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More quant questions in CAT

MBA spirants need to devise a new strategy to deal with the quantitative analysis section as they could expect 34-36 questions as compared to 21 questions last year.
The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) have announced changes in the structure and the test environment of the upcoming Common Admission Test (CAT). There are four significant changes in the test to be conducted in November. First, the number of questions has been increased to 100 from 60. Second, the duration of the test will now be 170 minutes. There will be no sectional time limits. Lastly, candidates will get more time for preparation and fewer slots of testing.

These changes will mean that you have to make appropriate shifts in your preparation to ace this edition of CAT. Needless to say, it would vary across the different sections of the test – quant, data interpretation and  logical reasoning and verbal ability. Though structurally the test has only two sections, it may be useful to view it as the three sections each having a character of its own. In this article, we look at the likely implications of the revised structure on the quant section. Historically, the CAT quant comprised about one third of the paper. It is not going to be any different this year. So, you could expect 34 to 36 questions. Comparing this with the 21 questions of CAT 2013, this is a significant jump. It has many implications. Let us look at them.

Speed: Speed would be of essence here. You have 40% less time to attempt each question now. This would mean that you have to focus on smart ways to solve questions. As a part of your preparation, it becomes imperative that you consciously focus on ‘going fast’ and ‘doing more.’ You got to look at every question that you solve and see if there are smarter ways to solve the same.

Choice: When there were just 21 questions, there were fewer questions that you were most comfortable with. That would now increase substantially. So you have got to identify topics that you are comfortable with.You have to master a few topics so that you can afford to focus a little less on the others. Chances are that the average level of difficulty of the section is bound to drop, if not remain the same. Make a list of topics in the descending order of your comfort. This must not be just intuitive, but backed with statistics. This is where intensive practice in topics comes in. This is like going to a test gym and getting a feel of your capability.

Test strategy: Having got used to ‘regimented’ ­sectional time limits, it would need a ­mental shift to move to a ‘no sectional time limits’ scenario. This needs quick decision making. You can do that only if you have seen sufficient number of questions to be able to quickly decide whether you ‘can’ or ‘cannot’ do the question. There are three types of responses that you get when you read a question – ‘I know’, ‘I am not sure’, ‘I do not know.’ This would imply two to three rounds of attempts to maximise your score. And all the while you have got to keep your eyes on the clock.

To get to a state of proficiency, you have got to take at least 20 mock tests that are comprehensive and at least as many sectional tests. You may choose to skip a few topics that look out of your reach. Now that the test dates have shifted by a month, it gives you a great opportunity to make up for any lost time.

Last, but not the least, you should not get into the CAT without having solved the CAT questions of the past. They would give you a sense of familiarity with the CAT that is expected. Remember, they are the best tools for revision.


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