COMMON Admission Test (CAT), gateway to the 13 prestigious Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), has metamorphosed into a yet another avatar in 2011. It seems that CAT convenors are bent on proving right the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who said, “The only constant is change.”
Prof. Janakiraman Moorthy of IIM-Calcutta, the convener of CAT 2011, says, “CAT has always had some kind of surprise element. This time we have declared the pattern three months in advance; so there is no surprise. The student should adapt accordingly.”
According to the information released in the official CAT website
, the number of sections has been reduced from three to two, which are as follows:
- Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation
- Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning
There will be 30 questions in each section to be attempted in 70 minutes, taking the duration to 140 minutes, five minutes more than CAT 2010. The two sections, significantly, will be administered sequentially with separate time limits. Examinees will not be allowed to continue with or return to the first section after they have exhausted the 70 minutes allocated for that section.
This year, the check-in procedure will start 90 minutes before the scheduled test time and not two hours as was the case in CAT 2010. 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.
Three new cities - Bhilai, Jammu and Dehradun - have been added to the existing 33 test locations. CAT brochures can now be purchased from any one of the 201 branches of Axis Bank, an increase of 30 outlets. “Since we had a smooth experience last year, we have continued with the same vendors, namely Prometric, Meritrac and Everonn, for the administration of CAT. In addition, CMS has been roped in to assist on the technology front,” says Prof. Moorthy. “We have put in place a lot of quality checks to ensure the test is fair and equitable,” he adds.
- Better chance for non-engineers
The most significant change in CAT has been the move towards a fairer distribution of numerical and non-numerical skills. Earlier, Quantitative Ability
(QA) and Data Interpretation (DI), which demand mathematical skills, had an almost 2/3rd representation in CAT and Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning (VA & LR) the rest (traditionally they have been allocated nearly equal marks).
That is the reason perhaps why the hallowed portals of the IIMs (and other institutions that use CAT scores) have been found to be flooded with engineers, whose education hones their mathematical and analytical skills. “Approximately 90 percent of the students in IIMs are engineers,” says Dr. B.S. Sahay, founder Director, IIM-Raipur. “In addition to the new CAT structure, we are giving preference to girls and non-engineers as detailed in the admission policy published on our website.” Prof. Moorthy says, “We are looking for candidates who are good both in analytical as well as communication skills.”
“Approximately 90 percent of the students
in the IIMs are engineers, we are giving preference to girls and non-engineers”
Dr. B.S. Sahay
Founder Director, IIM-Raipur
With the scales now balanced better between the numerical and non-numerical areas, one can expect a much brighter chance for non-engineers. That should improve academic diversity as well as the gender ratio inside IIMs as engineering has been a male-dominated profession. “These changes make the test more inclusive,” says Kamlesh Sajnani, MD of IMS.
- More balanced preparation
Due to the forced sectional time-limit, the student would no longer be able to compensate his lack of proficiency in one section by devoting more time to it at the expense of another section where he is more proficient. “Since test-takers have to spend an equal amount of time on both sections new pattern will be able to better distinguish test-takers who are equally competent,” says Kamlesh.
- No stress of time management
According to T.I.M.E. Director Manek Daruvala, “The students now are, to a large extent, relieved of a burden called ‘time management’ which played a key role in the earlier CATs. The students now need not worry about the time they spend on each area/section and can instead devote their attention to solving as many questions as they can. This reduced mental stress and should help in increasing the accuracy levels.” Kamlesh concurs, “A majority of the test-takers find it difficult to adhere to dividing their time equally between sections. The test itself will now ensure that they divide their time equally!”
- More flexibility within sections
Reducing the sections from three to two does give the examinees some flexibility. “Candidates who have specific areas where they are not so strong can now have a better shot at the IIMs. Candidates can now compensate for a weak area in a section with the other area from the same section, thereby negating their weakness,” says Daruvala.
Test-takers have to use the next three months to ensure that they become equally competent in both areas. “To be able to attempt 24 out of 30 questions in a section, test-takers have to ensure that they cover all concepts relevant to the particular section,” says Kamlesh. “Two to six months is the best timeframe to prepare for the CAT. With the strategy simplified, and targets clearly defined, we believe that test-takers can precisely plan their preparation
to do well in the CAT,” he adds.
Daruvala’s advice is slightly different, “As the test areas have not changed and only the pattern has, we do not recommend any changes in preparation. Taking mocks in the new pattern is very important,” he opines. CAT seems to be coming closer and closer to GMAT
, the most widely accepted test worldwide for MBA
admissions. First it went online, now it has given equal weight to both quantitative and communication skills and compelled the examinee to focus on only one section at a time with sectional time limits, again like the GMAT. Next year we may see a new section on analytical writing or adaptive questions as in the GMAT, but then that’s only a guess!
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