CAT 2012 Review: Exam was competitive, but no surprises
ARKS Srinivas, CEO, VistaMind Education Pvt Ltd who took the exam on the first day shares his experience and offers advice on what students must do to optimise their performance this year.
While there may be tougher exams in the world, the Common Admission Test to the Indian Institutes of Management and a host of other premier MBA colleges in India takes the cake in our country.
Incidentally, the reason has less to do with the difficulty of the exam paper and more to do with the level of competition for the few coveted seats in the prestigious IIMs.
Over 2.14 lakh students would be competing for less than 4000 IIM seats over the next 27 days.
CAT 2012 started on October 11 and would continue through November 6. The exam is conducted in 40 slots over 20 days in this period.
The first day
As expected, there were no surprises on day one in terms of the exam pattern.
The convener of the CAT exam has been repeatedly saying that the exam will have no surprises and he has been proved right! At least on the first day.
CAT centres on day 1 were largely empty with most students choosing a later date for their exam. It was reported that in one centre, which had four labs and a total capacity of 160 students, there were barely 5-6 students.
The registration process was quite streamlined and simple but with long waiting times in between. People were searched, deprived of personal effects, finger printed and photographed as though entering a max security prison.
The technical side worked seamlessly and the people from Prometric were well informed and quite courteous.
Advice to students: Take as little with you as necessary. Your ID proof and the Admit card is important. Try and avoid carrying your mobile phone (if possible), bag, watch, pens or pencils etc.
Repeat takers of CAT can skip the tutorial, as there are no changes in the CAT interface compared to last year.
Advice to students: Learn how to use the 'mark for review' feature for smart question selection. For example, if you wish to answer Quantitative Ability first and then Data Interpretation, mark all DI questions as they come and keep moving and then come back using review.
Dear readers, if you've attempted CAT, please share your experiences for the benefit of youngsters who are appearing for the test this year. What was your experience like? Were you nervous? Did you face any problems at the test centre? Did you manage to crack all the questions? Write in to firstname.lastname@example.org (subject line: My CAT experience) along with your photograph, if possible and we will publish the best entries on rediff.com. Keep watching this space for updates.
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What has changed about CAT 2012
Clearly, the CAT is gearing up itself towards becoming a Computer Adaptive Test.
While in the past, all students got the same paper (questions) in a particular slot, this year, two students writing next to each other may have got enough number of different questions between them.
Till the year before last, in a single slot, all students got the same paper and therefore the same questions. The challenge was to normalise the marks of students of one slot with those of the other 39 slots.
Last year, the IIMs experimented with changing a few questions for the students even within the same slot. That means, two students writing the exam in the same slot (timing) would have had an overlap of only 50 odd questions.
Up to 10 questions were different for two students sitting next to each other too. Normalising would therefore be done based on questions.
This year, we believe that the same has been extended to almost all students.
While the differences are lesser in a single slot, it is expected that the overlap in questions has reduced and two individuals sitting next to each other may have two papers with different questions. Normalising these would be a challenge!
Image: Image for representational purposes only
Photographs: Rediff Archives
Paper pattern and analysis
CAT 2012 was very much on the expected lines.
There were no surprises. It largely followed the pattern of CAT 2011. The focus being the same areas, most of the traditional question types remain with a few new variations.
Broadly the same level of difficulty (LOD) though LOD may vary from each day and slot. Getting about 100 marks (given that three marks are awarded for each question and one for each wrong attempt) out of the possible 180 can get you an IIM call according to preliminary estimates.
However, the normalised score is out of 450 and the raw score is equated to get the right score.
As has been the case last year, around 21 questions of Quantitative Ability and 9 questions of DI appeared to be the norm.
There has been a gradual shift away from arithmetic to algebra, geometry and some higher math during the past few years.
Areas like Geometry, Numbers, Logs, Permutations and Combinations, and Functions etc. are increasingly becoming more important. Many students felt that the Quant area was not that easy.
The maximum numbers of questions seem to have come from Geometry and Numbers. However, students who wrote the exam in the first slot felt very happy that there were simple questions in Arithmetic in topics such as time and work and equations.
Ever since the transition to online format, DI in CAT appears to have become relatively easier. Although complex logic oriented DI is not expected in the online CAT, speed math is an essential skill that one cannot do away with in CAT.
As predicted, students felt that DI sets were straight forward and easy with one set requiring some extensive calculations to be done.
Advice to students: Overall the section seems to be moderately difficult and students who could attempt around 20 questions and get 80 per cent accuracy can easily get 90 + percentile.
Summary of Section I
QA: Moderately difficult with about 10 to 12 questions being easy to very easy and another five to six questions being either difficult or lengthy.
DI: Easy to moderately difficult with two sets out of three being straight forward and easy.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier
Cut offs may rise if RC and LR questions are easier
The section had an even distribution of Verbal Ability, Reading Comprehension and Logical Reasoning questions.
Feedback received from students indicated that there were three sets of RC with 10 questions, three sets of LR with nine questions and the rest 11 from Verbal Ability and depending on whether one is an English strong person or not, this section evoked mixed reactions.
What the students were happy about was the fact that both Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension were easy. This helped reduce the pressure while doing grammar and other verbal questions. There were however no surprises in the paper as per reports.
RC passages were approximately 400-600 words long, reasonably easy to direct with most questions answerable by a careful reading of the passage.
This allowed students to save time, which could be spent on VA/LA, and to increase the overall attempts in this section.
Again. not all RC passages were the same for all students. As per last year's pattern there were three passages with 10 Qs overall.
Students reported easy to medium LA questions. Most of these were in sets of three though that may change over the next few days and slots.
No surprises here but students who have had sufficient practice and solved methodically can score well here.
The usual question types from the last few years like Jumbled Sentences, Para Completion, Sentence correction, Fill in the blanks etc were all reported by students and can be expected on other days.
Level of difficulty can range from easy to very difficult. Students should actively use elimination of choices wherever required to solve VA questions.
Advice to students: If RC and LR turn out to be easier, the cutoffs can rise. So an IIM aspirant should be prepared to attempt 25 or more questions.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier