CAT 2020 pattern change that was announced by the IIMCAT helpdesk seems like yet another offshoot of how adaptive life has been ever since the new normal began. There are a bunch of changes that have been announced, but the one that caught almost all of us off guard was the reduction in the duration of the examination.
We have been seeing some sort of announcement or the other for the last ten days. In fact, we do have a list of them all.
The exhaustive list of announcements (yet)
- 6 September – IIM Indore announced some important changes to the IPM selection process
- 9 September – XAT 2021 official notification was released
- 10 September – NMAT 2020 official announcement came out, with a bunch of ‘new normal adaptations’
- 14 September – Some new updates on SNAP 2020 were known
- 14 September – The changes in selection policy of IIM Kozhikode for the Batch of 2021-23 was announced
- 15 September – IIM Indore’s post-IPMAT process commenced with tight deadlines for submission of essays
- 15 September – IIMCAT announced changes to the pattern of CAT 2020 examination. Along with it came the deadline extension for CAT 2020 registration
Every new announcement invited a flurry of questions that had to be answered. But, the nail in the coffin was the announcement that came out yesterday. It created chaos of indescribable magnitude. Or like my team says, “Pandemonium ensued.” Obviously, CAT 2020 pattern change has been the biggest of all.
How do things stand in the new paradigm?
As of now, the changes in the duration of the examination and the number of slots are clear. We do not know anything yet about the number of questions in each section, and the overall number of questions.
What the CAT 2020 pattern change entails
The following table gives a clear picture of how CAT 2020 is going to be different from CAT 2019 (or CAT 2018 and 2017).
|Parameter||CAT 2020||CAT 2019|
|Number of examination slots||3||2|
|Duration of examination||120 minutes||180 minutes|
|Duration for each section – VARC, DILR and QA||40 minutes||60 minutes|
CAT 2020 pattern change – Some perspectives
While it is human to fret and panic, there are certain very pragmatic ideas that all CAT 2020 aspirants need to keep in mind.
1) CAT pattern change and the periodicity
The CAT examination pattern usually changes once in four to five years. This examination has gone from pen-and-paper to online over the years. So, going from a 3-hour examination to a 2-hour exam is not that big of a change, when you zoom out and look from afar.
This is not rocket science. By all means, change was probably already coming, and the pandemic just accelerated the change.
2) The basic idea behind CAT remains the same
There is a crying need to make the differentiation between the structure of CAT 2020 and the framework. Though we do not have any idea on the number of questions yet, we can clearly see that the overall framework of the exam is going to be the same.
CAT has been an examination that tests basic English comprehension skills, along with Math abilities and solving a few puzzles. It was the same in 1980, and has been the same after every passing decade, up until now.
3) You have not lost anything
If you have taken n number of mocks with the 3-hour pattern, there is nothing to worry. Rest assured, you have probably built up the mindset to sit through a mock, be it for two or three hours. The resilience to handle a bad CAT mock score, the strategy to improve sectional and overall score, and the efforts that have gone into preparation have not gone waste.
Do not have this thought that you were preparing for some notional examination. No preparation goes to waste, and yours will not, too.
4) Have not started taking mocks yet? You have a gift
In any other CAT season, I would have definitely be critical of people who have not started taking mocks even with 75 days to go for the D-Day. I am critical even now. But, you have been given a chance now.
You can probably take a look at others who are already neck deep in mocks, and think they were preparing for some other examination. Now, you have been given a chance to level up. This is a Godsend. Make sure to capitalize on this change.
Does this mean all is well, and that there is no need to worry at all?
Of course, absolutely. If you have survived this pandemic, and have been preparing for a competitive examination from the confines of your home, all if well, of course.
Coming to the second part of the question, you do not need to worry. There is a subtle difference between worrying about the impending and imminent changes, and adapting to those changes. Worry is not taking us anywhere. Adaptability does and will.
So, what are the changes you have to make in terms of your preparation?
This is a good question. In fact, that is exactly the primary reason I am typing this out.
CAT 2020 pattern change, and the adjustments in preparation
The word, ‘adjustment’ is crucial here. You do not need to start anything from scratch. The situation is not as bad as you imagine it to be.
1) Mock CATs in the new format
All the providers in the CAT preparation business are going to take some time to refurbish the mocks and publish the new ones. At this point, since there is no clarity on the number of questions per section, we need to wait it out. The official announcement on the same will be released on 20 September 2020 (Sunday).
Anybody who says they have a fair idea on how the examination pattern would look like should be viewed with an eye of suspicion.
The idea is that all of you must be prepared for the new pattern. This means that you should take adequate number of mocks in the new format. There are no two ways about it; this is mandatory.
2) Question selection is the key factor
As you prepare from now on, you must be very particular about question selection. And, this becomes especially crucial when it comes to the DILR section. You simply would not have enough time to bounce back from a setback. In 60 minutes, you could. In 40 minutes, it is highly unlikely.
The accuracy and question selection are going to be significant determiners of who comes on top of this new examination pattern. So, be very wary about selecting the right passages, puzzles and problems.
3) Practice flying off the block
As always, there is a cricket metaphor I can immediately think of. CAT 2020 is going to be the T20 version of the earlier CATs, which resembled ODIs (if not Tests).
What does that mean?
Just like the stadium, bat, ball and the other conditions, the examination, competition and venues will remain the same. What changes is the nature of play.
You cannot afford to ease into the exam
Oftentimes, there are two kinds of candidates writing CAT examination.
- The first category comprises people who take time to get into the examination mode and to set themselves up for the rigour.
- The second category consists of those who fret about time, start staring at the timer during the last five minutes of each section, get petrified, and do nothing.
You cannot afford to do both this time around. So, when you take mocks, remember that this is a T20 game. IPL is about to start, so let the T20 idea be with you for your CAT preparation as well.
There is no option of losing time oscillating between questions. It is going to prove to be a rabbit-hole, even if then umber of questions are reduced. Make sure to choose a set or puzzle or a Quant sum, and get it done.
Shed your ego
Though generally true for life, this holds the highest relevance in the context of CAT 2020 pattern change at this point. Do not be adamant about wanting to answer all the questions of a DILR puzzle or a VARC passage. If you think there are certain questions that are difficult, move on. This was true for the 60-minute sections. And, this is going to be truer for the 40-minute sections.
The CAT 2020 registration deadline has been extended by a week. It now ends on 23 September 2020 at 5 pm. If you have not registered already, do not wait for the new last date to stare at your face. Register early and keep preparing.
Also, we reached an important milestone yesterday, amidst all the ruckus. 100,000 subscribers for our YouTube channel. Thank you for all your love, support and trust.
Stay safe, adapt to the new normal (in CAT and in life), and best wishes for CAT 2020!
Rajesh Balasubramanian takes the CAT every year and is a 4-time CAT 100 percentiler. He likes few things more than teaching Math and insists to this day that he is a better teacher than exam-taker.