Monday, July 28, 2014

CAT changes colours yet again - should you be worried

More than a decade and a half ago when we used to prepare for CAT we used to practice on a large variety of mock patterns because every one with some know how will say one thing without fail - expect surprises from CAT. That was then - today life has transformed in more ways than one can imagine - including the fact that the CAT throws surprises three months in advance.

The structure of CAT has undergone some important changes as announced by the IIMs yesterday. So I decided to write a post on understanding those changes, how they impact preparation & strategies of a sincere CAT aspirant.

Change 1
The CAT this year will happen on just two days (16th Nov. and 22nd Nov.) unlike a 20-25 day span in the last two years.

if you are a student you must smile at this development. This means that you have almost a month more to prepare.

Second reason to smile is that conduction of test in just four slots (two on each day) means the test can now be more or less of same mix and toughness levels in all the slots. Last year many students felt that they were unfairly treated because of varying toughness levels and mix of questions across the slots followed by an esoteric standardization process that few understood and most doubted because of some pretty weird results. It is to be expected that a more standardized test would automatically make the test a fairer one.

Change 2
Duration of the examination has been increased to 170 minutes from the existing limit of 140 minutes.
Change 3
The questions in each section Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation, Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning have been increased to 50 in each section from the existing 30 questions.
Change 4
Candidates have the flexibility for devoting more or less time to each section according to their ability and they can switch over from one section to another section during the examination timing.
The above are by far the most important changes made to CAT from student’s perspective.

A close to three hours test means it’s going to get more exhausting. Improve on your stamina to sit for long hours in front of a computer screen and concentrate. For those of you who get bored reading just one page of this post – this means extra hours of study every day in a single sitting. J

An increase of 66.66 percent (100 from 60 earlier) in number of questions and a disproportionate 21.5 percent increase in time means that you will have less time available per question than was available in the earlier format. So it is time to try and increase your speed of doing questions. This also means that eliminating options, working backwards or keen observations will get some advantage. 

Another possibility is that the general level of test could moderate a bit. If this happens it is good news for students especially those from the non-math background as one expects the higher mathematics portion to tone down a bit. This in simple terms means – arithmetic and geometry could again be in favour in the QA section and better approximation at DI can be very fruitful.

Flexibility to decide time distribution between sections is a double edged sword. When used well this could work to a great advantage to the sincere test taker. Because the Test Taking strategy can make a winning difference to one’s score. The flip side of this flexibility is  that  it is tempting to shuffle across the test and hence one could lose valuable time affecting performance adversely. Time for you to revisit your strategy when you attempt the CAT.

There is one more thing. A sixty question test had made accuracy very crucial. Even a couple more errors than normal used to weigh very heavily against a student in the earlier format. This pressure is a bit relaxed because in general the number of attempts will have to increase for a better score. What this means is that the probability of a bright student missing the bus because of a couple of incidental unforced errors has reduced. This is again good for all sincere CAT aspirants.

Change 5
The candidates have no option to prefer the dates. The dates will be allotted by CAT Centre 2014 on random basis.
While this has no direct impact on students. Some gyani had earlier theorized that appearing in CAT on certain days is more advantageous than on days like Sundays when many with work experience appear in the CAT. While the above was any way baseless – now there is absolutely no basis whatever for such unscientific assertions as the allotment of slots and days will be random.

Change 6
The purchase of offline Vouchers has been discontinued from this year and the candidates have to make the payment of Registration fee through online modes only by Credit Card, Debit Card or through Net Banking.

Once again no big impact here and ofcourse it has no academic relevance – except that many students may find it a bit difficult to arrange for a credit/debit card or net banking facility.

One thing has to be said however, since the time CAT has turned into a Computer Based Test (CBT) it is once again turning to be an elitiest test. it is an empirical truth that since the test became a CBT the greatest percentage drop in number of CAT takers have been in the states of MP, CG, Rajasthan where the Internet and Computers has not yet become a way of life for a majority. Now only online payment is one more step in alienating the sub urban rural masses of this country.

CAT has had this character of changing colours almost every two/three years. So to us watching it for last 20 years this is not surprising. All in all the changes in this year seem to be addressing some anomalies that have crept in the CAT process over the last few years. It is overall good news for most sincere CAT seekers. It is time for CAT aspirants to avoid the rumour mills that invariably start with such changes and to keep focus because like most changes in CAT this one also can be summed up in the phrase "old wine in new bottle"