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

CAT 2021 aspirant should know the importance of TITA questions, so without further ado, let’s get started.
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".
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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.The inclusion of TITA questions have given an opportunity to students to score well in the CAT exam. This 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 will 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.
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) 4 5 8 17
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 saw 5 TITA questions. Different types were:
  • Parajumbles (3 questions): These parajumble questions were from medium to difficult level.One should be very careful with the time that is to be spent on each question.
    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. One has to be thorough with critical reasoning concept and have an in-depth understanding about various question types.
  • 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.
  • 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.
Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR):
In this section, there were 6 Non-MCQs from the following areas:
  • Students appearing for CAT 20 exam had to solve 5 sets in the DI- LR section. There were two sets comprising 6 questions and three sets had 4 questions. There was only one set that comprised 4 TITA questions. There was one set which had 4 multiple choice questions and 2 TITA questions.
    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 was in the quant section, there were 8 TITA questions in CAT 20 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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Conclusion:
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 is that 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 straightjacket approach for solving such questions, and you must adopt a flexible approach depending on the type of question.
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