CAT 2015: Quant section will not subjugate percentiles says CAT Convenor

To decrease the horde of engineers getting into IIMs, the CAT 2015 convening IIM Ahmedabad has proposed various measures to increase academic diversity in IIM class rooms.

It is a well-known fact that engineers with strong mathematical backgrounds find their way into IIMs and it has been worrying Indian Institute of Management (IIMs).IIMs have been trying to arrest this trend, but have not succeeded in doing so.

Many IIMs award weightage to candidates from non-engineering back ground as well as to female candidates in final admission round, but still the higher number of engineers are getting into IIMs mainly for the reason that the candidates from other than engineering back ground are unable to score high in Quantitative Ability section in CAT and as such are unable to make it to final admission round at IIMs.

Efforts to reduce Quant Weightage

Common Admission Test (CAT) exam is divided in 2 sections namely Quantitative Ability & data Interpretation and Verbal Ability & logical reasoning.

IIMs have an admission policy such that candidates require to have high sectional percentiles in both the sections in a range from 85 to 99+. A candidate scoring high percentile of 99+ in Verbal Ability section and scoring 75+ in Quant section, despite scoring a very high overall percentile of 95-96 cannot expect to be shortlisted by IIM A,B,C,L or even by the newer IIMs as the sectional percentile is below the prescribed cut off level.

The domination of quant in Common Admission Test (CAT) due to the high weightage awarded to it in calculation of percentile has resulted in higher selection ratio of a particular class of candidates. On the issue on how to overcome the problem in CAT 2015 and increase academic diversity in IIM class rooms Prof Tathagata Bandyopadhyay, Convener CAT 2015 and faculty at IIM Ahmedabad says “Regarding the content part, one of our concerns is, score in Quant dominates the percentile rank in CAT.  As a consequence it brings in skewness to the selection process towards a particular set of candidates from a particular background.”To a large extent it is correct as those who score well in Quant section of CAT get higher percentile and thereby get more chances  of admission in IIMs as against those who score high in Verbal Ability section as the weightage to quant is higher.

IIM-A proposes different scoring process in CAT 2015

According to Prof Bandyopadhyay “This year we intend to address it by making some changes in the test content and also by rationalizing weights assigned to different components of the test. This we hope will create a level-playing field for all candidates, no matter what educational background they come from, and will remove skewness to a large extent that we referred to above.”

Confident of achieving the objective, Prof Tathagata adds “We believe such a move will help us identify candidates from varied backgrounds who will become future leaders in their chosen profession. Such a move will also help IIMs bring in greater diversity in the classrooms and will go a long way in enriching the learning experience.”The class profile in IIMs is evidence to this fact as around 80 to 85% students in IIMs are from Engineering back ground and less than 20% are the girl candidates in the class. To bring greater academic diversity some change is required in awarding the weightage to 4 parts clubbed to 2 sections in CAT 2015.

The first section in CAT consists of Questions on Quantitative ability and data interpretation. Number of questions in the section are 50 with around 34-36 questions on Quant and 14-16 questions on data interpretation. Since Quant is considered a bit more difficult for the students with humanities, biology, arts, commerce fewer candidates are able to score high percentile in this section and lag behind. On the top of it, with varying difficulty level this section commands higher weightage that drives more students from Engineering and technical back ground to score high in this section leading to better placed position in final admission round.

Role of Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning although not less important, there is no much variation in the difficulty level and hence the percentile rank may also not vary to a large extent. While percentile rank in Verbal section remains more or less similar, candidates with engineering background get an edge in Quant section with higher percentile. IIM Ahmedabad, the CAT 2015 convening IIM plans to bring suitable changes to rationalize weights assigned to both the sections.

It may be for the first time that innovative changes in the computer based CAT 2015 are going to be brought about to provide equal opportunity of scoring high to the test takers irrespective of their academic background.

With some of the weightage awarded for gender diversity, the vision of CAT 2015 convener to improve gender diversity in class rooms of IIMs may become a reality in academic session 2016-17.

Common Admission Test (CAT) 2015 is the mandatory exam for admission to management programmes at IIMs and other top B schools in India. The first computerized CAT was also convened by IIM Ahmedabad in 2009. CAT has so far been divided in 2 sections and substantial changes were made in CAT 2014 exam pattern as each section had an increased number of questions from 30 to 50 making the overall question tally to 100. CAT 2015 might bring more aspirant friendly changes for the benefit of test takers, although difficulty level is not expected to decline