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Past trends hold the key to cracking CAT 2009

By R Shiva Kumar
August 26, 2009 09:47 IST
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At this point, there is not much students know about how CAT 2009 will unfold and aren't sure what to expect in terms of the structure of the paper. Still a large number of students in popular forums are delivering judgments on mock papers, whether the mocks are like CAT or not.

To provide a little more clarity on what the contours of CAT 2009 could be, here we take a look at what could be expected.

While presenting the possible scenarios, we have kept the following assumptions in mind:

Assumption 1: The IIMs knew they wanted switch to a computer-based test (CBT) format at least two years ago. (We did read about CAT going online immediately after CAT 2007.)
Assumption 2: The IIMs knew that a CBT can be conducted only by a seasoned testing authority that possesses a huge tested database. This had to be one of the key players in the GRE/GMAT space.

Assumption 3: The IIMs would have desired for the test to not have a huge shift going from paper-based to computer-based format, in order to let students experience seamlessness in the pattern. So, the trends from teh previous few years must point to the final outcome in the CBT format.

Armed with these assumptions, we have analysed at the data interpretation and the verbal ability sections of the CAT in the past three years and have tried to extrapolate it into the future. One may ask why we've chosen to look at only these two sections; it is because these are likely to change the most in the new format.
Before I move ahead here is a fact file.






Data Interpretation / Data Sufficiency




  • Comprehension questions are based on interpretation of data illustration.
  • Calculation questions check your ability to pick data and calculate fast.
  • Logical types of question are based on "interpreting" after synthesis of data.
  • Analytical reasoning questions are based on "assignment" based on given conditions.

Looking at this fact sheet, a few things are obvious. These are also the things that I recommend students to master while preparing for CAT 2009.

For Verbal Ability the key thrust areas are:

  • Build your vocabulary before you take CAT.
  • Don't waste your time solving long RC passages. Focus on passages that are short which test your comprehension and not speed.
  • Grammar is making a strong comeback. Do sufficient practice of questions that are based on Grammar.
  • Para Jumbles, FIJs and imilar types of questions have a very slim probability of making an appearance in CAT. Even if they do, they would constitute a very small part of the paper.
  • Critical Reasoning is closer to Para Completion. Do sufficient practice in this area.
  • All the above infact, point to one thing. Areas that are checked in GMAT / GRE could become a very key component of this CAT.

    Data Interpretation has been one area of concern for many students. The period between 2003 and 2006 saw a major shift from calculation-based DI sets to Logic-based sets.

    But over the past two years we have seen a comeback of calculation-based sets. So if you do not want to be caught on the wrong foot, it becomes imperative that you have had sufficient practice in calculation-based sets. Do not get intimidated by the logic sets.

    All this would mean a lot of practice. These recommendations are meant to help you manage your time more efficiently in the next 90 days. Let us hope that like GRE / GMAT organising bodies, we get sufficient cues on the pattern when the IIMs come out with the notification on August 30.

    The author is director (Academics and R&D), Career Launcher India.

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    R Shiva Kumar