CAT 2016: Expert take on pattern and preparation strategy
Urvashi Dalal, 02 Aug 2016, #CAT
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Great Lakes Institute of Management

IIM Bangalore, the conducting body of CAT 2016, released the notification for the biggest national level management entrance test on Sunday, July 31, 2016. The CAT 2016 announcement was followed by queries and doubts in terms of the pros and cons of the pattern, test schedule and the preparation strategy to follow.

Careers360 brings you expert take on CAT pattern and preparation strategy, which will guide you about how to plan and prepare for the test.

CAT 2016 is on the similar lines as that of last year. Although the exact number of questions and marking scheme has not been revealed by the officials yet, it is expected that it would be on the similar lines as that of last year.


Click here to check CAT 2016 Official notification


The most important question to be answered for CAT 2016 test takers is whether to change their preparation strategy anticipating a change in the number of questions in each section. According to the experts, despite this slight ambiguity in the CAT 2016 exam pattern regarding the number of questions and marking scheme, aspirants should not change their preparation strategy as the overall paper and structure are same.


Click here to check if you are eligible to apply for CAT 2016


Ramnath Kankadandi, Course Director CAT, T.I.M.E. regarding the CAT 2016 preparations says, “With no significant changes in the test pattern, the students can breathe a sigh of relief as the test strategies that they have been working on, based on CAT 15, need not be dumped.” He further suggests students to take mock tests to ensure that they polish their test day strategies to the hilt while overcoming their area-specific weaknesses.


T.I.M.E. Director, Sai Kumar Swamy, also shares his expert take on CAT 2016 overall and sectional preparation tips. According to him, the continuation of last year’s test pattern is good news for the students and its time to put all the focus on the preparations.


Read the full interview of Sai Kumar Swamy:


Careers360: What is your take on CAT 2016 similar pattern?

Sai Kumar Swamy: In a nutshell, CAT2016 will have three sections – Section 1 would be Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension, Section 2 will be Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning, Section 3 would be Quantitative Ability. Aspirants would get 60 minutes to answer the questions in each section and during this time they cannot move to other sections. Like CAT 2015, CAT 2016 will have a mix of Multiple Choice Questions and Direct Input questions – with the MCQs having negative marking for wrong answers and the Direct Input questions not having any negative marking for wrong answers. There is good news for those who abhor calculations as the IIMs have provided for an on-screen calculator. However, the notification has kept aspirants in the dark about the number of questions in each section of the test. There is a distinct possibility that the exam might have a lower number of questions as compared to last year. Aspirants can heave a sigh of relief as the number of changes has been kept to a minimum and the exam is devoid of major surprises in the structure. 


Careers360: Now that CAT 2016 has been announced, what should be the preparation strategy for the students?

Sai Kumar Swamy: Given that CAT 2016 is going to be on expected lines, aspirants should learn from the experience of CAT 2015 test-takers. Successful aspirants last year had reported that they had treated CAT 2015 as one with three sub-tests (on account of the sectional time limits) and gave their best in each of these ‘sub-tests’. They also reported that they had more questions available than what could be done in the allotted time. The successful ones were those who selected the questions carefully and ensured that they had a high accuracy. The same mindset and preparation strategy is required to bell the CAT this year.


Careers360: Coming to the section wise preparation strategy, how should the aspirants prepare for the Quantitative Ability section?

Sai Kumar SwamyThe syllabus of the exam in the Quantitative section is roughly equivalent to the 10th standard level mathematics and can therefore be cracked by anyone who is strong with the basic concepts. A cardinal error that many students commit during the preparation is classifying certain topics as important and others as unimportant; there have been a lot of occasions when there was a surfeit of questions in CAT from topics which were generally considered unimportant by students.

As far as preparation for QA is concerned, one should give priority to understanding the concepts first and not be rattled by the amount of time taken to complete a topic. There is a tendency to compare your speed with that of other students, which will only dishearten you. You must understand that speed comes from having a good grasp over basics and one cannot achieve speed unless one understands the concepts first.


Careers360: Please share the strategy to tackle the Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension.

Sai Kumar Swamy: The verbal ability portion of the section checks reading and working comfort in English. It emphasizes reading skills, as is clear from the high weight-age to Reading Comprehension and reading-oriented VA in the recent years. Hence now preparation should focus on improving reading skills, more in width than in depth. What this means is that CAT is looking at your ability to read a wide range of reading material in some depth, but not the ability to read a small range of reading material in great depth. So concentrate on reading things that you may not have read earlier, e.g. philosophy, spirituality, religion, social sciences, humanities, sciences etc.


A good grasp over verbal ability comes from regular practice done over a period of time and is usually a by-product of your reading habits and other academic interests; however, a significant improvement can be made over time with systematic preparation.


A fundamental prerequisite for doing well in VA is to cultivate the habit of reading (serious) material like newspapers, including editorials. You should try to develop an interest in reading rather than taking it as a chore. Apart from regular reading, you must try to add new words to your vocabulary and keep revising them till they become a part of your long-term memory. While learning new words, pay attention to their usage rather than learning them by rote.


You should try to improve your grammar; unlike RCs, the ambiguity is less here. Also, this takes less time; an effort in this area will pay you rich dividends as the CAT has always accorded high priority to Grammar.


Careers360: What about the Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning section? Since there is not much conceptual learning involved, how important is practicing to ace the section?

Sai Kumar Swamy: Though this is an area which is not as much concept based as the other two, it is quite difficult as it involves understanding complex graphs and doing quick calculations. However, like all test areas, systematic preparation can make a huge difference in doing well in this critical section. To begin with, you must solve problems on percentages and comparisons of fractions. Regular practice in speed math tests will increase your comfort with numbers and calculations.


You must familiarize yourself with all sorts of data representations like pie charts, bar graphs, stacked bars, and line diagrams. Solve at least 10 sets on each of the different types of data representation. Many times you will only be required to estimate the answer rather than calculate it; hence you should keep an eye on the choices and make smart approximations where possible.


As far as problems on Logical Ability are concerned, you must actively enrich your ability to give a ‘structure’ to the data given in the problem, which, in itself can make the solution to the problem a lot easier. Nothing can substitute practice – ensure that you spend as much time as possible on solving as many sets on puzzles as possible.


Also Read:

CAT Topper Interview

What if I don’t take coaching? Can I still crack CAT?

CAT 2016: When and how to start preparations

CAT 2016: Know if you are eligible or not

Must read books for CAT


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