Happy New Year 2017!

Dear Readers,

It has been a  while since I last posted; I hope most of you have done well in the various exams and have at least some calls! Despite the lack of new content on the blog, there have been plenty of visitors and commenters and I hope it has been of help to at least a few of you.

As for why I am posting today, that’s purely selfish vanity I am afraid 🙂 A lot of friends have requested me to share my scorecard here, so I decided to go ahead!

Scorecard2016.jpg

regards

J

 

CAT 2016: A good but flawed test

In my previous post, I mentioned that the shoddy infrastructure and unprofessional management of the test was extremely disappointing. The actual test itself, though, was mostly refreshing; it felt like CAT one might say (which has not always been the case in the online papers). With two difficult sections, even the well-prepared knew they had been in a fight this time.  

The overall structure was close enough to the mock they had uploaded. The first section stayed easy, as has been the case for the past couple of years. Again, 24 RC questions and 10 para-based VA questions, in my opinion a structure which leaves a lot to be desired. Again, all the 10 VA questions were TITA, but only in parajumbles did that actually matter, as the “odd sentence out” and “summary” types were really just MCQs where you had to type instead of clicking (with the added bonus of no negative marks!). Again, as has been the case for the past two years, the passages and paragraphs were all very readable, covering a wide range of interesting stuff. In other words, no surprises for the well-prepared and so a good attempt in this section should have been well over 20 (and of course any unsolved TITAs should have been attempted on principle as there was nothing to lose). I felt VARC-2016 to be between 2014 and 2015 in level, just slightly tougher than last year. Cut-offs for this should be somewhere in the 50s I would feel, with 75 being an excellent score.

The DILR section had 8 sets of 4 questions each, with more DI than LR. This was a deceptive section; while it seemed easier than last year’s, I felt it was as tough. Sure, the sets were easier to understand, but they were also way more time-consuming, with the later questions of practically every set containing additional information and requiring rework. Also, a lot of people tend to prefer LR to DI, so they were frustrated by the shortage of LR. If you aimed at attempting 3 or 4 sets, it was easier than last year; if you planned to attempt all 8, it was tougher. Cut-offs might be low again this year, even 14-15 good attempts and a raw score in the low 30s might prove enough, provided accuracy does not let you down.

The QA section caught a lot of people off guard, given the very easy QA in 2014 and 2015. While not as nasty as the toughest paper-based tests (such as 2007), the paper was not all sitters either. As in 2012 and 2013 (which, however, were 20 question sections), there were mostly medium level questions, with a leavening of sitters and a sprinkling of really nasty questions in between. One could make a hearty meal of this section if one managed to avoid breaking one’s teeth on those 5-6 speed-breakers. I found it a very well-balanced section, which forced one to think. No questions requiring abstruse knowledge, but plenty requiring basics and care. As has been the recent trend, Arithmetic was the single biggest chunk in the paper. Numbers was more prominent than it was last year, at the expense of Algebra, which almost vanished. Geometry was marked by some unusually tough questions.

Unfortunately, the square root – pi fiasco, which affected 3-4 questions in either section, marred the otherwise high standard of the paper. Additionally, there was reportedly one wrong question in the morning slot (unacceptable, in a test like this, but no one in charge seems to care!). Had it not been for these glitches, it could have been one of the better QA papers in several years. As it is, I suspect the cut-offs will be noticeably lower than they were last year; a score in the early 30s might prove acceptable from a cut-off point of view, though the Quant wizards might still get 75 or more.

Overall, given two difficult sections out of three, I expect raw scores to drop from last year (and the magnitude of scaling to consequently be larger). I suspect a 170 would prove to be a very good score and even a 125-135 might prove sufficient for a few good calls*.  The top raw scores should still be close to 240 I would guess (and scale to nearly 280) but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that in my personal opinion, a raw score of less than 140 might be enough for a 99 percentile (though it will scale up to around 170). Don’t get your hopes up too much though, nearly every expert opinion I have seen pegs it much higher than that.

regards
J

*(Statutory warning copied from my last year’s blog: (a) I am talking of raw scores, not scaled and (b) these are just guesses, and I have no particular statistical evidence of how accurate they might be. However if I don’t put in some estimate here, the comment sections is going to be flooded with variants of “I score xyz, how much percentile will I get?” I might as well say straightaway that I will not answer any such queries. Your guess is as good as mine).

CAT 2016 – Game of Stools

I wasn’t planning to write an analysis this year, but several people have asked me for one and I figured it would be simpler to type it out once rather than again and again. As in the past, I’ll divide this into two posts, this one detailing the overall test-taking experience (which could be of use to next year’s candidates, I suppose) and another short one with my take on the test structure and level.  Some of you might directly wish to jump to the other one 🙂

Pre-test procedure:

I wrote CAT ’16 in the afternoon slot, at ARMIET Shahapur (ARMIET being Alamuri Ratnamala, um,  something something…this college has a name a South Indian could envy). Shahapur being a little beyond Asangaon – the local train frequency to which is abysmal – I had to leave by 10:30 and reach by 12:15. The whole train was full of CAT-takers as the next train was scheduled an hour and a half later. We were milling around outside till 1:15 (in extremely hot and dry weather), resulting in headaches and grumpy faces galore. In the meantime, some people got calls and messages from those in the first slot and got some inkling of the now-infamous pi-root confusion. Also, there were rumours that the DI section was easy, which seemed to make people happy.

Officially, we were allowed to carry only the admit card (to repeat what I said last year on the topic of admit cards, please make sure the print is decent; black and white is fine, but the photo should resemble you and the signature should be reasonably clear, and you need to stick one recent colour photo on the card) and an ID proof. The security check was surprisingly lax with no proper frisking and people with bags wandering all over the place trying to figure out where to go for the photo/thumb impression procedure (at least two people in my lab had carried their own pens and one his wallet). Also the labs were embarrassingly ordinary, with no AC and with three-legged backless stools instead of chairs. The first computer I was given did not start up. After half an hour of increasingly irritated hints and reminders to the invigilators I was finally allotted another (which turned out to have a mouse issue – more on that later). As in the past couple of years, everyone was handed a sheet of A4 paper and a pen . One could ask for more paper if one so desired, but I stuck to my policy of environment-friendliness and managed with just the 1 sheet.

During the Test:

I will talk about my own experience further down, but first a few general points worth noting:

  1. Scoring: the test instructions stated: for MCQs: +3 for a correct, -1 for a wrong and no penalty for unattempted questions. For TITA: +3 for correct, no marks deducted for wrong. However the individual questions mentioned +1 / -0.33 and +1 / 0 respectively. It should make no difference, either way the marks will be scaled to 300 I suppose.  However, this rattled quite a few people apparently.
  2. The sections were not further subdivided – last year VA had two sub-tabs for RC and VA and one could freely move between those during the available 1 hour. Similarly the DILR section had separate tabs for DI and for LR. This year each section was all in a single lot.
  3. The question palette was adjustable: it could be shrunk to the side on a click, and brought out again on another click. In theory, this was a nice idea, but in practice I think the implementation fell a bit short. As a result, every time one clicked an answer, the entire palette took a second to refresh. Consequently, the interface was not as smooth as in the past.
  4. The Calculator was a fairly basic one, unlike the (useless) scientific one of last year.
  5. As in the mock, there were more DI and fewer LR questions, much to the dismay of the majority who prefer LR. Also, once more there were 24 RC questions and reading skills were at a premium in the Verbal section. 
  6. The number of TITA questions reduced from last year.

For me, personally, the act of actually taking the test turned out to be easily the most irritating testing experience I have had over the past few years. It started off smoothly enough as the VARC section seemed easy. However, a few questions into the section I realised that something was seriously wrong as many questions I had answered were showing unmarked. After a few minutes of frantic experimentation I found the problem – the mouse was double clicking most of the time. So when I marked an option, it got marked and unmarked again in the same click. This led to a frustrating experience for the rest of the test, wherein I would click, check to see if it registered, try again…. In some cases it required as many as 5-6 attempts to get a question answered. And of course, it meant it was impossible to use the calculator, because typing a number like 1569 gave a result like 155669. Also, at the end the mouse seems to have unmarked one question in VA as the final tally showed me 33 and not 34 attempted.

On the whole, other than raising my blood pressure, this did not affect me much in the QA and VA sections since I usually have time left over in these (though I could not check my answers at the end as I normally do). In DILR, though, I rarely have spare time (less than 2 minutes, last year) and additionally had to calculate everything manually. As a result I ended up leaving 5 questions there, 1 set and 1 extra question. Still, the set I ended up leaving was arguably the nastiest of the lot (most people I have heard from seem to have left that even after trying it) so I suspect no great loss there. Overall I ended with 94 attempts, the first time since the CAT went online when I was unable to attempt everything. The questions I left were anyway the ones which seemed the nastiest, so it might not have much adverse effect on my score. However, that is kind of beside the point.

Had I been a serious aspirant, such an experience would certainly have severely hurt my performance. The frustration alone would have been traumatic. Add to it the lax security, the terrible seats, the announcements on the PA during the test – on the whole it left a lot to be desired, a disappointment given the much better experience of the past two years with TCS. In fact, my worst experience since the 2009 debacle. And my disenchantment was not over yet….

After the test:

Again, a long journey back (I got home at 8:30 pm eventually). Eventful, too, as the saga of the Facebook posts during the test was all over social media by then. I wish it could be brushed aside as a one-off aberration, but having seen the casual nature of security in my centre and heard what happened in other places….

I think the IIMs need to take a long hard look at these problems for next year, even if they choose not to publicly admit that anything went wrong. Anyone can say “concluded successfully” and “detected and dealt with” and brush it off. But it needs to be true as well. The trust of people in the sanctity of the test can be pushed only so far; and it is in the IIMs’ own long-term interests to maintain a certain standard. It is easier to maintain a reputation than to rebuild it.

I will shortly put up another post with my take on the paper. For a couple of other points of view, check out T’s post at CAT 2016  and V’s post) at CAT 2016

regards
J

CAT 2015 – do or DI again

My take on this years’s paper:
Overall Structure: closely resembled the mock they had uploaded (which is not always the case!). My bad, I totally failed to call this one; I didn’t think it made sense to have a paper with 24 RCs and 10 paragraph-based TITAs as it tests too narrow a range of skills (for the record, I still don’t think it makes sense; perhaps IIMA is finding that not enough students are able to handle the case-based methodolgy and is trying to ensure that future generations are well-equipped?). The first two sections were further subdivided and had sub-tabs; one could switch freely between those sub-tabs in the sectional time limit.

VA had two sub-tabs for RC (24 questions) and VA (10 questions) and one could freely move between those during the available 1 hour. All the 10 VA questions were TITA, but only in parajumbles did that actually matter, as the “odd sentence out” and “syummary” types were really just MCQs where you had to type instead of clicking (with the added bonus of no negative marks!). As was the case last year, the RCs were refreshingly readable with no dense and incomprehensible subject matter. Most of the questions were unambiguous and so a good attempt in this section should have been well over 20 (and of course any unsolved TITAs should have been attempted on principle as there was nothing to lose). Cutoffs for this could range from early 40s to late 50s.

The DILR section, similarly, had separate tabs for DI and for LR. Each contained 4 sets of 4 questions each, and one set in each sub-tab was TITA. Again, harking back to last year, the sets were good and tough and would reward solid thinking, judgement and most crucially calmness. Very reminescent of the questions we used to see in CAT a decade or so back. Shot selection was absolutely crucial; getting into a nasty set first up was a recipe for panic. (I glanced through them, selected one DI and 2 LRs to start with, got them done in about 25 minutes, and by then I knew I had done fairly well already and so could attempt the rest with no pressure). From what I have heard from other test-takers, even 13-15 solid attempts in this section might be a very good performance; cut-offs could drop to 30 or lower.

QA: Almost as easy as the previous year, and well spread out ranging from 10-12 extremely easy questions to half a dozen which would require some intricate thought. There was the typical emphasis on testing the basics with deceptively simple but very precisely worded questions (and as always there were a few elegant traps in the finest tradition of CAT). This time Arithmetic was dominant with over a third of the questions coming from that area; Geometry and Algebra filled up most of the rest (and yes, still no Pick’s theorem or Fermat’s Little Theorem). A lot of people performed underwhelmingly in this section as they were still in shock from the aftermath of the previous section (or should I say, the afterdilr). Still, cutoffs will likely go beyond 40, there’s an outside chance they could push 50-55.

Overall, I suspect a 175 or 180 would prove to be a very good score and a 140-150 might prove sufficient for a few good calls. (Note that (a) I am talking of raw scores, not scaled and (b) these are just guesses, and I have no particular statistical evidence of how accurate they might be. However if I don’t put in some estimate here, the comment sections isgoing to be flooded with variants of “I score xyz, how much percentile will I get?” I might as well say straightaway that I will not answer any such queries – I would be shooting in the dark and there are plenty or other gyaanis out there who I am sure will be happy to give you an inflated prediction and massage your ego). I expect that the top raw scores will cross 250, but not by too much.

That’s it from me for CAT 2015!

regards
J

A brief history of CAT 2015

As I did last year, I’ll divide this into two posts, this one detailing the overall test-taking experience (which could be of use to next year’s candidates, I suppose) and another short one with my take on the test structure and level.  Some of you might directly wish to jump to the other one  🙂

Pre-test procedure:

I wrote CAT ’15 in the morning slot, at Mira Road (Shree L. R. Tiwary College of Engineering). Since this involved a train journey of close to 2 hours, this meant a 4:30 wake-up. As it turned out, I slept at 2 am, so I was not in the most cheerful of moods when I awoke. Some extremely strong coffee helped (a little) and I managed to push myself out of the house. I reached the venue at the dot of 7:30, and within 5 minutes the gate opened, letting us in with the standard basic checks. I believe people were allowed in (in my centre at least) till 8:15 or later, but I don’t know for sure. Also, an interesting development this year was that there appear to have been separate centres for male and female candidates. My centre had some 6 labs with well over a hundred candidates in all, I would estimate. I met a few friends there and we passed the time chatting while waiting to be let in.

The registration process was pretty smooth as usual – a quick webcam mugshot and Left Thumb Impression – and then we were directed to our seats and had about 45 min to kill while waiting for the test to start. As always, you cannot carry anything personal inside (people were not allowed even jewellery, apparently). Bags and other worldly possessions were to be left just outside the lab (no shelves etc) but as far as I am aware there were no issues with that. Strangely, this time we were also asked to leave our shoes outside (I suspect, though, that this was a requirement of the specific centre and not the CAT). We were allowed to carry only the admit card (to repeat what I said last year on the topic of admit cards, please make sure the print is decent; black and white is fine, but the photo should resemble you and the signature should be reasonably clear, and you need to stick one recent colour photo on the card) and an ID proof.

The system provided was good, the seating space was quite comfortable even for a portly gentleman like myself and the mouse worked just fine. This year, unlike last time, they got the “signature in presence of invigilator” stuff done during the last 15 minutes of this time rather than after the test had started (I found that very irritating last year!). Everyone was handed a sheet of A4 paper and a pen (looks like this is going to be the standard for the TCS regime – those who were habituated to pencil and eraser solving would probably have been a bit miffed). One could ask for more paper if one so desired, but I stuck to my policy of environment-friendliness and managed with 1 sheet.

During the Test:

The interface was smooth, with no significant glitches. A few points worth noting:

  1. Scoring: the test clearly and unambiguously stated: for MCQs: +3 for a correct, -1 for a wrong and no penalty for unattempted questions. For TITA: +3 for correct, no marks deducted for wrong
  2. The initial instructions (probably copypasted from last year) said that RCs would have 4 questions each and DI/LR sets could have 2 or 4 questions. However, the actual test proved to have RCs with 3 or 6 questions and LR/DI with 4 questions as promised in the Mock Test uploaded on the CAT site.
  3. The first two sections were further subdivided – VA had two sub-tabs for RC and VA and one could freely move between those during the available 1 hour. Similarly the DILR section had separate tabs for DI and for LR.
  4. As in the mock, there were 24 RC questions. I did not expect them to actually go ahead with such a pattern; this was a development I did not foresee. I like RC so I was quite happy with it, but those who hate reading must have had a miserable time (especially since the rest of the VA questions too were paragraph based)
  5. There were as many as 33 TITA questions – 10 in VA, 8 (2 complete sets) in DILR and a whopping 15 in QA. This made things more time consuming on average as uncertainty crept in (especially in the Parajumbles, which had 5 sentences each).
  6. When a question was answered and marked for review, it was not listed in the “answered” count obtained by hovering over the section name. However, we are assured that those questions (indicated on the right by a violet dot with green tick) will also be evaluated.
  7. When the 60 minutes were up, the test automatically skipped to the next section.

Once it was over, we all trooped down to hand in our rough paper and pens, and dispersed – in most cases, it seems, muttering rude things about the LR-DI section. (Note: please don’t forget to take along your id proof while leaving – as you would probably have pushed it into some corner of the desk, out of your way, it is surprisingly easy to forget)

I will shortly put up another post with my take on the paper. For a couple of other points of view, check out T’s post at “CAT 2015 analysis same wine in three bottles” and V’s post (added bonus – advice for the path ahead now that CAT is done) at “dilrwale cat15 le jayenge”