Challenges in CAT Preparation

In this article we will decode the CAT challenge in terms of the different competencies which the test is designed to measure. For this purpose we have identified three types of competencies:
  • Technical Competence
  • Contextual Competence
  • Behavioral Competence
Technical Competence
The word 'technical' does not limit the test to a particular genre or field like Engineering, Medicine and Commerce etc. On the contrary, students from all graduation streams are eligible to write the test. Technically, it has a reference to the two most important tools of a manager - numbers and words! The test is structured in a way as to assess the dexterity of a candidate in both these domains. Questions can be segregated into four areas:
Quantitative Ability - This sources questions from discrete mathematics from topics like Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry and Modern Math. Apparently, majority of these topics can be linked to matriculation math, but the difference is the way in which the questions are fabricated and the fact that the questions are intended to measure key management skills. For example, proficiency in Arithmetic may be reflective of ability to understand symmetry and patterns, while that in Geometry may be indicative of a superior ability to comprehend pictorial representations and space.
Data Interpretation - This is an area where the questions assess you on data comprehension and data processing skills, as manifested in various statistical tools. Questions are based on line charts, bar graphs, numerical data tables, pie charts or combinations thereof, and measure the candidate's ability to handle similar challenges as subsequent business managers.
Logical Ability - In this area questions are designed to check one of the most critical components of managerial acumen - logic! Different kinds of situations are created in the questions covering topics like arrangements, logic trees, coding etc. The ability of the candidate to analyze the information given and arrive at logical conclusions is indicative of potent management skills.
Verbal & Reading Comprehension - This is an area which measures the candidate's ability to handle alpha numeric data, as presented in topics like usage & grammar, critical reasoning and reading comprehension. Questions are created around a careful application of verbal reasoning and skillfully differentiate managers with strong communication and reasoning abilities from the remaining lot.
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Contextual Competence
This quotient of competence is representative of skills which managers need to leverage on a regular basis. In CAT this competence is portrayed in the following challenges:-
Prioritization - As candidates navigate through the maze of questions structured into different sections, with different instructions constraining them in different years, this skill assumes prime importance in deciding which section (if applicable)/ question should take precedence over the others. Managers need it all the time to ensure proper resource and time utilization.
Change Management - The only constant in the dynamic business world is 'change'. CAT has captivated the essence of this statement through a consistent element of change from one year to another. This change has been introduced through parameters like number of sections, number of questions, difficulty level of questions, inclusion of non-MCQ questions etc. The successful candidates are able to manage this challenge competently and prove to be smarter managers in the making.
Time Management - The management context becomes increasingly relevant in the CAT as the candidates continuously struggle to clock maximum possible attempts in this stiff time task. Taking decisions like level of engagement and timely exit w.r.t the various questions vividly checks the time management skills of these potential managers!
Strategy - The sequence of steps devised by a candidate to solve a particular question is vastly demonstrative of her strategic approach to problem solving, which is an imperative in the business world.
Behavioral Competence
Managers need to keep a calm and balanced disposition while conducting themselves in the stress driven corporate environment. In light of this, it becomes essential for them to display behavioral competence. The CAT, at an intricate level, checks this behavioral appropriateness in the following ways:-
Engagement/Motivation - This is the ability of the candidates to stay engaged with a question/section despite stumbling blocks. A bad question has a cruel disturbing dimension which is probable to throw the test taker off the handle. It is such situations which test the motivational drive of the candidates.
Conflict Resolution - Conflicts are inevitable in the world of business, and the ones who are able to resolve them tactfully evolve as successful managers. CAT puts the candidates in various conflicting situations as they struggle to make decisions and continue efforts for a particular question or withdraw quickly to minimize the overall opportunity cost.
Leadership - Managers are required to be high on initiative and leadership. In CAT, the successful candidates always lead a situation and connect with it through high levels of clarity and energy.
In conclusion, it can be said that the CAT is designed to measure a candidate's suitability for a management role by assessing her competence across different components-technical, contextual and behavioral. Each of these components unfolds a challenge for the CAT aspirant to manage and prove her managerial potential!
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