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CAT: The next step
IMS Learning Resources
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November 17, 2008

For the 2.70+ lakh test-takers, the CAT paper did not spring too many surprises but like the well-known tomato ketchup in a popular commercial, it was different! Though the three-section format was adhered to and the marking scheme was as per last year's paper; the 'different' element was that English had more weightage -- 40 questions out of a total of 90, as compared to 25 questions each of quantitative aptitude and data interpretation.

A 360-mark paper with  five options per question and a penalty of one mark for every wrong answer, was the offering before test-takers this time.

Section 1: Quantitative Aptitude had as many as 5-6 questions that evoked a sense of deja vu for the prepared test-takers, while there were a couple of questions that seemed deceptively simple. Last year , geometry as a component was totally absent from this section while this year there was reasonable representation across different areas.  Average attempts: 13-15 and the cut-off range would be between 32-36. 

Section 2: Data Interpretation: A tough nut to crack and the return of calculation intensive and time consuming questions. Average attempts: 13-15 and the cut-off range would range between 32-36. 

Section 3: Verbal Ability: Twelve questions based on grammar and usage were the stress busters vis-a-vis the four Reading Comprehension passages. Furthermore, the reasoning-based double 'Fill in the blank' segment combined with a couple of  'complete the theme' questions were reasonable bets. The topics of the passages ranged from a narrative account to the humanities. Average attempts in this section would be 18-21 and the cut-off could range between 46-50. 

So much for the content but what should MBA aspirants expect now? A 140+ overall score with sectional cut-offs could get them 4-6 IIM calls; At 130 + overall with the relevant sectional cut offs, they can expect 3-4 IIM calls and 120+  could get them 1-2 calls.  


The story does not end here! Preparations should be on in full swing for the next round, that is, the group discussion. Group discussions or essays in lieu of the same, gauge the ability to develop a perspective. Mere knowledge of key words in newspaper headlines is not enough.

Incisive contributions will be at a premium over rhetoric. A sustained effort by way of  going through latest policies, keeping track of current affairs and updating oneself on latest economic and social trends would go a long way in doing well on this front.  Since management involves interpersonal skills, one must work on aspects of personality that move towards the same.

In some tests, general awareness and business awareness questions form a good chunk of the paper. The general query among the student community is, " How much is enough?" or " Is this book enough?". Realistically, there is no stock answer to this as the range for this section is vast and can span questions as innocuous as the number of states in India to the allocation for women's education in the current Five Year Plan.

Hence, preparedness on this front will hinge on a judicious mix of the use of the print and the visual media in acquainting oneself with the happenings within the country and outside. 

Other tests with differing levels of difficulty and range of questions need to be aced. After donning the battle gear for the mother of all tests, NMAT, SNAP, TISS, XAT and the CET become doable. Test-takers need to plug the conceptual gaps and voila! A new script for a new play is ready! 


Performers cannot have the same costume and ornamentation for every play. They must change according to the script; the dialogues have to change and the plot has to change. Similarly, the pace and strategy for each test will differ and they must refrain from a copy paste approach. Then, success will reign! 

Ensuring that one makes an informed choice by matching the choice of B-school with aspirations, existing profile and priorities will be crucial in charting the right career path.

This article has been written by Jaya Desai is Centre Head, IMS, an institute that trains students for competitive examinations.

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