How hard is the CAT exam?
The CAT Exam or the Common Admission Test is the gateway into the prestigious and reputed IIMs which are the top B- schools in India. Every year approximately 2 Lakh+ aspirants do CAT Exam Registration. Among which only 1.25-1.5 Lakh aspirants appear for the CAT Exam. The biggest question that arises in every aspirant’s mind is “How hard is the CAT exam?” & “Will I be able to crack the CAT 2021 exam with 99+%ile?” Well, before diving into these questions, let’s look at the CAT Exam pattern first.
The CAT exam is held mostly in the month of November every year comprising of 2 sessions. The exam comprises of three sections and 100 questions in total. The three sections are Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC), Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation (DILR), and Quantitative Ability (QA).
In these, the sections of VARC and Quants have 34 questions each and DILR has 32 questions. Each question is of 3 marks and there is a negative marking of -1 for every incorrect MCQ. There is no negative marking for subjective answers. The exam is of 3 hours duration with 1 hour for each section.
So, without any further delay, let’s look at all the factors and analyze How hard is the CAT exam.
FACTOR- 1: Is this duration of the CAT exam an issue?
Aspirants get a little alarmed because of the time period of the exam. They think that they have to literally attempt all the questions in that given time. But it is not so. You do not have to attempt each and every question but only those which consume less time and are easy to score at. The CAT exam is set in such a way that it is impossible to attempt each and every question because it is a part of their filtering process. Attempt the questions that pertain to your strong areas. During the Online CAT 2021 preparation, one first needs to understand the Percentile System that is allotted in the final merit. Percentile is the relative marking scheme that is awarded as per the highest marks that is scored by the topper.
Let’s look at the Section-wise analysis of the CAT Exam.
Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC) for CAT
The difficulty level of the Verbal Ability section or the VARC Section in the CAT exam is comparatively lesser than that in XAT or GMAT though it is increasing each year. This section majorly consists of Reading Comprehension passages, Para – jumbles, Para summary, Sentence Completion and correction, Odd sentences, Fill in the Blanks, Word Usage (Vocabulary).
Out of these topics, CAT RC passages seem to be quite tough for the candidates. There are around 5 RC passages and you need to have good reading practice in order to attempt those properly. Para Jumbles for CAT are sort of an indispensable part of this section. They are easy to score and also easy to lose marks, depends on which side do you stand on. Knowledge of basic rules of grammar is pertinent and necessary here. If your hold on grammar is not good, you will lose marks in questions of para jumbles.
You should have good reading practice and a good understanding of vocabulary and grammar in order to score marks in this section as this section can be the easiest to score in. You can easily get a high percentage in the CAT exam if you score highly in this section.
Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR) for CAT
The DILR section for CAT majorly consists of Seating Arrangement and Data Arrangement, Blood Relations, Syllogisms and Venn Diagrams, Clocks and Calendars, Puzzles, Data Sufficiency, Tables and Caselets, Assumptions and Binary Logic and Graph related questions.
The DILR questions are found to be very tricky by every candidate. The questions are lengthy, consume a lot of time and are a little bit complex too. You have to keep complete focus and concentration and try not to devote too much time on one question.
A candidate who likes to solve puzzles and has a penchant for brain teasers can work on this and do well. This section requires speed and an attitude for solving these questions. The best way to get command over this section is to practice as many questions as you can because practice is the only way to know about the different types of questions that are possible, as there can be various combinations of how a single question can be asked, and get a good grasp on it.
Try to improve upon this section if you are weak in Quants. Also remember that sectional cut – offs matter in the final merit list of some Top B-Schools in India, so pay attention to it too.
Quantitative Ability (QA) for CAT
The QA section for CAT consists of a variety of questions based on topics like Number System, Basic Arithmetic, Probability, Profit, Loss and Discounts, Permutations and Combinations, Geometry and Mensuration, Time, Speed and Distance, Simple Interest and Compound Interest, Time and Work, Algebra and Trigonometry, Logarithms and Sets.
Students who have an Engineering background score quite well in this section as this is their comfort zone. Students with non – engineering backgrounds find it hard to score well in this section but it is not impossible. The candidates need to identify the easy questions and attempt those first to save time. A bit of good strategy and good planning goes a long way, particularly in this section.
Each candidate should practice a lot of questions to score well in the QA section for CAT. This will help in understanding the basics as well as improve the speed of attempting the questions. Remember to always start with the questions that you find easy and then move on to the difficult ones because even a slight change in this section has a lot of impact on the sectional percentile.
How hard is the CAT exam: After analyzing all the three sections for the CAT exam, we can safely say that the Section Wise cutoff does not make this exam tough or hard to crack.
FACTOR- 2: Comparison of CAT exam with other academic pursuits
1. The CAT exam is easier than GMAT
GMAT is Graduate Management Admission Test. If anyone is applying for an MBA outside India then he/she may be asked to take GMAT as well as CAT. Preparing for GMAT might help in the preparation for CAT too but you still might have to take up CAT preparation separately.
This is because, in the Quants section, both the exams are approximately the same in their difficulty level. In respect of the Verbal Ability sections, the CAT VA section is much easier than that of GMAT as in CAT, most of the questions are not entirely grammar-based but in GMAT the main focus is on Grammar testing. For the Reasoning sections, both exams have big differences. In CAT it is Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning, in GMAT it is Integrated Reasoning which is accepted globally as much harder than CAT.
2. The CAT Is (Mostly) as Hard as Secondary School
You will find the CAT exam as easy or as hard as your secondary school was if you were good at your mathematics subject. The important issues are:
- Time: The time factor would be different as you will have less time for the exam than that of your high school.
- Recollection: It would be quite difficult to recall everything that was taught in high school because quite a long time has elapsed since then.
- Format: The format of the CAT exam is such that two concepts which you think could not fit together will be synchronized in a way to form a meaningful question.
3. The CAT Is (Slightly) Easier than (Most) Universities
If you had chosen the humanities subjects in your graduation including English, then you would find the English section in CAT a lot easier. On the other hand, maths gets way tougher in CAT than in college. But if you had a course full of maths like engineering, then you will find the CAT Quant section way easier. So unless you had a college course comprising a little bit of all the three sections, you will have to make your acquaintance with a lot of information relevant for the CAT exam.
Some Important Aspects of the CAT Exam
For aspirants during their Online Preparation for the CAT exam, it is crucial to understand that the CAT Exam has a higher difficulty level as compared to other management entrance exams like NMAT, CET, SNAP. So here are some important aspects to crack CAT:
1. Attempt Rate:
Do not fret over the fact that you would e unable to attempt all the questions as they are difficult in the given time duration. The examiners do not expect you to attempt the whole paper. They just want to check your “management skills” by observing how you manage your time and which strategy do you choose to opt for the easy and less time-consuming questions and leave the difficult ones accordingly. Do not waste your time on the difficult questions. Scan the section in which you have difficulty, select the questions you find easy, and attempt them by leaving the rest. This way you will save a lot of time.
You should first focus on choosing the right questions and answer them. This way you are already saving time. But keep in mind to maintain the overall attempt rate as well. You can improve upon your speed just by practicing. Take Mock Tests regularly and as frequently as you can.
You have to remember that there is negative marking so you do not need to attempt all the questions but answer few questions with full accuracy. So choose and answer the questions wisely.
Conclusion: How Hard is the CAT exam?
After analyzing all the factors and looking at a detailed Section Wise structure id the CAT Exam it is safe to say that the CAT Exam is easy for those who start their CAT preparation as early as possible no matter what the difficulty level of the exam is. You just have to have a good strategy and lots of practice of the questions of all three sections and you will be capable enough to crack the CAT exam.
The CAT exam tests your reasoning and logical skills. It also tests your management skills. All these skills are indispensable to your management career. The exam tests your ability to pursue a career in management for which you are taking the exam in the first place. If you pursue a managerial career you need to know how to work under pressure, how to make decisions, and how to manage your time.
So just focus on your strategy and preparation. Do lots of practice by taking Mock Tests regularly, revise your basics, and keep calm during the exam.
To make the best out of the Mock Tests for CAT during your Online CAT 2021 Preparation, read this article and boost your scores exponentially.
Still have any trouble, read this article on How to Crack CAT 2021.
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