CAT 14 Strat – Dealing With Change

In recent years, the CAT has had sectional time limits. Consequently, many candidates – especially repeat takers – tend to see those limits as an integral part of CAT. So when it was announced that CAT ’14 would not have such limits, a lot of people were confused (or upset). The older and more experienced people, who have met the CAT in its various avatars over the years, would take it in their stride though; in CAT, as in real life, the maxim “change is the only constant” has been an abiding truth. So let us look at this change and see how it would affect a test-taker.

Firstly, the longer perspective: in the long run, sectional time limits in the CAT have been the exception rather than the rule. Before 2011, the last time there were such limits was in the last millennium (1997 to be precise). In fact, the lack of such time limits better serves the purposes of a test like the CAT; it also tests skills such as “optimal utilisation of limited resources”. In the words of a colleague, when there is a sectional time limit, the candidate just has to do 2 separate maximisations, rather than an overall optimisation. So it is not particularly surprising that the CAT might choose to do away with it.

Note that such a change is not intrinsically good or bad. Whether the CAT chooses to have 60 questions in 140 minutes or 100 questions in 170 minutes (or, as they once used to, 185 questions in 120 minutes), the competition is still the same. At the end of the day, the number of aspirants has not changed due to this. Neither has the number of seats available. So if someone gets hurt by this change, by the same token someone else will benefit. The more things change, the more they remain the same! What it means is that one should understand the implications of the change, and accordingly devise strategies that make the most of one’s own peculiar strengths and weaknesses under the new paradigm. This brings up some obvious questions, a few of which I shall attempt to address in the next couple of strategy posts:

“Which section to do first?”

 “How do I maintain my stamina for 3 hours?”

 “Do I attempt the sections in series or in parallel?”

 “Should I give equal time to each section, or more weightage to one of them?”



15 thoughts on “CAT 14 Strat – Dealing With Change

  1. Really interested in knowing the answer to ‘How to maintain stamina for 3 hours?’
    Currently, I’m managing it with the help of Red Bull just before the test 😛

  2. That would work, yes. Though a good strong coffee works just as well (and costs a quarter as much 😉 ). The only thing to watch out for there is the caffeine high; it could make you feel like a superhero and tempt you into risks you would not otherwise take.


    • You mean do only QA and skip DI? Possible, yes, in theory. Probable, no. If you are trying to clear the same cutoff out of 35 marks which others are trying out of 50 marks, you will need to be amazingly good in the QA part (and a little bit lucky). Would you really want to risk your calls on that?


      • I am damn poor at QA. i din’t learn tables in my school and tried to learn them recently.. but not succeeded. can you give me any suggestions. to be frank, i can recall up to 10th table only.

  3. To be equally frank, the only suggestion I can give you is – learn them!

    Understand this: no one will ever ask you a table in the exam, but they are simply too useful. If you choose to neglect them, your chances of getting through dramatically reduce (as you give your competitors a significant advantage). Do remember that there are no short-cuts to success in something as competitive as CAT – you have to do the hard work in prep so that the exam will seem easy on the day!

    And if by any chance you get through to an MBA without knowing this, rest assured that during placements very few employers will consider hiring someone who barely knows tables till 10 😛 At some point in life you will have to get serious….


    • That is certainly one of your decision points – and one of the things I will be covering in the subsequent posts 🙂 I will also try and explain how you should decide this.


  4. I have been writing AIMCATS and scoring around meager 65-70 which is just around 90%ile .
    The problems i am facing
    -> I The moment i see a question never seen before i panic and screw up the mental strength and lose confidence
    -> Although i am practicing quant a lot i am unable to reproduce it in exam as i would do otherwise . I think the only way to prep up for this is to give as many tests as possible covering ample variety than quantity ., your suggestions please ? (material wise and approach wise )
    -> In Verbal i think i can do well in next two months if i practice , but its the moment which decides the answer , how do i gain that composure ?

    Please Let me know any suggestions ,inputs so that i can make it to 130+ /(99%ile +).

    TIA .

    • Short answer – rule 1 of any test is “Don’t Panic” (as advised by that excellent book, The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).

      The only other immediate piece of generic strategy advice I can offer here is “work on shot-selection” i.e. learn how to pick and choose which questions to attempt. Why are you even trying to answer a previously unseen question type at the start? Save it for later!


  5. Hi J,

    As we don’t know anything about our exam time, should we write mocks only at the possible timings (mornings & afternoons)? Fine tuning the timing after October 16 seems tedious, to say the least….

    Regards 🙂

  6. Hi J,

    Thank you for your input but I have following questions in my mind though I know nothing helps than practice but here they are.

    1) I always had good theoretical knowledge but it takes little time for solving questions in Quant. I feel little comfortable with QA than DI and I used to skip DI during 70 minutes per section in the past as solving DI used to take little longer than QA. But now as CAT switched to Speed/Accuracy, What do you suggest for people who can solve but take little longer time to solve than people who can solve quick ?

    2) Despite solving normal LR questions I find the one’s in exam are always new and will take considerably more time and some times to an extent of not able to crack. What do you suggest to improve logical skills for people with poor imagination skills ?( I personally use cross marks grid to not miss out on any possibility any logical implication )

    3) With number of questions being raised to 50 without significant increase in time, How much importance does solving normal questions in VA which usually take a minute to solve will have an impact than solving RC & LR questions which take more time to solve ?

    4) Please share some techniques/methods to improve scores in Section 2 to improve scores in Section 2. ( Like Scale, Tone, Continuity tips by GP sir )

    Thank you very much for your time and efforts J 🙂

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