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New CAT pattern likely to push cut-offs for B-school admissions

In what could increase the minimum cut-off for admission to prestigious business schools, the Common Admission Test (CAT) examination is going to have a revised pattern this year – with more questions to answer, the time available to attempt each question will come down. According to coaching institutes and management school experts, since the difficulty level of questions is likely to be less than in earlier years, the minimum percentile requirement for the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other key management schools might go up.

CAT 2014 will be conducted in four sessions over two days – on November 16 and 22. The changes being brought in the examination pattern for 2014, according to a press statement from CAT, will improve the structure followed in the past five years.

Kirti Sharma, assistant professor at Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, says the access flexibility has been increased. Since there is less time per question, the difficulty level will be toned down. “If this happens, the cut-offs for admission to business schools will go up,” she adds.

The duration of the examination this year has been increased from 140 minutes to 170 minutes. Further, questions in each section – quantitative ability & data interpretation, verbal ability & logical reasoning – have been increased from 30 to 50.

A senior professor from a South India-based IIM explains there could be some tweaking in the difficulty level to facilitate the changes. He adds this will also mean a higher cut-off, especially for the older IIMs.

Candidates, however, will have the flexibility to devote more or less time to each section, depending on their respective abilities; they could switch from one section to another for the duration of the examination. Sharma explains there could be students over-performing in one section and under-performing in another because of this.

According to Ramnath Kanakadandi, course director at coaching institute Triumphant Institute of Management Education (TIME), Hyderabad, there will be more emphasis on time management, as the sectional time limit will not be there, with the flexibility to switch among sections. “At TIME, we have multiple practice tests; we will teach students to better manage their time,” he says.

Shobhit Bhatnagar, founder of Gradestack.com, a mobile learning platform, points out that most candidates are not used to taking tests for three hours at a stretch. They will now have to, as the CAT exam duration has been increased by 30 minutes, which is a lot of time.

“The time available per question has gone down, from two minutes and 20 seconds to one minute and 42 seconds. This means speed will be very important now. The strategy of attempting questions and understanding what is the right time to leave a question, among others, will play a key role,” he adds.

Also, CAT will have a new interface from this year. The exam is to be administered by Tata Consultancy Services for the next five years. In 2013, nearly 173,000 candidates had taken CAT. In the results, CAT saw eight male engineering graduates scoring 100 percentile. In CAT 2012, 10 candidates had scored 100 percentile.


CAT 2013

  • Time: 140 minutes
  • No. of questions: 30 each in 4 sections


  • Time: 170 minutes
  • No. of questions: 50 each in 4 sections
  • Flexibility to devote more or less time & switch among sections


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