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Online CAT 09: Are you ready for the challenge !

Amidst this hazy picture of the actual CAT, stand some basic facts and logical inferences that a CAT expert can easily draw. Experts from TCYonline attempt to clear this mist of confusion based on their 11 year experience with the preparation of various online and computer based national and international standardized tests. Here goes the list of speculated challenges and possible ways of countering those:

1. Increase in Average time per question: There are many good reasons to expect this. First one is based on the fact the comprehension drops to near 20% the moment one shifts from paper based reading to that on computer screen. So the same RC will take more time on computer than on the paper. Further, interpreting data on the computer is another challenge that a CAT 09 taker has to face. To add to the difficulties, inability to underline the keywords and important data further causes the important pieces of information to evaporate out of the mind by the time one completes the passage / data-table online. Another major reason has to do with the test makers. Prometric, the international testing and assessment giant, is known for putting lengthy question statements in graduate and management aptitude tests that it administers. We have seen this with GRE (which it still administers) and GMAT (which it used to administer in the past). Do you think, with lengthy question statements and reduced concentration, one can afford to attempt the online CAT 09 in 3 rounds as used to be recommended in the past. Even 2 rounds of attempt seem dicey as one has to at least read the question statement in order to decide whether to attempt or leave it.

So what should be the strategy?

Online Practice! Online Practice! Online Practice!

You have to virtually eat, live and sleep online in order to meet your reading comprehension challenges. Whatever you do on paper in the classroom today has to be supplemented with online practice on the same topic. If you are not doing it, probably you are lagging behind the ones who ARE into it. Moreover, in the RC and DI questions we have to master the skill of drawing, what we call at TCYonline, the DOT-DIAGRAM of the passage. That is, you must learn how to draw the dots (note on the scratch paper the important information from each stanza in small phrases in the first reading), arrange the dots (keeping the phrases as pointers and indicators of the important information in each stanza so that you do not have to read and remember everything) and in the end, join the dots (picking up stanzas to read for results based on what is asked in the question).

Additionally, what is the logic in reading more and more offline newspapers if you know that in the actual test, you have to read from the computer screen instead. Hence, developing a good habit of reading the editorials from the online versions of the newspapers is a good idea.

2. The rising demand on ACCURACY: The second biggest challenge is improving your accuracy keeping in mind the fact that speed will be hampered when you would take the test online. Here, MOCK CATs and national level CATs would help little unless you analyze each one of them. Moreover, the fact that CAT will be administered by a computer, itself opens a host of possibilities for the MBA aspirants. That is, if the preparation is also offered or supplemented online, one can use the capability of computers to get the atomic level details of one's attempt. For instance, if the questions presented to you in the test are tagged (means each question has its bio-data – which topic it belongs to, what's its difficulty level and more) the computer can easily monitor and record:
  1. your un-attempted and wrong questions and the topics they represented (You may call it – the Expert Recommendations, as we say on TCYonline). These questions are important as they were the ones that posed major challenges in front of you. Hence the strategies to solve them should be mastered when you are sitting back home and analyzing. And what if your testing engine regularly generates additional tests on these areas so that you do not leave anything to chance in your CAT preparation. The result is, you end up improving your accuracy.
  2. your performance of the easy, medium and hard questions (and we call it your difficulty-wise analysis) which will help you improve your accuracy by focusing on the right question types rather than keep on giving tests blindly without caring to analyze.
  3. Your time per question (On TCYonline we call it your attempt pattern) and giving you an opportunity to compare it with your friends, national topper, city-toppers and your classmates. This information and comparison can open avenues for improving the accuracy. For instance, if you receive a line graph showing your attempt and that of your classmate, you can quickly spot a particular question that took more of your time as compared to your friend's and if he did not guess it, he is the best resource with you to a faster way to solve that type.

3. Growing weight-age and importance of Verbal Section: The third challenge that CAT aspirants across the nation are facing is the inclining of test's focus towards Verbal. CAT 2008 sets an example here. 40% more questions were there in Verbal and overall percentiles were heavily driven by the verbal section's percentiles. This, together with the fact that RC would pose problems of concentration to the test takers, is expected to raise the bar this year.

Hence, the CAT preparation time one has to allocate in a day MUST comprise of a few a hours for 1-2 good online readings and at least one online test of whatever that has been done in the classroom.

In a nutshell, the key to score higher percentiles lies in a balanced and logical approach towards CAT preparation. Reading newspapers, taking MOCKs and practicing logic have always been the most effective strategies for CAT. However, its online avatar has raised the bar further by expecting the test takers to be more creative with the usage of these three important CAT cracking tools. The element of ‘online' or ‘computer' MUST not be neglected in one's daily CAT preparation dosage.

Nevertheless, the challenges explored in this write-up cannot be ignored at least by the ones who know the difference between 99.99 and 99 percentile – given the fact that out of the 2.75 lakh students taking CAT, 0.99% account for top 2722 seats.

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