The Common Admission Test referred to by its acronym – the CAT- is conducted by the IIMs (The Indian Institutes of Management) for admission into their graduate Management program. It has been a computer-based test since 2010.
Besides the IIMs, the score is accepted by most of the B-schools in India, including the IITs (Indian Institute of Technology) and the IISC (Indian Institute of Science) for their graduate program admissions.
The CAT is considered the most competitive graduate-level entrance test in India. The number of people taking The CAT every year varies, but you can be assured of competing with over two and a half lakh contenders.
The CAT is a three-hour test of one hundred questions, divided into three sections: Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC), Quantitative Ability(QA), and Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning(DILR). The test pattern has not changed drastically in the past decade.
The new CAT
IIM Indore is conducting CAT 2020 on November 29th.
This year they have reduced the test duration to one hundred and twenty minutes instead of the earlier one hundred and eighty minutes.
Instead of sixty minutes, you get just forty minutes to solve each of the three sections – VARC, QA, and DILR.
They are conducting the tests in three slots instead of the two in the past.
What is the preparation you can do in one month?
This month is the time to work on the speed. Accuracy is crucial too, but with reduced time in each section, you must work on improving the time you take to solve the questions.
Identify questions in each section that you can solve faster than others and solve them first. This practice might give you the time to work smartly on those questions that take more time to solve.
Take as many mocks as possible. Solve section wise mock as well as full-length mocks. Analyze the mock for better accuracy on question types. Each mock will show you the more scoring areas, and you know you are doing well on these questions.
On the flip side, they will expose areas where you are not scoring well. Now you can work on improving your scores in these areas.
Taking mocks is crucial to whetting your preparation for the D-day.
What is the scoring pattern?
The CAT is not an easy-scoring test and calls for intense preparation. Prepare smartly to get a decent score. You score marks for each of the correct answers. There is no score for questions not attempted by the candidate. But beware of those questions that come with a negative score.
The IIMs declare results in percentiles. A person who scores 100 percentile is someone who has done better than the rest. He may not have scored full marks, but no one has a higher score than him.
Someone with a ninety-eight percentile is a person who has done better than 98% of the candidates. Only two percent of the candidates have fared better than him.
Which questions contain negative scores?
The questions come into two types:
- MCQs (Multiple choice questions)
- TITA (Type in the answer). Beware of MCQs – they come with a score of minus 1 for incorrect attempts.
The TITA questions require the candidate to type in the answer, and these questions do not have negative marks regardless of the answers. The wise one attempts all the TITA questions and views the MCQs with caution. The MCQ – TITA ratio is about 74-26.
How does one avoid negative marks?
You must understand the question types in each section and know how to derive the correct answer for the questions. Going through the last 10years of CAT is a good start. Attempt as many mocks as possible to get the right practice.
Talk to anyone who managed to score above ninety percentile. They will tell you that all the mocks you take improve your scores at the CAT.
Does one need section-wise preparation?
Get ample practice for each of the three sections. The final score and the scores in each section is the deciding factor for admission into a program.
The VARC or the Verbal section consists of
- paragraph-based questions
- critical reasoning questions
- reading comprehension – passages followed by questions.
The paragraph-based questions are the TITA type questions while the rest of them are MCQs. This means they carry a negative score of 1 mark for incorrect attempts.
In the given time frame of forty minutes, you will have to read between four to five passages, answer questions based on your understanding of the passage, and also attempt the critical reasoning and the paragraph-based questions.
How does one prepare for VARC?
To tackle the questions accurately, you need to be a good reader. Read newspapers or web-based articles, books, and journals.
Because you do not know the topic of the passages, you must prepare for a wide range of topics to a level where you can follow and answer questions from a random paragraph. The skill required calls for speed and accuracy.
The options could be twisted or worded in a way that confuses the test taker. But if you have done a few mocks, you would know the difference between the correct and incorrect options.
What should one read?
Newspaper reading gets you familiar with the verbal section. Many passages are excerpts from newspaper columns, magazine articles, web articles, etc. The wider your reading choice, the better is your preparation.
Divide the topics into categories – economics, finance, commerce, politics, law and governance, entertainment, sports, religion/philosophy, and so on. Ensure you cover these topics regularly from any source. Read editorials and opinions on the editorial page as often as possible.
Reading books helps build speed. When you read books, you tend to read quickly to get to the end of the book. Speed happens automatically.
Which books should I read?
Some books help in general preparation and help in understanding the concepts as you get practice exercises too. Buy the latest edition, as they also cover the more recent question types. You may look at:
- How to prepare for Quantitative Aptitude for the CAT – Arun Sharma
- Quantitative Aptitude for the CAT – Nishit K. Sinha
- Quantitative Aptitude Quantum CAT 2019 – Sarvesh K Verma
- The Pearson Guide to Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for CAT – Nishit Sinha
- How to Prepare for Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension for CAT – Meenakshi Upadhyay and Arun Sharma
- How to Prepare for Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation for CAT – Arun Sharma
- A Modern Approach to Logical Reasoning – R.S.Agarwal
Besides the above, you must also look at fiction – start with the genre you are comfortable with, then proceed to read other genres too. Happy reading!
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