Analysing the paper post CAT always involves a lot of heartburn but a post mortem sure helps the MBA aspirants to evolve future strategies and avoid silly mistakes. After all success on the CAT is a function of selecting the right question, time management and D- Day dynamics. Every year, test takers attempt the CAT as an aspirational tool to reach the portals of the prestigious B Schools.
The surprise element in the CAT has become a sine qua non nowadays and this year too saw the playing out of the unpredictable element! Though the traditional three-section format was retained and the marking system remained the same, what was different was that it was a 360-mark paper with increased weightage given to Verbal Ability. Thus, out of a total of 90 questions, 25 pertained to Quantitative Ability, 25 pertained to Data Interpretation and 40 to Verbal Ability [English].
The rationale underlying this move on the part of the IIMs could be to affirm the fact that basic reading and interpretative skills combined with knowledge of elements of usage are indispensable for effective managerial skills.
Expected Cut-offs in CAT 2008
|Data Interpretation - 32-35
|Quantitative Aptitude - 32-35
|Verbal Ability: 46-49
Let us analyse the three sections of CAT 2008 in order to understand this mother of all exams:
The Data Interpretation section looked deceptively simple. Unlike last year CAT, DI was relatively tougher this year. There were 25 questions in DI just like the previous two years. Surprisingly, questions based on Logical Reasoning were back after a gap of five years. Students would have been delighted to see the questions based on logical reasoning which were very simple; however there were only three questions from the set. The set based on six teams playing in two stages was also very easy and hence another four questions from this set could have been solved easily.
Data interpretation also saw the re-emergence of questions based on calculation. The questions from this section involved intense calculation. The set based on the gross pay of 100 employees across five departments was a direct question and could have been solved after the seven questions based on reasoning. The other two sets based on scatter diagram of revenues of telecom operator and bar graph was time consuming. The set based on sectional cut off for admission to six colleges was tricky and the toughest set, no doubt in the whole section was the question based on the three traders Abdul, Bikram and Chetan trading in company XYZ Ltd. This set could have been easily avoided.
Quantitative Aptitude, on the other hand was relatively simpler than data interpretation. There were 25 questions again in this section. For the first time, some questions looked familiar and there was a sense of déjà vu. The question on the last two digits of seven raised to 2008 was a sitter. The number of common terms in two given sequences starting from 17, 21 ... 416 and 16, 21...466 was pretty easy. The question on number of integers between 999 and 4000 was similar to a previous CAT question, however there was a high risk of making a silly mistake as the question said not greater than 4000 and students could have missed the number 4000 itself. The question on a customer buying half of the rice plus another half kg was a simple question on logic. The question on area of the intersection of two circles and about square ABCD with two triangles of 1200 inside the square was easy for students those who knew the formulae in Geometry. The question about the shortest route for Neelam in a rectangular park was similar to a question asked in CAT 2004. Aspirants who had practised intensively would have done the two questions easily. There were 2 questions based on data sufficiency, which were time consuming. There was a direct question from time, speed and distance. The question on five horses participating in a race was tricky and there was high risk of missing out some cases while solving. There were at least 10 easy questions in this section which could have been easily solved.
Test takers comfortable with math would have found this section easy and scoring. But again this section also had some tricky questions and some of the options in certain questions were very close increasing the probability of making silly mistakes. The section this time covered almost all topics from maths like arithmetic, algebra, geometry and modern maths unlike last year where there were hardly any questions from geometry and arithmetic.
Those who were pining to score from DI would have been disappointed as the quantitative section was relatively easier than DI.
Expected cut offs for both the sections could range between 32-35.
Verbal Ability had a good representation of usage/ verbal reasoning and reading/ comprehension questions.The time allocation for this section, despite the increased number, need not have veered away from the normal one-third, i.e approximately 50 minutes. This was because the reading, comprehension passages were of a much simpler level than those of CAT 2006 and CAT 2007. The topics ranged from a personal narrative to humanities to art. Questions were mainly direct and were a fair bet by virtue of their unambiguous structure. The passage on the ice cream cone was eminently doable and safe attempts would have been three out of five. Similarly, the passage on language had short, crisp answer choices. All that was required was an understanding of the view of the author.
The highlighted words that first made their appearance in CAT 2007 were back. At least two questions could have been safely attempted with a reasonable knowledge of usage. The question type ‘Identify the incorrect sentence’ was slippery territory as it required the test taker to know spelling and punctuation in addition to logical consistency. For instance, ‘imigrant [with a single ‘m’ was incorrect as was the lack of a comma after ‘brother-in-law’. ‘Double Fill in the blanks’ made a comeback after a couple of years in hibernation. One had to know what ‘disingenuous’ meant and that ‘victims’ and ‘perpetrators’ were at opposite ends of the spectrum and not ‘exploiters’ and ‘perpetrators’.
Fair attempts in this section would range between 18-20 and the cut offs in the range of 46-49.
In the final analysis, test takers employ their strategies based on their areas of strength and weaknesses. In the current scenario there cannot be any fixed approach but only the right approach based on the individual. Since the CAT is an aptitude test, the flair for management is tested irrespective of the observable changes. The emphasis is still on good old reasoning and cool headedness. Ultimately, this is a filter for an MBA programme that requires one to take optimum decisions in real life. Aspirants in future, too, would do well to realise that a good hold on fundamental concepts combined with flair goes a long way in acing this challenging test.
CAT 2008 has lived up to its promise of a demand from the test taker of a heady combination of subject matter proficiency, a calm and collected approach and deployment of reasoning.
(The writer is the Centre Head, IMS Learning Resources)