Monday, November 30, 2015

CAT 2015 Return of Good Readers

It is that time of the year when one relives his college days when he used to appear in the CAT as a student. Now I write the test as an analyst. And I just came out doing the worst ever in all the CATs I ever took. :-) Well it was one of those years when I completely messed up one of the strongest areas, I thought, I had. I guess - too much confidence never helps. Here is a nut and shell of what I think CAT 2015 was like.

CAT 2015 was a mixed bag with more pleasant and less painful surprises. The Language section often dreaded by students in our side of India was fairly simple one and easy to negotiate. The Quantitative Ability section was truly a sitter for anyone who has been preparing sincerely for CAT. A CHEM student who has done even his Thrust & Accelerate portion of material – would confidently do 28-30 questions with almost cent-percent accuracy.

The spanner in the easy ride was the DI/LR section. In last several years this was probably the toughest ever Di & LR section. The do well in the section students will have to spend substantial time in understanding and structuring the data and building the structure clearly. Even after having done that, the questions would require good comprehension to finally arrive at the answer.

Section – 1 :  Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension
This was the first section of the CAT paper was divided into two sub-sections
One, with 24 questions based on Reading Comprehension  and
Second, with 10 questions 5 Para jumbles , 3 on Essence of the paragraph  and 2 on odd sentence out of a jumbled up paragraph.

Overall the section was very manageable. Anyone who is practicing the RC section regularly will find very few difficulties in navigating the section. A good student should be able to attempt up to 30 questions with almost 85% accuracy. Do not worry about accuracy in the jumbled up paragraph types.

Here is a detailed analysis of the section in the forenoon (morning) slot.
Sub – section I : Reading Comprehension
Subject
URL
Yes we even found the source
No. of Qs.
Difficulty Level
1)      Relationship of Economic inequality and accumulation of wealth
3
2 simple
1 moderate
2)      Increasing dependence of human memory on internet resource
6
1 tough
2 moderate
3 simple
3)      Relevance of studying humanities in a dominantly technical world

3
3 simple
4)      Economic Theory that suggests migration actually results in making a country/world richer
Edited from
6
1 tricky
2 moderate
3 simple
5)      Why world’s poor  need grid power not just solar panels
6
2 moderate
4 simple

Sub – section II : Verbal Ability
What was interesting in this section was that all VA questions except the essence questions were non MCQ . The questions in which the sentences had to be arranged in a logical paragraph had 5 sentences each and were numbered 1 to 5. The message was clear attempt all the jumbled up paragraphs because there was no negative marking for them.

Again questions on Odd sentence out and those on essence were fairly simple and could be easily done accurately by eliminating the “not possible” choices. While even when one is confused in the jumbled up paragraphs because one did not have the support of the option choices – one must still attempt them as all of them were non-MCQ questions and hence one does not have to worry about negative marks.

Surprises
Not much except that in tune with the sample paper that IIMs had put up – the questions based on vocabulary and English Usage (Grammar) went missing completely.

This clearly pointed out to the focus the IIMs might have increased on getting better readers in the creed. And I agree whole heartedly - offlate the trend was that students could bypass the language section by focussing on the LR section and even in the VA section the reading comprehension has a minimal presence and hence a poor performance in RC did not have a great impact on the performance.

This year that has transformed. Anyone who was taking RC lightly would pay dearly. The RC wasn't difficult but if you one who was avoiding it - then you were the e targetted. Fair & Square.

Section – 2 : Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning
Most cases were time consuming beyond the generally challenging DI & LR. However one case in DI and one using a line graph and data on Tourist was fairly simple. Similarly once you get the logic right a case on cube made of smaller numbered cubes was also a simple one. Combined with these two one can do up to two to three more cases and hence an attempt of anywhere between 16-20 questions in this section would be a good idea.

without going into detailed analysis (If interested a more detailed analysis is available here) of the section let me state the surprise :

Total absence of questions on sequencing, arranging, relating or associating. No questions on blood relations which had found some presence in recent previous CATs. If you notice, the primary skill that was tested was puzzle solving which required students to try out scenarios, try and verify and to visualize strongly. True Management professionals stuff. So again kudos the subte change here - but yes it took a lot of us by surprise and would have definitely affected our performance.

But as they say - its a relative test - so as long as your decline the section was not as great as mine was yesterday - you should be fine. I ended up doing just three cases - 10 Qs. My guess is if you could do anywhere between 16-20 (4 to 5 cases) you are pretty snugly placed to get a good percentile.

Section – 3 :  Quantitaive Ability

This section was a pleasant surprise for all those students who are scared of mathematics. It was sitter in the true sense of the word. Increased stress on arithmetic made it all the more of a blessing for CHEM students. The ratios approach would have increased their speed immensely in solving many questions. Geometry questions were simple and could have been easily done by observation of diagrams drawn. While all questions could have been done but even if we discount a few cumbersome ones – a sincere student can do up to 30 questions with almost cent percent accuracy.
Here is a detailed analysis of the section for the forenoon slot - the evening slot by early feedback was not much different.

Subject
No. of Qs.
Difficulty Level
Ratios & Percentages
4
3 simple
1 moderate
Profit & Loss
2
Both simple
Averages, Mixtures & Alligation
2
1 simple
1 simple; little high on calculations
Work & Time
1
Moderate
Speed, Time & Distance
2
1 moderate
1 Time Consuming not tough
Number Theory
1
High on Calculation – not tough
Geometry & Mensuration
7
3 simple
3 moderate
1 high on calculation
P & C
1
Tricky but simple once understood
Quadratic & higher order equation
5
3 simple & moderate
2 tricky
Logaritham
1
Simple
Functions
1
Simple
Squences & series
2
Both simple
Trigonometry – Heights & Distance
1
simple
Coordinate Geometry
1
Simple (actually of P& C)
Set Theory
1
Very Simple
Misc.
1
Tricky

 Note the returned stress on arithmetic. Thats what aptitude tests must do - not scare people with overtly mathematical language and technically sounding questions. They must confound the students by the sound, language and the twists in the questions. This section had questions that when understood well had VERY simple and almost direct solutions (even those on P&C, Sequences & series, Coordinate etc.). 7 questions on Geometry and mensuration again had the quality that required you to observe keenly - and poof its done.

Very good aptitude test it was.

In conlusion then
This year's CAT increased my trust in the common sensical intelligence of the IIMs once again. I was losing it over the last few years.
The test marked the return of common sense and good comprehension as the primary need to crack it.
It also put an end to the "short tricks" department of coaching classes, as well as "arm chair strategists" suggesting focus on strengths and wrapping up weaknesses. Won't work.

Just develope great concepts and love for reading wide and deep - and you could be well placed to be the next kid on the block. All the Best.