CAT »About CAT
The CAT paper has traditionally been a 120 - minute
test. The questions in the CAT paper are generally not
very difficult but there is always an exceptionally
high emphasis on the speed required to solve the questions
in the paper.
CAT mandates that the test taker perform equally well
in all sections of the test. It is not sufficient to
get a good score in the test as a whole - the candidate
also has to perform well in each of the three/ four
sections of the CAT paper. When we talk of performing
equally well, we have to look at it as a relative measure.
Among the one lakh plus candidates expected to take
CAT this year, you should be able to score a certain
number of marks more than the average in each of the
selections in order to qualify. Hence you have to aim
at crossing a minimum cut - off mark in each section
to be eligible to get a call for the Group Discussion
(GD) and Interview stage.
The minimum cut-off required
in each section could vary from IIM to IIM and also
for each of the other 30+ institutes that use CAT scores
for their selection process. It would be fair to assume
that the cut - off scores required for many of the other
institutes would be slightly lower than those required
for the IIMs.
If proper planning is not done, there is a danger that
one may actually get much more than the total minimum
required marks to be eligible for the IIMs but one may
not cross the cutoffs in a particular section. This
brings us to the basic rule that applies to the CAT
paper - do reasonably well in every section rather than
concentrating on and doing extremely well in every section
rather than concentrating on and doing extremely well
in one/ two sections. Getting a very high score in one
or two sections at the expense of the others would fetch
you nothing and defeats the very purpose for which you
are taking the test!
The key to crack the CAT exam is to keep your cool
and maintain your composure during the entire length
of the test. This may sound deceptively simple but is
easier said than done. The pressure levels would be
high, yes, but you have to use your adrenaline to work
faster and smarter. There is no point getting bogged
down at any point in the paper. CAT does not require/
expect you to attempt all or even nearly all the questions.
It is test of speed but not only of speed. Accuracy
is needed too!
It is no great secret that the test itself comprises
a significant number of questions that are not very
difficult. The knack, then, would be to maximize your
score by completing the easy ones rather than getting
bogged down by the more difficult ones especially since,
no extra marks are awarded for solving the more difficult
Even within each section, there is very clear need
for a planned strategy of attempting questions. Unless
a clear cut timed strategy for attempting the test is
in place, there is every chance that one may miss out
on very easy questions which may be at the end of the
section and instead end up solving all the difficult
questions that may have been given at the beginning.
It is imperative to realize that there is no rule that
says that the difficult questions will be at the end
of the section nor is there a rule that says that easy
questions are at the beginning of each section. Then
why should there be any discrimination while attempting
the questions? The common tendency among students is
to start the section from the very first question. Much
as it may be the best starting point, it loses its relevance
if all the questions in a particular section are not
read. By not reading a question or a set of questions,
one is obviously at a disadvantage when compared to
a student who carefully plans out the time limits within
each section and ensures that he or she picks and solves
the easy questions given in each section.
One important point to note for the CAT exam is that,
there are no individual cutoffs for the areas within
a section. The instructions on the front page of the
question booklet of CAT clearly specify that you should
do equally well in all sections. Hence, depending on
your comfort level in each of the areas, you should
allocate the time for the areas within a section.
There is negative marketing in the CAT paper and for
every wrong answer a certain score is deducted from
your total. The IIMs do not disclose the way they calculate
the negative marks for the wrong answers.
One Golden Rule that needs to be followed is to ensure
that there is no question which is unread at the end
of the test. This will ensure that all possible easy
questions have been attempted or at least looked at.
Unfortunately, CAT does not have any special notations
pointing to the easy questions and neither do they scream
out at you from the paper. It is up to you to find them
and make sure you do most of them. The easy ones could
be anywhere - at the beginning, in the middle or at
the end - just about anywhere.