All about CAT 2021: A to Z of the Common Admission Test (CAT)

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Managing an organization requires expertise coupled with in-depth knowledge of various management principles. The lure of earning a handsome salary along with other perks draws many individuals to prepare for MBA entrances. Common Admission Test (CAT) is one such MBA entrance that paves the way for acquiring higher education in Management. The premier Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) use CAT scores to enroll students for the MBA/ PGDM programs. There are 20 IIMs offering undergraduate, postgraduate, doctoral, and executive management education programmes.
About CAT
CAT (Common Admission Test) is the national-level management entrance test conducted by the Indian Institute of Management for admission into 20 IIMs and 100+ B-schools across India. Every year, one of the older IIMs is tasked with administering the exam. More than 2 lakh aspirants appear for the CAT exam annually but only a few thousand make it to their desired top B-schools. Apart from IIMs, other reputed B-schools other that IIMs that accept CAT scores include MDI (Gurgaon), IITs, SP Jain (Mumbai), IMT(Ghaziabad), FMS(Delhi), KJ Somaiya Institute of Management Studies (Mumbai), Great Lakes Institute of Management(Chennai), Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneshwar, to name a few.
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CAT Exam: Key Features of CAT 2021 Exam Pattern
In the view of limited admission seats and large number of test-takers, CAT is rightly considered as one of the most difficult entrance tests. It is precisely designed to evaluate the candidate’s decision-making, time management, and dexterity in tackling complexity. All these traits determine the candidate’s suitability for management education as well as acumen for managerial occupations. Go through the main features of CAT exam structure:
  • The CAT exam is divided into three sections:-
    • Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC)
    • Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR)
    • Quantitative Aptitude (QA)
  • The duration of CAT 2021 exam is 120 minutes.
  • Since the inclusion of TITA (Type in The Answer) questions in 2015, there has been a slight change in the test pattern of exam. The number of TITA questions vary, but there is no negative marking for their incorrect answers.
  • In the last few years, almost 27-33% of the questions have been non-MCQ (TITA) type.
  • There is a penalty of 1 mark for each incorrectly answered MCQ and 3 marks are awarded for each correct response.
  • The order of the section in the CAT exam is fixed and students get 40 minutes for each section. Due to sectional time limits, the students cannot switch sections.
Note: In case of changes in the exam pattern, IIMs notify the candidates on their official website (iimcat.ac.in). Students should visit the site for mock tests/ tutorials and the latest exam pattern. These mock tutorials will be uploaded in the month of October.
The stated scores of CAT are a result of scaling and normalization based on the performance of candidates appearing in multiple sessions. Most of the institutes set their cut-offs based on CAT percentiles.
CAT Syllabus 2021
There is no standard syllabus prescribed for CAT but the type and difficulty level of exam questions have remained nearly same over time. For instance, the Quantitative part mainly focuses on the basic mathematical concepts and topics of arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. Similarly, Reading Comprehensions have always dominated the VARC section while DI-LR sets primarily delves into caselets, tables, charts, and the common reasoning topics like arrangements, syllogism, blood relations, etc.
Besides, the non-MCQs feature in all the three sections and are based on the similar topics as MCQs.
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CAT Exam: Registration & Notification Dates
CAT is conducted in November every year. The detailed notification is released around July/August on the official website, where you will be required to register online. You will get to know about the important dates, application fee, MBA/PGP programmes and other essential information from the notification.
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CAT 2021: Important Things to Know
  • CAT 2021 exam will be held in November 2021.
  • Dates for CAT 2021 Registration has been released in August 2021.
  • CAT application form has to be submitted online.
  • CAT 2021 exam will be held at 158 cities across the country.
  • Students can download admit cards from the official website by October 2021.
  • CAT exam result will be announced in the second week of January (2022) tentatively.
  • Most important, CAT aspirants should maintain a valid and unique email account and a mobile number for the selection process to be carried out smoothly.
CAT Exam: Eligibility Criteria 2021
Candidates need to fulfil certain criteria to become eligible for the CAT exam. Make sure you meet the following educational requirements:
  • CAT candidates should have completed Bachelor’s/ equivalent degree from a recognized university/board. Students in their final year of graduation can also appear for the CAT exam.
  • Due to pandemic scenario and the related disruptions, the CAT committee has removed the minimum percentage criteria and relaxed similar provisions for candidates graduating in 2021 and 2022. For more details, refer to New Eligibility Criteria for CAT 2021.
  • Note that the accurate eligibility criteria for MBA admission vary from one B-school to another as well as course to course in some institutes. Further, almost all B-schools provide reservation for various categories of candidates. For the detailed information regarding eligibility, checkout the official websites of the respective colleges.
    Top Colleges Accepting CAT Score 2021
    In 2020, 115 B-schools accepted CAT scores, out of which 114 are in India and one is in Singapore. More than 100 B-schools in India and abroad are expected to register as CAT participating Institutes in the coming years. Apart from 20 IIMs, CAT participating Institutes include other public and private institutes. Some of the top B-schools accepting CAT scores are:
    • Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad
    • Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore
    • Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta
    • Indian Institute Of Management(IIM), Lucknow
    • S. P. Jain Institute of Management & Research (SPJIMR), Mumbai
    • Management Development Institute (MDI), Gurgaon
    • Indian Institute Of Management (IIM), Kozhikode
    • Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Indore
    • International Management Institute (IMI), New Delhi
    • Faculty of management studies (FMS), New Delhi
    • Institute Of Management Technology (IMT), Ghaziabad
    • National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE), Mumbai
    • Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Trichy
    • Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of Management (IIM),Shillong
    • Xavier Institute of Management (XIM), Bhubaneswar
    • Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Kashipur
    • Department of management studies (IIT Delhi), New Delhi
    • Sydenham Institute of management studies and research and entrepreneurship education (SIMSREE), Mumbai
    • Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of management studies (JBIMS), Mumbai
    • Shailesh J Mehta School of Management (IIT Bombay), Mumbai
    • Vinod Gupta school of management (VGSOM), IIT Kharagpur
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    Admission Process
    After the declaration of CAT result, IIMs and other B-schools shortlist the candidates for the selection rounds – WAT (Written ability test/Essay writing), GD/CD (Group/case discussion) /Group Exercise and PI (Personal Interview). While IIMs and some other top B-schools declare their admission criteria and cut-off prior to the result, a majority of the B-schools announce their cut-offs only after the declaration of CAT result. Many students face a lot of hardships before getting admission into their dream B-school. Nevertheless, Energy and Persistence conquer all things.
    The final merit list at the B-schools is based on candidates’ performance in the CAT exam, selection rounds, and profile. Different B-schools allocate different weightages to CAT score, academic profile/diversity, work experience, and marks in selection process. Accordingly, the candidates are granted admission to the management courses.
    ROI of Top MBA programmes
    No doubt, MBA counts among the most expensive courses in India and abroad. Yet, considering the course’s ROI in terms of career prospects and hefty placement packages, it makes it all worth. IIMs and other top-ranked B-schools are known for their high ROI. Glance through some great facts about ROI of the best MBA programmes in India:
    • In the year 2020, 153 firms participated in the placement process held at IIM- Ahmedabad.
    • For executive MBAs from IIM-A, the median salary is above Rs 30 Lakh per annum.
    • For PGP/MBA graduates of IIM-A, the mean salary is over Rs 26 Lakh per annum.
    • Top MNCs such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, McKinsey & Co., Blackstone Group, and Strategy recruit management graduates from IIM Ahmedabad.
    • At IIM Bangalore, there are 500+ offers from top Multinational Companies and there was a 6.14 % increase in the total number of jobs offered in 2020 compared to the previous year.
    • The mean salary that MBA graduates from IIM Lucknow received is Rs 24.25 Lakh per annum and the median salary is Rs 23 Lakh.
    • At IIM Kolkata, the average salary of MBA graduates is Rs 28 Lakh and the median salary is Rs 25.5 Lakh. Last year, the top 10% of MBA graduates at IIM Kolkata received an astounding Rs 54.5 Lakh per annum.
    • In majority of the IIMs, the average placement salary is between Rs. 20-26 lpa. Other B-schools with same statistics include FMS, MDI, SPJIMR, etc.
    The above data indicates that students of these premier IIMs will be benefitted in innumerable ways. Getting recruited by top multinational companies for varied managerial roles will enhance their learning and raise their career graphs.
    Preparation Tips for CAT 2021
    Usually, aspirants start preparing atleast six months before the exam. Ideally, it should begin with going through the syllabus and building conceptual clarity of essential topics to practicing mock tests and previous year papers. Listed below are some expert tips and tricks to include in your CAT preparation plan:
  • Make quick notes of important formulae and shortcuts for last minute revisions.
  • Develop a regular habit of reading newspapers, books, magazines, etc.
  • Jot down notes/ use flash cards for new words you learn every day. If you make it a point to utilize them while communicating, you will be able to build a strong vocabulary.
  • Practice topic-wise and sectional tests on periodic basis. Alongside, monitor your improvements in speed and accuracy over time.
  • Identify your weak and strong areas and strategize to work on the former.
  • Once you are thorough with all the requisite topics, start practicing the full-length mock tests and analyze your performance.
  • You may need to modify your test-taking strategy after testing it during mocks. Keep in mind that different strategies work for different candidates.
  • Remember to take regular breaks in between your study routine. It will help you stay motivated and focused.
  • Lastly, you must have a well-planned daily schedule as well as month-wise plan for CAT preparation. Consistency, coupled with a smart exam strategy, will help you crack CAT 2021 with an excellent score.
    FAQs Regarding CAT 2021
    1. What is the registration fee for CAT?
    CAT 2021 fee is Rs. 2200 for general category and Rs. 1100 for reserved category students.
    2. How long are the CAT scores valid?
    Generally, the CAT score is valid for one year except for the institutes which offer deferred admission, taking into account the work experience of the candidate.
    3. Are there any age restrictions for appearing in CAT?
    There is no age bar to appear for CAT.
    4. How many times can I take the CAT exam?
    There is no limit on the number of attempts for CAT.
    5. Can I appear for more than one slot for CAT?
    No, you are not allowed to appear for more than one slot for a CAT session.
    6. Can I opt for the exam shift of my choice?
    CAT is held in 2-3 shifts on a single day. However, the slot/shift is assigned by the authorities only.
    7. What is a good score/percentile in CAT?
    Initially, most of the IIMs shortlisted candidates with 95-99 percentile. But in the last few years, the top ones like IIM-A have started profile-based shortlisting and have set their CAT cut-offs at 80 percentile. Yet, it is still better to target a percentile of 95 and above, if you want to stay open for a more number of B-schools.
    8. How many questions should I attempt to get 99+ percentile in CAT?
    CAT is more a test of tactical skills than time management. Experts recommend that you will need to attempt atleast 75% questions with high accuracy so as to get 99+ percentile.
    9. Is there any sectional qualifying score in CAT?
    Most B-schools differ in their overall CAT cut off as well as sectional cut offs. However, the top institutes like IIMs usually set their sectional cut off criteria somewhere between 70 to 90 percentile.
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