With the Mock test made available on the CAT 2017 website, it is safe to assume that CAT  2017 would be similar to CAT 2016.

The CAT 2017 website  very clearly gives the following information:

      ->CAT 2017 will be a Computer Based Test (CBT) with a total of 100 questions

->The duration of the examination will be 180 minutes. There will be three sections:

    1. Section I: Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension with 34 questions
    2. Section II: Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning with 32 questions
    3. Section III: Quantitative Ability with 34 questions
  1. Candidates will be allotted exactly 60 minutes for answering questions in each section and they cannot switch from one section to another while answering questions in a section.

The CAT 2017 Mock Test in the CAT 2017 website has 100 questions as mentioned above and also gives 60 minutes for each section but it also mentions:

Note : Number of questions in each section is only for the mock test. The actual number of questions, including the number of MCQ and Non-MCQ type questions, could be different in CAT 2017

This disclaimer on the CAT website gives a hint to be prepared for any changes that may come up in CAT 2017. So, should my preparation strategy change? What extra can I do to be prepared for any changes in CAT 2017?

Well, that question, to me, is irrelevant! It simply DOES NOT matter!

  1. Whatever be the ‘surprise’, it will be same for all
  2. Whatever be the ‘surprise’, your marks will come from the questions that you solve!
  3. Whatever be the ‘surprise’, the type of questions asked will remain the same.

If CAT 2017 throws a ‘surprise’, all that you got to do is: manage the ‘surprise’. Moreover, as observed over the past years, changes in CAT pattern have brought the level of difficulty down which you can use to your advantage. Below is a detailed analysis of each section and tips and tricks to manage each section.

Change in the number of questions and difficulty level of VRC

CAT 2016 saw no changes with respect to CAT 15, this led to a rise in the difficulty level of the paper.  With no changes in CAT 2017, you can expect a higher level of difficulty for VRC section. Which would mean a drop in the cut-off and you have to answer limited questions, thus you get more options to choose from and spend more time on your strong areas and leave more questions from your weak areas.

While for those who target to attempt all questions, increase their speed. This leads to a high error rate and hence a lower score. What needs to be remembered is that each one of us has our optimum speed of working for different question types and moving faster than our optimum speed will only lead to poorer scores. Thus, it may not be possible for many students to attempt all questions in 60 minutes and hence one should first attempt the question types that one is comfortable with and then go for the others.

Educated estimate is that an attempt of 24-25 questions with 85-90% accuracy in VRC is sufficient for a 99+ percentile. Students should first target this score and then move on to solve more questions if time permits.

My Strategy for solving VRC section:

  1. Click on the Question Paper Button to open the question paper pdf
  2. Scan the paper to check:
    1. Number and length of RC passages and the number of questions (say 5 passages with 24 questions)
    2. Check the number and type of Verbal Logic questions
  3. Based on your comfort level estimate the time required for RC and VL and the possible number of attempts. Do not worry about attempting all questions but ensure that you do not miss any do-able question from your strong area and leave all difficult questions/passages from your weak area.
  4. The time division between RC and VL would be a function of the type of VL questions, for example more vocabulary based questions as compared to PJ/Summary etc. would mean less time to VL.
  5. Work out the sequence in which you will attempt the section.
  6. Most probably in this kind of paper one would give around 35-40 minutes to RC and 20-25 minutes to VL.
  7. My attempt pattern will most probably be:
    1. Scan the paper approximately 3 minutes.
    2. R1: all VL except non-MCQ Parajumbles, approximately 10-12 minutes.
    3. R2: 3-4 RC passages, approximately 35 minutes.
    4. R3: non-MCQ Parajumbles and scan the remaining RC passage and answer only the factual questions.

Change in the number of questions and difficulty level of DILR

 This should not be an issue with anyone because in CAT 2016 very few candidates were able to attempt 3-4 data sets. On the contrary this is likely to be welcomed by most of the students because it means you have one set less to worry about. Given that in CAT 2014 and CAT 2015 DILR was difficult with a 95%ile at a net score of around 40, I think we could see some reduction in degree of difficulty of this section.

More importantly, if the data sets in the CAT 2017 Mock Test in the CAT 2017 website are an indicator we could see more data sets which are LR based. These sets are not purely calculation based and one has to first apply logic and then calculation follows. An attempt of 14-15 questions with 90% accuracy in needed for a 90+ percentile.

My strategy for solving DILR section:

  1. Click on the Question Paper Button to open the question paper pdf
  2. Take 7-10 minutes, go through (read and understand and not scan) all data sets to identify:
    1. 3 data sets that you are most comfortable with, these are your R1 attempts
    2. 2-3 data sets that you are most uncomfortable with, these are not to be attempted
    3. Remaining 2-3 data sets are your R2 attempts.
  3. Attempt data sets starting with the one that you are most comfortable with.
    1. Attempt R1 data sets
    2. Attempt R2 data sets
    3. If you have time look at direct questions in the remaining data sets, if not then do not worry you have left the difficult ones that in any case would have given your negative marks.

If it is an easy paper then you will be able to solve data sets faster and will also attempt an extra data set.

Change in number of questions or difficulty level of QA:

In CAT 2014, 2015 and 2016 QA was very easy and an attempt of around 25 questions in 60 minutes was not difficult for any well prepared aspirant. Thus, any reduction in the number of questions should logically be accompanied with a marginal increase in the level of difficulty which should reduce the number of attempts for above average students from 25 questions to around 20-23 in 60 minutes for a 99+ percentile in CAT 2017 QA section.

My strategy for solving QA section:

Irrespective of the number of questions the approach should be:

  1. Click on the Question Paper Button to open the question paper pdf
  2. In about 30 sec scan the paper to check if there are any grouped question or Data Sufficiency question and also in general the length of question.
  3. Start sequentially, read the question:
    1. If you are sure of solving the question in approximately 2* minutes, then solve and mark the answer (R1 question)
    2. If you are not sure of solving the question or can solve in 3-4* minutes, then mark it for Review and move to the next question (R2 Question)
    3. If you think that you cannot solve the question, or it will take more than 4* minutes then leave the question (R3 or not to be attempted Question)
    4. After completing R1 for the section start solving the R2 questions (the ones that were marked for review)
    5. Time permitting, try solving the R3 questions but do not worry if you cannot.
  4. If you are weak in QA, then your time limit for R1 questions could be 3-4* minutes and R2 may not happen.

* The time limits are indicative, and you need to work out your own time limits based on your comfort with this section.

The Last Word

Change is CAT structure can be used to your advantage for scoring a good percentile, as majority of candidates panic and mess up their paper.  Any change in structure of CAT, will not change the type of questions asked, they are likely to remain along the same lines and therefore you will do well if you focus on the questions that you can solve. So, stay calm and take the paper as it comes without any pre-conceived notions.

All the best for CAT 2017!