CAT 2015 has been announced, as expected it has been scheduled for end November. The press release by the convener says:

  1. Duration of the examination has been increased to 180 minutes instead of 170 minutes.
  2. There will be three sections in CAT 2015, ‘Quantitative Aptitude (QA)’, ‘Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)’ and ‘Verbal and Reading Comprehension (VRC)’.
  3. QA and VRC will have 34 questions each, and DILR will have 32 questions.
  4. Some questions in each section may not be of multiple choice type. Instead, direct answers are to be typed on the screen. The tutorials will clearly explain this change.
  5. Also, we will allow use of basic on-screen calculator for computation.
  6. 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 above changes announced for CAT 2015 may make it appear that this edition of CAT will be significantly different from CAT 2014 but in reality most of the changes are superficial and will not impact a well prepared student at all. Let us look at each of the above to understand their impact:

Structure – Number of sections

Let us first compare CAT 2014 structure with the proposed CAT 2015 structure to understand its impact:

  • CAT 2014
    • Section 1: QA 34 questions and DI 16 questions
    • Section 2: VRC 34 questions and LR 16 questions
  • CAT 2015
    • Section 1: QA 34 questions
    • Section 2: DI 16 questions & LR 16 questions
    • Section 3: VRC 34 questions

Hence CAT 2015 pattern is just a case of taking DI of section 1 and LR of section 2 from CAT 2014 paper and put them together in a 3rd section.

Structure – Time limits in CAT 2015

The introduction of sectional time limits (60 minutes for each section) in CAT 2015 has both a positive and negative implications for the students. The good thing is that they now need not worry about how much time to be given to a section and can just focus on maximizing their attempts in each of the three sections in 60 minutes. On the flip side it will now not be possible for students save time in one section and use it in another. However given that most students are poor at time management across sections, this will work in their favour.

The other implication of this change is that till CAT 2014 one could have cleared the VALR with low or no attempts of VRC but this will not be possible in CAT 2015. Hence students who have been avoiding RC passages and some Verbal questions will need to rework their preparation plans.

Structure – non-MCQ questions

This is a new question type for CAT but such questions have been a regular feature of SAT and GRE. The only thing different in this question is the way you mark the answer, the process of solving the question does not change. The absence of choices could be inconvenient for some students but usually these questions are not difficult.

In GRE and SAT only QA has this question type and most probably this will be the case for CAT also. However I do not rule out the possibility of this question type in DILR and VRC (fill in the blanks – article/preposition) also. Out of the 34 QA questions I would expect about 5-6 such questions.

On screen calculator

This, I am sure will be welcomed by almost all the candidates. A basic on screen calculator is provided in GRE also and in SAT too students are allowed to use a basic calculator. However the on screen calculator is inconvenient and unless the calculations are difficult or lengthy it is easier and faster to calculate orally or by writing down the calculation.

While many students might interpret that the provision of calculator will mean that questions will be more calculation intensive but that is unlikely. CAT has over the years transformed itself to a logic (and not calculation) based paper and that is unlikely to change. In DI too the calculations are not difficult, what to calculate is usually the problem and this cannot be solved by a calculator.

Question Types – CAT 2015

The most important thing about CAT (and almost all other aptitude based entrances) is that the Content or the types of questions that are asked in the paper usually does not change or changes marginally. Thus the students should continue working on the same topics and question types. The questions from all the old Mocks and practice exercises are still relevant and they should be revised regularly.

Attempts and Cut-offs – CAT 2015

This kind of paper can lead to higher attempts and higher errors. The students however need to be careful and not over attempt (especially in VRC) just because of availability of time as it would lead to high errors. Assuming CAT 2015 to be similar to CAT 2014 in terms of degree, I feel that the optimum attempts will be:

  • Section 1 (QA): 25 -30 question
  • Section 2 (DILR): 20-25 questions (6 out of 8 data sets)
  • Section 3 (VRC): 25 questions (2-3 RC passages and 12-15 Verbal)

If one looks at the CAT 1999-2008 papers most of which were similar to CAT 2015 pattern, the sectional cutoff was in the range of 33% to 40% and I expect the same would happen in CAT 2015 also. Thus around 12-14 net correct answers would be sufficient to clear the sectional cutoffs.

In this kind of paper with sectional time limits the overall cutoff tends to fall because students cannot use the time saved in one section in another one. Hence while In CAT 2014 a score of around 190 was required for 99%ile, my estimate for CAT 2015 will be around 175.