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L.Srikumar Pai
B.Sc( Engg.), MIE, MIWWA, MICI
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CAT - Common Admission Test
( A Test  to get admission in Indian Institute of Managements )

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The Common Admission Test (CAT) is an all-India test conducted by the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) as an entrance exam for the management programmes of its seven business schools. About 250,000 students took CAT in 2008  for about 1500 seats in the IIMs. This is said to make the IIMs more selective than the Ivy League Universities

The test is multiple-choice based with roughly one-fourth negative-mark penalties for wrong answers, and traditionally comprises three sections that span the domains of arithmetical problem solving, geometry, statistics, data interpretation, logical reasoning, puzzles, and English language skills. It is held on the third Sunday of November each year. The test duration was two hours prior to year 2006, but since 2006, it has been extended to two and a half hours. The total number of questions has varied from 180 (prior to year 2000) to 150 (from 2001 to 2003) and has gradually decreased to 75 (in 2006 and 2007). However, in 2008 the number of questions increased once again and became 90 (40 in Verbal Ability and 25 each in Quantitative Aptitude and Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation). This trend has seen the CAT evolve from a speed-based test to an exam that evaluates fundamental abilities of candidates in the aforementioned areas.

The CAT is the first step for admission to the IIMs. After the test, by the second week of January next year, the IIMs declare exam scores and put up a list of candidates who are eligible for the next stage of a group discussion for some IIMs and an individual interview. The scores are relative and are calculated on a percentile basis for individual sections as well as for the total. Candidates invited for the next stage usually possess total scores that are in excess of 99 percentile and, more importantly, also possess balanced high scores across all the individual sections.

CAT (as it is most commonly known across India) has evolved from a speed based simple test into a test which demands more proficiency in concepts and fundamentals.

Earlier CATs (prior to year 2000) had 180 questions to be solved in 2 hours. For the years 2001, 2002, and 2003 the paper consisted of 3 sections of 50 questions per section.

In 2004, the IIMs introduced the concept of differential marking for the first time. The paper had 123 questions in three sections with 50 English, 35 Mathematics, and 38 Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning. The 2005 CAT contained 90 questions, 30 in each section, each having subsections containing questions with different numbers of marks.

CAT 2006, conducted on 19 November, was a 2.5-hour exam instead of the traditional 2-hour exam. The test had 75 questions, 25 questions per section and 4 marks per question, making it a 300-mark paper. There was a penalty of 1 mark for a wrong answer. The paper also proved to be a break from the previous pattern in that it had 5 answer options instead of the usual 4. The English section was generally perceived as difficult,[3] whereas the quantitative aptitude section was relatively easier than previous CATs as well as in comparison to the other two sections.

In 2007, the CAT exam was held on Sunday, 18 November. It contained 25 questions in each of the three sections, each question having 1 mark negative for each wrong answer and 4 marks for the correct answers. The total marks were 300. This was the same pattern as CAT 2006.

The CAT paper of 2008 was a contrast as compared to 2007. It had 40 questions in English and in all 90 questions (25+25+40). For the first time a higher weightage was attributed to one of the sections. Maths for CAT08 was simpler but was full of tricks and prone silly mistakes. DI sections for 2008 was the toughest of the three. The 40 questions in English had been evenly divided for Verbal Ability(VA) and Reading Comprehension(RC). RC was easier as compared to 2007 whereas VA was tough.(CAT08 results were declared on 9 January 2009)

For CAT 2009 it has been announced by the IIM's that there will be 60-70 questions. The test taker will have 2 hours and 15 minutes to attempt the test. A 15 minute tutorial will be given to familiarize the test taker with the computer test taking environment. Another interesting development is that this time all candidate must sign a NON DISCLOSURE AGREEMENT before attempting the test. This will legally prohibit them from revealing any aspect of the test be it the quantum or difficulty level of the questions, the pattern, or any other knick knacks about the same. Violation of this legally punishable by a fine up to 2 lac INR and/or up to 3 years imprisonment. What this effectively means that those who take the CAT at a later date in the testing window will have no additional advantage over the earlier test takers. How much is this law followed, remains to be seen.

CAT 2009
The first ever computer based CAT conducted by Prometric during 28'th nov-7'th dec created a lot news, mostly for the wrong reasons. On the one hand, technical glitches attributed to hardware problems and virus attacks made sure that around 8,000 students were not able to appear in CAT in their allotted slots, on the other hand a lot of controversy around depreciated standards, repeated questions and different difficulty level for different slots ensured that people started demanding to have a paper based retest.

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Some of the more prominent colleges which accept CAT scores for admission are:

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