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IIM aspirants, here's cracking new CAT format

Tuesday October 18, 2011 10:32:22 AM, Anjali Ojha, IANS

New Delhi: With the CAT exams undergoing a format change this year, MBA aspirants are anxious, to say the least. But experts say starting out with the right section and scanning the questions before attempting the paper could help you crack it.

The Common Admission Test (CAT) -- the gateway to pursuing MBA from the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) among other prestigious institutions - will be held from Oct 22 to Nov 18 this year.

Nearly 205,000 students have registered this time against the 3,000 IIM seats. This marginally exceeds last year's registrations of 204,000.

In the new exam pattern, the CAT paper will have only two sections instead of three. Till last year, the paper was divided into Quantitative Ability, Verbal Ability, and Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning.

From this year, the first section will focus on Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation and the second on Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning.

These two sections will now have to be tackled sequentially with separate time limits unlike earlier when students could divide their time between the sections as per their priority.

"There are different sections; one student may be strong in Quantitative Ability and weak in Verbal Ability. Till last time, he had the liberty to decide which section he wanted to spend more time on," says Ulhas Vairagkar, director of T.I.M.E. Institute, Delhi.

The total time for the exam has been increased from 135 minutes to 140 minutes, and 70 minutes each have been fixed for the two sections.

"Now you have to be good at both the sections. Even if you are good at one section and complete it before time, you cannot carry it forward. That is one thing which can have an impact on a student's performance," Vairagkar told IANS.

According to Vairagkar, time management will be the most important factor for students this time.

"Among the two sections, you should start with the section you are strong in. Then, it is very important to read all the questions before you start solving because there can be easier questions in the latter part of the paper," he added.

According to him, a student should allot about 2.3 minutes to each question, "and in no case should they put more than 2.5 minutes in one question".

One of the most difficult competitive exams in India, scores of professionals also appear for CAT every year in pursuit of a better career, besides graduates.

Rekha Tripathi, 25, is one of them.

She left a lucrative engineering job to appear for the exam. She feels she has taken a risk but is hopeful.

"There is a new format which makes the exam this year critical. I can only keep my fingers crossed," she says.

H.P.S. Sethi, director of RKS Learning, which runs an online CAT trial test website,, says a week before the exam, practice is the most important thing.

"At this time, nothing new can be learnt. If students just practise, it can bring five to seven percent improvement even in the last week," he said.

"Practise fewer papers, but the mistakes should be rectified. There are several websites which offer free sample papers. It is best to practise online since the papers will be online," he says.

Giving his golden tips, Vairagkar says the most important part is not to go with any fixed target in terms of solving questions.

"If a student fixes a target of 22 questions and is able to attempt only 16, he must not think that the paper has gone badly.

"It can be because the paper was difficult and attempting more questions, when you are not sure, only increases the risk of being wrong," he adds.

Parasharan Chari, academic head at Endeavour Tutorials in Ahmedabad, told IANS on phone, "Some are strong at mathematical questions, some may be strong in the verbal. Earlier students could divide their time according to their strength. They could save time in quantitative questions and apply it to the verbal section or vice-versa, which is not possible this time."

"But the good thing is students are relieved of time management stress as the time is already divided," he said. "All other things are the same, the syllabus has not changed. Earlier, there were three sections with 20 questions each, now there are two with 30 questions each," he said.

This year, the maximum number of candidates scheduled to take the exam are from New Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Pune.

(Anjali Ojha can be contacted at






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