IIMs change CAT format to boost diversity
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New Delhi: The Common Admission Test (CAT) required for admission to India’s top business schools will add descriptive questions in 2015 to address criticism that the existing multiple-choice format favours those from an engineering background.
The introduction of the descriptive question pattern is among several other changes in the CAT announced on Sunday by the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, which will conduct the exams this year. CAT 2015 will be conducted in two sessions on 29 November. While the standardized test will still have a total of 100 questions like the one conducted last year, all questions will not be of multiple-choice type.
“Some questions in each section may not be of multiple-choice type. Instead, direct answers are to be typed on the screen,” Tathagata Bandyopadhyay, convener of CAT-2015, said on the official website of the CAT.
In addition, this year, the CAT exam will have three sections—quantitative aptitude (QA), data interpretation and logical reasoning (DILR), and verbal and reading comprehension (VRC) instead of just two sections—quantitative ability and data interpretation, and verbal ability and logical reasoning—last year. Reading comprehension has been added this year and will have a bearing on the final score of candidates.
The changes are likely to give non-engineers a better chance at cracking the exams for admission to the IIMs, where 75-90% of students are traditionally from the engineering background. The IIMs have been speaking about increasing diversity among students to improve the learning environment in the campuses. With two leading IIMs—Ahmedabad and Bangalore—hiring directors from outside India, such a change was expected to happen as diversity is an important consideration in the world’s top business schools. Both IIM-Ahmedabad director Ashish Nanda and IIM-Bangalore director Sushil Vachani in two separate interviews earlier this year had indicated that they are for diversity in IIM campuses.
“For several years, the common complaint was CAT favours engineers; now, we hope it will bring more rationality. The change in format and introduction of descriptive questions may bring in two types of diversity—gender and background,” said P. Rameshan, director of IIM-Rohtak.
In the current year, the duration of the CAT exam has also been increased to 180 minutes from 170 minutes last year. Last year, the IIMs had increased the test time from 140 minutes to 170 minutes. Each of the segments will have a stipulated time limit and candidates will not be allowed to shift from one segment to another. “Candidates will be allotted exactly 60 minutes for answering questions in each section and they cannot switch from one section to another while answering questions in a section,” IIM-Ahmedabad said on the CAT website. Last year, there was no such restriction.
Like last year, CAT applicants will need to answer 100 questions, but instead of two sections of 50 questions each, this time, QA and VRC will have 34 questions each, and DILR will have 32 questions.
Harivansh Chaturvedi, director of the Birla Institute of Management and Technology (BIMTECH) in Greater Noida, said the changes will also help in screening better students from all backgrounds. “Employers have been complaining for the last five years that only engineering-background passouts from B-schools are an impediment to creating well-rounded managers. The shift from quantitative heavy exam to a balanced entrance will benefit employers, too,” Chaturvedi said. Other than the IIMs, the CAT score is also accepted by leading private B-schools such as BIMTECH.
In 2015, the IIMs are also allowing students to give the preference of four cities in which they would like to take the test instead of three choices given in 2014. This year, the entrance will be conducted in 650 centres in 136 cities. In 2014, it was conducted in 99 cities comprising 354 test centres. The test is scheduled for 29 November and results will be announced in the second week of January. Nineteen IIMs and scores of other business schools screen students based on their CAT score.