Cracking the hassle free CAT this year

From flexible time limit to an increase in the number of cities the test will be administered. This year's CAT exam seems to be aspirant-friendly finds out Prachi Rege

The Common Admission Test (CAT), taken by scores of management aspirants in India, is set to increase its bandwith. To begin with, the exam centres which were present in only 45 cities earlier, are slated to increase up to 90 cities this year onwards. "Earlier students from cities with no exam centre had to travel to other cities to take the test. With an increase in the number of centres, more candidates will get an opportunity without any hassle," says Manish Salian, academic head, CPLC, Mumbai. According to Kirti Sharma, assistant professor, MDI Gurgaon, "It’s an effort to make CAT more aspirant-amiable examination."

Another major change this year is the duration of the test. Earlier CAT was conducted over a period of 40 days, this year on it will be conducted over a period of two days with four slots within an interval of five days (November 16 and November 22). Ofcourse there are pros and cons of this modification. Speaking of the pros, experts feels that now the CAT will be a more normalised and a less complicated test. "IIMs must have felt the need to curtail the number of test days to give credibility to the written test scores," says Salian.

Previously CAT used to be a 140 min test with 70 minute compulsory time limit for each of the two subject section—Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation and Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning. Under the new format, it is a 170 mintue examination, with no compulsory time limit to solve any sections. "This gives the participant the flexibiltiy to navigate between subjects," explains Salian. While on one side the aspirant has an advantage of going back-and-forth between sections, the extra 30 minute could result in increase in anxiety of finishing the test.

Another key change is an increase in the number of questions from 30 to 50 in each section. This combined with the flexibile time, an aspirant can make effective use of his/ her subject strength and try to score high. "In my opinion as the current change allows an extra month for preparation, it’s a blessing for those who were planning to give the test in October," says Sharma.

Experts advise CAT aspirants to not make major changes in preparation. The key to perform is to get the basics right. "Analyse the previous year’s question paper to get an idea about the difficulty level of the examination," suggests Sharma. Salian believes that the changes in the pattern brings back the paper-and-pen test version of CAT, in its online avatar. "Now that you have ample time on hand concentrate on time management and solve as many questions as you can of the subject which is your forte," he signs off.


  • Concentrate and plan to study section wise: Aspirants can move between sections but avoid major overhaul while attempting the paper. Identify the important topics and practice regularly.
  • Mock/Practice test: Once the basic preparation is done, take practice tests to understand the strong and weak areas.
  • Managing time: There is a 67 per cent increase of questions, hence work on effective time management.
  • Managing Energy: The increase in time limit from 140 to 170 mintues could be a draining. So, manage the energy and stamina