There have been only three instances in its long history that the CAT has not changed at all – 2010, 2012 and 2013. Given such a statistic, we should have seen something like this coming, especially when it also involved a change in vendor from Prometric to TCS.
But the last two CATs had perhaps lulled us into believing that the IIMs had finally hit upon what exactly they wanted to test of prospective managers, only for us to wake up to the news that what is required of a prospective manager in India in 2014 is not the same as what was required in the two preceding years.
Be that as it may, for those who are preparing and aspiring to ace CAT 2014, this is what the changes mean.
Average Time To Solve Has Not Come Down!
On the face of it this seems to be the most obvious case, average time per question has come down from 140 seconds per question to 102 seconds. But those who have been taking the test for a while know that nothing is farther from the truth since there is more to it than numbers!
Average time comes down only if you are expected to solve all questions within the stipulated time! On CAT 2013, a student with around 16-17 attempts got a 99.89 percentile.
The only outcome of this is that since the overall time has increased we will see an increase in the number of questions that test-takers are able to attempt.
More Questions Per Section – Wider Range of Concepts will be Tested, More Question Per Set, New Question Types Likely
With more questions in each section, there will be wider range of concepts that will get tested since from each topic, say Geometry for instance, more questions can be asked. So test-takers who were planning to ignore their least favorite areas might not be able to do so.
In all probability, we can expect a return to 5 or more questions per set on RC, DI and LR sets.
Also, we can expect newer question types in Verbal Ability and may be more variety in Quantitative with more Data Sufficiency questions.
Fewer Test-Taking Slots – Test Might Get Tougher
One big change is that the administrators have to set fewer questions this time around — 400 — compared to the previous computer-based CATs. This will definitely mean that quality of questions will go up. We already saw that CAT 2013 was the toughest of the computer-based CATs, with the test-creators having to set fewer questions, CAT 2014 might get tougher.
No Sectional Time Limit, Who Benefits — The Quant or The Verbal Specialist?
Being a specialist in a section does not mean that you consider it to be the lesser of the two evils, it means that on any given Sunday irrespective of the level of the paper you will be above 97 percentile in that section.
Even if that is the case there is a small catch – you still have to clear the sectional cut-offs!
The guys who are great at Math will solve as many Quant questions as possible and allocate very little time to Verbal, the guys who are good at Verbal will finish it very fast and allocate time to Math where they need more time.
Does it really benefit one over the other, not really! So who will really benefit – the strategist.
From Being A Test Of Competence To Being A Test Of Strategy
With sectional time limit, macro-level time management was taken out of the test-taker’s hands. Within a span of 70 minutes in each section, you had to choose and leave the right questions. In that sense it was largely a test of competence.
But with no sectional time limits it will become a test of strategy. You have to allocate time in such a way that they maximize your overall score and clear sectional cut-offs (which vary from college to college).
- So do you allocate more time to your strong areas or to your weak areas?
- How do you know that you have done enough to clear the cut-off in your weak area?
- What is a good number of attempts overall?
These are all questions that test-takers need to confront and there are strategies that will provide a strong base to clear both sectional and overall cut-offs but that will have to be a separate post, once we also take a look at the new testing interface that will be unveiled soon.
On the whole though, the new changes make it look like a throwback to the CATs of the past, only with the addition of a mouse. May be that is why they say that, the more things change, the more they remain the same!