With less than a month left for the Common Admission Test (CAT) 2014, students are keeping their fingers crossed, hoping that they will be able to ace the new longer and time-consuming test. CAT will be conducted on November 16 and 22 across four sessions, as against multiple slots in the previous years.
Ravikumar Swaminathan, a law graduate from SASTRA University, Thanjavur, is taking the test for the second time. “I was just getting used to the 60 questions pattern, when they changed it to 100. The biggest problem is the three-hour exam pattern. I’m not sure if I can stare at the computer screen for that long, it is very tiring. Besides, the increase in time limit is not proportional to the increase in questions,” he says. The time limit for the test has been raised from 140 minutes to 170 minutes.
With CAT going back to a pattern that it adopted five years ago, tutors are advising students to adopt new approaches and strategies.
Director of 2IIM, a Chennai-based coaching centre, Rajesh Balasubramanian, says that with the pattern not being student-friendly anymore, managing time across sections of quantitative ability and data interpretation, verbal ability and logical reasoning, will be more important than before. He believes that students have to develop the mental stamina required to cope with the extra half hour, and come up with a plan by assessing their strengths and weaknesses in each section.
“It is a double-edged sword. While there is the flexibility of switching between sections now, there is less time for each question. You need to have a preset idea of how to ace the ‘quant’ questions and verbal ability ones,” he says.
He adds that this change isn’t anything new, as the same pattern existed in 2009. Previously, the level of difficulty was not the same across sections in different sets of the paper. Hence, normalising of scores was a challenge, say management tutors.
G Kannabiran, Professor of Management, National Institute of Technology-Tiruchy, believes this should be considered a marginal operational change, as there is no major structural change. “Previously with 25-30 question paper sets, the difficulty level was not uniform. Now with two slots and five to six sets, it will contribute to the uniformity in difficulty level,” he says.
He feels that such changes are required to induce more rigour in the test preparation of students, and remove inefficiency or malpractices in the test.
Kirti Sharma, Assistant Professor, Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, says all other management exams like Xavier Aptitude Test, Common Management Admission Test, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade and Symbiosis National Aptitude Test have 100 questions. Hence, an across-the-board uniformity of management exams is a welcome change.
There is a strong perception that the exam favours engineering students, as a large number of them take to management, she says. With this change, non-engineers can also showcase their ability, she feels, although it is not clear which subsection will see an increase in questions.
“What we know is that both Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning will see an increase in questions, but it is not clear whether that is going to be in comprehension or other subsections. Students do not know where to put more effort,” she says, adding that there is no official statement on sectional cut-offs either. She warns that this change in pattern may lead to an increase in cut-offs for admission to various management colleges and institutes.