CAT S19E01: The one with the British English

I hope all my readers have done well in the recent CAT. It has been a long while since I have been able to post here, due to circumstances mostly beyond my control. So, encouraged by my friend Tony, I thought I would post my take on CAT 2019 slot 1. (For his take on slot 2, go here)

Overall Structure: As has become a tradition in recent years, I was in the morning slot. Since the Mock Test uploaded on the CAT website had (erroneously) placed one DI set in the QA section, I was eagerly waiting to see if CAT 2019 would try to keep up with the Kardashians by going 34-28-38 on us. But no, they stayed with the same broad structure as the past 4 years.

VA-RC: This section is probably the one which will make or break people’s score this year. After several years of easy-to-read passages and mostly straightforward questions, the RC this year had a one-two punch of plenty of inferential questions and one really, really unreadable passage – the one on British Folk. The last time I saw a passage of comparable incomprehensibility was in 2013. (This seems to have a deliberate choice, as the afternoon slot too had one really heavy read, coincidentally on British Colonialism). The rest of the passages were more readable but the questions were dense (which of the following would least negate the author’s position…seriously, CAT, did no one ever tell you that double-negatives were a no-no?). The passage on penguins was the only relatively direct one.

Not that the VA offered much respite; the summary questions had close options and the odd-one-out questions were, well, odd. Nothing new there. The parajumbles were probably the saving grace, mercifully 4-sentence paras and not 5-sentence as in 2017, and with at least some obvious links so that one could quickly narrow it down to a couple of options in each case. However, since a number of people tend to have a strategy that precludes attempting parajumbles, I doubt this was of much help.

Purely on the basis of the objective difficulty level, I would expect the 99th percentile score to go down to around 65-70, while around 35-40 ought to get one an 80 percentile, clearing most cut-offs. But if people have panicked (and I know a few who have) then scores could be in freefall and cut-offs could drop dramatically. The afternoon slot, from what I have heard, should have similar numbers, or maybe a mark or two lower.

DI-LR: This section was the pleasant surprise, being the easiest since at least 2015. If you picked judiciously, at least 4 sets could easily have been done. An attempt of 6 or 6.5 sets was within reach for people who consider DILR to be their strength. The set on crimes was perhaps the most time-consuming, and a couple of sets were non-standard. But none was really nasty. Most of them came down to relatively few cases, or just a single case. And in a refreshing change from the past, the questions, too, were relatively straightforward, not throwing extra information into the mix or having “cannot be determined” options floating around to mess with people’s minds. A surprise was the total lack of a Set Theory based set.

Having said which, I have encountered several people who messed this section up, typically for one of two contrasting reasons. One bunch were those who got demoralised by the tougher-than-expected VA and hence effectively gave up on the rest of the paper. The other group were those who had gone in with a fixed mindset of “I will do 3 sets” or “4 sets will be enough”. (Some of this latter group reached their target with 10-15 minutes to spare and chose not to attempt any more, for the life of me I cannot figure out their reasoning).

I would expect the 99th percentile to fall at around 48-50 marks, while 23-25 might suffice for an 80 percentile. The afternoon slot appears to have been tougher, and so I would expect slightly lower numbers there.

QA: This section was slightly easier than that of 2016 or 2018, but significantly tougher than that of 2015 or 2017. As usual, the single largest chunk was Arithmetic, but the composition of the rest changed, with Algebra and Functions in the ascendant at the expense of Geometry. On the whole I felt the level was slightly easier than that of 2018 and significantly tougher than that of 2017.

I would expect the 99th percentile to fall at around 52-56 marks, while the 80 percentile will likely be low, at maybe 22-23. The afternoon slot appears to have been slightly easier, and so I would expect it to go up by a mark or two.

Overall Impressions: I felt that overall it was slightly easier than CAT 2016 or 2018 while being considerably tougher than 2015 or 2017. Thus, I would expect a 99 percentile to fall at around 160-165 marks. Slot 1 should scale down very slightly and slot 2 should correspondingly scale up. Having said which, this doesn’t take into account the potential panic induced by the VA, which could drag down the score.

For the very top scores, as usual I am sure some few people will push 240 or even 250. But who those people will be will depend on the Verbal score more than anything, as many of the well-prepared people would have pulled off fantastic scores in QA and DI.

Please note, the percentile estimates here are just educated guesses, to pre-empt the inevitable questions which would otherwise populate the comments. Don’t make career decisions on the basis of these 🙂 Anyway, until the answer keys are out no one will have any reliable idea of how they fared (in VA at least), given the nature of this paper. So there’s no point obsessing about this result for now. Instead, focus on your next test (be it IIFT or SNAP or XAT or something else). As Anna would say, “when you cannot see the future, do the next right thing”