Published: 29th November 2021
CAT 2021: How will CAT's new pattern affect your score this year?
It is no secret that test takers for CAT usually build unique strategies to successfully navigate through the exam based on their strengths and the exam difficulty itself
CAT 2021 by and large followed the same test pattern that was introduced in CAT 2020 considering the COVID-19 pandemic. The major change in CAT 2021 comes in the form of several questions in the exam. Taking into account the feedback by the majority of the test-takers of CAT 2020, the test organising institute for CAT 2021 (IIM Ahmedabad) lessened the load on the test-takers by reducing the number of questions in each of the three sections.
CAT 2020 saw a major change in the exam pattern when the entire duration of the exam was brought down to 120 minutes (previously 180 minutes) and each of the three sections was set for 40 minutes (previously 60 minutes). The test takers were exposed to 26 questions in Section 1 (VA/RC), 24 questions in Section 2 (DI/LR) and 26 questions in Section 3 (QA) which totalled 76 questions for the 2-hour CAT 2020 paper.
It is no secret that test takers for CAT usually build unique strategies to successfully navigate through the exam based on their strengths and the exam difficulty itself. A primary data point for building these strategies lies in the number of questions in each section. For example, it is common for the test taker to keep an average target time of 3 minutes to crack a question in the Quantitative Aptitude (QA) Section. Though this sounds straightforward, we should also consider the time the test taker takes to navigate through the section and identify questions that they should be answering in the first place.
The reduced number of questions in CAT 2021 is definitely aimed at boosting the test takers morale due to the strong feedback that was put forth for CAT 2020. At the end of the day, the pattern is the same for everyone and the percentile score is based on everyone’s performance put together rather than an individual's performance.
CAT 2021 Morning Slot Analysis
CAT 2021, in the morning slot, was on expected lines with not many surprises as far as the pattern goes. The difficulty, overall, for CAT 2021 in the morning slot was slightly on the higher side compared to that of CAT 2020 overall, which also was a two-hour paper. The VARC section had 24 questions in the morning slot, a reduction of two questions from the last year. The questions were also very involved, with many of them asking the students to choose the options "except". The options were close and many of them were not easy to relate directly to the passage/question.
The verbal ability questions, on the other hand, can be said to have provided some relief to the students who were stumped by the RC passages/questions. There were a couple of easy ones in the PFQs that the students should have attempted, due to their short length and simple comprehension that was needed. Links connecting the sentences were clear and apparent. The OMO questions, however, were tough, but students could afford to take a guess with these as they are non-MCQs.
The LRDI section of the morning slot was at least as difficult as that of the papers last year. Some may have found it more challenging due to the number of sets now being only four instead of the five last year. The 20 questions in the section came from just two four-question sets and two six-question sets. The reduction of one set caused a drop in the choice of sets available to the students. Combined with this, that there was only one easy set out of the four, made matters tough for the students in terms of which another set to select – this is of course, after one has identified the easy set (the set on the bar graph) to do upfront.
The set on bar-graphs could be considered the easiest across the CAT LRDI papers over the past few years. The data was straightforward and easy to understand with no logical complications. Reading the graph was slightly tough. But this difficulty was easily offset by the direct and simple questions in the set. This is the set in this paper that one should not have missed, even though it had only four questions.
The set on Friends & Acquaintances needed the students to work with an 8x8 grid and check for additional variations/cases. However, once the given information is input into the grid after understanding it thoroughly, applying some amount of reasoning makes the set crackable.
The set on smoothies, though having numbers that are not so complex to handle, can be classified as difficult. While a couple of the questions in the set can be solved with some moderate effort, the remaining two demanded exertion, pushing the difficulty level of this set higher. The two sets above could be the sets that the students should pick up to solve after having solved the set on bar graphs.
The set on Journals had multiple data points and many may have dropped this set due to the sheer complexity of the information available. However, those who persisted with it would have found out that the information falls into place after having put in some effort. This, though would have been very time consuming and hence, makes this set a prime candidate to be dropped or left to be dealt with towards the end of the section.
A net score of 16-18 would be a decent score for a test-taker to be able to get 85 percentile (sectional cut-off).
The Quant section surprised students with a lesser number of questions compared to the VARC section. 22 questions were present in this section, two lower than that of the VARC section.
Many questions in the section appeared very doable at the outset but demanded increased effort and conceptual clarity from the students for them to be able to eventually solve them successfully. Several question could have proven to be more time consuming than expected initially.
The topics of Geometry and ERPV had the highest representation in this slot with three questions each. Numbers, a popular topic, was conspicuously underrepresented in contrast to the usual expectations.
Questions were cleverly framed to test conceptual clarity and smartness in approach. A few questions also allowed substitution from the options to help students save time.
A net score of 21-23 would be a decent score for a test-taker to be able to get 85 percentile (sectional cut-off).
CAT 2021 Afternoon Slot Analysis
CAT 2021, in the afternoon slot, was similar to that seen in the morning slot, and was on expected lines with no surprises as far as the pattern goes.
A net score of 22-24 would be a decent score for a test-taker to be able to get 85 percentile (sectional cut-off).
Sathyanarana, CAT Head, Chennai, T.I.M.E and Pradeep Pandey, Academic Head, T.I.M.E. Delhi