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

Posted on November 4, 2013 in Education

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.