The last time I took the CAT was in 2017 when I was heading IMS Pune (I had to go all the way to Nasik to take the test, and that was the reason I was fed up and did not take the test last year. This year I took the test yesterday in the afternoon slot at Pune, after two years of not teaching at all and the rustiness was more than visible.
The toughest Verbal section in a while
At an overall level, keeping the whole test-taking population in mind, the Verbal section was definitely one of the toughest in recent years. One of the big reasons for the toughness was the nature of the passages itself. Pound for pound, each of the passages was tougher to read than those of the preceding years. When students used to fret over the Verbal in the SimCATs, I used to feel that they will find the actual CAT easy, but this year in terms of the passages and the questions the CAT was as tough as the SimCATs. One passage in each of the slots was tougher than those that appeared on the SimCATs as well. In a weird coincidence, both passages involved the British! On the way back with my colleagues, I was saying that angrez gaye, par CAT RC chod gaye.
The VA questions were all reasonably tricky as well, especially the odd man out and the summary questions, the answers could not be marked with a great conclusiveness, it was more of a case of elimination. The odd man out is anyway the weirdest question type since last year they declared parts of the actual paragraph in the sequence itself to be the odd one out!
Those who managed to 4 RCs well with not more than one error per passage and managed to confidently solve half of the VA questions can easily clear the cutoffs.
The cutoffs at the higher-end of the spectrum, 99 and above, will not go down by much since the previous years’ papers will not have challenged the people at that range enough, so test-takers at that level will have raised their game to match the level.
I personally had the same problem that I have had with this three-section format — 20 minutes left at the end of VA-RC after having solved all the questions (with a gun to my head I can solve the VA-RC section in 30 minutes) where I go back and comfortably relook at a few questions, but those were the ones that either do have a good option or ones where one has to choose the least offensive option. The 20 minutes could have been more than useful in the DI-LR section :-).
A more deceptive but equally tricky DI-LR section as the previous years
When I took 10 minutes and rated the sets, I thought that the section was way easier than last year. My first reaction was — my friend scrabbler will kill this and score around 280!
I did the two easiest sets in good time, the Spider set on revenues and profits and the Scatter Plot on rainfall, the questions were all closed questions as well. Looking at the sets, I knew that they were following the tradition of the last two years of giving complex looking representations that were, in essence, simple calculations. I think I was about 25 minutes into the section by the time I reached this stage. This was where a mixture of factors led to me not spending the rest of the section optimally.
Instead of picking the next most do-able set, since I was feeling good, I chose the languages set since the content was straightforward and most importantly, there wasn’t much scrolling involved. The complacency of having solved two sets led to me being not fully locked in while solving set. I wasted about 10 minutes on this set and made the cardinal error of not looking at the questions beyond the first question. The set was also a bit slippery in that it was trickier than it seemed.
I quit this set and went to the elections and proposal set, which in hindsight was a terrible idea since even my colleagues found the set painful. I thought I can nail the Venn diagram sort of set, but there were far too many variables.
I then went to the question papers set, MT and ET spent some good time on it and solved a few questions.
The set that I should have done but left was the doctors set.
For this slot, the four do-able sets, according to me were — the rainfall scatter plot, the spider set, the doctors set, and the languages set. The ET/MT and the couch sets were also solvable but with more effort and by those who are comfortable with Mathematical Reasoning.
A QA section that was only a bit easier than last year
The QA section was not markedly easier than last year, it was only marginally so. This is where the rustiness was most visible since I have barely taught or solved the QA section over the past two years. I was really struggling with timing the ball. It was not that I not able to solve — I solved around 22 questions, I even managed to solve a few very fast using answer options, but overall I was not middling the ball at all, it was a very laboured stay at the crease, mostly twos and threes with few boundaries, and I think I made a few mistakes as well.
By the time I came out of the test centre the mood was starkly different from what I was feeling at the end of the first 90 minutes, I was angry and pissed with myself, I calmed down only much later once I met my colleagues at the centre, but I told myself that next year I have to take quite a few mocks before taking the test.
A big reason for my complacence was that I had taken the last year papers and did reasonably well, but the big catch was that I solved the papers with the PDF format open on my screen, which is heaven compared to the scrolling you have to do on a computer-based DI-LR.
Based on the scores collected from our students and last years trends you can calculate your score and get an approximate prediction of your percentile here — IMS Percentile Predictor
Getting ready for the next event
I am sure there will be many of you who will be disappointed with what happened on D-Day. All I can say is that it is not easy to crack the test on your first or second attempt unless you are on the top of your game for at least 10 to 15 mocks with additional reserves to handle a tougher paper. I cleared the test on my second attempt.
Even those of you who have set your sights firmly on the old IIMs will be taking a few more tests, at least the IIFT exam and the XAT. Do not let yesterday affect you negatively. Now that you have the monkey off your back go ahead full-throttle on these other tests.
Even if you have decided on another shot at the CAT and IIM-A, give the other tests you have registered for seriously, crack a final admit to IIFT, NMIMS, SIBM, or XL and then reject it. — achieve something this season and set yourself higher goals for next year.
After coming back home from Pune last night at around1 AM, I was not sleepy. I decided to browse the New York Times and see if they added any good articles over the weekend and I came across an article with this famous Zen quote — “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
For Scrabbler’s take on Slot 1 – CAT — S19E01 – The one with the British English
And for the love of God, why the hell doesn’t the TCS CAT test-player have a PREVIOUS button!