Monday, November 20, 2006

CAT 2006: The changes

What used to be about 170-180 a few years back has now reduced to just 75. If you look at the last four years, the decline seems to have been a very planned affair. 150, 123, 90 and now 75 - that's the number of questions asked in the CAT( Common Admission Test to the IIMs) in the last four years in reverse chronology. Experts say it's a move towards the GMAT-ification of CAT. I don't know whether they are right about that but if that's the raison d'etre behind this shrinking basket of questions, it's a pitiable one. What makes more sense, and is possibly the correct rationale is that the IIMs have realised that what can be tested over 175 questions can as accurately be done over fewer questions, just that they have played it safe by following a gradual approach towards this. My own feeling is that they have hit the peak this year, and we will see this graph plateauing over the next few years.

The most impacting change this year was interestingly the least visible one. Increasing the number of options is at first impression not too great a change, but it can change the whole test-taking-technique dynamics. You will need a little more education before you take an educated guess now!! The game of elimination becomes a tad more time consuming. It may change the way you go about solving a problem completely. And there's a 20% more chance of you getting confused between two options. Other changes this year included an increase in the test duration to 150 minutes and a return to the traditional uniform marking scheme.

While these structural changes are important and affect the test takers, it's the anatomical changes in the CAT that happened this year that are without doubt more crucial. When I met Ravi Kiran, a student at the IMS Barakhamba Road branch, minutes after the test, he seemed confident about his chances but was more than a little disappointed that his many hours spent learning the finer nuances of the English grammar had gone completely waste. A mere glancing through the English section was sufficient to understand Ravi's point. Not a single grammar or usage based question was asked this year. All that was important this year was reasoning and interpretation. When i spent a little more time with the paper, i realised that although it was not as obvious in the Problem Solving section, a similar philosophy had been adapted there as well. Logic and conceptual understanding counted far more than any technical knowledge of mathematics. I will not be far off the mark if i were to say that the IIMs have reduced the importance of both English and Mathematics in the CAT.

All in all, three things would count this year:
1.Conceptual Understanding
2.Logical Reasoning & Other Reasoning Skills
3. How good an interpreter you are - your ability to arrive at decisions based on given texts and data.
All three are important attributes seeked for in a manager, and that's why at IMS we keep saying, "Take the CAT like a Manager".

For a detailed analysis of CAT 2006 and to know the possible cut-offs for the IIMs, MDI, MICA, TAPMI and other institutes click here

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