The Common Admissions Test is in many ways a more formidable CAT than one you might find in a jungle. It is regarded as one of the most rigorous exams in the country. Hordes of graduates appear for CAT each year in the hopes for getting selected in the top post-graduate management programs of India. Many spend months, if not a year, preparing for the exam. This year, it was held on 29th of November, with 2.18 lac registrations.
The CAT is somewhat of an aptitude test. It scrutinizes your verbal and comprehension abilities, your logic and reasoning skills, as well as your quantitative aptitude. By testing you in these arenas, a management school can examine your problem solving and analysis abilities; skills which are foundational to managerial positions. But the test is only preliminary in the selection process. Performance in subsequent tests, previous work experience, and academic history, all determine whether or not you will receive a phone call from your dream business school.
The CAT is a three hour long paper administered on computers. It is organised by the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and is essentially an entrance exam to get into any one of those 19 institutes. Other business schools consider it because of how well it measures the students’ abilities.
A remarkable improvement over the past, this year the exam was held in a single day between two slots, without any technical glitches. Each paper was divided in three sections of 60 minutes each:
1) Quantitative ability [QA],
2) Verbal ability & Reading comprehension [VARC] and
3) Data interpretation and Logical reasoning [DILR].
Each section had some multiple choice questions (MCQs) and questions with “type in the answer” format (TITA), which has no negative marking.
The surprisingly high number of TITA style questions created a challenge in most test takers’ opinions, owing to how time consuming such questions get. Plus having multiple choices gives a direction to the student towards the answer, which TITA does not. These hurdles meant that the accuracy of the answers was affected. But overall the difficulty level of the test was comparable to last year. It is, however, difficult to determine what the results might be due to these changes in the test pattern.
The results for the CAT will be declared in the second week of January 2016, after they go through a normalization process. This process helps to determine the correct score after equalizing the difficulty levels of the test across the two slots. The score is then placed in comparison with other candidates which gives the result in a percentile format. Any good business school would consider a score above 80 percentile, but to get into one of the top ten schools 90 percentile is the expected cut-off.
Many people who have appeared for the CAT over the years do not believe that it is as difficult as everyone is made to believe. What makes it competitive is actually the small proportion of students that will be selected out of a huge pool of applicants. It is lucrative for coaching classes and the lower grade of business schools to fuel this belief in order to keep themselves in the market, but many students understand that the CAT is more about practice and are opting for online courses to help them crack this exam.
It is important to remember that the CAT is a stepping stone in one’s career. Although a great way to improve one’s mathematical and language skills, giving the CAT is only the first obstacle in your way to conquering the corporate world. It is important to give attention to your overall growth as a student and as a human for being successful in such a competitive domain.