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

IIM Ahmadabad truly set the cat among the pigeons (no pun intended!) by introducing non-MCQs in CAT 2015 for the first time. The announcement only mentioned that in CAT 2015, "some questions in each section may not be of multiple choice types. Instead, direct answers are to be typed on the screen". However, they left everyone guessing about the number of such questions in CAT 2016. After studying the previous year patterns we hope that the same pattern will follow in the year 2019 also.
These questions have been 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.
CAT examiners released a Mock Test which had a total of 28 TITA questions spread in all sections. But nobody expected such questions to constitute 33% in the actual exam! The following table gives you the number of non-MCQs in CAT 2016, CAT 2017, CAT 2018 and CAT 2019 in each section:
Year Verbal and Reading Comprehension (VARC) Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR) Quantitative Aptitude (QA) No. of Non-MCQs
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
With scores around 160 (out of 300) needed for getting 99 percentile in CAT 2018, excellent performance in TITA questions is essential for you to get a seat in your dream college.
Everyone was euphoric on hearing the magic words "no negative marking" for TITA questions! But one look at the sheer number of such questions in CAT 2016 had everyone anxious like a cat on a hot tin roof (Seriously, no pun!)
Accuracy in Non MCQs-A Study
The graph depicts the average percentage of accuracy of students that have taken a few of Bulls Eye's Mock Tests for CAT 2016. From the Graph, we can see that the accuracy levels in Non-MCQs (blue line) is much lower vis-à-vis those in traditional MCQs (red line).
Thus, the absence of options has a detrimental effect on the accuracy. While you may not be losing marks to negative marking, however you lose out on time, which is equally precious in CAT!

Approaching Non-MCQs in CAT
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 saw 10 TITA questions. Different types were:
  • Parajumbles (4 questions): These were the toughest of the non-MCQs in CAT 2016, as para jumbles are best solved with the help of options. Without options, para jumbles become highly time-consuming and the probability of making mistakes increases, bringing down accuracy.
    Key Learning:
    Attempt non-MCQ para jumbles only at the end if you have time.
  • Summary (3 questions): It is hard to comprehend the thought process of CAT examiners behind giving options and all one had to do was type: A, B, C or D. But mind reading is not our job!
  • Odd Sentence out/ misfit (3 questions): Similar to Summary based non-MCQs.
    Key Learning:
    Summary based and misfit type non-MCQs should be treated and solved like traditional MCQs and no separate approach is required.
  • Over the years, the number of TITA questions that have come in the CAT exam has been fixed. But students should be prepared for any eventuality.
Suggested Reading :
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Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR):
In this section, there were 8 non-MCQs from the following areas:
Table Set (4 Questions):
  • The 4-question set on table was of moderate level of difficulty. The instructions specified the decimal places up to which the answer should be calculated and typed. The calculator helped, but due to non-availability of keyboard, it was time consuming to use. Further, option elimination approach was out of the picture and actual calculation work was required, rather than option substitution.
    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.
Suggested Reading :
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Arrangement (4 questions):
  • This was a difficult set. We know that options are of little help in solving traditional arrangement based questions, as option substitution ends up taking more time!
    Key Learning:
    A different approach is not required to solve non-MCQs on arrangement. But, it is advisable to spend an extra few second to ensure you are adopting the correct approach in solving an arrangement set.
Quantitative Aptitude:
  • The maximum number of TITA questions was in the quant section, i.e. 15 in CAT 2016. They were from a mix of topics. Again, the decimal place up to which the answer was expected was mentioned in the question.
    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.
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. Also, as you see in the analysis above, the accuracy level for such questions is much lower than those for traditional MCQs.
Also, the non-MCQs should not be treated as a single category of questions. Thus, there is not straightjacket approach for solving such questions, and you must adopt a flexible approach depending on the type of question.
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