CAT 2015 – General Thoughts, attempts, percentiles

Now that we are out of the immediate aftermath of the exam (and after the weather gods in Chennai have given us a breather to head to office), it is probably a good time to have a look at how the paper went

Paper was slightly tougher than last year, with DI-LR being substantially tougher 
Verbal and Quant were broadly at the same level of difficulty as was seen last year, but DI-LR was substantially tougher. A good student could attempt ~30 questions in verbal, ~24-ish in Quant, but only about ~14-15 in DI-LR. In the past few years, the variance in difficulty levels across sections had fallen, but this time it was stark. I personally do not think this was by design. Our dear test-setters probably wanted to crank up difficulty in order to offset the advantage given by having a calculator and ended up overcompensating.
 
So, what would be the percentile for xx number of attempts.
To begin with, percentile guessing is a mugs game. Further, accuracy is a critically important, and unavailable datapoint for doing this exercise. Still, we all like to pretend that we can forecast stuff with reasonable accuracy, so here goes. Remember the caveats.
 
Verbal ability
~24 attempts – 90th percentile
~26 attempts – 94th percentile
~28 attempts – 98th percentile
~30 attempts – 99th percentile
~31 attempts – 99.4 percentile
Anything higher – Higher percentile
Accuracy matters for all three sections, but is particularly critical for verbal. With this type of paper, almost anyone could have attempted 25 questions. Attempting 31 questions and getting 30 correct will be dramatically better than attempting 32 and getting 5 wrong. There were not too many questions with a ‘catch’. So, small details will matter a lot in this section.
DI-LR
~12 attempts – 90th percentile
~14 attempts – 94th percentile
~17 attempts – 98th percentile
~20 attempts – 99th percentile
~23 attempts – 99.4 percentile
Anything higher – Higher percentile
This might turn out to be the section where there is a huge gradient in the attempt vs. percentile chart. For instance, someone with 13 attempts and all correct might end with 93rd percentile, while a student with 13 attempts and 3 incorrect could get buried at 60th percentile.
Quantitative ability
~18 attempts – 90th percentile
~21 attempts – 94th percentile
~24 attempts – 98th percentile
~26 attempts – 99th percentile
~28 attempts – 99.4 percentile
Anything higher – Higher percentile
This probably falls bang in between Verbal and DI-LR
 
Overall
~52 attempts – 90th percentile
~57 attempts – 94th percentile
~64 attempts – 98th percentile
~69 attempts – 99th percentile
~74 attempts – 99.4 percentile
Anything higher – Higher percentile
Remember, that all of these are just guesses. And all of these are predicated on the fact that accuracy is at very decent levels (maximum of 2 questions wrong in each section). I do not really understand the phrase “around 70%” accuracy. Around 70% accuracy is just management-speak for 60% of so accuracy, which is just humbug. Weather forecasters do a better job than that.


So, how does this change preparation for CAT 2016?
Nothing much needs to change. Prepare from the basics, work a lot on the drill, take gazillion mocks in the run-up to the exam – this mantra worked for CAT in 1990, 2000, 2010 and will work for 2016 also. 


The second clear inference is this – Take the 2IIM online preparation course. We have taken the horse to the pond, demonstrated how one drinks water and exhorted the horse to drink water. We still continue to improve the product as well. It is already way better than any classroom course. God knows how good it will be in 8 months’ time. From CAT 2017 onwards, a third of the guys will be preparing online. ‘Discovering’ a good online course will be like saying Indian cricket team plays well on turning tracks. Duh. 2016 is the year where you can be savvy and get yourself an advantage. J

Apologies on this slightly-delayed post. We guys at 2IIM operate out of Chennai, and Chennai has just begun crawling out from under the rocks. But 2IIM, like the rest of Chennai, is back on its feet, and we will be there to help you guys with the interviews in 3 short weeks. Best wishes for CAT results. 



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