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CAT 2011 unplugged: No surprises in the exam

Last updated on: October 22, 2011 19:05 IST

CAT 2011 unplugged: No surprises in the exam

ARKS Srinivas

There were hardly any surprises in CAT 2011 exam, says ARKS Srinivas, author and IIM Calcutta alumnus.

The long wait is over. However, with the NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement), there is very little chance that anything of serious significance can come out of the post-CAT analysis. Having said that, it is also very important to note that No surprise in CAT is also a good enough indicator on how things can stand on the D-Day for you.

Around 2 lakh students are attempting the CAT 2011 exam that kicked off in the morning today at 10 am. Thanks to the past two years of experience, Prometric and hence the IIMs were able to conduct this at almost all locations (there has hardly been a glitch reported) without any error or issue.

The entry, biometrics, seating arrangement, passwords for the tests, all worked with clockwork precision in many places. It was also reported that at most places the invigilators were also courteous and helpful. It is a different thing that no one would be able to help you except yourself once the exam starts!

One question that was very interestingly asked to almost everyone (need to be corroborated at centres across the country) was whether the student was writing the exam for the second time? They clearly have the biometric data to prove that you are the same person and not an impersonator!

Once you are seated, the invigilators are kind enough to help you with the logging in and all the other stuff that is required to start the tutorial and the test. Funny, however, that they give you Erasers instead of Sharpeners (for you to sharpen your pencils) in a Computer-Based exam. There are scratch papers provided which clearly requires more of pencil than an eraser!

A tutorial for 15 minutes (you need hardly 5 minutes to go through the same) clearly helps students to familiarise themselves with what is required to be done in the 140 minutes of the test.

Definitely, it appears, that Prometric has come a long way in India in conducting this test from the time they had a harrowing time trying to figure out the issues in the first edition of the online CAT in 2009.

CAT 2011 Analysis

However, when you speak to students it appears that NOT all students have got exactly the same paper even in the same slot. While many students could identify the questions that each had, there were cases wherein the pattern was not exactly the same to all the students who have written the exam.

The CAT exam is clearly graduating to a more sedate phase as that of the GMAT and GRE wherein there is every chance that within a year or two, every student writing the exam can theoretically get a completely different question paper as happens in a GMAT paper.

In some instances, some students got Data Sufficiency questions in the paper in the first slot and some other did not. The number of questions in each area of Verbal Ability also varied with students sitting next to each other, it appears.

While there has never been any doubt that, if there were 40 different sets of papers, then there would be 40 different patterns (one per slot) of papers, it just is a wee-bit of a surprise that there may not be 40 exclusive sets of papers this time around. It is very much possible that a set (say 80percent to 90percent) of questions are the same for all students in a particular slot but, the remaining 10 or 20 percent of the questions are different to different individuals. Or there are more than one set given even in one slot of the paper!

First Day, First Slot

The paper, according to many students can be termed as moderately difficult. The first section, which contains Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation was slightly more difficult than the second section that had Verbal Ability, Reading Comprehension and Logical Reasoning. This analysis or feedback from the students can be taken with a pinch of salt too as many students are inherently weak in both quant and calculations.

If the DI happens to be with more calculation oriented questions, it is hardly a surprise that students may find it difficult.

Students felt that section II was marginally easier than the first section as there were enough sets of Logical Reasoning, which are scoring and easy too. While a student may be bad in Vocabulary, Grammar or Reading Comprehension, but if has the knack to give sufficient time to the Logical Reasoning questions, then it is that much more easier to clear the cutoffs in that section.


The cutoffs for CAT 2011 could be similar to that of CAT 2010. To get a 85 percentile in each of the sections, around 35percent of the net mark would be able to get one there.

Similarly, to get a 97percentile+, a student would probably need around 40 percent to 45 percent net mark in each of the sections.

ARKS Srinivas, BE (OUCE), PGP (IIM Calcutta)

The author is an alumnus of IIM Calcutta. He has been the All India CAT Course Director at T.I.M.E.. He is the ex-Director at T.I.M.E. Mumbai and has more than 15 years of experience in training students for CAT and other entrance exams. He is presently the Director at Vanguard Business School based out of Bangalore.

Photographs: Rediff Archives