TITA Questions/Non-MCQs: To solve or not to solve!

IIM Ahmedabad truly set the cat among the pigeons (no pun intended!) by introducing non-MCQs in CAT 2015 for the first time. Since then, the non-MCQs have been making appearance in CAT every year. The number of non-MCQs remain variable and can be asked from all kinds of topics in the three sections of CAT.
CAT - TITA Questions
Non-MCQs are fondly labeled as "TITA Questions". TITA stands for "Type in The Answer". This is a cute/clever acronym, right? We will be using the same from now on in this article. The inclusion of TITA questions have given an opportunity to students to score well in the CAT exam. Last year, due to COVID-19 situation, CAT exam was held in three slots on 29th November. There were TITA questions in all the sections and a calculated attempt could increase the chance of getting a decent score.
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The analysis of previous year CAT papers will give the CAT 2021 aspirant an idea about the number of TITA questions that might come in CAT 2021. Moreover, this analysis will help the student to prepare in a better manner.
TITA Questions - Analysis
The following table gives you the number of non-MCQs in CAT 2016, CAT 2017, CAT 2018, CAT 2019 and CAT 2020 in each section:
Year Verbal and Reading Comprehension (VARC) Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR) Quantitative Aptitude (QA) No. of Non-MCQs
CAT 2020 (For all three Slots) 8 6 8 22
CAT 2019 (Slot 1) 7 8 11 26
CAT 2019 (Slot 2) 7 8 11 26
CAT 2018 (Slot 1) 7 8 12 27
CAT 2018 (Slot 2) 7 7 8 22
CAT 2017 (Slot 1) 7 6 7 20
CAT 2017 (Slot 2) 7 8 11 26
CAT 2016 10 8 15 33

Approaching Non-MCQs in CAT
The inclusion of a certain number of TITA questions in each of the three sections in the CAT exam has provided a window of opportunity to students. Now the question arises as to how to tackle these questions.These questions pose a unique challenge to all CAT aspirants. You cannot go into the exam without having a separate strategy to handle them.
Non-MCQs should not be treated as a single category of questions. Rather, you should adopt a different strategy for such questions based on the section and even type of questions.
Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC):
VARC includes around 7-10 TITA questions. These are mostly from the following topics:
  • Parajumbles.
  • Para Summary
  • Odd Sentence out/ misfit.
    Key Learning:
    Summary based and misfit type non-MCQs should be treated and solved like traditional MCQs and no separate approach is required. Also, it is better to attempt non-MCQ para jumbles only at the end if you have time.
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Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR):
In this section, there are 6-8 Non-MCQs from the following areas:
  • Students appearing for CAT have to solve 4-6 sets in the DI- LR section. Each set has 4-6 questions each including MCQs and non-MCQs.
    Key Learning:
    For Non-MCQs in DI, invest time in a question only if you are able to visualize the correct approach to solve the question. Further, the on-screen calculator is a well-laid trap and should not be used too often. Remembering fractions, cube roots, etc. is still the best bet to ace CAT DI questions. Also, in CAT 20 exam the DI and LR sets were not interspersed.
Quantitative Aptitude:
  • The maximum number of TITA questions appear in the quant section. There are around 8-15 TITA questions in CAT exam. They were from a mix of topics. The questions were of medium level of difficulty.
    Key Learning:
    The approach for quant is the same as that of non-MCQ DI. These are challenging as you cannot use options to arrive at the correct answer. Further, you must attempt these questions only when you are absolutely sure about the concepts involved.
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Non-MCQs in the CAT are a honey-trap set to attract gullible aspirants towards 'no negative marking'. While there are no penalties for incorrect answers, TITA questions are more time-consuming. Students have to grasp one important point, i.e. the accuracy level for such questions is much lower than those for traditional MCQs. It is recommended that one should practice previous year’s TITA question to understand the TITA question types that come in each section.
Also, the non-MCQs should not be treated as a single category of questions. Thus, there is not a straightjacket approach for solving such questions, and you must adopt a flexible approach depending on the type of question.
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