Belling Cat: it starts in the head
Your success in CAT begins with an understanding of what to expect and how to manage your expectations. Through this article, we share with you what to expect on the day of the test and what not to. Read on! 

 CAT (Common Admission Test) is one of the most anticipated exams in the country with around 215,000 students seeking a management career opting to go through this test every year. With less than 20,000 seats in the top-30 B-schools accepting the scorecard of CAT, it is more a test of elimination rather than selection. The successful ones often attribute their success to a cool and calm mind and the avoiding of errors and traps which the exam springs. Let us look at the pattern of CAT 2015 and the important learning from it. 

 CAT 2015 - Exam Pattern

Section Section Name No. of Questions Marks per section Time (in min)
IVerbal Ability 34 102 60
II Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation32 9660
IIIQuantitative Ability 3410260
While 3 marks are awarded for each right attempt, 1 mark is penalized for a wrong Multiple Choice question attempt, while there is no penalty for a Direct Question, where the answer is to be typed in. The sections are individually-timed, which implies that the candidate cannot move across sections at any point in the test duration. 

 Some of the common errors in the run up to CAT pertain to the preparation across various sections of CAT. 

Error #1: Preparing only for 'Important' topics 

 One of the biggest mistakes students make is to narrow down the syllabus and prepare only for select topics based on what has come in the past few years of CAT. The test tends to have a balance of questions of low, intermediate and high difficulty questions – For example, the QA area could have around 7-8 questions which are easy, around 14-15 intermediate and remaining difficult. Similarly, of the three sets in DI – one could be easy, one intermediate and one difficulty etc. Now, it is possible that the easier questions are asked from a topic that you had not prepared well. Therefore, it is in the best interest of students to prepare for all topics and hope for the best in the exam.

 Error #2: Trying to guess the topic-wise distribution of questions

 As an extension of the previous point, it is strongly advised that we not try to guess the composition of the test in terms of the number of questions per topic. CAT has been an extremely unpredictable exam and is known to spring a surprise every year and catch students off-guard. There is a high probability that topics or areas that have not had much of a weightage in recent years might make a comeback and catch the unprepared ones by surprise. The exact composition of questions within the sections could be anything and even vary across slots and therefore students should prepare for all kinds of possibilities. 

 Error#3: Targeting a specific number of questions to clear cut-offs

 It is a very common questions among the students – how many questions should I answer in the test? Targeting a pre-set number of questions to clear the cut-offs is not a great strategy as

  •  1. The cut-offs are a function of the difficulty level of the section and the paper. 
  •  2. Even if you were to go into a paper with a fixed number of attempts in mind, there is little that you can do to actually achieve it. Consider a scenario – Someone tells you that you need to attempt 25question in the first section. Now if you can solve 30 questions, would you stop at 25? Alternatively, if you can solve only 20 questions, would guessing answers to the remaining 5 questions help?
  •  Hence this call of attempting a certain number of questions is to be made during the exam but not before the start of the exam. 

 Error#4: Blind guessing

 It is has been seen in 'experimental' conditions that indiscriminate blind guessing invariably leads to a negative/low score. However, if you are able to eliminate two/three choices (out of the four or five) on a proper basis, then, it is not advisable to leave out such a question even if you do not know how to solve the question. However, such 'guessing' should be kept for the last few min of the test – if you have been able to eliminate some of the options, you might be able to solve the question given more time, thereby saving a good attemptable question from being wasted in guessing.

 Error#5: Getting carried away in the flow

 As many of your seniors who wrote CAT earlier will share, the test comes with a lot of pressure. Often, one would start answering a question and before one would have any idea the time alotted for it would be over. You must remain aware of the time at hand, how many questions have been attempted, if you are getting stuck in a question etc so as to ensure that the easier questions are not skipped and you are able to at least visit all the questions in a section. It is important that you attempt a reasonable number of mocks as you would come up with a prudent strategy only after a few trials.