Anyone who has ever heard about CAT exams knows that they are a big deal for Indian students, but do you know what exactly is this examination testing, and what is the big hoopla all about?
CAT stands for Common Admission Test, and it's a computer based MBA entrance test held in all of India. It is seen as a gateway to the most prestigious IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) and other B-schools, like the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad or the Faculty of Management Studies in Delhi.
Needless to say, that makes CAT a highly competitive examination. The benefits from graduating with an MBA from those schools are believed to be phenomenal, so each year hundred of thousand ambitious Indian graduates, postgraduates and professionals rush to apply.
CAT is conducted every year during a 21 day testing period in October and November. The results are declared in January.
To be eligible for CAT, a candidate must hold a Bachelor degree, with at least 50% marks or the equivalent, as calculated based on the practice followed by the university from where the candidate has obtained the degree.
The exam itself consists of three sections: Quantitative Aptitude (Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Commercial Mathematics), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning, and Verbal Ability (Reading Comprehension, Verbal Logic, Vocabulary and Grammar Correction).
For each section, a candidate reads the questions on a computer terminal and chooses the answers by clicking on the correct option. He will have seventy minutes to answer thirty questions within each section of the test, while the countdown time is displayed on his screen.
Generally speaking, every correct answer will gain him four marks, every wrong answer will result in one negative mark, and the unanswered questions will be left unmarked. For each section, a candidate must secure the minimum marks to qualify for that section, and eventually for the CAT. To earn calls for group discussions and personal interviews by IIMs, candidates must secure both the sectional and overall cut-offs in the test.
A candidate can choose the testing venue during the registration, but cannot choose his workstation. It's not allowed for a candidate to take the test more than once a year. You are allowed to reschedule the exam, but you can't cancel it.
The task of conducting the CAT examination is given to a different IIM each year based on the rotation policy, while the computer based test (CBT) administration has been entrusted to the American test administration company Prometric.