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What's new in CAT 2006
ARKS Srinivas
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July 17, 2006

The much-awaited notification about the Common Admission Test 2006 is finally out.

The exam will be held on November 19, as scheduled. As usual, it is the element of unpredictability that makes this exam different. This time, the IIMs who organise CAT every year have sprung a couple of surprises.

What are these changes? You can download it to find out more.

To help you understand what these changes are, AKRS Srinivas, director of the CAT course at T.I.M.E, gives you their gist and anticipates some of the questions you might have. In case you find your query has not been answered, or you have more clarifications, please join us for a live chat on CAT 2006. The chat will be held on Thursday, July 20, at 4 pm.

Who is eligible to write CAT 2006?

Any student who has completed his Bachelor's degree -- including engineering, medicine or their equivalent -- and has scored at least 50 per cent or more (or its equivalent in the Cumulative Grade Point Average/ Grade Point Average system) is eligible.

All students who are in the final year of their Bachelor's degree are also eligible, provided they have more than 50 per cent aggregate marks in each of their preceding years of the Bachelor's study.

In other words, a B Com student, for example, should have got an aggregate of 50 per cent or more in FYBCom and SYBCom. Similarly, a final year engineering student who has more than 50 per cent aggregate marks in each of his first three years of engineering can write this year's CAT. 

The eligibility for the Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe/ Persons With Disabilities category is 45 per cent or more. 

What is the duration of CAT 2006 exam?

The duration of this year's paper will be two and a half hours, instead of the two hours it was earlier.

What are the implications of this change?

This is one surprise nobody anticipated. However, it might actually be a good thing; you now have about 30 minutes more to crack the exam!

One of the basic reasons could be that the paper is difficult; scoring in two hours has become very tough so giving half hour more can raise the total marks a student scores at various levels.

However, this does not really make sense; in CAT, marks are relative and, hence, the duration of the paper does not matter.

My advice: Start taking the All India MOCK CATs (AIMCATs) for two and a half hours and keep improving your relative performance.

If you see the bulletin in detail, IIM-Ahmedabad has given the minimum required marks to get the coveted Group Discussion and Interview call. Try and score more than these cut-offs.

Will CAT 2006 have more sections?

If you look at the fine print of the CAT notification (which has featured in major national dailies in the last few days) as well as the bulletin, you will find CAT is a three-section paper this year too.

You must have a very good strategy for attempting a THREE-section paper, as this seems to be the MOST likely pattern that can come in CAT 2006 (we will feature test strategies shortly) as well. Earlier, CAT used to be a four-section paper.

How do I prepare for CAT now that the time frame has changed?
First and foremost, the CAT bulletin instructions clearly say CAT is going to test students in Verbal, Quantitative, Data Interpretation and Logic areas.

This clearly means you should continue your preparation in the same way you have been doing till now. If you are not already a full-time student, do enroll for MOCK CATs (AIMCATs). Most training institutes conduct AIMCATs. You can register with them to appear for these exams at a certain cost. You have the option of taking these tests even if you do not enroll for a CAT training course.

Ensure that, during the next 15 weeks, you get sufficient practice in solving the paper within the given two-and-a-half hours.

This will help you stretch your concentration power and prepare you for the two-and-a-half-hour exam on November 19.

Will there be difficult questions as here is half an hour more time to solve?

Never attempt CAT expecting the paper will be simple. However, as has been seen in the last 15 years, CAT is not just an exam with difficult questions; there are enough easy ones too.

The knack is to find these questions and ensure you get full marks here.

Another key CAT strategy: leave out the seemingly easy but lengthy questions so you don't end up losing too much time.

What are the cut-offs for CAT 2006?

This is the first time an IIM has clearly said there will be a minimum requirement in each section as well as an overall minimum in the entire paper. Till now, this information was hidden in a harmless sounding statement like, 'You are required to demonstrate your competence in all the sections of the test.' 

IIM-A has gone on record with the cut-offs for each of the three sections. Here is the exact text.

'The criteria used for shortlisting would be disclosed on the IIM-A Web site along with the list of shortlisted candidates on January 2, 2007. Please note that the cut-off for short listing SC/ ST/ PWD candidates for group discussion and personal interview would not be less than 17 percent score in each of the three sections of CAT 2006 and no less than 25 percent score in aggregate. For other categories, it would be no less than 25 percent in each of the three sections and no less than 33 percent in the aggregate. The actual cut-offs used for shortlisting, however, may be higher than the above mentioned percentage scores and would depend upon the performance of candidates in CAT 2006.'

What do the above cut-offs signify? If the CAT 2006 paper is a three-section paper with 50 marks in each section and a total of 150 marks, then an General category student should get a minimum net score of 12.5 in each of the sections and overall net score of 50 to have a chance of getting a call from IIM-Ahmedabad.

For a SC/ ST/ PWD category student, the corresponding marks are 8.5 and 37.5 respectively for individual section cut-offs and the overall cut-off.

Though the cut-offs for the other IIMs may vary, they will be in the same vicinity as that of IIM-A.

Is there an OBC reservation? Will it be introduced now?

Since the notification was released, there has been no communication from the Government Of India to the IIMs regarding the OBC reservation. As and when this information reaches the IIMs, they will take a decision to incorporate the same.

Therefore, those students belonging to the OBC category should get their certificates ready and send them along with the application form so that the same can be considered if or when the GOI directive on OBC reservations reaches the IIMs.

The next four months are enough to prepare diligently and have a comprehensive plan if you want to be in the top 1,500 students from among 1, 75,000 students who will give CAT this year. All the best.

AKRS Srinivas is an alumnus of IIM-Calcutta with an engineering degree in electronics and communication from Osmania University. He was with Maruti Udyog [Get Quote] Limited in Gurgoan, Delhi and Kolkata before joining T.I.M.E. , Hyderabad, as director of the CAT course. He has been training students for CAT over the last eight years. You can mail him at


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