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What is IIM's CAT (Common Admission Test) all about?

CAT - The Common Admission Test to the six IIMs is also the entrance test for few other top B-Schools such as SP Jain, MICA, and T A Pai. CAT tests your skills in five broad areas viz.

  1. Verbal ability and reasoning
  2. Reading Comprehension
  3. Quantitative skills
  4. Data Interpretation
  5. Analytical and Logical reasoning.

The test comprised 90 questions divided into 3 sections in the year 2005. Typically this test can be expected to comprise between 75 to 150 objective type questions and is usually divided into three to four sections. Each question has a question statement followed by four alternate answer choices and the candidate has to choose the best answer for each of the questions and mark it on a special Optical Reader answer sheet.

Over the years, the number of questions being asked in CAT has been decreasing steadily. While the early 90s witnessed 180 to 200 questions, the late 90s, specifically CAT 1999 and CAT 2000 had 165 questions each. CAT 2001, CAT 2002 and CAT 2003 had only 150 questions each and these 150 questions were divided into three sections of 50 questions each. There were 123 questions in CAT 2004 and only 90 in CAT 2005. CAT 2004 and CAT 2005 both had differential marks to questions. There were 0.5 marks, 1 mark and 2 marks questions.

The duration of the test is of 120 minutes. This literally translates to answering a CAT question in 48 seconds. Most successful aspirants do not attempt anything more than 120 plus questions. And quite a lot of them attempt between 70 and 90 marks worth of questions. The key to success, therefore, lies in two important parameters

1. The accuracy or strike rate
While each correct answer carries 0.5 or 1 or 2 positive mark, each incorrect question carries 1/3rd of the marks allocated to it as negative marks. Hence, it is important to get a strike rate of over 85% - that is reduce the number of negatives.

2. Smart Selection
As it is clear that you will not be generally able to attempt all 150 marks question, and you skip between 60 to 80 questions, key to success lies in selecting questions properly. Hence, there are no kudos, nobel prizes or awards waiting for attempting the tough questions. Be smart to choose, the easiest of the questions and the ones that you have practised a lot and smash them. Do not venture into unsafe territories or to questions which you only have a vague idea.

CAT and entrance tests of other top B Schools are a unique breed of entrance exams. They focus on testing some of the basic qualities essential for managers - the grit to work hard, smartness to choose the best alternative, quick thinking and above all perseverance.

Exams such as the IIT JEE test the depth of your knowledge, while the Civil Services exams test your width of knowledge. CAT evaluates your presence of mind and the ability to perform under pressure. You cannot prepare for CAT during the last 10 days, as one generally does for semester exams. A minimum of 3 to 9 months of regular preparation is essential.

Ascent's CAT classroom courses are designed to help you maximize your potential gains from these exacting entrance exams. You can choose from the Different Courses that Ascent offers.

To get an insight into how to effectively crack CAT, you can attend Ascent's FREE SHORTCUT CLASS.

To register for the free shortcut class or to take a free diagnostic test drop into our office at
14B/1, Dr.Thirumurthy Nagar 1st Street
Chennai 600 034.

Or call us at (Chennai) 91 - 44 - 4500 8484 or send a mail to ascent@ascenteducation.com


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