With the CAT 2016 notification out, we hope that your seriousness towards preparing for CAT is set to reach its optimal levels. According to the official press release document released by the IIMs, CAT 2016 is scheduled to be a one-day, two-slot affair. The exam will have three sections, Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension, Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning, and Quantitative Ability, in that order, with each section having a time limit of 60 minutes.
This is the same pattern as what was seen in CAT '15. However, one significant piece of information, the number of questions – overall & sectional – has not been mentioned. Given the importance of this detail with respect to one's overall strategy towards preparation and taking the test, we believe that deeper thought needs to be given to analysing the various possibilities that may come up eventually on the test day. We at T.I.M.E. have analysed and put together the various possible scenarios that the IIMs are likely to consider in this regard.
We suggest you go through this analysis and aquaint yourself with the various possible scenarios in order to tune your preparation to help you give your best.
Scenario 1 – Increase the relative representation of VA questions
The IIMs have been laying more emphasis on creating a level playing field for non-mathematics students. A case in point is the decision of the IIMs to normalise scores across sections in CAT 2015 to reduce the likelihood of any single high scoring section (typically the QA section) from skewing the overall scores. Such normalisation across sections was introduced only last year. The note on Scoring for CAT 2016 mentions that scores will be normalised across sections this year as well.
It is likely that the IIMs could go a step further in this direction and slightly increase the number of questions in the VARC section, thereby giving an opportunity for this section to be as scorable as the other sections. While it may seem that given the sectional time limit of 60 minutes one may not really be able to take advantage of the higher number of questions, it is possible that the level of difficulty is adjusted to enable the section to be more scorable than usual.
Another approach to achieve the above objective would be to slightly decrease the number of questions in the other two sections (QA, DILR) and adjust their difficulty level to make them less scorable than usual.
For example, the paper could have 44, 32, 34 questions in the three sections VARC, DILR and QA, or have 34, 28, 28 questions.
Scenario 2 – Increase the time available per question
The CAT exam has, over the years, decreased its emphasis on sheer speed (reading/calculation) in favour of skill and knowledge. For this, one would need to allow more time per question by either increasing the time available or decreasing the number of questions. Last year, the IIMs chose to increase the time available slightly. Further the onscreen-calculator was also introduced to reduce the burden of computation.
Having already specified the test duration this year, it is likely that the number of questions will be decreased slightly to further increase the time available per question.
For example, the paper could have 30, 30, 30 Qs in the three sections VARC, DILR and QA, or as low as 25, 25, 25 Qs.
Scenario 3 – Increase the number of questions
Given the analysis in the above two scenarios, this is a very unlikely possibility. However, CAT being CAT, we need to be prepared for any eventuality.
For example, the paper could have 35, 35, 35 Qs in the three sections VARC, DILR and QA.
Scenario 4 – Status Quo
For all the analysis that one could come up with, it may so happen that the IIMs go ahead with the exact same pattern as last year.
Finally, irrespective of which scenario ultimately turns up on the D-day, one needs to keep in mind that comprehensive preparation and a sound test taking strategy are indispensible to bell the CAT. To help you in this, we will be ensuring that the coming AIMCATs cover all the possible scenarios to help your gear up and hone your performance.
All the best.