What is CAT?

CAT – Common Admission Test is one of the toughest and popular MBA entrance exams conducted in India. It is conducted every year, generally on the last Sunday of November. This is the 1st stage of the selection process consisting of an online (computer based) examination usually for duration of 2 to 3 hours. (While CAT-2015 onwards, CAT was of 3 hours duration, covid induced period saw it become a 2 hour test 2020 onwards). The test is designed and administered by the Indian Institute of Management. It is recognized by all the IIMs and many top B-Schools across India. There are approximately 170+ B-schools which accept CAT scores.

How is the online or computer-based CAT different from the written one which used to be held earlier?

Initially CAT was a paper based test. From 2009 onwards, CAT became a computerized test. Instead of reading the questions in a paper booklet and darkening the ovals on the answer-sheet, a candidate reads the questions on a computer terminal and chooses an answer by clicking on the correct option. At the test venue, each candidate is seated at a desk with a computer terminal and he/she is provided with a scratch paper for calculations. Currently, CAT is a computer-based test (CBT) and not Internet based test (IBT) i.e. candidate does not take the test on an Internet site. Online testing or computer based testing is generally done through one of two patterns of tests:

Computerized Non-Adaptive Tests: These are similar to paper-pencil tests. You are tested on a “typical” test paper with questions covering full range of difficulty.

The candidates are scored on the basis of number of questions answered correctly within the stipulated time penalizing the candidate for every wrong answer through negative marking.

Computer-Adaptive Tests: These tests are tailored to the examinee’s level of ability. There is no set question paper. The questions are decided while the examinee is attempting the test. If (s)he is doing well, (s)he is given more and more difficult questions, which are worth more marks; if (s)he is not performing well, he is given easier questions, which are worth fewer marks.

Online CAT has been a Computerized Non-Adaptive Test (known as Computer Based Test or CBT) since it went online in 2009. It could become Adaptive like the GMAT in the years to come. The likely format for any CAT is communicated in advance every year in the CAT Notification which is typically released in July end.

To find out more about Online CAT visit the office site http://www.catiim.in/

Are there any other MBA entrance exams apart from CAT?

Yes. There are many other MBA entrance exams. Mostly, these exams are college specific and are acceptable only at the participating institutions. Some of most popular exams are: XAT for Xavier Labour Research Institute (XLRI) Jamshedpur, other Xavier group Institutes and nearly 40 other MBA colleges, IIFT for Indian Institute of Foreign Trade Delhi, Common Entrance Test (CET) for Management institutes in Maharashtra, SNAP for Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Management Admission Test (MAT) for AIMA registered Institutes.

What is the eligibility criterion for CAT/MBA entrance examinations?

The candidate must hold a Bachelor’s Degree, with at least 50% marks or equivalent CGPA [45% in case of the candidates belonging to Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Differently-abled (DA) categories], awarded by any of the Universities incorporated by an act of the central or state legislature in India or other educational institutions established by an act of Parliament or declared to be deemed as a University under Section 3 of the UGC Act, 1956, or possess an equivalent qualification recognized by the Ministry of HRD, Government of India. The percentage of marks obtained by the candidate in the bachelor’s degree would be calculated based on the practice followed by the university/institution from where the candidate has obtained the degree. In case the candidates are awarded grades/CGPA instead of marks, the conversion of grades/CGPA to percentage of marks would be based on the procedure certified by the university/ institution from where they have obtained the bachelor’s degree. In case the university/ institution does not have any scheme for converting CGPA into equivalent marks, the equivalence would be established by dividing the candidate’s CGPA by the maximum possible CGPA and multiplying the result with 100. Candidates appearing for the final year of bachelor’s degree/equivalent qualification examination and those who have completed degree requirements and are awaiting results can also apply. Prospective candidates must maintain a valid email account throughout the selection process.

So, basically, graduates from all streams are eligible to apply for the CAT and other MBA entrance exams. (For more details, refer to the list of Institutions that is available at our centers.)

What are the skills that are tested in these Exams?

4 key skill areas tests are:

Quantitative Ability
Data Analysis
Reading Comprehension
Verbal Ability
Apart from the above four areas, some Exams also tests students on their General Awareness and English Writing skills.

How is CAT different from other MBA entrance exams?

Broadly, CAT is similar to all other MBA entrance exams. But CAT’s patterns in the past show that there is a greater emphasis on testing the ‘Reasoning’ ability in all the 4 key skill areas including English (comprising of Reading Comprehension and Verbal Ability). Hence, our experience shows that if a student prepares for CAT, he/she is mostly prepared to attempt the other entrance exams. There is a layer of preparation that needs to be done by a student for each non-CAT in addition to the core layer of CAT preparation.

Does every B-School have its own entrance exam?

Not all B-Schools (MBA institutions) have their own entrance exams. A majority of institutions accept the CAT score whereas a few others have their own entrance exams. Some institutions such as SP Jain, Mumbai accept the score of more than one entrance examination.

Who has a better chance of success at CAT/ MBA Entrance exams – a fresher or a person with work-experience?

Being either a fresher or a working professional does not by itself make any difference to your chances of success. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. A fresher is more in touch with the academic requirements and prepared for intense learning mode. Whereas, a working professional brings along the real world knowledge and reasoning that is a key requirement to succeed in the entrance exams. Some colleges such as IIM Bangalore do give some weightage to work experience in their shortlisting process for the Interview stage.

What is a cut-off?

The cut-off is the minimum required marks that a student needs to score at CAT/other MBA entrance exams to secure a shortlist/interview call for the second round of selection process.

Some top colleges such as the IIMs require a sectional as well as an overall cut-off. A cut-off is not a single, fixed absolute number but a relative one.

Will I be required to clear the cut-offs in all the sections?

Yes. Every college releases its own cut-offs. Top colleges such as the IIMs have it for individual sections as well as for the overall test. A student has to clear both the sectional as well as the overall cut-offs set by these institutes to receive a call for the second round of selection. Many other institutes only apply an overall cut-off. The cut-offs vary for every institute.

Do different CAT aspirants have different cut-offs?

Yes. To maintain the academic as well as the professional environment of learning, most institutions have a slight relaxation in cut-offs for Working professionals, women and aspirants from various reservation categories. This is done to give the students a multi-level-knowledge and interactive learning environment and to ensure diversity within the MBA college.

What is a ‘percentile’?

The ‘percentile’ is relative standing of a student in comparison to the group of students taking the exam. For example, if a student secures 80 percentile – this does not mean the student has attempted or solved correctly 80 percent of the paper. This shows that out of all the students who have taken the exam, 80 percent of students have scored fewer marks than this student. So, basically, your percentile is the percentage of students behind you in a given test.

How important is Speed and Accuracy?

The recent trend in CAT shows that there is an increasing emphasis on testing the accuracy to logically interpret the given information. Even though the number of questions is limited, the level of difficulty and negative marking makes it important to work on improving the speed. There are many other tests that still require you to solve a lot of questions in a limited time. So balance has to be achieved between the two.

The introduction of a small percentage of TITA type (non MCQ type) questions in CAT has added some importance to speed as there is generally no negative marking associated with these questions. This means there is no downside attached to accuracy in these questions.

What should be the duration of CAT preparation to maximize my chances of success?

The duration and amount of CAT preparation is subject to individual capabilities. We recommend an ideal preparation time ranging between a minimum of 5-6 and a maximum of 16-18 months. However, the ideal duration varies for each CAT aspirant depending upon the understanding of the exams, the concepts tested, and awareness of one’s own strengths and weaknesses, and the actual areas and scope of improvement.

If you are a student wanting to prepare for CAT and you want to know where you stand among the best of the students appearing for the CAT, our senior counsellors will assist you with this process and help you gain an understanding via a C-SWOT assessment.

Do engineers have any advantage over non-engineers in the MBA entrance process?

Even though the statistics show that higher number of engineers make to it to the top ranks in entrance exams, it’s a myth that engineers have an advantage in clearing the entrance exams. The concepts in Quantitative Ability tested in these exams are only those that we study up to class X. Our experience shows that, mostly, engineering students are more familiar with the entrance exams because they have already gone through a competitive entrance by way of IIT-JEE and other entrance exams before their graduation. With exams such as the CUET coming into play for non-engineers, this difference is getting diminished.

In essence, it is the approach that is most suited to your needs, and your consistent effort that has an impact of your chances of your success.

Also, certain MBA colleges award extra marks to non-engineers, to ensure that a diverse group of students makes it through the selection process.

What should I look for in a CAT coaching institute?

Some of the important things that you should look for and compare are –

The methodology of CAT preparation – whether ADAPTIVE or traditional?
Quality of the Faculty who will be teaching you – their CAT experience and expertise.
Individual attention given to you while preparing – batch size is generally a good indicator
Updated & comprehensive material
Inputs from/reviews of former students of the institute as they have already been there and done what you are planning to do

What should be the order of attempting different sections in the CAT?

Now in CAT you have sectional time-limit and you cannot go back to the previous section after its time-limit is over so this question has become redundant now and you have to attempt the exam in a specific order only as set by the IIMs

Will self-preparation using some additional material add-on to my CAT preparation?

There are two ways of looking at this question –
One: if you are already enrolled at a CAT Coaching institute and want to add on to the preparation by self-study, then, you would have to decide depending on the content provided to you by that institute.

Two: out and out self-study. Yes, this is possible. But, you would be missing the competitive classroom environment, immediate doubt clearing and most importantly Adaptive sessions which focus on your weaker areas – all these play a vital role in a student’s success.

Which field should I specialize in?

Most of the MBA/PGDM programs offer the following specializations – Finance, Marketing, Operations, Human Resource Management, and Systems. There are a few others that offer International Business or Strategy/ Project Management as well. Some colleges offer dual specialization. Mostly, the first year of the course is general because students from varied background such as Medicine, Engineering, Commerce, and Arts pursue this course. The second year consists of the elective units (subject choices) that one wants to specialize in.

A student must choose the specialization based on his / her interests and abilities. Our faculty and mentors assist you in this process, as ideally you should be choosing the specialization before you start the course at any MBA college. But, at most top colleges you can choose mid way through your first year of study there once you get some exposure to the basics of all the major management disciplines.

What career options will I have after MBA?

An MBA is a general qualification that develops overall understanding of business side of any organization. It offers a wide range of professional / career options. From Manufacturing to Services, all industries requires Management professionals at all levels starting from Management trainees, Floor / Departmental / Branch Heads, Senior Managers to Vice Presidents and so on.

Depending on the undergraduate qualification acquired, the students can choose to specialize in a specific field of study within the MBA and acquire skills that complement the previous qualification or acquire a general management program that is a more popular option. For example: An IT professional can decide to specialize in Operations or Project Management; A Doctor or a Dentist can specialize in Health Management; To start an own venture, a person can specialize in Entrepreneurial Development program and so on.

How many hours daily should I study in order to be successful at CAT?

This will vary depending on your current level of knowledge and pace of improvement. More than the number of hours it is the how you use those hours that will make a difference. A better understanding of your strong / weak areas will help build speed and accuracy.

For MBAGuru students, we recommend proper utilization of the classroom sessions (6-8 hours a week), regular reference to homework assignments and worksheets and taking the regular tests as and when they are made accessible.

I have not studied Math after my Class X – how do I cope with this?

Most MBA entrance exams test your Math skills (Quantitative Analysis) on concepts that are taught up to Class X only. More than the formulas and the rules, it is the application of the concept that is tested. So if you are able to brush your basic Math and develop the logical approach to attempting the questions then, there should not be much of a hurdle in clearing this section of the test. For this purpose we provide extra basic sessions in Math through Adaptive Math and Reasoning sessions. A strong foundation in Math goes a long way in building the skills required to crack the Quantitative section in B-School Entrance Exams.

How important are the B-School rankings?

The B-Schools rankings are conducted by different organizations. Most of them rank these institutions on the basis of the Faculty, Research undertaken, Placement records, Quality or updated course contents, infrastructure facilities, and Industry interface. The weightage given to individual parameters differ with organizations. So use the Rankings as only a guide. Like with most other similar surveys and rankings, there are vested interests and conflicts of interests at play that can often present a very inaccurate picture.

How is an MBA qualification different from other Master’s degree offered?

The uniqueness of most MBA programs is their flexibility to take graduates from varied fields of study and provide them with an insight and understanding of the general Management principles that govern the working of an organization.

An MBA has a special place abroad in a way that most top B-schools require students to possess a minimum of 2 years supervisory or managerial work experience as the delivery of the course is not academic in nature. But in India there is a fine balance achieved in providing an academic and professional learning environment, where classroom lectures are enhanced through Case studies, corporate internships, management development programs, seminars and project work.

Usually, other academic programs like M.Tech, M.Com, or M.S. requires students to have undergraduate degree in the same field and increases the knowledge base in a narrow specialized area of study.

What is recommended – pursuing an MBA as a fresher or after gaining experience?

For most colleges in India, there isn’t specific requirement of having work-experience before you apply for their MBA program. The fact that nearly 3/4th of the management students are freshers even at the top colleges suggests the relatively low importance attached to work-experience in the Indian MBA context. On the other hand, MBA as a qualification for a fresher adds a lot of weightage and increases chances of having a headstart to one’s career.

An advantage of doing an MBA after gaining experience is that you are able to relate more to the practical application of the concepts being taught by virtue of your first hand understanding of the corporate world.

Are there any reputed MBA’s that I can pursue along with my job?

Yes. If you have just started your career then you will have to pursue a good MBA through either distance learning or those institutes that accept fresh graduates for their part time course. Most other institutes offering part time or Executive MBA require students to have at least 2 years experience.

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