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IIM CAT 2004 - The wounded lion roars back

Why the big fuss? That questions carry unequal marks, we dont know the proportion of negative marks etc. CAT = Certainly Abnormal Test. CAT 2004 for sure made everyone realize what to expect "Dont expect" ;-)

Anyways a huge change was anticipated. How short our memories are? CAT 2003 was held again in Feb 2004 because some Don played Cat and Mouse with the IIMs reputation. So the lion had to roar back. And it did roar :-). This was one key factor that was conscipous by its absence on the infinite chat transcripts I read :-(

Finally coming to strategizing, the key element in CAT has always been coming up with a base plan when you get the sealed paper, and at runtime fine tuning it. So much like what a manager does and doesnt in real life. And the few who do in software turn XPers. Coming back to the point, in 2004 the fact that questions carried unequal marks zapped the ground under every candidates feet.

Till now it has been that CAT always had 1 mark questions. So strategizing was pretty simple. Thus if I have say 3 sections of 55 questions each, I could say it was 55 marks each. For 120 mins, my base plan would be 40 mins per section, saving 5 mins on easy section and using that on the other tough section. Even when the number of questions are unequal say 45, 45, 30, 35 across 4 sections, my base plan would be 35, 35, 25, 25 mins for the 4 sections and again gaining some time in easier, oops less tougher, sections and utilizing that in other tougher sections.

However this time the catch was unequal questions and unequal marks. But common sense tells me that I must allocate time primarily on the basis of marks per question. So if x mins for 1 mark question, it moves to 2x for 2 mark and 0.5x for 0.5x marks question. Remember this is only for coming up with a base plan. Thus when I get CAT 2004 in hand, first I must not panic. Thats the universal rule. Next I see there are 3 sections and 2 subsections in each. Thus at first glance base plan is 20 mins per subsection. But I see questions carry unequal marks. And total marks is 150. So for section A which has 26 1 mark questions and 12 - 2 mark questions it translates to 26 Mark subsection, 24 mark subsection. Immediately its 20 mins per subsection. And it makes sense because 20 mins for easy to medium 26 questions and 20 mins for 12 difficult questions. Also attempting 12-13 1 mark questions and 4-5 2 mark questions in 35 mins would give me a fair idea. If I know its good enough to clear the cut off I move on to section 2. ANd so on and on for other sections.

Finally the key to this CAT was alloting time not just on basis of questions but on the marks alloted also. The CAT drank your milk of wisdom and common sense eh :-)

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