28 Nov 2018 17:35 IST

CAT 2018: QA section proves to be the beast

A 99 percentile score could reduce by about 15-18 marks in this year’s exam as compared to last year

The CAT came out of the bag with two thuds and one loud bang. The paper started with an ‘even easier than 2017’ verbal ability and reading comprehension (VA&RC) section. The level of difficulty of the data interpretation and logical reasoning (DI&LR) section provided a major reprieve to the nervous jantaa as it broke with the trend of the last three years. It was a moderately difficult section, as compared to an out and out difficult one that has been observed over the last 2-3 years. However, this relief was short-lived as the quantitative aptitude (QA) section came out all guns blazing. IIM-C kept its reputation intact, with its emphasis on the QA section.

Here is the break-up of the paper:


Let’s take a look at the three sections individually.

Verbal ability and reading comprehension

VA&RC greeted students with an easier-than-expected paper. However, the pattern of the paper didn’t strictly match that of the sample paper provided by the CAT team. There were 34 questions with seven non-MCQs. There were no instructions provided for the number of questions in each passage. However, there remained five passages. One passage had four questions (the passage on genetics) while the rest had five questions each. The topics of the remaining RC passages were also from familiar areas. They were easy to read. There were quite a few inference-based questions, but these were easy to attempt. The options were not really very close.

Only four to five questions from RC were tricky. However, a student should have followed the process of elimination to be able to achieve a decent accuracy rate as the options were not straightforward. The VA section had one major change. There were four subjective para jumble (PJ) questions, and all of these had four sentences each. There were three odd sentence para jumble questions. These questions were easier than expected. A student could have easily managed to get four questions correct out of the sevens PJs.

These were type in the answer (TITA) questions. The three summary questions were difficult. The paragraphs focused entirely on research methodology and academic concepts. So, they were difficult to read and comprehend. However, the options were not really difficult. So, any voracious reader would have been able to attempt these easily. So, for many CAT aspirants this year (especially those who relied heavily on QA), VA may just turn out to be the saviour.

Major surprise: The PJ questions were easy, and the sentences were really short.


Data interpretation and logical reasoning

The next section was DI&LR. After three consecutive tragedies, DI&LR 2018 must have been a pleasant surprise. There were 32 questions in total, with eight non-MCQs. Unlike last year’s paper, the theme of the sets was more conventional. With smart selection, around four in the section could have been attempted very easily with good accuracy. A couple of sets had one ‘difficult to crack’ question each. And a student should have been wise enough to leave these aside. Calculation wasn’t required at all in the DI sets. On the other hand, the LR sets were easy-moderate in terms of level of difficulty.


Overall, 15-17 attempts, with accuracy of 90 per cent, would be considered good.

Quantitative aptitude

At the end came the real star of the show, the infamous IIM-C QA. For students who were already scared of this section, it could have felt like a nuclear disaster. However, for the engineering-dominated group, this was not impossible to attempt. The questions were calculation and logic intensive, not theory intensive. There were 34 questions of QA with 12 non-MCQs. It was arguably the toughest QA section in the last four years. The questions were designed to test the grasp of basic fundamentals of the concepts. Arithmetic and geometry questions dominated the section. In some of MCQs, options were very confusing. Number system and logarithm each had at least two questions.


An overall attempt of 18-20 questions, with 85 per cent accuracy, would be very good.

Overall, a 99 percentile score could reduce by about 15-18 marks as compared to last year. Thus, a score of 150-155 should fetch a 99 percentile.

(The author is Group Product Head, Career Launcher.)