The official announcement on CAT 2020 is out. With it comes the questions of what happens next, how would the exam be conducted, and more.
CAT Prep (and hence the impending CAT 2020, scheduled on 29 November 2020) and the prevalent COVID pandemic have a lot of aspects in common, if you have not noticed the similarities already.
- Both induce a fear of uncertainty and helplessness
- Both require human beings (in the case of CAT, just the aspirants) to stay put and focus on what best can be done
- Neither with COVID nor with CAT can you afford to take risks. Diligent precautions are necessary for the former, while meticulous preparation is mandatory for the latter
There are other grim metaphors which I do not want to veer into, so let me stop with that. Most of us are stuck at home, wondering when things would be back to normal. Now that the CAT 2020 announcement is out, let us first look at the list of important dates.
The important dates for CAT 2020
- 5 August 2020 (10 am) – Registration for CAT 2020 begins
- 16 September 2020 (5 pm) – Registration for CAT 2020 ends
- 28 October 2020 (10 pm) – CAT 2020 Admit Card can be downloaded
- 29 November 2020 – CAT 2020 Test Day
But the most interesting part of the CAT 2020 announcement is the ‘Disclaimer’ in the website, which reads:
The Common Admission Test (CAT) 2020 is to be conducted taking into account the COVID-19 crisis. The information provided on the CAT 2020 website is contingent upon the decisions and directions issued from time to time by the Central, & State Governments, and CAT Group. Candidates are advised to regularly check CAT websites for further information.
The announcement – and the uncertainty – that is visibly palpable makes one wonder: “What does CAT Prep in times of work-from-homes (I have started developing a profound hatred for the abbreviation – WFH), social distancing, lockdowns getting extended period after period amidst exponential increase in the number of positive cases, repeat telecasts of the same sets of movies and serials over and over, and the increased usage of YouTube and Netflix look like?”
Things that remain the same
1) CAT Exam
The last Sunday of November, the traditional day of CAT in the recent past, remains the date of exam this year as well. It happens to be 29 November 2020. The two slots regime, the three hour routine are all in place. And, the exam is going to be conducted in exam centers, as per the official CAT 2020 announcement. There are exactly 4 months, and this is going to be non-negotiable for each and every CAT aspirant.
2) CAT Syllabus
We can keep arguing about the level of difficulty and how things are probably going to be pretty chaotic this year.
CAT is going to be what it is, with or without COVID.
The syllabus remains the same, the structure of CAT is going to be the same. The three-section grind, the sets of 100 questions, the positives and negatives, the deceiving VARC options, the seemingly easy but dubiously difficult DILR puzzles, the Quant sums that would elude one irrespective of the level of CAT prep one has put into all remain the same.
3) The Prerequisites
Since the syllabus for CAT remains the same, the prerequisites should too. This translates to a three-phase cycle, which Bharath (of the Curated Reading List fame) talks about in his take on ‘The Art of Revision’.
- Phase 1 involves 80% preparation and 20% revision
- Phase 2 consists of 50% preparation and 50% revision
- Phase 3 is the final lap which comprises 1% preparation and 99% revision
Things that have changed
1) How CAT coaching takes place
Nobody foresaw the COVID pandemic hitting the world mercilessly with relative ease; but CAT Prep has to go on, just like life. While some prep institutes have faced the bitter end of the spectrum, 2IIM has come on top of the situation with the seamless transition into the online mode of teaching. There has been no glitch or gap whatsoever in terms of the quality and efficiency of content and pedagogy.
2) How the aspirants view CAT and CAT Prep during COVID
This, in fact, is the major factor that seems to have transcended beyond imagination. What exactly is bothering everyone, ever since March?
Fear Of Missing Out
The paranoia of missing out on questions, answers and concepts bog many CAT aspirants down. This stems predominantly from the belief that others probably have more time to prepare than oneself. There is no doubt that people whose jobs are relatively less demanding than yours always exist.
That means you should keep repeating two things to yourself when FOMO kicks in (and this does not include muttering ‘All eeesss Well’, by the way. Just preempting).
(i) Your competition is not with others, but with yourself
There are arrays of aspects that determine the final verdict. These include your gender, your category, your work experience, your past academic records and so on. This effectively means that comparison with peers pales in comparison (ah, that usage of comparison was intentional) with the actual reality.
(ii) The territory of unknown is omnipresent
I have come across many people who do not seem to confront this bottom-line. How much ever you prepare, there is going to be that tricky DILR set, that intentionally difficult Quant sum, and the CAT 2019-esque VARC passages that would make your head swing.
Come to terms with the fact that the examination is the boss, more than anybody/anything else. If mastering this examination was easy, Rajesh would have maintained a 100% track record of 100%ile. You are not preparing for a recitation competition in your school annual day; you cannot memorize numerous pages and get away with a podium finish.
This is a competitive examination; give it the respect it deserves, and stay humble.
3) The overall ecosystem
The word, ‘Ecosystem’ is bound to trigger our environment-conscious brains to think ‘Go Green’; but that is not what I mean. ‘Ecosystem’ here refers to the situation we all find ourselves in.
Our homes have become the confines where both work and CAT prep happen in these times.
People complain about how the lockdown feels like being imprisoned. The flipside is thinking about a few positive aspects, some of which have already been laid out by Bharath in his article, here.
The advantage of home turf
Those who watch cricket or football (or any sport, for that matter) could relate to this term: ‘Home advantage’. Think Lord’s, think Eden Gardens, think Anfield, think Camp Nou. You can almost picturize the ecstasy of the home turf, right?
Now it is just a matter of perspective; you need to start applying the same philosophy to yourself and your CAT prep during COVID. For starters, answer the following questions for yourself:
- When was the last time all you had to do was work or prepare – no travel, no other chores?
- Have you realized you have (to) become your own manager, and this is the best time to put that managerial ability to experiment or utility?
- Has it ever occurred to you that you form part of a minority – a privileged minority – who can afford to work, prepare for examinations and also, in free time, complain (in Twitter, of course) about how abysmal things are? (In fact, Rajesh quips, “Get some perspective.”)
Home does not translate to just living with your parents or relatives. If you have a place where you get to live peacefully, oblivious to the hassles outside, you are home.
Whether you like it or not, this situation is not going to last forever. So, make the best use of this phase where home is all you got.
Stay safe, and best wishes for CAT 2020!
Written by Giridharan Raghuraman