Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Understanding CAT: Exam Pattern & Syllabus

For those who are still in the information gathering phase, CAT is an All-India entrance test conducted by the IIMs for admissions into the IIMs and a few other prestigious colleges. It is generally conducted in the months of Oct/Nov every year. Candidates are selected based on their percentile scores to move onto the next stage of selections which is usually Group Discussion, Essay Writing and Personal Interview. Until 2009, CAT was a paper based test but in 2009 it moved to a Computer Based Test(CBT) format.

A lot of the first timers are quite intimidated by CAT. You cannot blame them given the perception flying around that it is the toughest MBA entrance test in the world and that it requires several months of preparation to be able to do well. All Myth!!
Most students will surprised when you tell them that CAT’s syllabus is mostly tenth standard Math and high school English. It is. In fact, a couple of coaching institutes I know experimented by giving a mock CAT to tenth standard students and the students felt quite comfortable solving the paper within the time limits. One glance at the syllabus (given at the end of this post) and you will notice that its all very familiar from your school days.

While it is true that CAT is relatively more difficult than other management entrance tests, the point to note is that the perception that it is very tough arises from the huge competition that exists and the assumed time pressure during the exam. More than 2 lakh students are fighting for a few thousand seats available at the premier IIM institutes.
What has also added to the perceived difficulty over the years has been the uncertainty in test pattern. The IIMs have been notorious in surprising candidates with pattern changes that were least expected. The CAT test has consistently seen pattern but since 2011, it has remained the same as mentioned below.

Type: Multiple-choice
Total Questions: 60
Number of Sections: 2
Section 1: Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation
Section 2: Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning

Time Limit for each section: 70 minutes. One cannot move onto Section 2 until the allocated 70 minutes for Section 1 has run out. You cannot revisit Section 1 after moving to Section 2.
Scoring Pattern: + 3 for a right answer, -1 for a wrong one and no marks for questions left unanswered.

CAT Syllabus:
The IIMs have never defined a syllabus for CAT but since it has always been an aptitutude test, the following is a good guide for the CAT syllabus.
1) Quantitative ability: Number Systems, HCF/LCM, Averages, Percentages, Profit & Loss, Simple/compound Interest, Equations, Inequalities, Complex numbers, Functions, Probability, Permutation & Combination, Mensuration, Geometry, Co-ordinate Geometry, Trigonometry, Mixtures, Set Theory, Speed & Distance, Work & Time, Progressions, Surds & Indices, Logarithms, Ratio & Proportion
2) Data Interpretation: Data tables, Pie Charts, Lines, Columns, Bar graphs, Other Chart types, Data Sufficiency
3) Verbal Ability: Reading Comprehension, Parajumbles, Cloze Test, Fill in the blanks, Vocabulary based, English Grammar, Sentence Correction, Analogies, Meaning-Usage match, Verbal/critical reasoning, Facts/Inference/Judgment
4) Logical reasoning: Cubes & Dice, Blood Relations, Number & Letter Series, Seating Arrangement, Venn Diagrams, Clocks & Calendars, Analytical Reasoning, Syllogism

Get a feel of the test by picking up one of the past year’s papers. Or just click here to Sign Up and take the free mock CAT. 

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