How to Bell the New CAT: 2011

Nishatha Abraham Bijeesh updated on : 28 Sep 2017

There have been some major changes in CAT 2011. Sidharth Balakrishna, an IIM alumnus and Counselling Expert on our website discusses how you should adapt to these changes.

CAT 2011 will not be the same as CAT 2009 and 2010. There are some major changes-there will be only two sections now, not three.

These will be: 
Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation
Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning

However, the number of questions will remain the same as the last couple of years, at a total of 60. These will be equally divided between the two sections.

CAT 2017 to be held on November 26, 2017. Check Details on CAT 2017

The other major change is the introduction of sectional time limits-70 minutes will be given for the 30 questions in each section. Once you are done with Section 1, you can no longer revert back to it; nor can you go to Section 2 without completing Section 1. However, you can certainly go back to questions done earlier, as you could in CAT 2009 and 2010, but now within the sectional time limit of 70 minutes. 

It appears that ‘Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation’ will be the first section, followed by the other one. It is quite likely that the nature of the questions remain the same-so you can continue to expect Reading Comprehension, Algebra etc while pure Vocabulary or Higher Mathematics (Probability, limits, functions etc) based questions will probably take a backseat. (Read: CAT 2011 is going to be different!)

What do these changes mean for you and do you need to change your strategy? Let us examine this in some more detail:


The introduction of sectional time limits and a reduction in the number of sections does indeed mean a change in strategy is necessary. Candidates who used to allocate extra time to the sections where they felt they could score well, can no longer do so. Indeed, this is what the IIMs have indicated: they prefer candidates who are reasonably strong in both sections, not candidates who are exceptional in one and only moderately good in the other. 

The sectional time limits also take away the decision making aspect with respect to time allocation. Candidates will have exactly 70 minutes for each section and they do not need to decide how much time to give to each section. They also cannot decide to leave certain questions for ‘later’-to come back to once you finish the entire test; though you can do this within the sectional time limit.

Many candidates are asking whether the changes are beneficial or whether it would have an adverse impact. My opinion is that the changes could possibly benefit those who were struggling to clear a particular sectional cut-offs even though they did well on an overall basis. For example, some students fail to clear the sectional cut-off in Data Interpretation (as an example), although they score well in the paper as a whole. Speaking hypothetically, there could be a situation where you score 99.4 percentile overall, but fail to clear the sectional cut-off of approximately 93.3 percentile. 

Life may actually be easier for the candidate since the number of sections have been reduced. Clearing two sectional cut-offs is easier when compared to the need to clear all three earlier. Even if you are weak in say, Quant, you can make up by doing well in DI and thus clearing the sectional cut-off for the merged ‘Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation’ section. 

Another aspect that may be beneficial with respect to the sectional cut-offs is that the presence of 30 questions per section offer more choice, as opposed to the number of 20 earlier.

In addition, the IIMs have hinted that CAT 2011 will offer demonstrate better standardization across papers, in terms of the difficulty level across different time slots. This seems to be a response to the common complaints over the past two years that the tests given to some were easier than those that others received. 


Hence, while some of the changes do seem positive, remember that you need to adapt to them. I would advise you not to rely too much on coaching institute material and tests; rather you should try and build your capabilities in solving the kind of questions that do appear.

Know more about the author, Sidharth Balakrishna and his books here.

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