The Common Admission Test (CAT) is an all-India test conducted by the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) as an entrance exam for the management programmes. A number of other colleges also opt in to use the CAT Score for admissions. On the basis of CAT result, the eligible candidates are short listed and called for a Essay, Group Discussion (GD) or Personal Interview (PI).

About 2.05 lacs students registered for CAT in 2011 for about 2000 seats in the IIMs. This is said to make the IIMs more selective than the Ivy League Universities. In addition to the IIMs, there are over 150 other management institutes across India accepting CAT scores for selection of candidates.

CAT History

Before 2009, CAT was a paper based test conducted on a single day for all candidates. The pattern, number of questions and duration have seen considerable variations over the years. The test is multiple-choice based with negative-mark penalties for wrong answers, and traditionally comprises three sections that span the domains of arithmetical problem solving, geometry, statistics, data interpretation, logical reasoning, puzzles, and English language skills. It was held on the third Sunday of November each year. The test duration was two hours prior to year 2006. Since 2006, it has been extended to two and a half hours. The total number of questions has varied from 180 (prior to year 2000) to 150 (from 2001 to 2003) and has gradually decreased to 75 (in 2006 and 2007). However, in 2008 the number of questions increased once again and became 90 (40 in Verbal Ability and 25 each in Quantitative Aptitude and Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation).

CAT goes Computer Based

CAT 2009 was first ever computer based test with 60 questions only. This trend has seen the CAT evolve from a speed-based test to an exam that evaluates fundamental abilities of candidates.

The CAT is the first step for admission to the IIMs. After the test, by the second week of January next year, the IIMs declare exam scores and put up a list of candidates who are eligible for the next stage of a group discussion and an personal interview. The scores are relative and are calculated on a percentile basis for individual sections as well as for the total percentile.

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