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Ever since the mode of CAT or Common Admission Test changed to computer based, CAT takers have been raising questions on the credibility of the evaluation process and other testing areas. Careers360 has already reported on the array of problems faced by CAT takers every year and the probable solutions IIMs could offer. We approached CAT experts to know their take on the seriousness of trouble areas in CAT 2016 and the ways it can be improved.
In this special interview on the CAT trouble areas, CAT expert Arks Srinivas who is the CEO of VistaMind Education and Director of Vanguard Business School, Bangalore advocates for the release of question paper and answer key, and also speaks on changes that IIMs need to bring in CAT for making it more transparent. He believes that conducting the test in a single slot and releasing question paper and answer keys are some of the steps if taken by IIMs, can address major concerns.
Read interview excerpts below:
Careers360: In recent years, there have been multiple concerns on different areas of CAT including its evaluation and credibility of the testing process. How can CAT be better from students’ perspective?
Arks Srinivas: In my view, the following steps can be taken by IIMs to make the test better from the test takers’ point of view.
Conduct CAT in a single slot. It will help in addressing all the issues related to normalization and differences in degree of the difficulty level between the two slots.
Release the question paper as well as the KEY (the way XAT does) so that the students would know what scores they would get. This will help them in deciding which institutes they should apply to.
Give more weight-age to Verbal Ability instead of just Reading Comprehension.
Careers360: IIMs claim to have modified question pattern and question type for bringing greater academic diversity on campus. How do you see this change?
Arks Srinivas: There is hardly any change that the IIMs have done in the CAT pattern. If one looks at the CAT patterns from 1999 to 2008, the overall pattern has been almost the same. Only when Prometric took over as the conducting body of CAT exam, did the pattern change.
The IIMs are anyway giving more weight-age to gender (read women) and non-engineering students. Their cutoff should be announced early enough so that students know exactly what to expect.
Careers360: Do you think normalization process in CAT is fair?
Arks Srinivas: Normalization continues to be a contentious issue! With the exam being conducted in two slots, an element of luck is always associated as to which slot you get. For example, in the Slot 1 of CAT 2015, there was a question set on Cubes combined with Progressions. Students who were good in Cubes would have got full marks, while those not good in that area would have had to skip the set. In Slot 2, there was no question on Cubes set. So the entire batch of test takers, who wrote the test in the second slot was deprived of this set.
Now, the issue is that Logical Reasoning as an area is not an open and shut case kind of section. Different type of questions commands different levels of easiness or difficulty (for the entire student base). In this case, there is NO UNIFORMITY in the paper and hence one set of people lost out.
Careers360: What are the key areas that IIMs can work upon to bring more transparency in the CAT testing system?
Arks Srinivas: IIMs should release the question paper along with the key within a short period (post the CAT exam). They should also allow students to check their answers online.
Careers360: Given a chance to overhaul CAT, what are the fundamental changes you would suggest for the coveted MBA entrance exam?
Arks Srinivas: If given a chance, I would like to make the following amends in the test:
Allow students with less than 50% marks in Degree also to attempt the paper (Management ability is not entirely dependent only on the academic marks)
Single slot exam rather than having two slots that are being conducted
No time-limits for any section (The very idea of a management exam should be to allow the prospective manager to decide how he/she will choose the time available and allocate this resource to his strengths and weaknesses)
Release of the paper and key within two days of conducting the exam
Allow changes in the answers (key) as per the feedback received from various stakeholders
Allow re-checking of the paper.
CAT Troubles: Will IIMs address these problem areas bothering CAT takers every year?
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Dear Akshat, CAT is exclusively conducted by the IIMs. So the selection for admission to any of the 20 IIMs is through CAT exam. Unfortunately no other score except for CAT score is accepted for IIM Ahmedabad. You can check their selection process at:
Dear Sai, IIMs look for Diversity factor in Academics. They have a special rating scale for Professional courses like MBBS,BDS, CA, etc. We shall help you with the admission process of IIM Ahmedabad just as an example to show how does the selection process work. There are 3 sections in CAT: QA, DILR, VRC. IIM A has released its 2019 cut off percentiles. Only those Candidates who have scored this percentiles will be shortlisted for further rounds. The cut offs are as follows:
VRC DILR QA Overall
General 70 70 70 80
OBC-Transgender 65 65 65 75
SC 60 60 60 70
ST 50 50 50 60
PWD 60 60 60 70
PWD-ST 50 50 50 60
On an average IIMs need a cut off 90 percentile and more for admission to their colleges. You can check the complete selection process of IIM A at:
Now based on these cut offs top 5 percentile from each Category will be short listed for WAT and PI. So inorder to be able to score these cut offs, you need to know the exam pattern and marking scheme. CAT exam paper can be Categorised into 3 parts:
Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension
Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning
The Verbal Ability section and Reading Comprehension has 34 Questions, Data interpretation-Logical Reasoning section has 32 MCQ questions and Quantitative Ability has 34 MCQ questions totalling up to 100 questions. Each Question has 3 marks and a wrong answer takes away 1 mark.
NCERT books will sharpen your basics and you need strong basics for preparing for any entrance examination. Once your basics are in place, because the time period for preparation is quite less, your preparation should be extensive and thorough.
Quantitative Aptitude covers almost 30% of the CAT question paper. QA can be categorised into Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry and Advanced Mathematics. Practise chapter by chapter and develop mental calculations. Like practise more of basic summation, subtraction, fractions and tables. Numbers, Percentage, Profit and Loss, Simple and Compound Interest, Ratio, Proportionality, Time-Distance, Time-Work, Mixtures, Averages, Partnership, Permutation and Combinations, Probability, Set Theory, Progression and Series, Line, Angles, Triangles, Quadrilaterals, Polygon, Circles, Ares, Volume, Height and Distance, Coordinate Geometry, Basic Trigonometry are few important topics.
Because this section involves mathematics and takes most of your time, your focus should be on solving the problems efficiently in the beginning. Even if it takes time, practise upto perfection. Practise as many questions as you can in the conventional way. As and when you get a grip on the subject, you can go for short cuts. Memorise tables, square roots, cube roots, conversion from percent to fraction, etc. Solve sample papers on Mathematics. In the beginning, do not worry about the time it takes. As you practise, you will get the hang of the subject and it will be easier for you.
In Verbal Ability session, command on your English, Grammar, Vocabulary, Understanding of the given paragraph are of more importance. Reading English NewsPaper will also help you in your preparation.
Read articles from time to time. Follow newspapers, magazines, and watch the news channels and browse the internet to keep yourself updated. You will need a lot of reading to help you in the comprehension section. You will need speed to help you in this section and you can achieve that only by thorough practise and reading. Take time to understand the question because most answers are interlinked.
Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning needs to be practised as much as possible. Comparison of data, Data Analysis, taking clues, interpreting missing data, coming to conclusions and making future projections will be covered under this Category. The questions here are interlinked and so if you get one formula correct, cracking the next few questions will be easy. So it's important to memorise and practise formulae. You should cover topics like Data tables, Data Charts, Bar Diagrams, Pie Charts, Graphs, Data Comparison and Analysis.
As this is the most tricky section, this needs a lot of practise. Solve as many sample papers as possible to get the hang of the section. Make notes when required. Regular practise can help you understand and solve the questions easily as time goes on.
Overall,once you know the syllabus, it's easier from there on.Go through the previous papers to analyse and prepare a comprehensive plan and set priorities according to the importance of different topics across sections. Customise your own study plan based on your strengths and weaknesses. Gauge your preparation from time to time by taking mock tests. Solve questions to check your levels of preparation but not to set any targets. Remember, its ok to have cheat days and relax. But make sure you have a plan and stick to it for the next few months
We can recommend a few books for you:
NCERT books to cover the basics from 6th to 10th Class
Quantitative Aptitude for CAT by Nishit Saxena
Quantitative Aptitude Quantum for CAT by Sarvesh Sharma
How to prepare for Quantitative Aptitude for CAT by Arun Sharma
Quantitative Aptitude for Competitive Exams by Abhijit Guha
You can also download free downloadable e books at:
NIFT has nothing to do with CAT or GAT. Those are the exams for MBA. NIFT is for admission in fashion courses.
The eligibilitiy is just marks of your 10th and intermediate. The main point is the candidate must have qualified both from a recognised board and must be having PCM as the compulsory subject.
The exam has an age limit to be 23 and there is 5 years relaxation for category reserved candidates.
For more information please check the article:-
Hope it helps!
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