Expect nothing, live frugally on surprise.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ring the CAT

Unpredictability is the only prediction for the Common Admission Test (CAT) as over 2.76 lakh students are all set to sweat it out on November 16 to get a place in the top B-schools of the country. There will be over 54,000 female candidates taking the test this year. Over 118 B-schools would accept CAT scores this year. And no one is hazarding a guess as to what surprise is in store in this edition of CAT. However, before the trends, here is what CAT-2008 looks like in numbers in comparison to 2007. In comparison to 2.3 lakh applicants in 2007, 2.85 lakh applicants have been accepted this year. According to Satish Deodhar, member CAT committee, "Close to 3 lakh forms were sold for 2008. While 2 lakh wrote the test last year, it would be 76,000 more this year." The exam, scheduled to start at 10.30 am, would have three sections and would be of two-and-half-hour duration. According to sources from IIM Bangalore, CAT would be conducted from IIM Bangalore this year. On condition of anonymity, a faculty of IIM Kolkata, said: "The trend has been a special surprise after a three-year interval. Going by that trend in 2006 and 2007, the number of questions remained 75 and English remained comparatively the toughest section and so we can expect a new variation this year." However, neither faculty members nor aspirants are going with a fixed mindset as CAT is known to turn all strategies upside down. Deekshant of MBA Guru said: "It would be foolish to predict anything. Variations have been random and the only consistency we have seen is that in last five years the test has been tough and getting tougher as the number of questions are coming down. Earlier, it was speed based, now it is more of testing your managerial skills, rather than your knowledge." In last five years (2002 to 2007), the variations have been random with one section being the toughest, much more so than others. In 2002 and 2003, the English section has been the easiest. From 2003 to 2005, data analysis was comparatively the toughest, while in 2006 and 2007, English became the nightmare. Then there were variations in the number of questions, with the only consistency being that since 2002 it has seen a gradual decline in the number of question asked. In 2002, the paper had 150 questions. In 2003 and 2004 there were 123 questions, which came down to 90 in 2005. In 2006 and 2007 there were only 75 questions, which is fairly similar to what GMAT adheres to, giving rise to speculations about CAT going the GMAT way. While the number of question remained the same in 2003 and 2004 and so also the toughness of the section on data analysis, CAT sprang a surprise by bifurcating the paper into sections A and B. Section A contained questions worth half and one mark each, while section B had question worth two marks each. Does that leave much option to guess as to what it would be like this time? Rajiv Kumar, an aspirant said: "Why hazard a guess? CAT is not for guess work. And that's where the fun of the game is." Agrees Asha Kaul, professor, IIM Ahmedabad, "I don't want to comment on what CAT would be like or predict anything. Yes, it has been the toughest challenge for those aspiring to pursue MBA from the best institutes in India and I feel it would maintain that status. And except for those setting the paper, no one has actually been able to anticipate what surprise CAT will throw up. Only those with the right attitude can crack this exam." So no fixed mindset before you step in for the exam. Ulhas Vairagkar, director, TIME, Delhi, said: "Don't worry about the surprise element. Just do your best. Even if one attempts 40 to 45 questions and even if seven to 10 of those are incorrect, even then there is a huge probability of getting a good percentile and a call from a good B-school."

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