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?”