CAT – The Hype and Role of Coaching

Think of CAT and, unless you are a nursery kid learning the alphabet and think of it as a poor cousin to the majestic tiger, two questions pop up like yet another Shahrukh Khan ad in yet another commercial break.

One, why all this hype around a simple exam that is just testing basic English and Math skills? It is not even as if it was as intimidating or perplexing as the Laws of Physics probably appeared to the poor JEE aspirant till the early 1990’s.

And two, why is it de-rigueur (yes, go look-up for the meaning – this is where your learning for CAT starts 😆 ) for aspirants to prepare via a coaching institute? The old-timers reason that it is an aptitude exam and one cannot really be coached for it. The B-Schools would also decimate the coaching industry if only they had their way. Thankfully, they don’t.

Fortunately or otherwise, both these questions will only get more pronounced and the answers more confounding in the years to come. And ironically, these questions themselves will perhaps generate a greater hype and more demand for coaching than any other factor.

The hype will stay, and probably multiply, because of the phenomenal increase in media activity and also the phenomenal increase in number of aspirants for what remains a practically unchanged number of seats to those coveted top B-Schools. For every 2+ lakh students writing the CAT in any given year, only a few thousand would succeed and almost everyone who fails to, would write it again next year. This would mean a further increase in the number of aspirants. That too with one year more work experience on an average. And what will the IIMs do? They will probably look to contain this number by further increasing the graduation marks (or worse still the class X, XII and maybe nursery and kindergarten ones) as the eligibility criteria. And as with most exams in India, CAT will increasingly become more of an efficient way of eliminating candidates through the simplest means rather than selecting the best-suited ones in an effective way. With no shortage of talented aspirants, the quality of students will still remain pretty high, by default, although it does not indicate a good exam in any manner.

As for all the hullabaloo around and about the merits of being coached for an aptitude exam, it is a debate as needless as one on the merits of Indian cricket team having a coach. We complain about it when we have, and justify the need for one when we have none! The (serious) argument is that if the Australian team of late 90s needed a coach, then you certainly need one. And as a CAT aspirant you are up against much greater odds than the Australian team was then. You can’t really (seriously) reason that the same set of students would succeed at CAT in the absence of any coaching institute, or that Australian team would still have been the strongest if no team had any coach. You might as well argue that the same set of people will become top notch managers even in the absence of any B-School or that the same products would sell if there were no ads. None of these is logical or feasible.

As for all the noisy concerns from the B-Schools, one could well argue that they only stand to gain from both the hype and the coaching institutes, for it will only push higher the demand and improve the talent pool available. And for the glorified placement agencies that most (top) B-Schools successfully and unfortunately present themselves to be, their ethical right to raise questions is questionable. But let’s leave that story for another day.

For now, let’s just hope that the hype surrounding CAT is as good as some of SRK ads are, and the coaching institutes are as good as some of the services that SRK advertises for are. And also, let’s hope that B-Schools are as good SRK is. Because, if something is unavoidable, the only escape route is that it is good and you atleast get to enjoy it!

This piece is written by Deekshant, Founder Director and student-mentor at MBAGuru who is a B.Tech. from the prestigious IIT Delhi and a Post Graduate in Management from the prestigious IIM Calcutta. Prior to his MBA, Deekshant designed power plants for leading multinationals with BHEL across several continents. With an unflinching belief in his vision, Deekshant set a trend of sorts at IIM Calcutta when he opted out of the lucrative placement race and founded MBAGuru. A state-level cricketer, and a professional song-writer, Deekshant is the lyricist for India’s top hind-rock band, Euphoria.

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It was an amazing learning experience at MBAGuru. The faculty members were outstanding and highly supportive throughout the year. AIRCATs helped improve my score during the last stage of preparation. Adaptive learning is a completely unique concept and strongly recommended for every serious aspirant of CAT. I thank the whole MBAGuru team for guiding my way through.

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