CAT 2020 duration cut by 33%; So, how many Questions will exam have? MBAUniverse.com asks CAT Convenor, Top Experts – Check responses

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Updated on September 23, 2020
IIM CAT website was updated on September 20 with some of the changes announced earlier on September 15, like revised duration and session timings, many MBA aspirants informed MBAUniverse.com that a critical information on total number of questions expected in CAT 2020 is missing. To bring some clarity on it, MBAUniverse.com requested CAT Convenor Prof Harshal Lowalekar who gave some vital information & clues. Read on for more information.
 CAT 2020 Number of Questions

To adjust CAT 2020 for COVID disruptions, CAT Center at IIM Indore issued a media release with many big changes on September 15. For instance, the duration was drastically reduced from 180 minutes to 120 minutes to accommodate 3 tests on same day – November 29. As per the media release, IIM CAT website was to be updated on Sunday, September 20 to reflect these changes. While some changes like revised duration and session timings have been updated, many MBA aspirants and test prep companies informed MBAUniverse.com that a critical information is mission – total number of questions to feature in CAT 2020.

To bring some clarity, MBAUniverse.com requested CAT Convenor Prof Harshal Lowalekar for this information. Responding to our query, Prof Lowalekar gave some vital information & clues. Read on for more information. 

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What is Confirmed about CAT 2020?
Based on information shared by Prof Lowalekar and CAT website, we are sure about these four facts.

1. CAT 2020 Exam Duration is 120 Mins
CAT 2020 duration has been reduced by 33% -- from 180 minutes to 120 minutes. This change in CAT 2020 duration is updated on CAT website and was part of the media release dated September 15, 2020.

While this change may be shocking for MBA aspirants, it’s not new! Till 2005 CAT was actually a 2 hours exam and after 2005 to 2008, CAT remained 150 minutes exam. In 2015 it became 180 minutes exam. Now, again it has been reduced to 120 minutes exam. According to Arks Srinivas, IIM Calcutta alumnus and National Head MBA Prep, (India & Abroad) at Career Launcher, “Given the long history of CAT since 1990, the CAT exam was for a long time a 2-hour paper only. So, while change is shocking, its nothing new.” 

2. Three Sessions of CAT 2020, starting at 8.30 AM and ending at 6.30 PM!
To accommodate for Social Distancing Norms and other COVID 19 protocols, CAT 2020 testing slots have increased to three from earlier two. On the CAT 2020 exam date – November 29, 2020, the test will be conducted in three slots of 2 hours duration each. The CAT exam slots are:

  • Morning Session: 8.30 AM to 10.30 AM
  • Afternoon Session: 12.30 PM to 2.30 PM
  • Evening Session: 4.30 PM to 6.30 PM

3. CAT 2020 to have Three Sections
CAT 2020 test paper will be divided into three sections as per previous five years pattern. Since 2015, CAT exam comprises three sections as under:

  • Section I: Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension 
  • Section II: Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning  
  • Section III: Quantitative Ability

This has been confirmed by CAT Convenor.

4. Time Limit Reduced to 40 Minutes for each section
In its release on September 15, IIM Indore had announced to reduce the sectional time limit for each CAT section to 40 minutes from earlier 60 minutes. This information has also been updated on CAT website. Sharing with MBAUniverse.com, Prof Harshal Lowalekar, CAT 2020 convener said, “It has already been announced, the number of sections this year will be three (40 minutes each).”

The Unknowns: Anxiety Among CAT aspirants
Given the big changes MBA aspirants are understandably anxious about nature of CAT Exam. CAT aspirants are waiting for more information on CAT 2020 to help them prepare better.So, what are the vital information points that can help aspirants? Lets find out

1. Total Number of Questions in CAT 2020
This is the million-dollar question! Everyone seems to be asking this question…

Arun Sharma, CAT Expert and founder Mindworkzz said, “Getting a hang of total number of likely questions in CAT 2020 is perhaps the most vital information for MBA aspirants.”

Hemang Panchmatia, Program Director, PG-India, IMS Coaching said, “We need to know if CAT Centre at IIM Indore is going to reveal the total number of questions and the number of questions in each section. This is the key information everybody was anticipating on Sunday…”

When MBAUniverse.com requested Prof Lowalekar, CAT 2020 Convener for his response on this query today, he said, "CAT generally does not reveal the number or type of questions or the paper pattern. In fact, the CAT pattern is regularly changed so that the exam does not become predictable.”

So it’s unlikely that CAT Centre will announce the exact number of CAT 2020 questions. But Prof Lowelekar gave us a vital clue! We will talk about it soon… 

Number of Questions in CAT over the Years: Key Trends

CAT Exam Year
Total Number of Questions
Type of Questions
CAT 2009 to 2013
60
MCQs
CAT 2014
100
MCQs
CAT 2015 to 2019
100
MCQs + Non-MCQs
CAT 2020
Expected 65 to 75
MCQs + Non-MCQs

Source: MBAUniverse.com Analysis; CAT Experts

2. Section-wise Number of Questions in CAT 2020
Section wise number of questions in CAT 2020 will obviously be reduced with the reduced number of overall questions.

During last year, CAT test paper was divided into three sections with VARC 34 questions, DILR 32 questions and Quant 34 questions, making a total of 100 questions. The sectional composition of questions in CAT 2020 is expected to change substantially.

Based on past trends and changes in overall and sectional time slots, CAT experts expect 25% to 30% drop in number of questions across the sections. Besides, their division in MCQs and Non-MCQs in each section is also expected to be reduced.In view of Arks Srinivas, IIM Calcutta alumnus and National Head MBA Prep, (India & Abroad) at Career Launcher, the sectional composition of questions in CAT 2020 is likely to be as under:

Section
Time Limit (in minutes)
No of Questions (Expected)
Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension
40
25 – 26
Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning
40
25 – 24
Quantitative Ability
40
25 - 26
 Total
120
75

Source: Arks Srinivas, CL

3. Expected Difficulty Level
Difficulty level in CAT 2020 may not change much and as per the experts’ opinion it may be similar to previous years.

After analysing the changes, Hemang Panchmatia, Program Director, PG-India, IMS said, “We expect the level of difficulty & paper composition to be more or less the same.”  According to Arun Sharma, “I don’t expect any significant change in quality of exam paper” and adds “A longer duration of test is a better indicator of student skills. An average cricket team can beat world’s top team in T 20 on a given day, but to win a 5 day test is nearly impossible. So, CAT 2020 with reduced duration may be beneficial for average students.” 

Why knowing the likely Number of Questions is helpful?
Experts say that if you are aware about the expected number of total questions in CAT 2020, it would help you to plan your test taking strategy, how many questions to target, what should be maximum number of questions that you can skip. Besides, you can devise your preparation plan and take mocks as per the actual exam pattern with expected number of questions.

The Clue! Wait till October…
CAT Mock test is the full length replica test released in October, a month before the actual CAT exam by IIMs for the benefit of CAT test takers. It contains almost same number and type of total and section wise questions as you should expect in actual CAT exam.  The questions are not followed by answers and solutions.

IIMs started releasing full length official CAT Mock test only since 2014. Prior to that only a few questions were made available as Tutorial before CAT exam to understand the CAT pattern. This partial tutorial did not help much the CAT aspirants to understand the turns and twists in forthcoming CAT exam. In 2015, IIM Ahmedabad included Non-MCQs in CAT exam and released the CAT mock test on the same pattern with division of questions in MCQ and Non-MCQ type. Similar pattern is being followed by all the CAT conducting IIMs since then.

So when is CAT Centre likely to release official CAT Mock Test? Well, you can expect it in a few weeks. Speaking to MBAUniverse.com, Prof Lowalekar, said “To familiarise themselves with the different types of questions (MCQ/ non-MCQs) candidates are advised to take the mock test which would become available on the CAT website sometime in October.” Accordingly, the release of official Mock CAT will be the most anticipated event for CAT aspirants…It will almost certainly be on the lines of actual CAT 2020 on November 29.

So, how to navigate this uncertainly? India’s Top CAT Experts say…
India’s Top CAT Experts like Arun Sharma, Hemang Panchmatia, Arks Srinivas, Nishit Sinha after analysing the key changes in CAT 2020 exam pattern have shared with MBAUniverse.com regarding the proposed changes in CAT preparation and test taking strategy

1. Expected CAT 2020 Pattern
So what will be the likely CAT 2020 Pattern? MBAUniverse.com asked India’s top experts.

According to Arks Srinivas, given the drop in duration, the number of questions may therefore be proportionately decreased. Srinivas says that there is a good chance that the pattern could be one of the following:                

  1.  25 questions each in (VARC, DILR and QA)
  2.  24 questions in VARC, 22 questions in DILR, 24 questions in QA

Now, what should be the preparation and test taking strategy in the changed pattern? Experts also some twists and turns in it. 

2. Don’t change your overall CAT Preparation plan
Although CAT 2020 exam pattern is overhauled, there is a good news for the CAT aspirants as the experts suggest that while CAT changes may be big, you actually don’t need to make too many changes to your concept preparation strategy.

According to Arks Srinivas, “There need not be any change in the Preparation. One should just continue to prepare exactly the same way one has been preparing.”

Expecting a drop in number of overall and section wise questions in the similar exam pattern with three sections, Arun Sharma IIM Bangalore alumnus, Founder, Mindworkzz and Bestselling Author says, “I expect 33% drop in questions. This will mean there will be appx 66 questions in CAT 2020 - However, be prepared for anything between 60-70 questions in the test, with maybe an even mix amongst the 3 sections (like 22-22-22) or maybe a 23-20-23.”

Hemang Panchmatia of IMS agrees and says, “Other than Mocks, there is no change in preparation strategy needed. New CAT 2020 will test the same skills as were tested in the older one!”

Nishit Sinha Alumnus, IIM Lucknow and Author of best selling CAT books published by Pearson publication feels that more practice is needed as the test takers might starve for more time since the candidates will be left with less time with more questions and may not have more options to skip questions. In view of Nishit Sinha, , “Reduction in time limit, generally, makes section-handling more difficult for students who are not-so-well-prepared than who are well prepared in the section. students will be required to devise and adapt to a new test-taking strategy. The good news is - the test-fatigue, which many students complain by the time they arrive at third section, may be low.”

These important comments from top CAT experts will be reassuring for you...

3. Change your MOCK Taking strategy
You need to change your CAT Mock test taking strategy as per the revised CAT pattern.

All the top CAT coaching institutes will be releasing their mock tests as per revised CAT exam pattern. Arun Sharma, Founder of Mindwokzz has suggested, “Students must immediately reduce total number of questions and duration for their mock test. This will give them a real feel of new CAT pattern. I expect most serious players in the CAT mock test space will provide tests based on the new expected pattern and the reduced number of questions.” Mindworkzz is coming out with CAT Mocks as per revised pattern.

According to Arks Srinivas, “Career Launcher will come back with the latest pattern and ensure that there are enough MOCKS and Sectional tests that will reflect the actual CAT 2020 pattern.”

IMS also proposes to release shortly the CAT Mocks as per revised pattern.

However, till the time you start getting Mocks as per revised pattern, devise your Mock taking strategy of 2 hours duration with 65-75 questions and check the outcome after analysing the errors.

3. Don’t sweat too much!
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, remember that all these changes are for everyone – and not just you! This realization is an important one and has important implications as emphasized by CAT Convener. Says Prof Lowalekar, “Aspirants must remember that CAT is a competitive exam where only a candidate's relative performance matters. Worrying about the duration or the number of questions is of no use.”

He adds,“I would request candidates to not waste any time or energy trying to speculate the pattern, number of questions, etc.”

So, have you registered? Check step by step guide
Although CAT 2020 registration deadline is extended to September 23, till 5 PM, it is advisable to register in time and not to wait for last date. Advising the CAT 2020 aspirants to register early, Prof Harshal Lowalekar said, “Candidates should register and pay the fee soon (much before the deadline) as the traffic increases substantially towards the registration closing date and may lead to problems in registration or online payment related transactions.” 

Check easy Step by Step Guide for CAT Registration by MBAUniverse.com

Stay tuned to MBAUniverse.com for latest updates and best expert tips on CAT 2020.