Negative Marking in CAT

By Ulhas Vairagkar

CAT is one of the most popular examinations among students. However, there are many errors, which students tend to make while taking the exam. Following are some of the major errors made by CAT-takers along with suggestions on how to avoid them.

Clear Target

Unlike most other exams, B-schools accepting CAT are not looking for you to score a pre-specified or pre-determined score. They look for the percentile rank, i.e., students who can score more than others. The marks that a student can score will be lower for a tougher paper and vice versa.

If you set a target of a minimum score, you can be under pressure if you fail to reach the same in case of a tougher paper, and be complacent in case of an easier paper. Hence, set no target in terms of attempts or scores. Attempt as many questions as you are sure of. Keeping an open mind in this matter is the best approach.

Since the exam has negative marking for incorrect answers, the belief that more attempts will invariably get more marks is a dangerous one. Attempting more questions, using elimination techniques is ok, but blind or wild guessing is clearly a no-no. Number of possible attempts for you will depend upon the difficulty level / the time it takes you to solve a question.

Blind Focus

Each of the two sections in CAT 2012 will include two areas – section I will include quant and data interpretation, while section II will include verbal and logical reasoning. Focusing too much on your favourite area in any of the sections may mean less time available for the other areas.

Divide your time judiciously in proportion to the number of questions in the two areas. Further, since each area is likely to have a mix of easy and difficult questions, focusing more on any one area will result in loss of scoring opportunities in the other.

Most students lose the battle of CAT when they spend too much time on one or more questions. This typically happens when you are strong in some subjects/chapters and you believe that you should be able to solve almost every question from this topic. It is a good idea to have an ‘exit time’ of about two and a half to three minutes for every question attempted. If you are not close to the answer by this time limit, leave the question and move on. Control your ego. Even if you solve the question after seven to eight minutes, it will be a pyrrhic victory.

Scan the Paper

Scanning the paper will help you to know the paper structure and to identify the easier questions. Once you identify easy questions, you should attempt it first while leaving the more difficult ones for later or leaving them altogether. Attempting the questions sequentially without scanning the paper may result in you missing out on the easy questions towards the end or not having sufficient time to attempt these properly.

When attempting sets in DI/LR or RC passages, some students attempt all the questions of a particular set/passage, since they believe that all questions will be almost equally difficult or easy. This can backfire if you get stuck. It is ok if you have to leave out a relatively more time-consuming question from an RC / LR / DI set.

With the change in CAT pattern, it is likely that some of you may have ‘less than full’ confidence in the first ‘quant’ section. If this is true for you, do not judge your performance in the quant section by your number of attempts. If you attempt fewer questions, it could also be due to your slot having a higher difficulty level.

Further, less number of attempts may not mean that you have done badly in the first section since ‘equating’ will ‘moderate’ the scores and take care of higher difficulty levels. You may therefore get unnecessarily demoralised thinking that you have done badly in the first section and lose your confidence and motivation to do well in the second section.

Till the final 4,200th second of the second section is over, believe that you will crack it. In any case, you will know how you have done only around January 9, 2013, when the results will be out.

Since CAT will take place for about a month in 42 slots, if you go by the number of attempts others have made or difficulty level of paper reported by earlier test-takers and plan your strategy accordingly, you can get into trouble since the paper in your slot could be of a different difficulty level. Once again, taking CAT without having any pre-conceived notion whatsoever and with an open mind is strongly recommended.

Lastly, keep your curiosity level under control and do not discuss specific questions if you have taken CAT – it could put you behind bars.

(The writer is director, T.I.M.E, Delhi)

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