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Where CAT Preparations And MBA Education In India Are Going Terribly Wrong

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By Sambhav Khetarpal:

Every year during the months of October and November, lakhs of students across India take the CAT exam, with a hope of getting a coveted seat at a top B-school, preferably the IIMs. In order to get there, they burn midnight oil for months, sometimes years. I am another one of those crazy CAT aspirants. I toiled hard for the last six months, juggling my final year of college and CAT preparations, so that I could also get into a good b-school. But throughout my journey, I realized that all is not right with this “CAT journey”. The aspirants, coaching institutes and B-schools; all are at fault and it seems as if their sole aim is to make money, while ignoring the quality of MBA education in India.

The problem begins with all these self-glorified coaching centres who claim to have the highest number of IIM selections in the city. I joined one such institute hoping to get a good beginning to my CAT preparation. The institute I joined conducted scholarship tests for students willing to join their coaching centre. I took the scholarship test and, to my delight, I got the scholarship! Six thousand rupees waived off my fees! I was happy and believed that I was the “chosen one”; the one who’d bell the CAT.

MBA coachingOnce I paid the waived off fees and joined the institute, I was in for a surprise. Each and every one of my friends who had taken the scholarship test had also got the scholarship. And it wasn’t that only a few got scholarship, almost everyone did! So what’s wrong here?

I don’t mind the idea of giving scholarships to everyone; it does act as a confidence booster for students. But the problem is that, giving scholarship to everyone will give a false belief to some students, who in reality, might not be suited for the grind called CAT. The end result is that the coaching institutes earn big money and students end up wasting key months of their lives, which could have been utilized productively somewhere else. I have seen many people who joined the coaching institute after getting the scholarship and then give up on their CAT preparations after 3 months.

Also, there is no screening process for students before admission, no counseling, just nothing. You pay the fees and you’ll get admission in these institutes, irrespective of whether you have the aptitude for doing an MBA or not.

The second culprits are the B-schools who take freshers. I am a fresher myself, and till sometime back like many others, I also believed that getting an MBA just after graduation will fast-track my career growth. But what I didn’t realise is how I would be able to add value in classroom discussions and case-studies when I don’t have the experience working in a office environment. A person with proper work-experience will certainly have more exposure of the industry and will be able to understand business situations more easily. Take all the top B-schools of the worlds like the Harvard Business School or the London Business School and you’ll find a minimum of 2 years of work-ex as one of the criterion for admission. India’s premier B-school IIM-A, on the other hand, does take freshers for its PGDM courses.

The third culprits are the CAT aspirants themselves. To begin with, there are various groups on Facebook that bring like-minded CAT aspirants at one place and help the them in multiple ways. The purpose of these groups should be to allow aspirants to clear their doubts, share study material and get insights about various colleges from other people. But this is not how these groups are being used. Once the first few days of CAT are over, candidates who have taken the test, in their “benevolent and kind ways”, start posting original CAT questions on these groups. Now there are two problems with that:

First of all, sharing original CAT questions is a violation of the law. Prometric and CAT Covenor 2013, Prof Rohit Kapoor, has clearly stated that disclosing or facilitating transmission and storage of the contents of the CAT or any information in whole or in part is a violation of the law, which is a punishable offense with imprisonment of three years. And still, we are seeing many people sharing questions blatantly on social media.

Secondly, once a person posts that he is ready to share the CAT questions, there are hundreds flocking that person with their email IDs in the comments section. All those people posting their emails almost implore that one person, begging him to send the questions. But getting to know a few questions beforehand shouldn’t be a thing to worry, considering questions are hardly repeated in CAT! Well, here’s problem. Some questions are being repeated in CAT this year and those who are part of such groups have an unfair advantage over those who are not.

Here’s an example of a CAT aspirant proudly telling everyone how she got two questions in her CAT exam that were posted on a CAT preperation group.


Now considering how a couple of questions can greatly change the percentile, the students with access to such questions beforehand will have an upper hand over others.

Also, it’s not only about knowing the questions, it’s about the mentality of the aspirants too. If this is how the future managers and leaders of leading companies of our country think, we are not going anywhere in future. MBAs are people who create value and ideas that move people to action, but I sometimes feel the sole purpose of most CAT aspirants is to squeeze into a good MBA college, be it by hook or crook, and get a hefty package.

Another problem I find with some aspirants is the type of MBA they want to pursue. I feel that for some, it doesn’t really matter what stream of MBA they pursue as long as the package is good. Most of them go for the “most paying” stream, irrespective they have the aptitude for it or not. In short, an MBA degree has become a short-cut to hefty pay packages for most people rather than medium to acquire managerial and leadership skills.

I took CAT yesterday but I don’t really care about the result now. I am a fresher I would now like to work for a year at least before another crack at CAT. And I wouldn’t be targeting just any b-school; I’ll target a B-school of my interest and taste rather than blindly following the herd mentality that most other people do.

You must be to comment.
  1. Varun Jain

    I strongly disagree with some of your arguments, specially about CAT coaching centers.
    This is why:

    1) They are commercial ventures in a highly competitive market. They need to lure students in whichever they can, hence the scholarship. I think it is entirely an individual’s call on how seriously they take a ‘scholarship’ of such kind.

    2) They are not career counselors either. If they tell a student that he/she is not suited for CAT/MBA they are simply turning away business which might as well land elsewhere. This would be akin to a sweet shop turning away the morbidly obese. Nobody can take a call on this, competitive exams always cough up surprises. Life in general coughs up surprises and nobody can actually judge a person based on a couple of Math or Language questions.

    1. Abhinav Dey

      @Varun Jain

      1) Do you think commercial ventures in your highly competitive market are actually developing practical management skills. If not, they are training you for a Logical Reasoning Test FOR MONTHS! Commercial ventures like these are decreasing the value of investment and training rather than really solving the problems..they are destroying the quality of commercial ventures.

      2) I don’t know about majority of career counsellors..but if even an average student gets counselled properly..they most probably won’t even be giving the CAT, rather doing something better than iim grads. We are talking about high-calibre students here which go unidentified in the CAT training centres.

  2. snigdha khurana

    I am pursuing MBA from one of the top ten B schools in the country, I realize that’s its much better to have work experience especially in areas such as Operations & Info Management but it cannot be a mandate. HBS doesn’t require it as a mandate, it isnt listed anywhere on their site. Anyone is open to apply and if they find something extraordinary in the profile despite no work experience, they give him/her a chance. And it makes complete sense.
    Also, some job profiles especially in the area of Marketing require minimal work experience due to a plethora of reasons. Those are the streams that usually have most of the freshers. Indian B schools and HBS/LBS have very different job profiles and CTC structures, but so are the fee structures vastly different. Wouldn’t be fair to compare. If anything has to be compared, let’s do it for the quality of education.

  3. Jay Mehta

    I absolutely agree with what you said about work experience being made mandatory for gaining admission to B-schools. A fresher has practically zero input in the classroom. He isn’t acquainted with the corporate world. A majority of the best B-schools in the world require a minimum of 2 years of work experience while the average age of students entering the school is close to 26-27.
    As for what Snigdha said, yes, there are some EXTRAORDINARY students, but that’s a very small percentage we’re talking about. A handful so to speak.

  4. Shalini Chaudhuri

    W.R.T the coaching centers point of view these are marketing strategies which they execute and come out with flying colors.We need not question on that,that is their perspective.Secondly ,dude this is India .You cannot compare B schools of India with that of US ,UK,Switzerland.The unemployment rate is very high and opportunities very less here for which most of the students go for their pgdm or mba just after their graduation.And most importantly to go to US ,UK ,Switzerland minimum age requirement is 31 along with work ex as well.Here the culture and the mind set is very different in India. On an avg we tend to follow the trend of finishing off our studies and den go off with working..
    And if dey “waste” these few months for trying to crack CAT I dont feel there is any harm in it. Atleast they tried to find out whether they can or not, if not now den sumtym later with more knowledge and experience as u said 🙂

  5. Yash Khetarpal

    Having spent 35 years in the corporate world, I fully agree that the fresh candidate is not industry ready. He or she has no insight into the actual functioning of the corporate systems. The industry has to spend precious time and energy to integrate him into their systems. The B-School has actually shown him the virtual or hypothetical corporate situations based on old case studies, whereas the entire scenario is highly dynamic and changes on day to day basis. Thus, the old case studies are rendered obsolete and irrelevant. If the candidate has about two years experience, he shall be able to co-relate his curriculum to the real life situations he has faced in the industry.

  6. Anon

    The last paragraph makes the whole article useless! How can you invest money and, most importantly, your time and finally have a “don’t really care” attitude. It just shows that you too are one of those “herd mentality” follower.

  7. Nicky Collins

    I must say that this is an interesting article. Funnily enough, the issues raised in this article are not unique to CAT.

    But I also maintain that we cannot paint everybody with the same brush. I am a prospective law student and I am lucky to have got into a coaching institute that focuses on holistic development than just CLAT preparation.

  8. Aman khetarpal

    I also want to do MBA from a good institute and i am a first year student.
    please any one tell me when to join the coaching and which one is the best.. i have heard about times … is it that good…????

  9. sakshij

    Thank-you for the above informaton.
    For all the CAT aspirants preparing for CAT 2014 wondering how to initiate their CAT preparations! Get the guidance of CAT gurus at your home, without any trouble of travelling anywhere. Enroll now in the best online coaching for CAT 2014 under the guidance of highly qualified professionals @ :

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