The Common Admission Test, or CAT—as it is more commonly known—has been a touchstone for thousands of aspirants seeking admission into India’s premier management schools, the Indian Institutes of Management.


However, since 2009, with the transformation of CAT from a paper-based test to a computer-based test, the conductors of the CAT, the IIMs, have taken efforts to modify and mold the test to ensure that only the crème de la crème of the applicants get an opportunity to apply for their coveted flagship two-year Post Graduate Programmes (PGP) in Management.


This year, for CAT 2015, which is being conducted by IIM Ahmedabad, a few drastic changes have been introduced to the exam pattern compared with that of CAT 2014. The following table lists the changes that will affect the exam taker and his/her preparation.


CAT 2014 CAT 2015
Exam Duration: 170 minutes Exam Duration: 180 minutes
Number of Sections: Two sections—(i) Quantitative Aptitude and Data Interpretation, and (ii) Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning Number of Sections: Three sections—(i) Quantitative Aptitude, (ii) Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning, and (iii) Verbal and Reading Comprehension
Section-based Time Constraint: In CAT 2014, this constraint, which was present in CAT 2013, was removed; applicants could toggle between sections. Section-based Time Constraint: In CAT 2015, this constraint has been reintroduced, and each section will be allotted 60 minutes; applicants cannot toggle between sections until the 60 minutes of the previous section expires.
Question/Answer Format: All questions were multiple-choice questions (MCQs). Question/Answer Format: Apart from the multiple-choice questions as in the previous year’s CAT exam, each section will have some non-MCQ descriptive questions as well, wherein the answer will have to be keyed in.
No On-Screen Calculator Available On-Screen Calculator Available



Though these changes are quite clear, but one may ask, how will it change the nature and difficulty of questions that will be asked in CAT 2015, which will be held on November 29.


The answer to the abovementioned question can be found in the following lines. To make it easier to understand the effects these changes will have, we have divided them into two broad headings, first, the introduction of the on-screen calculator, and second, the change in pattern and introduction of descriptive questions.


Introduction Of the On-Screen Calculator


1) It will be relatively s
impler to solve certain problems requiring calculations that can be performed using the calculator; this will reduce the time required to solve such questions.

Example: An anti- aircraftgun can take a maximum of four shots
at an enemy plane moving away from it. The probability of hitting the plane at the first, second, third and fourth shots are 0.4, 0.3, 0.2 and 0.1 respectively. What is the probability that the plane is hit at the end of the four shots being fired?


  1. a) 0.6872 b) 0.4379 c) 0.6976   d) None of these


The solution of this question requires many small but tedious decimal-based calculations, as is shown below:

Required probability = (0.4×0.7×0.8×0.9) + (0.6×0.3×0.8×0.9) + (0.6×0.7×0.2×0.9) + (0.6×0.7×0.8×0.1) + (0.4×0.3×0.8×0.9) + (0.4×0.7×0.2×0.9) + (0.4×0.7×0.8×0.1) + (0.6×0.3×0.2×0.9) + (0.6×0.3×0.8×0.1) + (0.6×0.7×0.2×0.1) + (0.4×0.3×0.2×0.9) + (0.6×0.3×0.2×0.1) + (0.4×0.3×0.8×0.1) + (0.4×0.7×0.2×0.1) + (0.4×0.3×0.2×0.1)


= 0.2016 + 0.1296 + 0.756 + 0.336 + 0.864 + 0.504 + 0.224 + 0.324 + 0.144 + 0.0084 + 0.0216 + 0.0036 + 0.0096 + 0.0056 + 0.002




With the availability of the on-screen calculator, this calculation will become relatively easier.


2) With the introduction of the calculator, it is probable that the questions related to Data Interpretation will shift their focus from questions requiring lengthy calculations based on the data to questions requiring visual deduction and involving relative relationships rather than lengthy calculations.


Example I: (From The following pie chart shows the percentage distribution of the expenditure incurred in publishing a book. Study the pie chart and the answer the questions based on it.

Various Expenditures (in percentage) Incurred in Publishing a Book

If for a certain quantity of books, the publisher has to pay INR 30,600 as printing cost, then what will be amount of royalty to be paid for these books?

  1. a) INR 19,450 b) INR 21,200 c) INR 22,950   d) INR 26,150


The solution for this question is Option (c) and this can be calculated as follows:

Let the amount of Royalty to be paid for these books be INR r

Then, 20 : 15 = 30600 : r
r = INR 30600 x 15  = INR 22,950.


Example I is the type of Data Interpretation question you can expect in CAT 2014; however, the following (Example II) may be the nature of questions that can appear in CAT 2015.


Example II: (From Manhattan Prep’s 5 lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems) Consider the following chart.



Which combination of activities burns the fewest calories total?

  1. a) A 130 pound person playing badminton for 1 hour and a 205 pound person playing table tennis for 1 hour.
  2. b) A 130 pound person wrestling for 1 hour and a 205 pound person running track and field, hurdles for 1 hour.
  3. c) A 130 pound person typing for 1 hour and a 205 pound person swimming the butterfly stroke for 1 hour
  4. d) A 130 pound person sailing in a competition for 1 hour and a 205 pound person doing aerobics for 1 hour
  5. e) A 130 pound person typing for 1 hour and a 205 pound person playing croquet for 1 hour



For each combination of activities, look at the minimum value on the chart for the 130 pound person and the maximum value on the chart for the 205 pound person.

  1. a) Badminton (minimum) + Table tennis (maximum) = 275 + 375 = 650
  2. b) Wrestling (minimum) + Track and field, hurdles (maximum) = 350 + 925 = 1,275
  3. c) Typing (minimum) + Swimming, butterfly stroke (maximum) = under 100 + 1025 = under 1,125
  4. d) Sailing, competition (minimum) + Aerobics (maximum) = 300 + 600 = 900
  5. e) CORRECT. Typing (minimum) + Croquet (maximum) = under 100 + over 225 = about 325


As you can see, Example I required referring to the pie chart just once, whereas Example II needed you to refer to the graph a few times. The difficulty of questions in CAT 2015 will possibly be higher than Example II, but you can expect questions to be more inclined on reading data from the graph/chart/table rather than performing calculations based on a set of information.


3) Because the introduction of the on-screen calculator will make it easier to perform many tedious calculations, it can be expected that more questions in CAT 2015 tend more to logical deduction and concept application.


The Change in Pattern and Introduction of Direct Questions


1) The introduction of the three-section pattern compared with the previous two-section pattern, with sections, namely Quantitative Aptitude; Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning; and Verbal and Reading Comprehension, will ensure that a person who is fairly good in quantitative reasoning and calculations cannot ignore the importance of verbal ability and comprehension, and rely on quantitative aptitude to secure a good percentile score. As reported in newspaper The Hindu Business Line, the Director of IIM-Rohtak P Rameshan feels the change in format may bring in more rationality and diversity in gender and academic background as there would be written answers too. It also quoted an anonymous IIM faculty, who said that the CAT exam has been criticized for being skewed towards candidates from engineering background but the changes could provide an “even field to candidates coming from different streams.”


2) The introduction of descriptive answers wherein one would have to key-in the answer directly without having multiple choices will widen the scope of questions, and therefore, the skills that can be tested in CAT 2015 by reducing the probability of “guessed answers” turning out to be right by a very big margin.

Compiled by: Anita Kishore, IIM A gold medalist. BYJU’S Senior Education Consultant

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