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What is IIM's CAT (Common Admission Test) all about?
Structure of IIM's CAT Test and other frequently asked questions about CAT
CAT - The Common Admission Test to the six IIMs is also the entrance test for few other top B-Schools such as SP Jain, MICA, and T A Pai. CAT tests your skills in five broad areas viz.
- Verbal ability and reasoning
- Reading Comprehension
- Quantitative skills
- Data Interpretation
- Analytical and Logical reasoning.
Number of questions in CAT
The test used to comprise upwards of 180 questions in the early 90s. Since 1999, the number of questions in the CAT test has been steadily decreasing. What used to be a 165-questions paper in CAT 1999 and 2000 became a 150-questions paper in 2001 to 2003. In 2004, the test had 123 questions and in 2005 the CAT paper had only 90 questions. The number was reduced further in 2006 to a 75-questions paper divided equally into three sections. Typically this test can be expected to comprise between 75 to 150 objective type questions and is usually divided into three to four sections. Each question has a question statement followed by four or five alternate answer choices and the candidate has to choose the best answer for each of the questions and mark it on a special Optical Reader answer sheet.
The duration of the test used to be 120 minutes till 2005. Since, 2006 the duration has been increased by 25% to a 150 minutes test. This literally translates to answering a CAT question in 2 minutes since 2006 compared to less than a minute that was given in earlier CAT papers. Most successful aspirants would have attempted about 45 to 50 questions translating to attempting 180 to 200 marks worth questions in a 300 marks paper. (In 2006, each correct answer carried 4 positive marks and each incorrect answer carried a penalty of 1 mark).
Some Quick Tips to Cracking the CAT
The key to success, therefore, lies in two important parameters
1. The accuracy or strike rate
While each correct answer was awarded 4 positive mark, each incorrect question carried a penalty of 1 mark. Hence, it is important to get a strike rate of over 85% - that is reduce the number of negatives. Though speed is important, in a paper like CAT 2006 paucity of time was not one of the primary factors that determimed success. Most students found the time provided to be adequate. What set the winners apart was the accuracy.
2. Smart Selection
As it is clear that you will not be generally able to attempt all 300 marks question, and you skip between 25 to 30 questions, the key to success lies in selecting questions properly. Hence, it is important to remember that there are no kudos, nobel prizes or awards waiting for attempting the tough questions. Be smart in choosing, the easiest of the questions and the ones that you have practised a lot and get them right. Do not venture into unsafe territories. Essentially, do not try any question about which you only have a vague idea.
How different is the CAT Test compared to the JEE or the IAS
CAT and entrance tests of other top B Schools are a unique breed of entrance exams. They focus on testing some of the basic qualities essential for managers - the grit to work hard, smartness to choose the best alternative, quick thinking and above all perseverance.
Exams like IIT JEE test the depth of your knowledge, while the Civil Services exams test your width of knowledge. CAT evaluates your presence of mind and the ability to perform under pressure. You cannot prepare for CAT during the last 10 days, as one generally does for college semester exams. A minimum of 3 to 9 months of regular preparation is essential.