CAT 2015 Notification – How does it change preparation plan?

CAT 2015 notification is out. First up, let us get the facts

1. Exam on one day, on Nov 29th.
2. Time-limit now 180 mins ( from 170 minutes previously). Time limit in 3 tight compartments, one hour each for three sections, QA, DI-LR and Verbal. 34 questions each in Quant and Verbal, 32 in DI-LR
3. Some questions may not be of Multiple-Choice type.
4. Onscreen calculator will be allowed for computation.

plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose –  The more things change, the more they stay the same
This is not an overhaul. What they test, how long they test it for, roughly when the test happens, and most parts of the format are same as last year’s. Notwithstanding what all the “Guru”s and gyaan websites will tell you, the changes are fairly cosmetic in nature. The change to have some questions as non MCQ is also minor. This will not change the approach to the paper or the preparation plan one bit. A great many of the small tweaks have made the test better.

Counter-intuitively, time allotted per section being fixed might make the exam easier to navigate
Now, effectively CAT becomes three one-hour tests  rather than one long test. It appears that some freedom has been taken away from students. However, the freedom to shift time from one section to another was very often something that complicated rather than simplified things. Students jumped sections too many times, started fretting about section cut-offs, strived needlessly to achieve ‘balance’, and too often just ended up wasting time in the exam hall. Now that this freedom of time-shifting has been taken off, you need to just think of this as three exams in 3 hours. So, forget about section cut-offs and attack this paper with a sense of relief.

Computational pressure being taken off is a joy
The on-screen calculator is a boon. No two ways about it. CAT was never about multiplying or dividing numbers quickly, or about doing 13.8% of 98.4 in 20 seconds. But students never got it, and unfortunately coaching institutes could never tire of peddling short-cuts. Now, this myth has been removed. Learn from the basics, forget Vedic Math. Short-cut nonsense has already made many people sacrifice fundamentals. Perhaps this will help us refocus.

Reading becomes even more important
Previous avatars of CAT gave a student the luxury of ‘hiding’ in LR. Of planning to attempt 14-15 questions in LR, only one RC passage, 8-10 other questions in the mixed bag bundle and hope to get 99th percentile in the verbal section. Now, that LR has been bundled off as a separate section, there is a huge risk in ignoring RC. The sentence correction, sentence rearrangement, sentence elimination etc are also heavily dependent on comfort levels with reading. So, shed that reluctance to read, select novels, magazines, newspapers, websites and read away.

Exam has neither been made easy for engineers, nor has it become tougher.
Every input from the IIMs is interpreted these days in terms of “What does it do the engineers”. Some one somewhere is going to say that online calculators’ presence and the divvying up of sections has made the game tougher for engineers. This is humbug. Similarly, someone is going to say allotting only one hour for Quant is going to make it tougher for non-engineers. This is also humbug. CAT tests students aptitude. CAT does not test aptitude as defined by aptitude for engineers and non-engineers separately.

Preparation plan remains same. Mock CAT strategies will have to be tweaked a little bit
Quant, verbal, DI and LR are tested in a competitive exam that is objective and conducted across the Country. This is how CAT could have been described in 1990, 2000, 2010 or 2015. So, prepare from basics, do the drill and fine-tune with mock CATs. The only difference between 2010 or now is that one can sit at home and have access to the best CAT preparation thanks to the Internet. Apart from this, very little has changed.

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