CAT 2016, scheduled for November 2016, has left us with more than enough time to re-analyse our strategy and reorient ourselves to face the seemingly new and different exam pattern. The recently released CAT notification describing the ‘changes’ in the pattern may have muddled up the strategy of many aspirants, but you need to stay calm and study on.


Changes in CAT Pattern for 2015


  • Number of sections increased to 3

  • Sectional time limit of 1 hour per section

  • Change in duration from 170 to 180 minutes

  • Switching between sections not allowed

  • Introduction of non-multiple choice questions (non-MCQs)

  • Introduction of on-screen calculator

The changes announced for the Common Admission Test 2016 may make this edition of CAT appear to be significantly different from CAT 2014 and 2015 but in reality most of the changes are in the structure and will not affect a well prepared student at all.

The point to be noted is that the kind of questions that will be asked has not changed.


Change in the Structure of CAT
Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning sections have been extracted from Section-1 and Section-2 respectively and have been combined to form a third section, DILR. Apart from anything else, it checks whether a student has equal competency in all the three sections or not. Freeing LR from VALR section and DI from the QADI section to create the new section means that the students good in Mathematics cannot hide behind LR and will have to do well in RC and Verbal to make it to the next stage. Similarly, those good in language cannot ignore DI or LR.


“The correct strategy would be to not ignore any area and regularly practice all questions types. RC and DI which are routinely ignored will now become important and should be practiced daily,” says Gautam Puri, Co-Founder, Career Launcher.


Sectional Time Limit in CAT
Contrary to the popular belief, the introduction of the sectional time limits will have positive effects on the test taking of the students. Due to the restriction of switching between the sections a student does not have to worry about the time management.

Students should consider CAT 2015 as a string of 3 sectional tests of 1 hour each. Now a candidate should only be looking forward to maximize the number of attempts.


Non-MCQ in CAT
The non-MCQ questions should not be seen as a problem. The absence of choices might be inconvenient for some but whenever a new question type is introduced; the level of difficulty is low.

“Since there will be no negative marking for these types of questions, a student should attempt each and every non-MCQ question in the exam,” adds Puri.


On-screen Calculator in CAT
The on-screen calculator is another introduction in the CAT pattern for 2015. Over the years CAT has transformed itself to be a logic based paper and the calculations in the QA section are never very difficult or lengthy. Even in DI, the problem area for students is ‘what to calculate’ instead of ‘how to calculate’. However it might be a bit useful in this area. Introduction of the online calculator reflects the fact that IIMs require students who can interpret the data well and need not be great at calculations.

Although the calculations in CAT are never expected to be extremely difficult, a student should not refrain from using the calculator in times of dire need. Calculator might prove to be useful in DI questions with extremely close options.


The Exam Strategy for CAT
The students should analyze each and every mock and sectional test that they take. This will help them ascertain what worked or did not work for them.The analysis basically is about finding the questions that were easy but were not attempted and about realizing why did a particular question wasn’t answered correctly.All the difficult and important questions should be marked. These important questions should be revised once a week.

In terms of the pattern, CAT 2015 can be best compared with CAT 2014. As per CAT 2014 data, a 99%ile required 193 marks while 99.5%ile was at 205 marks out of a maximum of 300 marks. Assuming the same level of difficulty as CAT 2014, our initial estimate for the score required for a 99%ile in CAT 2015 is:

QA – net score of 70-75 (23-25 attempts out of 34).
DILR – net score of 65-70 (22-24 attempts out of 32).
VRC – net score of 55-60 (20-22 attempts out of 34).
Overall – net score of around 175.



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