Photographs: Pagalguy.com Lajwanti Dsouza
Common Admission Test 2011 will have two sections instead of three and students will get an additional five minutes to tackle them. The test will be held across the country over a span of 20 days, from 22 October to 18 November 2011.
IIM-C Prof Janakiraman Moorthy, Convenor for CAT 2011 speaks about the new changes in this year's exam and how it will benefit students.
Will there be changes in the CAT this year?
Yes, but few. The CAT 2011 will have only two sections instead of three. The first section will focus on Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation; the second on Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning.
These two sections will be implemented sequentially with separate time limits. The examination will be 140 minutes. Candidates will have 70 minutes to answer 30 questions within each section which will have an on-screen countdown timer.
Once the time ends for the first section, they will move to the second and will no longer be able to go back. Although new in the computer-based version of CAT, this format was previously practised in some of the earlier paper-and-pencil years.
What is the reason behind making this pattern change?
The reason I have made two sections is because students spend a lot of time on one section and thereby lose out on other sections.
By making it two sections, candidates will concentrate more or less on one section for a longer time. And the reason for not allowing a candidate to go to the previous section after going on to the next is precisely the same thing.
No point giving a time and section limit if we are going to allow the candidate to go from one section to another. He can concentrate on one section at one time.
How will people get used to this change?
A 15-minute tutorial will be provided before the start of the test, and candidates are advised to go through that carefully before starting the main examination.
The total duration will be two hours and 35 minutes including the tutorial. A practice test to provide candidates with a feel of the timed sections, as well as navigation and functionality of the actual test will be made available in the coming weeks.
Once again candidates are advised to go though them carefully to familiarise themselves with the screens, layout, and navigation.
Check-in time reduced by 30 minutes
Photographs: Rediff Archives
What about the CAT dates?
The number of test days has been retained at 20 days within the window from 22 October to 18 November 2011. This would provide candidates with the flexibility of choosing a suitable test day based on their convenience.
For those candidates who are differently abled, additional support will be provided as required. A video on the conversion of CAT to a computer-based test and candidate impressions of this transition will be available on YouTube by the end of this week.
Any other changes?
The IIMs and Prometric have reviewed the operational processes and contingent on the continued punctuality of candidates, the check-in procedure this year will start one-and-a-half hours before the scheduled test time instead of the previous two hours.
With this change, we are also able to have an earlier start time of 3:15pm for the afternoon session. More details will be available on the website www.catiim.in by 8 August 2011.
Any new cities added to the test centre list?
To offer convenience to more candidates, three new cities Bhilai, Jammu and Dehradun have been added to the previous 33 test locations. This will help in bringing CAT closer to the northern states of the country.
To reduce the difficulties in purchasing CAT vouchers, now candidates will also be able to purchase CAT vouchers from 201 Axis Bank branches, an increase of 30 outlets.
'For 2011, the CAT will be a single paper exam'
What are the changes you would have brought about had the exam been totally in your hands?
Yes, I would like to have found a way to get brilliant students. I would like more value-oriented students to take CAT and get into the IIMs.
Those that value ethics, those that are more concerned as people. I would also like to add a 'writing' component in the CAT exam like how it is in GMAT or GRE, which will help me identify the writing skills of the candidates. It is very important that they know how to write English.
What do you have to say about coaching centre teachers who take CAT as well and not for the sake of admission?This deprives others of some of the top slots. What is your view?
Coaching centre people taking the CAT exam is a matter of concern for us. One could term that as 'robbed brilliance' and we believe it is not proper.
We have tried hard but never been able to identify those people from coaching centres who do not sit for the exam for the purpose of an admission.
Believe me, this is one area we have not managed to get hold of as yet and it concerns us. But if we come to know who these people are who take CAT and not for admission, we will take stern action.
There were talks that CAT would be given a two-paper pattern?
I don't know why that news is making rounds. But no, at least for 2011, the CAT will be a single paper exam.
Level of difficulty is the same for all the papers
What do you attribute to the decline in number of students taking the CAT?
That would be because the economy has still not recovered. In the last two years the economy has not been too good for managerial jobs. This year, am sure it will not be worse. May be we will do better than last year, if not the same. The economy looks better now.
Last year, many students felt they were wronged because of the 'normalisation' process.
There are more than 20 different papers set and lots of efforts that goes into setting the papers. The efforts go into to make sure that the level of difficulty is the same for all the papers.
Students should not pick up one or two questions in a single paper and then say that they are difficult compared to other questions in the same paper.
One paper will have some easy and some difficult questions. We have look at the overall difficulty in the papers, not at individual questions in a single paper. Students need to compare one paper with the other if they want to and not individual questions.
But if there are papers which have more difficult questions than other paper, definitely this will be addressed. Considerable effort has been invested in maintaining similar level of difficulty across papers.
A small number of statistically and psychometrically validated questions are randomly inserted in each question paper as equating blocks. These will be used for assessing post test equality across the days.
'A career decision is more important than just getting a degree'
There are talks about a Prometric chair at one of the IIMs.
No, there will not be a Prometric chair but we will institute a faculty chair which will look deeply at 'psychometric' issues but all this is only being discussed as of now.
In the agreement between the IIMs and Prometric, is it stated that if there are technical failures, Prometric will not be held responsible.
All the systems are checked before the exams begin. Care will be taken to make sure there are no technical glitches. There are buffer terminals in all centres which will be used in case of any difficulty. These terminals enable a candidate to continue the exam from where he or she left, so that there is no time wasted.
Any suggestions to people taking the CAT this year?
People should take the CAT keeping their final goal in mind and after making long-term plans.
A career decision is more important than just getting a degree. Think clearly about what the bigger plan is and then take CAT if needed.
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