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Impact of new pattern & how to ace it to crack CAT 2012: Ankur Agarwal
mbauniverse.com | 14 August, 2011 0230 hrs IST
This special article, written by Ankur Agarwal, IIM Lucknow alumnus, will share the impact of the change on test takers and how to ace through it.
This move by CAT authorities is definitely in the right direction given the issues faced by test takers and authorities in two of the previous three versions of online examination
This special article of MBAUniverse.com, written by Ankur Agarwal, IIM Lucknow alumnus, will share the impact of the change on test takers and how to ace through it.
The CAT pattern set in 2011 for the first time carried forward for a year since CAT went online. It is definitely a step closer to the international testing scenario and standardization, but has a lot to be desired from the IIMs to show the true character of CAT as in the pre-online era. One cannot definitely say whether this is a long-term step by the CAT authorities, as CAT is known for experimenting with the pattern before finally settling down to a final pattern. This move by CAT authorities is definitely in the right direction given the issues faced by test takers and authorities in two of the previous three versions of online CAT.
Let us look at the broad impact of these changes on test takers.
Sectional time limit is a big change. Earlier, aspirants were able to show their time management skills and selection of questions to make the maximum out of their strengths and accommodate their weakness by spending more time on their weak sections. This obviously gives an advantage to students who can perform equally well in both the sections. It might be perceived that this will be a disadvantage to engineering audience because they will be time bound in Quant and DI, which would be their strength areas. However, a closer inspection will reveal that it is not the real problem. The core issue is that aspirants will be forced to spend 70 minutes on 30 questions. So, he will have to face the tough questions in each section and these questions will be the differentiator between a 94 percentiler and a 99 percentiler in a section. The smart selection of questions and leaving the tricky or tough ones may no longer get you an IIM call. You will have to face and conquer tough questions as well. This, however, takes the game to a new level wherein attempting a good number of questions is the key and thoroughness across topics is necessary, as any question or topic not read (read skipped) would give a clear disadvantage. In fact, this is an identical prognosis for a student taking GMAT and targeting 760+.
For those strong in Quant and DI, there seems to be a double whammy here since it is no longer two thirds of the paper. This, definitely, is going to affect the overall score of students as the weightage of Quant and DI will be reduce in net score calculation and obviously the weightage of verbal ability will increase. But it must be considered as an advantage to students that they are aware of this change in advance vis-à-vis CAT 2008 when an aspirant opened the CAT paper he suddenly realized that there were 40 questions in verbal and 25 questions each in DI and Quant and felt helpless as he didn’t prepare verbal well enough. What we are simply saying here is that CAT has done this in previous editions and there is no reason to panic but to be excited that you are aware of this in advance. It gives you time to rethink your strategy and plan your preparation accordingly. We have seen the adaptability of students in CAT 2011 which led to higher scores individually, making the competition tougher at the top.
What to expect?
On the face of it, the entire exercise looks a step towards standardisation along with the international examinations which have matured over a period of time compared to only three years of CAT going online. This could be a step towards what the IIMs have been calling a year-long testing window for CAT in years to come. But I see this as consistency shown by IIMs (for the first time though) to bring the faith back into the testing system.
The difficulty level is set to go up. We observed last year that the difficulty level was higher than the previous year. But this year, aspirants can expect the same to go a step further. With a sectional limitation of 70 minutes, authorities will definitely increase the difficulty level so that students are really tested in that period. This will mean more calculative questions in Quant and DI and a wider coverage across all topics. Critical reasoning forms a big share of verbal section in GMAT and in earlier editions of paper-based CAT it was a frequent component of the test.
A 20-question section didn’t allow the paper setter the leeway to balance the section with adequate questions at each level. With a flexibility of 30 questions, an aspirant can easily expect seven to eight real tough ones in each section which will eat up good time. Also, easy questions will continue to be a bit tedious and tricky as observed in previous editions of the online format.
We have always maintained that challenge with CAT online is not varied difficulty level of papers depending on the slots but the number of questions in each section. Twenty questions in each section were not a good base to normalize sections, especially when we know that there can be an error or two in few sections. A 35-question section could have been relatively free of these anomalies but a 30-question section is not a bad start either.
CAT authorities have always maintained that they strive hard to maintain difficulty level of papers across slots and if there is a difference they are able to sort it out through their normalization process. Both these claims are easier said than done and this was fairly difficult to do in their original format of 20 questions a section. A 30-question per section could relatively be free of subjectivity in judging the difficulty level of questions in the paper creation stage.
This will further be corrected by the fact that this does not impact other sections anymore as there is a sectional time limit. However, looking at CAT 2011 it was evident that normalization has its own set of limitations when it comes to results of entire slots; a slot can in entirety be more intelligent compared to the others. So, normalization within the slot may not be a good idea.
Owing to the fact that for the first time things are being repeated, and learnings from CAT 2011 can truly add value to CAT 2012. So there is a greater reason to believe that the normalization process will be better this year and aspirants will get relatively just results compared to the previous edition of CAT online.
1. Time limit for the different sections would also raise the overall difficulty level of the paper, giving the exam an opportunity to regain the lost crown of being a difficult paper when it was a paper-based test. This, however, also paves way for increasing the difficulty level over the next few years.
2. The verbal section will play a greater role. So aspirants should start working on their foundations of verbal and also on their online reading skills.
3. For candidates targeting IIMs, they need to be prepared on tackling few tough questions as well and not count on good selection of question.
4. Silly mistakes will cost you dearly. Accuracy will be the key differentiator!
5. Keep your fingers crossed. The way it looks, the normalization process is all set to move a couple of notches and gives far just results to aspirants.
About the author
Ankur Agarwal, an alumnus of IIM Lucknow, is currently working as a personality development trainer at Endeavor Careers. He is also associated with the design and development of its online testing portal.
Stay tuned to MBAUniverse.com for more on CAT 2012 preparation.
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