About CAT

The CAT paper has traditionally been a 120 - minute test. The questions in the CAT paper are generally not very difficult but there is always an exceptionally high emphasis on the speed required to solve the questions in the paper.

CAT mandates that the test taker perform equally well in all sections of the test. It is not sufficient to get a good score in the test as a whole - the candidate also has to perform well in each of the three/ four sections of the CAT paper. When we talk of performing equally well, we have to look at it as a relative measure. Among the one lakh plus candidates expected to take CAT this year, you should be able to score a certain number of marks more than the average in each of the selections in order to qualify. Hence you have to aim at crossing a minimum cut - off mark in each section to be eligible to get a call for the Group Discussion (GD) and Interview stage. 

The minimum cut-off required in each section could vary from IIM to IIM and also for each of the other 30+ institutes that use CAT scores for their selection process.

It would be fair to assume that the cut - off scores required for many of the other institutes would be slightly lower than those required for the IIMs.

If proper planning is not done, there is a danger that one may actually get much more than the total minimum required marks to be eligible for the IIMs but one may not cross the cutoffs in a particular section. This brings us to the basic rule that applies to the CAT paper - do reasonably well in every section rather than concentrating on and doing extremely well in every section rather than concentrating on and doing extremely well in one/ two sections. Getting a very high score in one or two sections at the expense of the others would fetch you nothing and defeats the very purpose for which you are taking the test!

The key to crack the CAT exam is to keep your cool and maintain your composure during the entire length of the test. This may sound deceptively simple but is easier said than done. The pressure levels would be high, yes, but you have to use your adrenaline to work faster and smarter. There is no point getting bogged down at any point in the paper. CAT does not require/ expect you to attempt all or even nearly all the questions. It is test of speed but not only of speed. Accuracy is needed too!

It is no great secret that the test itself comprises a significant number of questions that are not very difficult. The knack, then, would be to maximize your score by completing the easy ones rather than getting bogged down by the more difficult ones especially since, no extra marks are awarded for solving the more difficult questions.

Even within each section, there is very clear need for a planned strategy of attempting questions. Unless a clear cut timed strategy for attempting the test is in place, there is every chance that one may miss out on very easy questions which may be at the end of the section and instead end up solving all the difficult questions that may have been given at the beginning. It is imperative to realize that there is no rule that says that the difficult questions will be at the end of the section nor is there a rule that says that easy questions are at the beginning of each section. Then why should there be any discrimination while attempting the questions? The common tendency among students is to start the section from the very first question. Much as it may be the best starting point, it loses its relevance if all the questions in a particular section are not read. By not reading a question or a set of questions, one is obviously at a disadvantage when compared to a student who carefully plans out the time limits within each section and ensures that he or she picks and solves the easy questions given in each section.

One important point to note for the CAT exam is that, there are no individual cutoffs for the areas within a section. The instructions on the front page of the question booklet of CAT clearly specify that you should do equally well in all sections. Hence, depending on your comfort level in each of the areas, you should allocate the time for the areas within a section.

There is negative marketing in the CAT paper and for every wrong answer a certain score is deducted from your total. The IIMs do not disclose the way they calculate the negative marks for the wrong answers.

One Golden Rule that needs to be followed is to ensure that there is no question which is unread at the end of the test. This will ensure that all possible easy questions have been attempted or at least looked at. Unfortunately, CAT does not have any special notations pointing to the easy questions and neither do they scream out at you from the paper. It is up to you to find them and make sure you do most of them. The easy ones could be anywhere - at the beginning, in the middle or at the end - just about anywhere

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