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February 14 is the day of love. This article is also about love but of a slightly different kind. Love for CAT as in the Common Admission Test (CAT). How else, would you explain Indore-based Sandeep Manudhane’s fascination for taking CAT every single year since 1993!

Sandeep runs P.T. Education, a coaching centre in Indore, Madhya Pradesh and that partly explains why he is such a CAT-buff. But over the years, the entrance exam has become second nature for this former IIT Delhi student.

Sandeep first took the exam way back in 1992. “I did get a few IIM calls then but did not pursue any. Instead I came down to my hometown Indore and started an education firm from my home garage.”

The education firm that Sandeep started then, is today called P.T. Education.

In the 1990s, Sandeep recalls, CAT was all of 240 questions, with big sets of Synonyms and Antonyms in the Language section. “The RC used to be horrendously tedious and long, and Maths was a mix of logical and routine stuff. ”

Sandeep cracked CAT the first time he took the exam. Over the years, according to the CAT lover, the big change that happened was with the length of the paper. “From 240 questions in 120 minutes to small 60 questions in 140 minutes. For a long period of time, it was 130-150 questions and 120 minutes. A big shock was when the CAT mixed up all the questions - there were no sections at all! Similarly, experiments like 4 sections with time limits etc. have been carried out from time to time. But the biggest change was when CAT became computerised for the first time in 2008.”

Sandeep took CAT as a student (filling the OMR sheets) from 1992 to 2000. Those days, score cards, were not issued . “From 2001 onwards, I started studying the test rather than attempting it. That was the only way I could reproduce (by memory) most of the question-types post-test to help my students."

The other change that Sandeep remembers is that in the earlier days, with no mobiles and internet, neither social media nor prep websites, it used to be just coaching classes and mainstream newspapers to fall back on. And candidates possibly met up at street cormers to discuss likely questions.

And how has normalisation changed his take on CAT? “Frankly, I do not understand the specific method they use as they have never disclosed it. I think IIMs (Prometric) need to transparently tell us what forumula or structure they use to "normalise" scores across different testing slots and conditions. Earlier, we were very clear about what possible score a candidate would get as it was a paper based test in one slot.

Some CAT tips by Sandeep

Get your concepts right. You won't make it otherwise. Get into the root of each topic.

Develop the habit of using options. Always look at the options when you read a question, and before starting to solve it. Options help you understand the nature of the answer.

Do a lot of general reading. The language questions cannot be tackled otherwise. Read anything and everything you can, over at least two to three years.

Strategising properly is a must. Knowing which questions to attempt and which ones to leave is important. Also attempting the easier ones in the first 'round' is a booster to your confidence.

The big game psyche is everything. Many students do well prior to the CAT. But it is on that day, in the middle of the field - on the pitch, that one has to perform.

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