Letters from AKS – 1 : MBA Entrance tests – the CAT – 2020

The mother of all MBA Entrance tests – the CAT – 2020 announces a change in the structure of the exam to be held in nov 2020, under the dark clouds of COVID infections this time around.

It was an odd feeling not having said for five years now that – “CAT changed colours yet again”. Beacuse, the earlier average number of years was three when IIMs would announce (unannounced before RTI) changes in the structure of the test.

So this change in structure brought about a sigh of relief. I can now smile and tell you that CAT has changed colours yet again. Here is a quick rundown for you on what to expect.

First the brass tacks
1. It remains a three section timed test.
2. The overall test time reduced from Three hours to Two.
3. Three sections of 40 minutes each compared to three sections of 60 min each previously.

That’s all. It seems the idea is not to surprise the test takers by jolting them out of their practiced regularity of mock tests. Rather it is just to ensure that they are able to manage the same number of test takers in the same infrastructure but ensuring social distancing norms – by conducting three slots a day instead of two a day.

Incidentally this isn’t a new structure – this was the format of test back then in late 1990s and early 2000s when it was paper based test. It used to be a three section two hour test without any sectional time limits. Only one out to many such tests had sectional time limit of 40 minutes each section.

So what different to expect!?

Not much really. On the whole, the mother of all MBA Entrance tests – the CAT – 2020 and its test taking experience remains exactly the same but compressed to 66.66% of the time available. It may mean nothing and it may mean a lot of small little things for you.

Let us try do a “back of the palm” listing of small differences it can make

1. Less time per section means higher probability of messing up time management and ever smaller window for recovery. However, I think there is no need to change your strategy but to reduce the time by 1/3rd for each part of your strategy.

2. In the verbal Abiiity Section it can mean fewer Reading Comprehension passages (two less may be). Smile – but remember it also means lesser choice of what you are comfortable reading. Choose passages with more fact based and direct questioning and ones with more questions overall.

3. We may expect cases in DI-LR section that are slightly lower on toughness levels than usual, which may mean return of the more traditional variety of Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning cases. My suggestion would be look for standard tabular, tick-cross, relationships and vein diagram based sets and finish them off first. Also look for DI sets where questions offer less/no additional data.

4. In the Quantitative section speed is expected to be more critical now – an ability to quickly structure the data in questions and an ability to solve mentally will be the key. So – if you are a CHEM student you may relate well to the need of consolidating the ABC strategy of choosing questions as well as the importance of solving A type questions in your mind.

5. Using onscreen calculators will proportionately be more time wasting. So someone with keen sense for calculation will have an edge – my suggestion is to use calculator only for questions where options are very close or decimals matter.

6. In this pattern one may see return of some old variety VA which hasn’t seen much presence in the last half decade – specially the Error identification type questions of the English Usage variety. In days when the test had similar format – the test used to carry vocabulary based questions – focused on different contextual usage of the same word.

7. One good thing about a two hour test is – it will become more a test of your energy rather than of stamina. Which means – deeper concentration for lesser time. This goes more in line with the behaviour of the millennial generation.

The nut and shell of it is that nothing much has changed. Every time I write about the changes in CAT – I eventually have to end them with the phrase “old wine in new bottle”. Yup – true of CAT-2020 as well.

Let me end this one by adding a tip. Sit for your mock test with your face mask on. Because at the real test you will have to wear the mask for entire duration and you will not be allowed to take it off.

Cheers and Continue with your good work.

Akash Sethia
Akash Sethia - Co Founder CH EdgeMakers Author Akash Sethia is Co-Founder and core faculty CAT/MBA Test prep at CH EdgeMakers

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