Students and academics analyse the nature of CAT 2012 question papers and the possible outcome

As the Common Admission Test (CAT), which is the gateway for admissions into the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and 160 other management institutes across India, ends on November 6, The Hindu EducationPlus speaks to students and experts to analyse the pattern of this year’s test.

Students and experts said that this year’s paper on the average was “significantly difficult”. A total of 9,000 more registrations were received for this year’s CAT as compared to last year. According to statistics provided by Prometric, the testing provider for CAT, the number of candidates enrolled this year is 2.14 lakh, as compared to 2.05 lakh in 2011. This year’s CAT is organised by the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Kozhikode, on behalf of the other 12 IIMs and other participating institutes. Talking about the performance of the students this year, Arks Srinivas, CEO, Vista Mind Education, said that the average number of attempts by candidates had come down. “I have spoken to a couple of students who appeared for CAT this year. Last year, on an average, my students had attempted 50 out of 60 questions. This year, on an average, students said that they were able to attempt only 40 out of 60 questions.”

Vicky Vasnani, a BBA student of Loyola College, Chennai, who attempted the CAT for the third time this year, said that this year was his worst performance. “In spite of having prepared better than last year, I was able to attempt only nine out of 30 questions in section 1 this time as compared to 12 out 30 attempts last year.”

The CAT exams went online in 2009 and since last year the test comprises two sections each of which are timed separately. The two sections are (a) Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation, (b) Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning. Each of the section had 30 questions and lasted for 70 minutes each.

Mr. Srinivas pointed out that most of his students stated that there was a balance maintained within the two sections. “In section one, if Quantitative Ability was difficult, Data Interpretation was easy. The same applied for the second section.”

He also said that students who had attempted the easy questions quickly were likely to be the ones to make the cut. Although organisers had stated that the exam would be designed this year to encourage the participation of students across all streams, students and experts unanimously agree that it was not so. Mr. Srinivas said, “Students from science and engineering backgrounds were likely to perform better as there were several questions from trigonometry, geometry and higher algebra.”

Commenting on this issue, Ramnath Kanakadandi, CAT course director at Triumphant Institute of Management Education, said that engineering and science students have a partial advantage as the entire first section is maths based. However, he also stated that the test was designed in this fashion as the course demands the student to have an aptitude in maths.

Different stand

However, brushing aside these speculations, Anirudh Rao, alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, said, “Most of the questions require common sense and at the most require a basic knowledge of maths up to standard 12.It would be wrong to state that the test was favourable to students of a particular stream.”

As the exam took place between October 11 and November 6, CAT candidates got different papers. After this, scores are normalised and students get a percentile. This, experts state, is a matter of concern as the process of normalising the marks was not disclosed to the students.

However, Vasnani mentioned that even if the normalising process was made known to him, he would not be satisfied. He says that luck plays a huge role in this test. “My strong points are ratio and proportion, time and work, and time and distance. But the paper I got consisted of questions mainly in algebra and geometry which caught me off guard.”

He believes that the paper/pencil test is fairer compared to the online test. “When the test revolves around one’s future, luck should not play such a huge role.”

Another student contradicted this and said, “A smart and hardworking student will anywhere make a cut. Luck certainly plays a role but one cannot say that it can change the entire game.”

Adding to this, Mr. Kanakadandi said, “It is all about preparedness. I always tell my students to expect surprises and ask them not to be unprepared or underprepared in any area.”