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'CAT's difficulty level does not matter'

November 20, 2004

"Don't get stressed today," Manish Salian, Regional Head (Academics), Western Zone, Career Launcher, warns CAT aspirants who will be attempting the exam on November 21. "Don't think about it. Be confident. Remember, do not over-exert. And yes, be MACHO!

He also suggests you should not worry about whether the paper will be easy or difficult. "CAT is a relative exam. Everybody sees the same questions," he says.

In his chat with CAT aspirants, he also warns that sectional cut-offs are important. "You should score a basic minimum in each section -- around 80 percent -- and then have a good over-all score."

The transcript of the chat:


Analyse your CAT paper with Brijesh Singh, Project Head, Prowess, Top Careers and You on Monday, November 22.

nilikh: What would you say is the percentage of non-engineers and people without work experience at IIM-A and other IIMs?

MANISH SALIAN: There is no such pre-determined percentage at the IIMs. But, on an average, there are a high percentage of engineers and a low percentage of people with work experience.

Anoop: Where do you place NITIE, Mumbai's B-School, vis-à-vis the IIMs? Could you please throw some light on the kind of placements it attracts?

MANISH SALIAN: NITIE is a good institute for operations and systems and it is comparable to the IIMs with reference to course content. But IIMs are still a class apart because of the kind of students they attract.

debjit: Hi there. Should I try to clear the cut-offs in the first one-and-half hours and then try to maximise my score?

MANISH SALIAN: That is a good idea only if you can clear the cut-offs in half an hour over each section. If you manage to scrape through, I would advise you to take 40 minutes each for the sections.

MACHO: Tomorrow is D-Day and my nervousness seems to be increasing. How do I handle this?

MANISH SALIAN: Hi Macho, your nickname does not match your situation! One way to handle the stress is: Don't think about it. Be confident. You can even go for a jog in the evening. A little bit of physical exertion will help you sleep well. Remember, do not over-exert. And yes, be MACHO!

Raamesh: Hi Manish, I hold a BE degree and have about two years of experience in sales. I want to do MBA in Finance. Would my experience count?

MANISH SALIAN: Your experience may not count if your sales job is a field job. But if you have experience in marketing or media planning, it will be counted for lateral placements. Also, the company you work for would matter.

umesh: How much should I attempt in English? I am not very strong in English.

MANISH SALIAN: If you are not strong in English, you should attempt at least 35 questions -- English cut-offs are typically higher. Unlike Math, you need to score at least 25 in English. I suggest you do the EU and at least one passage with as many direct questions as possible.

ajay: Would you expect a four-section paper this year?

MANISH SALIAN: Yes, there is a chance of a four-section or even a two-section paper coming up. Be prepared for every eventuality.

Fernando: Why is the Quant section expected to be difficult this year?

MANISH SALIAN : The Quant section is expected to be difficult based on the pattern over the last three years. It may be easy, in which case the cut-offs will be higher. Or it may be tough, in which case the cut-offs will be lower. The point is, the difficulty level does not matter. CAT is a relative exam. Everybody sees the same questions.

warikoo7: What percentiles do IIMs generally look at? Is it over 90 percent for each section, and 99 percent for the total cut-off?

MANISH SALIAN: The overall percentile was at least 98.5 last year for one call. But the number of students will increase this year. So the overall percentile is likely to be 99 percent this year. As for other cut-offs, people with 85 percent in Quant have also got calls. So 90 is not necessarily the cut-off for the section.

warikoo7: Various institutes bring out their own versions of the cut-offs. As a counsellor, do you think these versions are reliable?

MANISH SALIAN: Most of them are reliable, but cut-offs as high as 80 are pure rot. So look at the other versions. You will also get an idea from your score and the score of your friends.

debjit: What is the importance of the mocks conducted by the institute? My performance fluctuated, but I could do it.

MANISH SALIAN: Did your performance fluctuate in terms of the net score or percentile? If your percentiles are fluctuating, you have a problem. This happens because of changes in strategy and freshness. For example, if you sleep late on Saturday night, you may not do well on Sunday.

uma: Hi Sir. Any tips on picking up the right questions (read easy), especially for Quant?

MANISH SALIAN: Easy questions should be picked with respect to the topic, the amount of calculations involved and, finally, the options.

debjit: So, Sir, you mean to say you need to have a good percentile in one section atleast; ie 99 percent?

MANISH SALIAN: Yes, if other sections are low. But even if you get a consistent 96 in each section, then you can get a call.

manojonline123: My English is weak so I have decided to devote only 35 minutes to it.

MANISH SALIAN: If your English section is weak and you can only score 15-20 in 40 minutes, then giving 35 minutes is suicidal. I think by saying weak, Manoj is just being relative in that, say, his English is weaker than his Quant. But, he could still get 20 out of an attempted 35 in English which means that, overall, it is not weak. What say, Manoj!

Gunjan: I am getting an overall score of around 48-52 in the CL Mocks. What chance do I have?

MANISH SALIAN: You have a good chance especially if you have cleared section cut-offs atleast once. Believe that and you will crack the CAT.

debjit: Would strike rate do you think is better -- 75-85 attempts and a strike rate of 90 percent or 90-100 attempts with a very poor strike rate of 70-80

MANISH SALIAN: I would suggest the former. In Math, especially, if you attempt 15 and get 12 right only, then you have a problem.

Kuheli: Sir, does a four section paper mean a separate RC section?

MANISH SALIAN: Most probably, though it may be AR with EU which is separate.

hktrivedi: Hi Sir. Do you have any tips to get well past the Quant section cut-off in about 40 minutes? My Quant is not as good as my English and DI sections.

MANISH SALIAN: Pick up easy questions from all 50. Never spend more than a minute on any problem in the first round. Reach the end of the section.

neetha: What is the minimum amount of questions I should attempt in QA if I want to make it to make it any reputed institute (read S P Jain)?

MANISH SALIAN: Based on the last few years' papers, atleast 12-15.

sumeetnair: How does one choose what questions to answer in DI?

MANISH SALIAN: Start with DS then do easy DI caselets. Spend some time picking them based on the type of graph, questions and options. Then do easy AR. If you still have time, then do tough DI.

Jeetu: Can you please throw some light on the sectional cut-offs and their importance?

MANISH SALIAN: Hi! Sectional cut-offs are important. You should score a basic minimum in each section -- around 80 percent -- and then have a good over-all score. These basic cut-offs change from IIM to IIM.

vgknair: Respected Sir. My daughter, Veena Nair, is pursuing XII Commerce without math. Please tell me the requirement of math knowledge in CAT. I would like to know whether her knowledge in math till Std X is sufficient for her to appear for CAT?

MANISH SALIAN: It is sufficient if she knows it well. Tell her math in life is generally helpful, not to run away from it.

Fernando: Are you suggesting that even if you do not clear the cut-off in an individual section but you do extremely well in others, you can expect a call?

MANISH SALIAN: Depends on how well you do and which IIM... Why do you want to take a chance?

Lakshmi: For a normal paper, what is expected cut-off for Quant?

MANISH SALIAN: What do you mean normal paper? CAT, as it is, is abnormal. Based on last year, the Quant cut-off should be around 12.

kana: Hello Manish. Let me thank you for your time. Let me ask you this: Is it worthwhile to quit a job and do an MBA for two years?

MANISH SALIAN: Of course, but only if only you do it from a good institute.

cjprasad: What is this partiality? I asked a question but there is no answer for that...


Raghava: Hello Sir. Could you please answer my question? Will my cut-offs change because I am handicapped?

MANISH SALIAN: Hi Raghava, your cut-offs will be lower but still stick to the 40-40-40 break-up and try to attempt as much as possible.

Soumya: Hi. Please let me know whether there is any cut-off marks for each section.

MANISH SALIAN: Yes, there are cut-offs for each section.

um: What's a reasonable score for Quant in general?


nisha_31: I heard there will be a separate section on Reasoning this time. What are the chances of this happening?


monolina: I am slow in DI calculations. What should I do?

MANISH SALIAN: Nowadays DI does not involve calculations as much as it involves counting and observation. Attempt those DI first.

MACHO: Hi Manish. Can you give me the range (minimum to maximum marks I should get) of percentile or cut-offs to get into a good B-school.

MANISH SALIAN: Hi Macho. Atleast 90 percent.

bansal_kushal: I am a very average engineer. Will I be selected for the IIMs after the interview?

MANISH SALIAN: First take CAT and reach the interview stage. Best of luck!

harprret: Hello Sir. Is work experience given an edge in IIMs?

MANISH SALIAN: Yes, especially during the GD/PI stage.

dontmailme: Manish Sir, what will be the cut-off for SC reservation candidates? Please answer this. And can we guess in the exam?

MANISH SALIAN: Around 90 overall.

kana: I am working in quality and reliability, with a decent pay. But if I decide to do MBA it will cost atleast $ 70,000. Is it is still worthwhile? I will be deep in debt! Do you think it is still good?

MANISH SALIAN: If the university is good, like Harvard or Princeton, I would say yes, definitely go ahead.

rakesh: Hi Manish. I have five years of experience. If I can get a net score of 22 in Verbal, 18 for DI and 13 for Quant, will I get call from the IIMs for the PI/GD?

MANISH SALIAN: No, you must increase your overall, make it atleast 55-60 which I think is possible.

vr: Manish, how much questions do you expect in pure vocabulary?

MANISH SALIAN: They haven't taken my sound judgement before setting the paper but around 5-10.

niks: Hi Manish, what would you suggest for today?

MANISH SALIAN: Do nothing for CAT. Take a chill pill.

zarranu: I find it difficult to get a good score in English even though I've always fared very well in English in school and college. Is it because there is negative marking in English?

MANISH SALIAN: No, it is maybe because you are not a good reader.

MANISH SALIAN: Hi guys, I am now signing off. It was good talking to you. Best of luck for tomorrow. Do well and RELAX.

CAT on!

Analyse your CAT paper with Brijesh Singh, Project Head, Prowess, Top Careers and You on Monday, November 22.

'CAT 2004 could be a four-section paper'
To succeed at CAT: Keep cool
'Take CAT like a winner!'
'Be ready to improvise'

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