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CAT: 10 myths busted

June 18, 2009 11:06 IST

With the CAT going online, students are apprehensive about how the test will be conducted and what to expect. And with the limited amount of information available at this point, there is much speculation and rumours floating around. To help students clear some of the myths and misunderstanding surrounding the CAT, here are 10 'myths' explained:  

CAT is going 'online'
If you think CAT has gone online or that it will be administered over the internet, it is about time you changed your newspaper or flicked the channel! Administering a test on the internet for lakhs of students is a gargantuan challenge. It has been tried once by the XAT administrators but was a failure. The CAT has definitely not gone on the internet, rather it will be a computer-based test(CBT). In simple words, that means the test will be loaded on your computer and you will attempt the test on a computer. You will have access to scratch paper and pencil in all probability.

CAT has become more difficult
A myth propounded by the weak-hearted! If the rules of the game change, it does not mean the game has changed. The essentials required to crack CAT remain the same -- passion, intelligence, and a cool head. CAT is not going to be about who can handle a mouse and a desktop better. The skills required remain the same -- the ability to handle high-school level math and English under a pressure-cooker situation. Mind you, this does not mean it is exactly the same. You will have to adjust your test-taking abilities and get used to taking tests in a controlled environment.

CAT is shifting to a GRE-GMAT-type pattern
This one is for those who think one step the wrong direction. The essence of CAT is its unpredictability and the IIMs would definitely not like that to be lost. While it is true that in all probability it will be Prometric ETS that makes the tests we can't expect the core of CAT to be compromised. It has been announced the CAT is going to be a computer-based test NOT a computer-adaptive test as is administered in the GRE and the GMAT. So hold your GRE horses in your stable for now.

CAT is now only for the net-addicted computer-savvy
Nothing could be further from the truth. Handling a computer is a skill picked up by three-year-olds these days. If you think you can't crack CAT because you are not computer-savvy you are doing yourself an injustice. Practice taking tests on a computer in a controlled environment. If you develop the skill sets described above you can very well crack CAT.

We can 'expect' shorter DIs and less complex DI-LR sets
For the past few decades anyone who 'expected' something in CAT got a shock, and a rude one at that. CAT remains CAT --the most unpredictable and challenging test for admission to any postgraduate course in the country. It is better you do not go in with any assumptions and prepare for all eventualities.

I can avoid a computer-based CAT, I will sit for only state-level tests and XAT and FMS which are paper based
If rigidity be the cause of a myth, this is it! For people who do not like coming out of their comfort zone it will be a shock that the MAT has also become computer-based from this year. Every year, the administrative offices at FMS, XLRI among others are deluged with a burgeoning number of applications. The stress on the administrative staff is so much that it is only a matter of time before every test becomes computer-based.

I will have an advantage if I choose a slot towards the end of the 10-day period
No one will have a competitive advantage. What is going to happen is that every batch of students who take the test will have a different question paper. And there would be multiple sessions over the 10 days. We can expect as many sets of the paper as there would be sessions. In fact, rest assured that not even two centres will have the same paper at different points of time.

What if the particular set I get is difficult?
The sets can be expected to be of relatively the same difficulty. Some may complain "I was strong in a particular area but I did not get questions from that area and on the contrary got questions from my weak area." We can expect a relatively balanced paper, however, the only option to blaming your luck is being thoroughly prepared across areas and sections. After all isn't that what CAT always checked -- consistency across sections.

This is just a one-off case. CAT will become paper-based in the near future
The IIMs have clearly stated that they are in the process of gradually outsourcing the entire process to Prometric ETS. They will soon have no role except getting the final scores. With the number of applicants expected to consistently remain in lakhs for quite a few years, it is safe to say CAT shall remain a CBT.

However that takes nothing away from the logistical challenge of handling such a large number of tests in an error-free manner. There might be errors and computer failures but it is reasonable to assume that the IIMs shall aim at refining the process in the future rather than discarding it. After all the deal they have signed with Prometric is worth $40 million!

CAT can be cracked only by IITians and people from other top colleges and even the selection panels favour them
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact a person who has struggled due to circumstances is as likely to be accepted as a person who is not. People who are from rural backgrounds have cracked CAT, dyslexics have cracked CAT, the differently-abled have cracked CAT, graduates in Chinese have cracked CAT, pharmacy graduates have cracked CAT. They all had some things in common. Passion, dedication and a cool head.

The author is Founder Chairman of PT Universe.

Sandeep Manudhane