Is the CAT moving closer to GMAT?

imageTo all external appearances, the CAT might seem to be over. But we know better, the CAT is far from over. There is a raging debate over the answer keys due to which most students do not know where they belong. There are only some (lucky or perhaps unlucky) students who conclusively know whether they have a chance or not. This year as usual the paper had some surprises put in.The CAT: The surprises and its repercussions

1. The change to five options
The most obvious change was in the negative marking. From the usual negative of 1/3 of the marks the five options led to a negative of 1/4. This means students are penalized less for a negative answer but the chance of getting an answer wrong also increases.

Since Math and DI were easy, the five options there didn’t make a difference. Its primary effect was evident only in VA section. The five option concept transformed an already difficult section to a back-breaking one. This resembles the GMAT structure.

2. The difficulty level of the sections
The trend of Verbal as the toughest section continued, but unlike last year the other sections were quite easy. Even in GMAT, the verbal section is difficult and the Quant section is easier; at least for Indians the Quant section is not as difficult as the Verbal.

3. The number of questions
The number of questions were reduced to 75 and this was expected by some and a surprise to many (including me). More importantly, the expected time per question was 2 minutes. Again if we compare the above with the GMAT structure the similarities are obvious.

Of course, it is tempting to conclude that the CAT is moving towards the international aptitude test for management. But whether the similarities were unintentional or had a cause will be difficult to decide. What is relevant is that all these similarities coming in together is too much of a probability miracle to be unintentional.

The Sections: Data Interpretation
This seemed the most error-free set in the beginning. There were five sets here. I will try to tabulate the important characteristics of the sets below:

Set

Appearance

Attempt Rate

Actually was

Accuracy

Marks

Team Formation

Easy

High

Easy

High

20

Top Ten Students

Average

Average

Easy

High

8

Erdos Number

Average

Average

Average

Average

8

Stock Trading

Difficult

Low

Difficult

Average

0

Networked Roads

Easy

High

Difficult

Low

-4

So there were around 32 marks which could be scored easily. The only issue was the ambiguity of the questions in the networked roads set. Otherwise the DI set continued to be a caselet oriented, calculation free section.

Verbal
Control your bile, pagalguys. This is one place where the CAT just didn’t follow the GMAT pattern. In any exam of international repute (be it GMAT, GRE, SAT, TOEFL, …) pains are taken to ensure that the answers have clear cut reasons as to why a certain option is correct and far more importantly (I really cannot stress this aspect enough) why the other options are wrong. Here the options seem to close to comfort. It is scarier considering that Mr Karl Pooper or Mr John Rawl have not set the questions. So it is basically the interpretation of Mr Y of Author X’s work against say Student Z’s interpretation of Author X’s work. To say that Y had a subconscious link to Author X’s mind which Student Z doesn’t and hence student Z is wrong and Mr Y is right is not just unfair it is hilarious. The other reason that could be given is that Mr Y has read a lot of Author X’s work and hence is better equipped to interpret his or her works. But they weren’t we supposed to interpret based on the passage given in the paper only. So I think not just the answer key but the explanatory answers are also due. I do not think there is a point in discussing cut-offs here. Lets just wait for the REAL answer key with hopefully the realistic explanatory answer keys. In the meanwhile a snapshot of the section:

Set

Appearance

Attempt Rate

Actually was

Accuracy

Marks

Paragraph Completion

Average

High

Average

Average

12

Fact, Infer, Judge

Average

High

Difficult

Low

4

Dogmatic/ Critical

Average

High

Difficult

Average

??

Communism

Difficult

Low

Difficult

Low

??

Justice

Difficult

Low

Difficult

Low

??

Quantitative
Back to terra firma, this was undoubtedly the easiest section. The section was easy not just because the questions were easy, but the questions have been repeated from previous year’s paper. At least 4 questions have already appeared in previous CATs. So I guess the CAT went out of its way to ensure that students scored a decent score in the overall paper by doing well in Math. There were 8-10 questions in the section that were quite easy to attempt. This section will have the highest cut-off and will be the final arbiter in giving calls.

Approach to the paper
Students should have maximized their attempts in Math; this is not post mortem analysis. Do keep in mind that it is always people who do well in the easiest section end up getting calls. From 2000 to 2003, students who got calls were students with high scores in English; this year calls will be given to students with high scores in Math and DI. I do not think the English scores will matter too much.

Munira Lokhandwala is an alumna from IIM Calcutta, batch of 1999. She has been associated with CAT coaching since 2001. In 2005, she started Catalyst Group tuitions for CAT. (www.catalyst4cat.com) she is a regular CAT taker herself. These are her scores:
Year – Overall percentile
2005 – 100 %ile
2004 – 99.99 %ile
2003 – 99.98 %ile