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CAT 2006: Analysing the surprise elements

T.I.M.E
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November 20, 2006

The most nervous 10 minutes CAT aspirants faced on November 19 would undoubtedly have been the 10 minutes they spent staring at the cover of their test booklets, as instructions were announced over the public address system.

With just 25 questions per section and an out-of-the-blue 'five choices per question' format, this CAT was more of a wild tiger than a tame feline.

The VA/ RC section was stripped of all its VA. It had, in fact, an infer-if-you-can look generally seen at the AIMCATs.

The QA section was stripped of its aura of toughness and presented on a platter of simplicity. Unfortunately, considering the tricky choices and time-consuming nature of most of the questions, this advantage could not be exploited to the fullest.

DI/ Reasoning seems to have completed its transformation -- which began a couple of years ago -- into a reasoning-oriented section.

Now, let us take a closer look at each of the three sections in the paper:

Quantitative Aptitude

The Quant section seemed easy. In fact, those of you who had a tough time with the AIMCATs must have heaved a sigh of relief on November 19. For a change, even those students who were weak in QA were able to identify and solve quite a few questions.

The QA questions were intuitive in nature and required an analytical, logic-based approach. This is a significant deviation from the standards established by CAT in the previous years. For starters, the questions weren't verbose. Neither was the wording complex. This worked to the advantage of those who had poor reading speeds and/ or comprehension.

Given this, any attempt in the range of 12-15, with an accuracy of 80 per cent, would be considered good.

The cut-off in this section is all set to create a record 'high'; it will be in the range of 32-34. A score of 35-44 would be considered good and anything above 45, excellent. This might seem to be on the lower side but, given the misgivings one has with this section historically, and considering the overall difficulty level, we would go with this range.

DI/ Reasoning:

After barely surviving the carnage in the most 'scoring' of all sections (especially if you started with RC/ VA), CAT aspirants would have been quite demoralised. As a result, they would not have been in the right frame of mind to pick out the easy sets.

In fact, there were quite a few sets where one could have gone for the kill and gained lost ground. The table on 'Class X board exams' had at least three questions that could be solved through observation alone. However, many of you may have been intimidated by the unusual manner in which the averages were to be calculated.

You could also have looked at attempting around two to three questions each on the 'network' problem and the reasoning set on team selection. As for the sets on 'Erdos' and 'MCS' shares, those of you who decided not to solve them made a good decision.

Since we are commenting on this section from the cool confines of our office, we would say 15-17 attempts were par for the course. However, given the intense stress-filled environment students face in the exam hall, 10-12 attempts (with an accuracy of around 80 per cent) is good.

A score of 29-35 was quite possible in this section. Any score in the range of 35-45 would be considered good; anything above 45, excellent.

The cut-off in this section would be in the range of 26-28 marks.

VA/ RC

Most people agree this section was a nightmare. Those of you who had counted on VA/ RC as your mainstay would have been thoroughly mauled.

Not too many of you would have been happy that Facts, Inferences and Judgments are back after a long hiatus. Those of you who marked choice 'X' for a particular question would have felt they were 'absolutely' correct. Yet, so would many others who had marked 'Y' for the very same question. These five questions, along with the five choices, are the trickiest thing CAT has ever thrown at us. It would be good if you had made around three to four attempts here, with a 50 per cent accuracy (translating into a score of around three to five marks).

The three RC passages were straight from hell; most of them were so dense that reading Plato's philosophical treatises or Freud's psychoanalysis would be child's play in comparison. And the one passage that was not tough to read had several really close answer choices.

Any attempt at time management would have taken a severe blow here; most students would have tried to spend additional time to compensate for the difficulty level. All said and done, attempting six to eight questions in two out of the three passages, with a strike rate of 70 per cent, would be quite an achievement (thus translating into a score of around 10-12).

Many students would have desperately looked at the paragraph completion questions for the elusive marks and would have come a cropper with all the five choices looking like 'excellent' answers. Three to four attempts, with 50 per cent accuracy, is what one could expect here as well (translating into a score of around three to five marks).

The cut-off in this section is all set to create a record 'low' and would be in the range of 18-20. A score of 21-24 would be considered good and anything above 25, excellent.

The overall cutoff in this paper for at least one IIM call is expected to be 92-96 marks. A score of 120+ marks should fetch all six IIM calls.

-- T.I.M.E prepares candidates for courses like MBA and MCA and competitive examinations like CAT, GRE and GMAT.

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