It has been a while since there was no sectional time-limit and since I barely take any full-length mocks CATs apart from the actual CAT, it was a pleasant departure from the previous attempts.
So, let’s dig in to the analysis in the order I attempted the paper.
Wanted to really max this section so started with VA and specifically RCs. The four RCs were all relatively straightforward. If we want to split hairs, we can classify two as Easy and two as Moderate; compared to SimCATs they can only be classified as tame. Also for the first time in a quite a few years I felt there were no ambiguous options. During the Prometric years, I often left some RC questions purely because I knew none of the four options were correct and I did not want to both lose a mark and dignify the question with an answer (I was setting the Verbal Sections of the IMS SimCATs for a while, so I know a thing or two about question-setting)
Only on 2 out of the 16 questions did two options seem close and even on those a re-check would easily lead one to the answer. For those whose strong suit is Verbal, the RCs were a nicely-wrapped gift. For those who are of average ability with RCs, 3 passages with 10-12 attempts and 8-10 correct was definitely possible. I would say about 25 marks from RC were there for the taking.
Moved on to VA which was also surprisingly harmless. None of the question types posed any real problem. If we were to arrange the question-types in increasing order of difficulty they would be Jumbled Paragraphs, Grammar, Odd One Out, CR-Summary, CR-Inference. Everyone who prepared for the test could have attempted 12 questions.
The bulk of the scoring in this section should have come from VA & RC with 20-25 attempts and 18-22 questions correct.
Since I had made sufficient attempts in VA-RC in good time to clear the sectional cut-offs I was only looking at LR as an added bonus to push the overall score higher. But it did not turn out to be that easy. One set was easy, two were moderate and one was tough. Even on the moderate sets, 1-2 questions should have been left in each set as they were time-consuming.
For those for whom LR is the main scoring area around 10-12 questions attempted across 3 sets would have been the best they could have done.
So, without getting into the percentile nitty-gritty, what is a good number of attempts on this section? For those with strong QA-DI, around 28-32 good attempts were definitely possible, for those who were looking to this section to max their overall score through the VA-LR section, around 32-36 attempts.
Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation
QA was a pleasant surprise since despite all news pointing towards an easy QA on previous slots, one does not believe it until one sees it, the questions were as straight-forward as they can come. The only thing that could go against you were silly mistakes. Those who attended all classes and were aware of the basic stuff would have had no problem with the QA.
DI was a bit tricky and time-consuming and if one devoted bulk of the time to QA then just picking one DI set would have sufficed.
Overall for someone looking to max their score through this section around 33-38 questions were definitely possible; for those who are average on QA-DI around 25-32 attempts were a definite possibility.
I think this year’s CAT had a larger purpose than just screening students for the second stage. The papers this year send out a signal that the IIMs, especially the newer ones, do not want students to shy away from the test because of its perceived toughness. The QA section was made easier so that more non-engineers would be encouraged to take up the test, and the VA section was definitely not scary for engineers.
Whether the test is tough or easy, it does not make a difference to the selection procedure of the IIMs since they use percentiles. But managing the perception of the test is paramount to ensure that slew of new IIMs that have been launched do not have empty seats!
By the way, the CAT is over but the test-taking season is not over yet. For those whose CAT did not go that well, there still are plenty more fish in the sea, especially one called XAT, which is on par or better than few of the older IIMs. For those who did well, it is still a job half done, so do not give yourself a break of more than 2-3 days. So either ways it time to put the CAT behind us and get back to prepping for the rest of the tests!
All the best!