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Change is good. Let us get set for the new CAT

The test window has been reduced from 40 to four slots, spread over two days. You have an extra month for preparation as CAT starts in November.

education Updated: Aug 06, 2014 12:46 IST

CAT ’14 has incorporated many of the changes – a two-day test window with four test slots, more questions, test in early-November, etc.

However, before we look at what the changes in CAT mean for your preparation, let us first understand the full magnitude of the changes. When we talk about any test, there are three important elements to consider – the test canvas, ie the basic details of the test, the test structure, which refers to the overall pattern of the test and, finally, the test content, which refers to the finer details of the test such as difficulty level, question types, nature of questions, etc.

Changes and implications

# The Test window has been reduced from 40 slots to just four slots spread across two days. Do note that you do not have an option of choosing your slot – a test slot will be directly allotted to you. This means that students no longer need to bother about which date to choose for their test. It is entirely possible that CAT ’14 may not utilise all four slots. Depending on the number of test takers, all tests may get administered in just two slots.

Hopefully, the biggest impact of this change would be that the problems that plagued the last few CATs would not surface this time around. Issues such as common questions across tests, leakage of tests, normalisation and credibility of the test, problems with penalty for errors and weight to accuracy, etc. should be a thing of the past. For students, of course, this is welcome news.

# CAT has shifted from an October start to mid-November. This means that students have an extra month to prepare. Do ensure though that you do not put off your preparation; do not relax. The best candidates will utilise this additional time appropriately and will be better prepared for the test. These candidates will be your real competition. So do not slow down; ensure that you use this time well.

# The number of cities in which CAT will be conducted has increased from 45 to 99. This may lead to an increase in the number of test takers. Again, this means greater competition and hence, the need to prepare better for the test.

Changes to the Test Structure

# The number of questions in CAT has increased from 60 to 100. Past experience reveales that when the number of questions has increased, the level of difficulty has reduced. Further, the increase in number of questions implies that candidates have more questions to choose from. Thus, an increase in cutoffs is likely.

# The duration of the test has gone up from 140 minutes to 170 minutes. This means that stamina becomes more important. You need to be able to focus and perform at your peak for nearly three hours. Hence, it becomes even more important for you to take as many mock tests as possible so that you have good practice of taking three-hour tests.

# The available time per question has reduced from 140 seconds to 102 seconds. This implies that a higher reading speed and greater efficiency in calculation will be very important. These will ensure that you are able to attempt the maximum number of questions possible.

# Sectional time limits are no longer applicable. The test will have two sections: Section I comprising Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation and Section II comprising Reading Comprehension, Verbal Logic, English Usage and Logical Reasoning. Test takers can move across sections as and when they wish to. This implies that CAT will no longer be a subject proficiency Test; it will be a genuine aptitude test. In a subject proficiency Test, time management and test taking strategy have lower importance. All candidates have a fixed number of questions to attempt in predetermined amounts of time. In an aptitude test though, you have greater freedom in choosing how you allocate the time available to you. Thus, a proper test taking strategy is critical to performing well in such tests. The important elements of a good test taking strategy are:

1) the amount of time to allocate to different sections
2) the amount of time that you can afford to spend on any one question
3) question selection – which questions to attempt and which to leave
4) the sequence of attempting different sections and different question types.
In order to fine-tune these and perform well in the actual test, you need to practice a lot of mock tests so that you can identify what works best for you.

Two facts
# CAT has sectional cutoffs so you cannot spend all your time on your favourite sections. You need to do well in both sections in order to be considered for calls from good B-schools
# As you have the freedom to move across sections, the test might be scrollable on the same screen

Compiled by HT Education and Career Launcher