In June 2014, after it was announced that CAT will be shifting from Prometric to TCS, I had written an article on how the change would impact CAT 2014 and fortunately what I had expected happened. With CAT 2014 less than 6 months away students have been asking what are my expectations from CAT this year.  Which brings us to the questions, should we try and predict in the first place?  The answer is both a yes and a no.

No, because CAT is not a standardised test and new team creates the test every year which makes the test somewhat unpredictable and hence one should be prepared for any eventuality. That said one cannot face the battle without setting a basic game plan based on the data available. It has also been noticed that except in 2009 and 2014 when Prometric came and exited the scene respectively, the changes in CAT are minimal on a year to year basis. So yes, basic predictions do help. Also there are many rumours floating around so let me analyse the data to answer the questions that many students are asking.

Will IIMs move CAT away from TCS?

After 5 years of controversy ridden Prometric-CATs, the IIMs with the help of TCS finally managed to deliver an almost controversy free CAT in 2014 thereby re-instilling confidence in the students for CAT. Finally we had a paper and the testing process in which the students did not doubt their scores. In this scenario it will be stupid of IIMs to think of replacing TCS.  While strange things have happened in the past but I do not think anyone in the CAT Committee or the IIMs will try to fix something that is not broken.

Will CAT 2015 also be a 2 day 4 slot affair like CAT 2014?

I think that CAT 2015 will be a single day process. In CAT 2014, the students taking the test on day 2 (22nd November) had the advantage of knowing the pattern and degree of difficulty of the paper which allowed them to fine-tune their preparation in the last 6 days. While the normalisation process would have taken care of this but like any other statistical process it is not foolproof.

My feeling is that TCS, with a capacity of conducting a test for over 2,00,000 students in a single slot, would have wanted to conduct CAT 2014 itself on a single day in 1-2 slots but after the not so happy experience with Prometric the IIMs possibly did not want to take any risk and opted for a 2 day 4 slot arrangement. After delivering an almost problem free CAT last year, I am sure TCS will insist on a single day single slot CAT 2015 and hopefully the IIMs will agree because the same test paper to everyone is the best testing process. In the worst case CAT 2015 will be a 1 day 2 slot process.

Will CAT 2015 also have normalisation?

Unlikely!! I am hoping that TCS and IIMs will agree to a single slot CAT 2015 and hence get rid of the dreaded “N” word. Even if CAT is conducted in two slots normalisation will not be something to worry about as the slots will (like last year) be allotted by CAT authorities and will not be chosen by the candidates. Also with about 90,000 candidates in each slot the normalisation process will be more reliable.

When Will CAT be conducted?

CAT notification is usually released around end July and in another 60 days or so we will know the date but since I have been hearing all kinds of dates from mid October to mid December, let me put in my point of view on the issue.

From 2009 to 2013 CAT was scheduled over a period of 40 days because Prometric had capacity constraints and could accommodate only around 5000-6000 (my estimate) candidates in a single slot. What many people have forgotten is that till 2008, CAT was conducted on 3rd Sunday of November. CAT 2014 followed the same time line of 3rd Sunday and 4th Saturday of November and I believe that this would be the case in 2015 as well. Given that almost all Sundays from 4th Sunday of November are used by other MBA entrances, I do not see any reason for the change in date and expect that CAT 2015 will be conducted on 15th November. There is however a possibility of CAT 2015 being conducted on 22nd November if the IIFT admission test is shifted to 29th November – the last Sunday of the month.

Will CAT 2015 be more difficult than CAT 2014?

CAT 2014 was, for all practical purposes, the easiest CAT paper in the last 20 years. While LR and DI did pose certain challenges, QA (34 questions) and the RC passages (16 questions) were a cakewalk for any above average candidate. Keeping in mind, the fact that CAT will be conducted by IIMA this year and the fact that it will be difficult to reduce the level of difficulty of QA and RC my expectations for CAT 2015 are:

  1. The difficulty level of Section 2 will rise: While I do not expect LR to change a lot, the VA section will surely pose more challenges than it did last year. With IIMA’s penchant to set difficult VA papers the level of RC and Verbal Reasoning could be on the higher side.
  2. The difficulty level of Section 1 will be similar to last year: With LR and DI already on the tougher side, and a rise in the level of VA, I expect QA to be the saviour once again. Quant should be at par with CAT 2014 or marginally difficult.
  3. Overall, the LOD will rise: The overall level of the paper would be on the higher side and instead of around 80 attempts required in CAT 2014, an attempt of 70+ could be sufficient in CAT 2015.
  4. The pattern of CAT 2015 is unlikely to change: I do not expect CAT 2015 to change and feel that CAT will most probably continue as a 100 question in 2 sections with similar question types as in CAT 2014. However the vocabulary based questions and para-completion questions that were missing in CAT 2014 could make a comeback.

The Way forward?

Many students who did well in CAT 2013 experienced lower scores in CAT 2014 because they did not anticipate the change and hence did not modify their test taking style. The difficult papers of CAT 2011-13 required low attempts but almost a 100% accuracy while the lower level of difficulty and less time per question of CAT 2014 required high speed (and hence high attempts) with reasonable accuracy. The students who prepared only for a difficult paper were unable to increase their speed and many, unable to believe that QA could be so easy, kept looking for a catch.

Your test-series should not only expose you to all kinds of papers but also should help build up your speed. A good test series typically has papers of different levels of difficulty and hence will prepare you for all eventualities.  A Mock CAT is useful only if it is followed by a detailed analysis of the paper as suggested in the post Things you must-do after every mock you take. Regular revision is the other important tool that will help improve your speed as well as accuracy.

All the best,