Understanding the changes in CAT 2014

Understanding CAT 2014
While the CAT 2014 notification released on 27th July revealed a sea change in the test registration process, test centres, test window and result date, the official press release announced major changes in the test structure of the CAT. Ever since the CAT notification, we have received a slew of queries from prospective test-takers to know more about the changes. Read on to know the changes and their probable implications.


1. Test window down to 2 days from 21 days (spread over a month)

The CAT authorities have tried reducing uncertainties by cutting down the test window to just 2 days in November: November 16 & November 22, 2014. There will be 2 sessions on each of the two days - morning and afternoon.

Pros:
a. The change in the test dates will bring down the number of test slots to just 4. This will ensure more parity and fairness in the test and will make it more of a level playing field.
b. Questions like “should I take the test early or late during the window?”, “do percentiles vary based on the slot in which I take the test?” are now irrelevant.
c. There will now be lesser hearsay about test content, nature and difficulty on social networking websites - that only lead to confusing the minds of the already anxious test-takers.

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2. Test dates in November instead of October

CAT 2008 was conducted on November 16 and this year we are back to November 16 as the first of the two test dates. Over the last 5 years, the long test window necessitated the early start in October. But this year, we are back to having the test in November.

Pros:
This gives ONE additional month for preparation to all the CAT aspirants – so make up for the time lost so far and be better prepared to face the CAT.

Cons:
On the flip-side, students who were planning to take the test early so that they could then concentrate on other entrance tests or college exams will now have less time to adapt to these tests.




3. Tests will be conducted in 99 cities instead of 45

CAT 2014 is going to be held in 99 cities at 354 testing sites as against the previous year’s 45 testing cities with 76 testing sites.

Pros:
a. This will be highly beneficial to students residing in the test cities added this year and will probably be instrumental in pushing up the number of CAT registrations.
b. The anxiety of travelling to a new city, finding the test venue and ensuring that all goes well on the test day is now reduced for a lot of candidates who will now get to take the test in their home-cities!!


4. Application process goes fully online: offline purchase of vouchers discontinued

Until last year CAT applicants had the choice to purchase the CAT vouchers offline (at Axis Bank) and then complete the registration process online. But this year, all CAT aspirants need to compulsorily use the online payment option (Net banking/Credit Card/Debit Card) to complete their registration.

Pros:
a. This means no more standing in queues or taking out time to visit the bank to purchase a voucher. The entire registration process can be completed from the comfort of your home or office.
b. If you have never indulged in online transactions, this will be your first-time experience to make e-payments via net banking or credit/debit cards.

5. Takers are not choosers: you can no longer select preferred venue, date or time slot

CAT 2014 aspirants can only submit three test cities in order of their preference. The aspirant will not get to choose a preferred date, time-slot or venue. The test agency will randomly allot one of the preferred cities along with testing centre and time-slot to the aspirant after the registration period is over i.e. September 30, 2014.  

Pros:
Test takers do not need to rush to register their preferred date as that option is done away with this new system.

Cons:
a. Students lose the flexibility to decide when and where they wish to take the test. Students need to ensure that they are free on both the days and during both slots.
b. As the allotment is now as per a random algorithm, the test venue and the time-slot allotted might prove to be inconvenient for an aspirant – thereby creating unnecessary hassles on the D-day.


6. Results to be declared in December instead of January

The CAT results have been traditionally announced in January – this year the big news is that the results will be available in the 3rd week of December 2014!

Pros:
a. Early results may prove to be a boon for aspirants who need to decide which B-Schools they need to apply to (other than the IIMs) and also to those who need to have back-up options based on their performance in CAT.
b. Call-getters may now get extended time duration for their preparation for GD-WAT-PI, which may be conducted in the month of February.

Cons:
Lower test scores might hamper the student’s morale for other tests like the NMAT and XAT, which will be conducted after the results of CAT.


7. Questions in CAT 2014 increased from 60 to 100 & time duration from 140 to 170 minutes

As per an official press release, the number of questions in CAT 2014 is increased from 60 to 100 with 50 questions each in the two sections viz. Quant & DI and Verbal & LR. Further, the test duration has been increased from 140 minutes to 170 minutes.

Pros:
The time available per question might have reduced from 140 seconds per question to 102 seconds per question but this could make the test easier for the student. The test-setter might factor in this time-reduction while deciding the composition of the test with regard to level of difficulty of the test items. In other words, the aspirant can now expect more ‘doable’ questions in the test than were available in the 60 question format.

Cons:
A lengthier paper means more time with the test. Students might find more questions a tedious affair.


8. Section time-limits are done away with: Back to paper-based test culture!

One of the main grouses of most CAT aspirants was the presence of sectional time-limits in the CAT – this meant that the students could not play to their strengths or rationalize the usage of the total test-time available to them. But CAT 2014 is set to change all that with the removal of sectional time-limits. A test-taker can now navigate between two test sections and solve questions in any order.

Pros:
a. Test-takers will now have the flexibility to decide the order of preference while solving questions from different areas. CAT 2014 is likely to be a test of strategy as it used to be when the test was paper-based!!

b. Test-takers can now spend more time or less on a particular section or area based on their strengths and weaknesses.

Cons:
The flexibility to move between sections can prove to be a double-edged sword!! Frequent moving across sections, areas or questions with no real strategy in mind can lead to loss of momentum and prove to be detrimental to the overall test performance.


9. The test interface is changing: Get used to it!

With the reins of the test moving from Prometric to TCS, the look and feel of the test is bound to change. Test-takers (especially repeat-takers) will have to get used to the new interface. The 15 minute pre-test tutorial, which was available last year, will be absent this year.  

Pros:
CAT 2014 aspirants will have a tutorial available to them beforehand, to give them an idea of the actual Test.

Do you need to change your prep plan?

While the topics tested are expected to remain the same, this year the CAT may introduce new question types in view of the changed test structure with more questions in each section. So, while your basic preparation plan for concept learning and practice will necessarily remain the same, the test-taker should adapt to the implications of these changes. Further, all test-takers are advised to take sufficient number of simulated tests (i.e. SimCAT) before the actual test to get used to the test interface and software. Use the one extra month to spread out your test-taking phase with more time between mock-tests for feedback and analysis – remember taking too many tests without proper analysis always proves futile.

How will IMS help?

As always, IMS is committed to helping its students have the most effective and efficient preparation for their exams. Accordingly, IMS will give the students enough test practice based on the new test interface and test structure. SimCAT 1 and 2 were made available to the students as per the expected test interface immediately after the CAT Notification was released. All the remaining 8 classroom SimCATs and 15 take-home SimCATs will now be available as per the new test pattern. Even the section tests will be moved to the new test software to give the students enough and more practice with the expected test software. Further, the proctored SimCAT dates have been rescheduled to accommodate longer periods between tests to ensure more time for analysis and feedback. IMS will conduct a special workshop “Last Mile to CAT” not only to inform students about the impending changes in CAT but also to let them know how to be better prepared for the same.  



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