CAT 2016 Notification out – What does this mean for preparation

CAT 2016 notification is out. First up, let us get the facts

  1. Exam on one day, on Dec 4th, 2016.
  2. Time-limit is 180 mins. Time limit in 3 tight compartments, one hour each for three sections, VARC, DI-LR and QA.
  3. Some questions may not be of Multiple-Choice type.
  4. Onscreen calculator will be allowed for computation.

These are broadly the same parameters that we had in 2015, and our inferences are going to be very similar to what we saw last year .

Practically no change in format, life remains the same.
There is every chance that you have already read reports on how the game has changed, and how CAT  tests different things every year, and how the only predictable feature about CAT is its unpredictability. The CAT-internet space is generally awash with cliches this time of the year.

What CAT tests, how long they test it for, roughly when the test happens, and most parts of the format have not changed for years. CAT is an objective exam that tests aptitude (predominantly quantitative and verbal aptitude) and aims to rank students. This is what it was in 1990, 2000, 2010 and 2016.  More specifically, the change from 2015 to 2016 amounts broadly to zilch.

So, what should one do now?

  1. RC is uber-important: RC dominates the verbal section. Read every day. Read lots of different stuff, read novels, fiction, non-fiction, magazine articles. Basically anything upwards of Mumbai Times works. But read away to glory.
  2. Do not agonize over LR: Everyone and their cousin would have told you that LR was very tough last year. This means nothing. Specifically, this does not mean LR will be tough this year. Do not agonize over LR and let it dominate the preparation strategy. When was the last time CAT had the same tough section two years in a row?  Imagine you are setting the paper and you know that the consensus view is that LR was tougher, what would you do? Make it tougher, or tone it down?
  3. Start firing away on Mocks – Now: The best time to take mocks is Now. All the ambitious folk who have been waiting to take the first mock “next” week, it is probably time to wake up and actually start doing the damn thing.

Air-Tight timings is good news

One does not have to fret about clearing section cut-offs during the exam now. Obviously, sectional scores matter. But there is nothing the student can do about ‘balancing’ the scores during the exam. So, worrying about sectional cut-offs is a little bit like losing sleep over the middle East. There is nothing we can do about it. Fret only about what you can control.

If the timing constrain were at an overall level, one would have to worry about time allocation across sections. Now, that parameter is out of your hands.

Conversely, the students who are frightfully good at one section, but below average in another stand to lose out in this format. Historically, Quant-merchants used to spend slightly less time on DI-LR, hajaar lesser time on Quant and used to sink all the extra time into Verbal in a bid to clear all section cut-offs. Now, that option is out.

So, if you have a huge advantage in one section, now is the time to give up trying to become the Gold Medallist in that section and work relentlessly on the weaker sections. There is no joy in scoring 99.99th percentile in Quant and 77.5th percentile in verbal.

Exam on a single day is good news. I was hoping they would keep it in a single session and do away with this normalization for good. But we cannot have everything I guess.

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