How Many Questions Should I Attempt In CAT 2014?

This is possibly the most frequently asked question among CAT FAQs. Whether the year be 2005, 2009 or 2014 this question has always been THE ONE question to answer and perhaps rightly so.

The simplest answer to this question, as I have always told my students, is — as many as you can. It might seem deceptively simple and quick-witted but at the core of it, is that not the task? But since test-takers are at different abilities you might ask – what is a good “as many as I can that will fetch me a 99 percentile on CAT 2014?

What 99 percentile meant on the past CATs

CAT 2013 (the toughest of the computer-based CATs so far) — answering approximately 16 questions correctly in each section resulted in a test-taker getting a 99.89

CAT 2011 & 2012 — according to fellow professionals in the field, correctly answering around 17-18 questions in QA-DI and around 21-22 in VA-LR, a total of 40 questions correct usually garners a 3-digit percentile.

Based on my own experiences with the CAT and those of others we can safely say that on average attempting 55-60 percent of the questions correctly, or a net score that is 55-60 percent of the total score will get you a percentile in excess of 99. This is something that even our students taking the SimCAT will attest.

The above 99 percent category is like a 100 metres dash at the Olympics, there will be a Bolt who is way ahead of even his fellow 100 percentilers but barely few questions will separate the rest. So we can say that a 60-65  percent net score will ensure a percentile higher than 99.5.

What it might mean on CAT 2014

So on CAT 2014 what will be the magic number? A net score of 55-60 percent will ensure a 99 plus percentile. Let us see how this is possible.

If we look at the SimCATs which are on average tougher than the CAT, answering 33-36 questions correctly out of 60 will always guarantee you a 99 plus. Since the CAT will be slightly easier than this, the number can be revised upward to 38-40. On CAT 2014 you will have 30 minutes more and also possibly more questions per set. So this means that on average you will be able to attempt 10 questions more. So this again brings the total number of correct questions to the 55-60 range.

There is no magic number 

Ask yourself this simple question, what happens if CAT 2014 is easier than the previous CATs —can you attempt 55 questions correctly, submit the test and leave? What happens if its tougher than what we have seen in the last 5 years — will you be able to answer 55 questions correctly in 170 minutes? In both cases, the answer is no.

Last year a student of ours who was re-taking the CAT finished the QA-DI section only to find that he could attempt fewer questions that he did in CAT 2012. He concluded that he had performed poorly and with that mindset managed to under perform in the VA-LR section.

When the results came out he found that he had scored only slightly lower than the did in the previous year —the high 98s as opposed to the early 99s — and felt that he could have gotten a much better percentile than he got in 2012, if only he had kept his head together (he is currently in a premier b-school, so all’s well that ends well).

This is a very important thing to remember. Unless you are like a colleague of mine who always has time to give a good shot at all 60 questions, there is no precise number of attempts. There will always be a give and take of 5-7 questions here and there depending on the degree of difficulty of the paper. So you cannot go in with a fixed number.

How many questions should I attempt in CAT 2014?

As many as you can. But this is not as simple as it seems as there are two things that can prevent you from achieving this —

  • poor time-management and
  • poor question selection, which becomes even more important in CAT 2014 with 40 more questions and only 30 more minutes.

The posts that follow will cover these topics so that you are able to do the best you can on CAT 2014, till then stay focussed and keep prepping.

All the Best,