The Common Admission Test (CAT) is the entrance test for more than 160 management institutes across India, including the 20 Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). The online test is conducted every year - for the year 2016 it will be conducted on December 4. CAT focuses on general aptitude (English, math, data interpretation and logical reasoning) which are key areas tested in most competitive exams. Let us compare last year’s edition of CAT with what is expected this year.
As disclosed by the IIMs, the CAT paper comprised 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 in CAT 2015 was the ‘high’ number of non-multiple choice questions across the three sections. It has been seen that as much as one-third of the questions were non-MCQs (33 questions out of 100) 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.
In terms of the test interface, there was a slight departure from what was shown in the sample test. Within the VARC section, VA and RC questions were grouped separately and were given under two separate tabs. Similarly, in the DILR section, the DI and LR questions appeared under two separate tabs. This would have helped students easily access the type of questions they would like to answer.
One could also check out his or her performance in their previous sections at any time during the test by clicking on the respective tab for that section. The numbers of questions attempted, left out and marked for review were displayed. Further, towards the end of the test, a similar snapshot was provided for all the three sections.
The duration of the test will be 180 minutes. There will be three sections:
•Section I: verbal ability and reading comprehension
•Section II: data interpretation and logical reasoning
•Section III: quantitative ability
Some questions in each section may not be of multiple choice type. Instead, direct answers are to be typed on the screen. Basic on-screen calculator for computation is being permitted. There is a sectional time limit of 60 minutes for answering questions in each section and candidates cannot switch from one section to another while answering questions in a section.
The number of questions in each section is not known and can easily change. The marks for the three sections are likely to be equal or nearly equal since equal time has already been given for the three sections. The sub-sectional distribution of the questions can easily change, eg one can have less/more questions in the English section between RC and VA or less/more questions in the DILR section between DI and LR.
There could be a surprise change in the CAT pattern with the introduction of new question types or reintroduction of old question types. The marking scheme could be changed. In CAT 2004 and CAT 2005, the exam had different marks for different questions and that can be reintroduced. This time there could be an increase in the number of options in each question from four to five and that can increase the difficulty level of the test.
Candidates are advised not to approach the examination with any kind of pre-conceived notions or a pre-determined number of attempts or score in any section/sub-section. That is the sure-shot recipe for disaster!
The author is chief knowledge expert, Triumphant Institute of Management Education.