The CAT may be the most popular management entrance exam in India but MBA aspirants need not rely solely on this test to enroll into B-schools.
The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) enjoy an unparalleled reputation in the management education segment in India. Consequently the Common Entrance Test (CAT) which is the sole way to gain an entry to these institutes is the most popular entrance exam in the country. However, not every management aspirant cracks the CAT and students aspiring to acquire an MBA / PGDM have to consider institutes apart from the IIMs. For such students, options abound. However this variety should not be understood to exclude the CAT as these exams only complement the hugely popular test.
Firstly the advantage of the CAT is that it automatically makes you a candidate for the nine IIMs through one exam. Secondly there are more than a hundred institutes that you can apply to separately using the CAT score including some top ranking institutes such as MDI (Gurgaon), SPJIMR (Mumbai), IMT (Ghaziabad) etc. The CAT bulletin (prospectus) lists all such colleges.
Here are the exams that one can appear for: XLRI (Jamshedpur) conducts the XAT for which students from all across India can apply. Other institutes which consider the XAT score for admission are XIM (Bhubaneswar), SPJIMR (Mumbai) Wellingkar (Mumbai) and GIM (Goa) FMS (Delhi) conducts its own entrance exam which is not subscribed to by any another institute. Institutes like NMIMS (Mumbai) TISS (Mumbai), IIT Schools of Management and IIFT (Delhi and Kolkata) ICFAI business School (various campuses across India) IRMA (Anand) etc also have their own entrance examination. The Symbiosis group of institutes in Pune conducts SNAP which is valid for over a dozen different institutes under its banner. These exams are quite similar to the CAT with only minor peculiarities. Some of these peculiarities are:
IRMA – held in the second week of November this exam comprises a section on general awareness that deals with issues of social concern.
IIFT – This test is conducted in the third week of November. The GK questions in IIFT are generally on static and current affairs. An interesting feature is that most of these questions appear in a table form and you need to match the column correctly.
JMET – Usually, held during the second week of December, JMT is essentially meant for engineers. Thus, there are several questions dealing with higher level of math. Questions on limits, derivatives, integration matrices and vector algebra are common.
TISS – The peculiarity of the TISS entrance exam is the inclusion of questions on social awareness. These questions are similar to the social awareness questions of IRMA. The test is conducted during the second week of December.
SNAP – The SNAP is another exam that has a section dedicated to general awareness. The questions in this section cover various topics such as business and science. The test is held in the third week of December.
XAT – held during the first week of January, XAT differs from other management exams in the following three areas: (1) Progressive negative marking (0.33 for the first five errors in each section and –0.5 for any mistake thereafter) (2) the management decision making questions and (3) The essay to be written at the end of two hours.
The decision making questions in the XAT are short case studies. A small case, either a complex business situation or a complex human life situation is described and followed by either single question or two to three questions. You are required to choose the correct course of action or the decision after analyzing the situation.
FMS – The FMS entrance test paper is extremely similar to that of the CAT. The exam is held during the second week of January.
NMAT – Held during the last week of January / first week of February NMAT, conducted by NMIMS (Mumbai) is similar to the CAT in pattern.
CET – The CET is different from all other exams in three aspects: (1) No sections (2) No negative marking and (3) Visual reasoning and other logic questions. The 30 questions on visual reasoning are based on pictorial logic. You are given a set of figures that are bound by some logic. You need to understand this logic and chooses the correct option. The test is held during the third week of February.
All the above exams take place in about four months from November to February. It is generally accepted that preparing for the CAT prepares one for all the other examinations. This is somewhat a distorted truth. Question types in multiple choice aptitude tests are largely common. Books and study material designed for the CAT because it is the most popular exam make a student familiar with the different question types that have appeared in the CAT in the last 15 or 20 years. These include the question types found in the order examinations as well. Some of these questions are not relevant to he CAT anymore but only to the other examinations.
However, preparing for the CAT provides an excellent base for all competitive examinations in management and can be perfected wit minor additions and exclusions according to the specific requirements of those exams.
A student must undertake a detailed study of all the above exams and institutes before commencing preparation for MBA entrance in stead of beginning with the CAT and discovering them accidentally after commencing preparation. The awareness of the various options available and of the resources required to create those options will not only guide the student in a structured study plan but also help acquire a great deal of confidence.