With the new pattern announced this year for the CAT exam, there are many questions that the students have related to preparing for it

This is the time of the year when CAT aspirants will be at the peak of preparation, with the exam under two months away. With the new pattern announced this year for the CAT exam, there are many questions that the students have about the way they need to prepare for it. Let us examine the changes and what they mean to the students in terms of their preparation.

The CAT 2011 will be for 140 minutes as against the 135 minutes last year. It will have only two sections instead of three. The first section has questions from Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation and the second section on Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning. Each section will have 30 questions.

These two sections will be implemented sequentially with separate time limits. The sections will have a time limit of 70 minutes each. After the first section, candidates will move to the second and cannot to go back to the first.

The students cannot submit the first section and move on to the second whenever they like but have to wait for the allotted 70 minutes to end, before moving on to the second section. They can submit the second section earlier than the allotted 70 minutes, but cannot leave their seats till all the students in the hall have submitted their tests. CAT is known to change its pattern regularly and the current pattern was used earlier in the ‘Paper and Pencil' days in 1996-97.

It is believed that the changes this year are to the advantage of the students in many ways.

The students are relieved of “time management” between sections, with the sections being timed individually. This was one of the crucial factors in the earlier CATs as the students had to show their competency in all the three sections within the allotted 135 minutes for the exam. Now, the exam has two sections with individual time windows of 70 minutes each. So, the students now need not worry about the time they spend on each area/section and can instead devote their attention to solving as many questions as they can. This will reduce the mental stress and is a big advantage to the students. This will, thereby, help in increasing the accuracy levels.

Candidates with specific areas of weakness can now expect a better shot at the IIMs. This is due to the combination of areas that the sections now have. Candidates can now compensate for a weak area in a section with the other area from the same section, thereby putting in a balanced performance overall. The students should not change the way they prepare because of the change in the pattern.

The basics and their application are still required and are going to be tested. Selective preparation of areas will be another trap that many students may fall in, due to the combination of areas. The students need to watch out for this.

To get used to the new pattern before the actual exam, taking mocks in the new pattern is very important.

Those who take mocks regularly and analyse them for areas of improvement stand a better chance in the CAT exam.The main focus of the students on the test day should be to maximise their score in the given 70 minutes for each section, without worrying anything about cut-offs, minimum number of attempts, composition of the section etc.