CAT 2017 Analysis by IMS Coaching Institutes: Same wine, same bottle

I never thought I’d say this, but it looks like the IIMs have finally figured out once and for all what they want to test. I keep taking the CAT every year, yesterday being my 14th time if I am counting right, with a view to understanding the changes in the test and incorporate the same into my teaching. But given the last four CATs (including this year’s) I think they seem to have settled upon what they want to test. The phrase that most of us in the CAT-prep fraternity use — the CAT keeps changing — might not hold true anymore.

A trickier Verbal than usual

A lot of test-takers felt the Verbal was very easy. I think this has to do with the fact that all of the RC passages were very readable. Despite this, I felt that a few of the questions here and there were a bit different from the previous years, and were also difficult to tackle.

The VA part was for sure harder than it was in previous years. The options on the Summary questions were super-short and were only capturing the essence of the conclusion and not the whole argument. The Jumbled paragraphs and Incorrect Sentence in context also needed to bit more effort than usual, at least for me.

I feel that the VA-RC might not turn out to be as high-scoring a section as people expect it to be. The saving grace is that VA was trickier than RC and hence test-takers will collect fewer negatives.

CAT is now officially only about the DI-LR section!

The DI-LR section is now exactly the way the whole paper-based CAT used to be — a solid challenge. I guess given the fact that the IIMs want the test to be fair to test-takers from different educational backgrounds, the other two sections have been diluted, to say the least. Yes, they need more non-engineers, they don’t need grammarians and word-miners, but they do need smart people! So the one thing they have kept constant in the last four years has been the level of the DI-LR.

In the two section CATs where LR was combined to VA-RC, the LR was literally a joke with everyone being able to do the three LRs and hence ignore RC. In the QA-DI section, people comfortably ignored DI and did QA.

But since they have reverted to the three section format the DI-LR section has been the section to do. Just like a team planning to win the cricket World Cup always knows that Australia is the team to beat, the DI-LR section is now officially the section that will decide your ability to be a part of the IIMs.

Also in a sea-change from the paper-based days, the sets are a  blend of DI and LR. In fact, it is tough to say where DI ends and where LR begins. Almost all sets had some numbers involved in them leading some test-takers to feel that there was no LR at all; there was no LR as we normally understand it — arrangement, sports, etc. While almost all of the sets had numbers, some of them did not need any crunching.

Even on the sets that seemed most like DI, there was a higher element of reasoning and a lower element of calculation, so even the DI sets were not DI as we know it.

I think it is time to change the name of the section to logical or analytical reasoning.

YAWNtitative ability

I was quite kicked after the QA section last year and in the year 2013 since there was a lot of reasoning involved but the QA section this year was like the ones in 2014 and 2015 — formulaic and boring.

While I understand the fact that the test has to be fair to non-engineers, testing basic knowledge of indices and calculating skills is sleep-inducing, to say the least. The QA section was designed to differentiate between candidates who cannot do basic math from those who can and not to differentiate between the reasoning capabilities of candidates who know basic math. So, while two test-takers might score a 99.5 on the QA section this year it will not mean that both have the same quantitative ability since the test is focused on differentiating at the lower end of the percentile range than at the higher.

I have no issues with the same since the candidates have to demonstrate their reasoning skills in the DI-LR section; I just find it super boring.

I had to travel 7 hours, either way, to Nasik (my fourth choice) to take the test this year, and after the paper, I was wondering whether I should take the test next year.

The pattern is more or less standardized, the questions apart from one section are bland, the test location might not be favorable, so what’s the point. So, unless they announce a drastic pattern change or I decide to choose Goa as my test-centre, I think I’ll give the CAT a miss the next year!

The larger story is that yesterday was the just the first test of the series. You have at least 3 more tests to go, so irrespective of how the first test went make sure that you are switched on till the XAT is done; there is enough and more to play for, the series is far from over.