CAT Exam Analysis

Common Admission Test (CAT) the largest MBA entrance exam gives surprises and twists every year even if there is no change in the exam pattern. CAT exam analysis reveals the fact that more and more candidates are taking CAT every year and the number of test takers has increased during the past 5 years substantially. CAT 2016 again proved this fact. Out of 2.32 lakh total registered candidates, 1.95 lakh test takers appeared in CAT 2016 exam on December 4, 2016.

CAT 2016 exam was held in morning and afternoon sessions with a test duration of 3 hours each. Both the sessions of CAT 2016 exam were over on December 4. Thousands of the students who interacted with us after coming out of the testing hall in the morning and afternoon session shared that the CAT 2016 test paper was moderate except that the Verbal Ability and few questions in Quant were found to be of a little more difficulty level. Most of them agreed that Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning was not as tough as was in CAT last year but was more lengthy and despite knowing how to solve, the time did not permit to solve all of them.

CAT 2016 was pretty much on the lines of last year CAT exam and was divided in 3 sections with 100 questions. Number of Non-MCQs in CAT 2016 was reduced to 25% from 28% last year which was a setback for many test takers since non-MCQs do not carry any negative marking.

Students reported that there was a difference in the marking pattern as already announced by IIM Bangalore and was present in the instruction part of the actual exam. Earlier it was informed that the CAT 2016 exam would carry maximum 300 marks whereas the actual exam displayed 100 maximum marks.

With QA becoming slightly tougher in the earlier and placing more questions on Arithmetic, the section chose to reduce the number of Non-MCQs from 10 to 7. The section also saw the reduction in weightage for higher maths.

Online calculator remained a bit of help for non engineers and might improve the academic diversity in IIM class rooms in 2017.

Reducing the number of slots from 4 to 2 and the days from 2 to 1, has made CAT 2016 less biased. CAT 2016 could be a precursor to making CAT 2017 a single slot paper on a single day. That way, the entire issue of normalization between sets can be done away with and every student is tested on the same questions.

The score normalization should not be an issue in CAT 2016 as the normalization is clearly defined by the IIMs and therefore there is no scope for ambiguity, and heartburn, unlike in the past CAT exams.

The actual CAT 2016 test paper
As has already been announced by the IIMs, non-MCQ type questions made an appearance for the second time. There were 100 questions in all the three section put together, 25 questions of them were of the non-MCQ type as against 28 last year.

As expected, non-MCQ questions did not carry any negative marks while the MCQ questions carried -0.33 mark negative for a wrong answer and +1 for a correct answer as displayed in actual test and +3 and -1 as shared in the instructions sheet before the start of the exam.

Section No. of MCQs No. of non-MCQs Total no of Qns Total Marks (As announced) Total Marks (As displayed in actual test)
Section I – Verbal & Reading Comprehension (VARC) 24 10 34 102 34
Section II – Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR) 24 8 32 96 32
Section III – Quantitative Aptitude (QA) 27 7 34 102 34
Total 75 25 100 300 100

Section-1: Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC) 
-VARC the first section in CAT 2016 paper had 5 passages of RC for 24 Questions overall.
- It was a pleasant surprise as the RC passages were not very long and quite a few questions were direct.
-The agonizingly close answer choices and the highly inferential choices were largely absent.
-The language and content was not very difficult to read.
-In VA, no questions on Sentence Correction, Fill in the blanks or Vocabulary based questions were present.
-All the 10 Questions on Verbal Ability were of Non-MCQ type.
-This made VA questions tougher to solve.

Breakup of the VARC Section

Area No. of MCQs No. of Non-MCQs Total
C – Status of Languages in 2115 6 0 3
RC – Education System 3 0 3
RC – Sustainable Economic Development 6 0 6
RC – Anthropology /Excruciating Rituals & Reasons 6 0 6
RC – Govt. Definition of Poverty and treatment of Household work 3 0 6
Odd Para Jumbles 0 3 3
Jumbled Paragraphs 0 4 4
Para Summary/Essence of Passage 0 3 3
Total 24 10 34

According to experts many students would have attempted close to 28+ in VARC section and quite a few would have attempted all the 34 questions in the section. The cutoff (85%ile) would be around 42-44 marks for this section.

Section-2: Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)
The DILR section was a bit easier than last year -in terms of amount of calculation or logic. However, it was certainly lengthy and more time consuming. The number of attempts in this section would more likely be in the 14 to 18 range.

Students who came out of the exam hall were almost unanimous in their verdict that though the section appeared a bit easy, attempting more questions was not possible.

There were at least four sets out of the eight wherein one could solve only 2-3 of questions in the given time. At least one question in each set was either long or difficult.

Break-up of questions in DILR

Area No. of MCQs No. of Non-MCQs Total
RLR – Distribution/Arrangement (TShirts) 4 0 4
LR – Venn Diagrams 2 2 4
LR – Arrangement of files in folders 3 1 4
LR – LR – Students using various Trains and the fares for the same 3 1 4
LR – DI – Table (Student Pass percentages over 5 years) 3 1 4
LR – DI – Comprehension – Marks in Two sections of papers 3 1 4
LR – DI – Films, Launch, Completion, Release and Profits 3 1 4
DI – Table on Consumption of Veg and Non-Veg Protein 4 1 4
Total 24 8 32

According to the experts a good student could have attempted around 16-18 questions in this set. Very few students would have touched the attempt of 25 in this section. Students who are careful in set selection and willing to cut their losses in case of tough sets would be able to get a decent score and good percentile. The cutoff in this section would be low and can be between 30-31 marks for a 85 percentile.

Section-3: Quantitative Ability (QA); included 2 wrong questions
The huge emphasis on Arithmetic and Geometry (19 questions out of 34) could well be to give non-Engineers a better chance to crack this section. Though there were also pure math questions. Quant section also was deceptively difficult. While there were enough easy questions in the section, there were also TWO errors (at least) which would have made the student waste a lot of time. Another area of concern was the symbol used for the square root in some of the algebra problems. The symbol used was not clear and appeared ‘σ’ which made students interpret few questions wrongly and they ended up wasting time on such questions.

The endeavor to get more non-engineers to join the IIMs, seem to have made the IIMs give more and more of Arithmetic and Geometry. Any student who had prepared for these two areas alone could have cracked the paper.

There were a total of 11 Arithmetic questions and almost all of them were easily solvable save one from Time & Distance (which was a mistake). Some of these questions were very elementary in nature and should have been easily identified and cracked by a good student.

There were very straight forward and simple questions in Numbers and the standard of these questions were definitely below the ideal CAT exam.

There were a number of questions in Algebra and Geometry too. Some of the Algebra questions were straight forward ones and so were some of the Geometry questions.

There was only one question in Permutation and Combination, One in Coordinate Geometry and one of Venn Diagrams to complete the Pure Math part.

Break-up of questions in Quantitative Ability

Area No. of MCQs No. of Non-MCQs Total
Arithmetic 8 3 11
Numbers 4 1 5
Algebra 5 2 7
Geometry/Mensuration 8 0 8
Pure Math/CG 1 1 2
Venn Diagram 1 0 1
Total 19 7 34

 Errors in Quant section
There were at least two errors in the Quant section of the paper. One question on Time & Distance and One question on Progressions were clearly wrong and a student who is good in this area may have spent couple of minutes more than necessary and would have lost out on the same. IIM Bangalore should recognize the error and should ignore these questions while awarding marks for the answers to these questions.

The square root symbol they used was ‘σ’. This confused quite a lot of students as they interpreted it as a variable hence were not able to attempt few questions.

Overall Analysis
This paper, on the whole, was a relatively difficult paper as compared to the CAT 2015 paper. Though the VARC section was relatively easy, the Odd Para Jumbles and Para Jumbles questions weren’t easy by any stretch. The QA and DILR sections were of moderate to difficult and hence the cutoffs for these will NOT go high. The IIMs are desperately seeking to get diversity in the batch at the IIMs. That explains the emphasis on Arithmetic in the QA section and giving everyone a seemingly level-playing field.

Expected Cut off Predictions The marks and percentile analysis in the table below reflects the score you need to get to achieve.

Percentile VARC DILR QA Overall
99% 70 57 60 168
95% 55 44 47 136
90% 50 37 38 116
85% 45 32 32 106
80% 40 29 28 95
70% 33 23 21 74