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Cat changes course

Students are apprehensive about changes to the CAT that the IIMs announced on Monday. The exam’s 2011 convenor explains the rationale for the changes, while coaching classes suggest how students might adapt to them

education Updated: Jul 28, 2011 11:55 IST

Soon after the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) announced changes on Monday to the format of the CAT, the exam required to get into these prestigious institutions, many students said they were anxious about how they would now have to tailor their preparation. The convenor has explained the rationale, and the IIMs will also provide a mock test so that students can practise.

Key changes
1. Two sections
New: CAT 2011 will have only two sections. The first section will test quantitative ability and data interpretation while the second will test verbal ability and logical reasoning.
Old: CAT earlier had three sections: quantitative ability, data interpretation and logical reasoning, and verbal ability.

2. Separate time limits
New: Each of the two sections will have separate limits. Candidates will get 70 minutes to answer the 30 questions within each section. But once the time for the first section is over, the exam taker must move on to the second and cannot return to the first. -- The screen will have a timer.
Old: Earlier

3. Five extra minutes
New: Overall, candidates have five extra minutes for the test. The test time will now be 140 minutes, or 2 hours 15 minutes.
Old: The test time was 130 minutes, or 2 hours 10 minutes.

4. Check in later
New:The check-in procedure will start one-and-a-half hours before the test starts.
Old:The check-in procedure began two hours before the scheduled test time.

Other
.
There will be a 15-minute online tutorial before the test begins. Candidates are advised to go through this carefully before starting the main examination.
. The IIMs and Prometric, the agency that conducts the CAT, will provide candidates a mock test in the coming weeks

Why a new format?
The rationale for making two sections and giving each a time limit is to ensure that the examination will be fair and help in selecting appropriate candidates for our programme.

Our last two years’ experience of conducting the computer-based CAT shows that students often spend more time with some sections and less time on others. Their aim is to do very well in some sections and increase their score, while not wasting time on sections they are not confident about.

But now they will have to spent equal time on both sections. Hence, students will have to put in their best for both the sections. We want students who are equally good at both aspects, quantitative and verbal.

Students will have enough time because each section has been given an extra five minutes so the exam is ten minutes longer than previously. Considerable effort has been invested in maintaining a similar level of difficulty across papers.

Professor Janakiraman Moorthy, CAT 2011 convenor

What coaching classes say

Vinayak Kudva
Product head at IMS, Mumbai
. The IIMs have always made it clear that students need to perform well in all three sections. But the change in the structure now makes this explicit.
. With this change, CAT has now become a test of competence rather than strategy.
. But it has not become any more difficult. In fact, students get five extra minutes for each section.
. In terms of time management, it will be easier because students need to focus on two sections instead of the previous three.

Amol Kokate,
Assistant course director of CAT at TIME, Mumbai
. Generally, students allot less time to their strong areas and uitilise the remaining time for their weaker ones. But now they will not be able to do that. This is an experiment by the IIMs to get in more intelligent and deserving candidates through this exam.
. CAT has not become easier or harder. But you have to work on all areas and use your time effectively.

Prasan Kamat,
Director of Career Launcher, Mumbai
. But there should be no change in the manner of preparation. The level of difficulty of the paper should determine the approach.
. Students should not panic as long as their fundamentals are in place and they are able to build on basic skills, such as decision making, analytical reasoning and solving math problems using logic.
. In fact, it’s good that the changes in CAT have been announced earlier because usually, they comes as a surprise in the question paper.”

Student speak
Pratishtha Gala
, 20, final-year commerce student:
These changes make the CAT exam more difficult than it already is. This announcement has come too late in the year: CAT is only three months away. I will now have to change my preparation method and think of new strategies.

Bharat Jakati , 22, graduated from IIT-Bombay:
I am equally good at both sections so the new format will only reduce the competition. However, I would have liked more flexibility in the time given for the sections, because I can solve the verbal section faster.

Richa Garg, 20, just finished BMM at Sophia College
The exam has now lost its flexibility. I can no longer bank on verbal ability, which was my strong point, to give me an edge. A lot of time could go unused if I finish a section early. I will have to work on my logical reasoning.