' means 'and' in third statement.

Decision Making/ Data Analysis

These questions relate to filling vacancies, promotions, admissions to institutes based on necessary qualification required by an applicant to be selected. You have to make decisions based on the applicants' qualification and potential.

v. Mathematical Operations

In this section, simple mathematical commands -- plus, minus, multiplication and division, greater than, less than, equal to, not equal to -- are represented by symbols different from the usual ones.

You are required to substitute these with the real symbols and solve the questions accordingly.

vi. Direction Sense Tests

These are based on directions (N, S, E, W).

For example, Ram goes north then turns left, goes 4 kilometres, then turns right and goes 3 kilometres... and so on.

Eventually you are required to find either the final direction or distance travelled. The main purpose of this exercise is to assess your ability to trace and follow directions correctly.


The term means 'to draw inference' or 'deduction'. There are some important terms like proposition, subject and predicate which you must understand before you attempt this section.

These questions can be solved by using Euler's circles, Venn Diagrams or the Analytical method [A-type; I-type; O-type or E-type sentences].

There are various theories to solve syllogisms which are available in various 'reasoning' books.

Statement-Assumptions and Statement-Arguments

A statement is followed by either an assumption or an argument. You have to assess the validity of these assumptions.

In arguments, you have to see if they are weak, superfluous, or support the given statement strongly.

Figures/ Visual Reasoning

Note: This section is usually not included in CAT, but you never know so be prepared.

In this section, a series of figures are shown; you may be required to find the missing one, the odd one or what would logically follow.

Again here, just go through the figures and solutions.

Questions could be based on blood relations, cubes, input-output, binary systems, courses of action, cause and effect, mathematical logic, analogies, situation reaction tests, conclusions from statements and passages, verification of the truth in the statements made, and more.

Part II: How to 'practice' on your own


Dr Shelly Verma is on the faculty of Economics at the University of Delhi. She has designed and authored comprehensive online programmes along with supporting books for GRE and GMAT for US companies. She is affiliated with various training institutions for Verbal and Logical Reasoning, Group discussions, PDP and also does career counselling.

Know how to ace CAT? Write in and let us know. Don't forget to add your name, age, the name of your management institution, the year in which you passed out and where you work now.

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