The short answer to the question above is – nothing and everything! ‘Nothing’ in the sense that anything particular you expect may leave you disappointed if it does not happen, and ‘everything’ in the sense that you need to prepare for all probable, if not possible, scenarios that CAT-2021 may actually entail. A test series that really sets you up in a manner that you are not surprised in the actual CAT forms a crucial part of your answer to how to prepare for CAT.
Even though CAT has become relatively more predictable over the past several years in terms of the number of sections (3, namely VARC, DILR and QA) and their relative weights (nearly equal with DILR just a tad lower than the other 2), each year brings up something new and not entirely expected.
Reasons for variation in CAT exam across years:
- Some reasons are predictable in nature. Each year CAT is conducted by a different IIM, and a different CAT committee oversees it. That is bound to induce some variation in their approach and hence, in the final exam. CAT-2021 is being conducted by IIM Ahmedabad, which last conducted it in 2015. So, while the reason of variation is predictable (rotation of members), the impact thereof is not strictly predictable.
- There is no way to know the actual difficulty level unless a lot of data is tested (which basically means the exam is conducted). Even as every examiner tries to set a balanced test, his/her understanding of the difficulty level can be biased or incomplete, because they know the right answer while creating the question. This error of judgment can cause a section to be far easier or tougher than normal. It can also affect other things such as question types, length of passages or the level of language thereof.
- External factors such as COVID that caused CAT-2020 to be a 2-hour test instead of the standard 3 hours can also come into play once in while. Even though it is likely to have been a one-off event, we do not know what the situation may be later this year or if they might just feel that “well, it saves a day, decreases logistics and still gives us the filters we need – so, why not keep it like this.”
- Random factors – there have been instances of a particular question type not appearing in CAT for over a decade before making a sudden appearance again, much to the surprise of most. Similarly, the balance between DI and LR in the DILR section tends to vary across years.
What an ideal CAT Test Series Must Include:
Given all this, and a lot more, the mock CAT series (AIRCAT Series for MBAGuru students) has to expose you to:
- Variations in difficulty levels, question types across sections including, for example, passage lengths, language levels in VARC.
- Variations in time duration and total number of questions (till the CAT-2021 committee confirms the plan for this year)
- Randomness and surprises, so that you learn to adapt. Remember, that the basic skills being tested remain the same – and will remain the same even on the final day. It is how well you adapt to what challenge is presented to you that counts. That is what an ideal CAT test series should present you with.
Over the next several weeks, I will write to you about how can you make the most of your mock CATs, how to analyse them, the pitfalls and traps you must avoid (including the obsession with percentiles :)). I will also share stories of students who improved massively and really rocket at the real CAT by not allowing bad scores in mock CATs to derail their online preparation for CAT!
About the author: Deekshant has sleep-walked through several 100 and 99.9 %iles in practically every section of the CAT. That he is a cricket fan and he writes okay is evident from most of his posts. 1000s of our students swear that he can motivate almost anyone to double his/her percentile through very simple yet powerful inputs. And that’s why every MBAGuru student has direct access to him via mail and Telegram. Oddly, he somehow also finds the time to write songs professionally. And yes … almost missed this … he is an alumnus of IIT Delhi & IIM Cal