Hope, anxiety over changes in CAT

Students, coaching institutes concerned about their impact but overall response positive

Hope, anxiety over changes in CAT

The Common Admission Test (CAT) for entry into the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other renowned B-schools is all set to undergo many changes this year.

While students and coaching experts are somewhat anxious about the impact of these changes, overall there is a general feeling of optimism that the changes will restore the credibility associated with the exam.

The biggest advantage for Deepanshu Jeswani, an IT professional in Bangalore who will write the test in November, is that he will now be able to concentrate on his stronger points as he can move from one section to another at will.

“If one wants more time to concentrate on quantitative ability and data interpretation, this exam will give us time. It will greatly help candidates to save on precious time and focus on areas of their choice,” said Jeswani.

Last year, CAT was embroiled in a controversy over the normalisation of marks, which is a process of bringing the difficulty level of the test— conducted over a window of nearly a month—on a par so that all candidates could be judged equally.

Jeswani who wrote CAT last year feels that the new changes will greatly reduce such controversies due to lesser number of days for the test. But others like Chantal Cecelia, a student at St Joseph’s College of Commerce, are worried about the increase in the duration and the number of questions.

“Solving 60 questions is difficult enough and now 40 more questions will add to the pressure. These questions may come from new and otherwise unexplored topics,” she said. Another concern is that the announcement about the changes came very late.

“I have been preparing since January and this announcement has definitely come quite late and will force me to change my focus,” she said. But she hastened to add that the changes were positive and would lead to a good test.

Even coaching institutes are adapting to the new pattern based on their own rationale and speculation.

John Williams, academic head, Career Launcher, a coaching institute in Bangalore, said, “We were expecting the changes as soon as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) took over from Prometric in conducting the exam. The latter has been conducting several tests like banking exams. We expect the difficulty level to be higher and hence have changed our entire tests series. Our focus is more on concepts and areas from topics from which questions do not usually come such as trigonometry, probability, permutation and combination,” he said.

Srinivas Belvi, academic head, Time, another coaching institute, said that CAT this time would be all about the “time-game” and students would have to focus on their strengths. “Not many will be able to handle the mental challenge of 170 minutes and since there will be more questions and more time, candidates will have to develop a primary focus on their strong areas and a keen sense of time management,” he said.

Over the years, the number of candidates enrolling for CAT has gone down with 2013 seeing the lowest enrolments in recent years at 1.94 lakh.

In 2012, CAT was mired in the inflated marks scam in which as many as 70 candidates who appeared for the exam were found to have more marks than they actually scored.

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