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CAT Exam - Overview

Economic liberalization and entry of multi-national firms within the Indian business scenario has meant a growing need for trained and qualified managers and professionals capable of dealing with tough situations. This is precisely what MBA education provides. The increase in demand for MBA education led to emergence of the prestigious IIMs that wished to select only best and the most talented students. Thus, was born the Common Admission Test(CAT).

CAT Exam - TimeLine

Indian Institute of Management Calcutta was the first IIM to be set up. It was established as the first national institute for post-graduate studies and research in management by the Government of India in November 1961, in collaboration with MIT Sloan School of Management, Government of West Bengal, Ford Foundation and the Indian industry. In due course of time 5 more IIMs were established at Ahmedabad (1961), Bangalore (1973), Lucknow (1984), Kozhikode (1996) and Indore (1998). After a decade IIM Shillong (2008) and then IIM Ranchi (2009), IIM Rohtak and IIM Raipur (2010) were established. By 2012 two more IIMs were added, IIM Kashipur and Tiruchirappalli. 2015 was a bright year for the MBA aspirants with 6 new IIMs coming into picture- IIM Nagpur, IIM Bodh Gaya, IIM Vishakhapatnam, IIM Sambhalpur, IIM Amritsar, IIM Sirmaur. Because of the increase in the number of students applying for MBA, the IIMs developed the Common Admission Test (CAT) as a first level evaluation for short listing the most talented candidates.

CAT Exam - Changing Pattern

  1. CAT included 4 sections namely Quantitative Aptitude, Data Interpretation, Logical reasoning and English (Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary).
  2. Through the 1990s the CAT exam remained more or less unchanged with 174 to 190 questions distributed in four sections.
  3. From 1999 to 2008, the total number of questions started decreasing although the number of sections remained the same. This tapering trend can be gauged from the diminishing number of questions from 165 to 150, to 123, to 90 and then finally to 75 in 2008.
  4. On 1st May 2009, it was announced that from 2009 CAT would be a Computer Based Test.
  5. In 2009 CAT, the number of questions decreased to 60.
  6. CAT 2011 till CAT 2013 had two sections - the first on Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation; the second on Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning. Each of these carried 30 questions and there were 70 min. for each section.
  7. CAT 2014 had a slight change in the previous pattern. It had 2 sections one Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation,and the other Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning.A candidate can shift to any of the section as per their wish.Each section had 50 questions with 170 minutes time span.
  8. CAT 2015 exam hadthree sectionsQuantitative Ability, Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning, Verbal and Reading Comprehension.A candidate had to go through the sections in the pre-specified order only. Sections 1 and 3 had 34 questions each, and Section 2 will have 32 questions. Each section was for 1 hour, thus 180 minutes in total.Non MCQ questions, where the answer had to be typed, were introduced. There was negative marking forthe MCQ questions but there was no negative marking for non MCQ questions.
  9. Percentages vs. Percentile – CAT scores are based on percentile and not percentage. While percentage can give an idea regarding the performance of individual students, percentile provides a better understanding of how individual scores compare to scores of other candidates. So if a candidate scored 98 percentile then it does not mean that he has gotten 98% of the total marks. Rather it means that, out of 100 students, he scored better than 97 other candidates. It also means that 2 candidates scored better than him/her. In one sentence percentile means percentage of student below you.
  10. Sectional Cutoffs – Today CAT scores are used by multiple institutes including IIMs. Many of these institutes actually ask for a certain cut off marks for each section. The cut off scores from each section will again vary from institute to institute. There are many institutes that do not require such sectional cut offs.