Cracking CAT 2012

Cracking CAT 2012

The most pressing question on the minds of students is, “How do I tackle CAT— 2012?” Though the IIMs have retained the format of CAT—2011,  the anxiety levels of students will be at an all time high on account of the “unpredictability factor” of the test in terms of content. The key points of the CAT— 2012 pattern are:

CAT — 2012 will be for 140 minutes and will have sections. Each section will have 30 questions. The first section is Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation. The second section is Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning

These two sections will be implemented sequentially with separate time limits — each section will have a time limit of 70 minutes and students cannot  go back to the first section after the time limit is over.

Students cannot submit the first section and move on to the second when they like but have to wait for the allotted 70 minutes to end, before moving on to the second section.

We believe that a CAT test which has sectional time limits is advantageous to students in many ways. The students will not have to worry about “time management” between sections as the sections are being timed individually. So they can now devote their attention to solving as many questions as they can without worrying too much about time. This will reduce mental stress and hence increase accuracy.

The biggest advantage of such a pattern will be to those students who have historically had an issue with any one of the Quantitative (QA) and Data Interpretation (DI) sections and were unable to clear the cutoffs in exactly one of them. With QA and DI being part of one section, such students will find that they can still clear the cutoffs in the combined section without having to worry too much about the bogey area. This will come as good news not only to the many ‘non-math’ background students but also to the countless ‘math-savvy engineers’.

Candidates with a specific area of weakness can expect a better shot at the IIMs this year. This is due to the combination of areas that the two sections have. Candidates can compensate for a weak area in a section with the other area from the same section, thereby putting in a balanced performance overall.

The key to doing well on CAT has always been sound preparation, getting the basics right, plenty of practice on mocks and self-belief. Sound preparation encompasses looking at previous question papers of CAT and understanding the syllabus. Make a list of all topics/areas on which questions have been asked (Quantitative, Logic and Data Interpretation) and the Verbal section. Second, one should then assess whether one is ‘proficient’, ‘average’ or ‘needs improvement’ in each of those areas. The areas that fall in the third category are what one should look at, quickly addressing rather than hoping that questions from that area do not come in CAT — 2012.

More often than not, one notices that the paper setters at the IIMs are testing students on their understanding of basic concepts and this is where “getting the basics right” plays a role. Often students look for the toughest material to practice without realising that their understanding of concepts as simple as LCM and HCF is not as good as they think it is. CAT has often trapped students with simple questions that probe into their understanding of the basics. A quick recap of all the chapters in the quantitative section and the concepts involved in each of them would go a long way in rectifying this.

One aspect of CAT that has been its hallmark is its unpredictability in terms of the question types, areas emphasised and the difficulty level. Students should ensure that they have had enough practice  through a comprehensive mock series programme. This ensures that one is exposed to relevant and plausible question types which increase ones capacity to deal with any surprise in CAT — 2012. Keep your spirits high and crank up the level of preparation in the next two months.

(The contributor is the director of TIME, Bangalore.)

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