Conducted in just two slots on a single day, this year’s Common Admission Test (CAT) for admission to the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) came with a few surprises for test-takers. Some of these included candidates not being allowed to view all questions at a time and not being able to switch between sections.
In terms of the sections, the CAT paper consisted of three sections – Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR) and Quantitative Ability (QA) with 34, 32 and 34 questions respectively. “Each section had a sectional time limit of 60 minutes. The surprise this year was the high number of non-multiple choice questions (non- MCQs) across the three sections. It has been seen that as much as one-third of the questions were non MCQ (33 questions out of 100 Qs) which would contribute to increasing the difficulty level of the paper and would have put the brakes on all those who take chances and mark answers based on random guesses,” says Sai Kumar Swamy, director, Triumphant Institute of Management Education, Delhi.
Taking a closer look at the sections, Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension was ‘moderately difficult,’ according to experts. “The reason for this classification is that the section lacked sitters in the form of vocab and grammar-based questions and thus the attempts wouldn’t be touching over 30. The reading comprehension section had three passages of six questions and two passages of three questions which was different from what the instructions page suggested. While students found the RC passages easy to read and comprehend, the questions did pose problems on account of some very close answer options. The verbal questions covered para-jumbles, summary-based questions and finding the odd one out. The VA part can be classified as difficult on account of all 10 questions being the non-MCQ type which would reduce both, the number of attempts as well as the accuracy,” says Swamy.
“There were no questions of vocabulary or grammar and odd sentence out had five options contrary to the previous years making them a little tricky. There would be no negative marking for non-MCQs. With an easy level of paper many students ended up attempting a lot of questions from RC passages and all questions from verbal logic. An attempt of 25-27 would be considered good in this section. About 17-18 correct answers will ensure a 95+ percentile,” says Gautam Puri, vice chairman, CL Educate.
The Data Interpretation Logical Reasoning section was difficult, say experts. “The section had four sets of DI and four sets of LR with eight questions of the non-MCQ form. The complexity of these sets meant that the students could attempt only around 2-3 complete sets, and could perhaps dabble with the other sets, managing to crack one odd question in them. There were one LR and one DI set which were considered straightforward. A good understanding of quantitative concepts would have come in handy in this section. Most students have reported a lower number of attempts in this section and the cut-offs would be well on the lower side,” says Swamy.
In data interpretation, three sets were easy and the one based on set theory was of moderate-difficulty level. “Most of the DI questions were lengthy. Logical reasoning questions were easy-moderate level of difficulty. There was no DS question. Two of the LR sets were doable while the other two was of moderate level. Everybody can do four sets in this section so to get an IIM call, one must have attempted at least five sets,” says Puri.
The quantitative section was not very difficult. “A few innocuous questions ended up being trickier on account of the way the questions were framed. Further, for many aspirants the section would have seemed to be more difficult on account of the fatigue factor of a lengthy exam. Many questions involved application of basic concepts and a well prepared student would have found quite a few to be outright easy. However, the number of attempts might not reflect this on account of the large number of non-MCQ questions which would have prevented students from going for half guesses,” he says.
A brief summary of the test