Nov 7, 2008

Belling The CAT ..An Insider's Perspective :-)

      For a change, third sunday of November this year will be a day when I'll be able to relax..For the last 5 years (Yes, FIVE ) , always this day used to be a crucial one for me.. Five CAT attempts..Or rather 2 non-serious attempts ( CAT - 2003, 2004 ) ..followed by two serious CAT attempts (2005   -- B call and kicks from waiting list , 2006 - better calls )... And in 2007, an unprepared attempt -- and I'm here in IIMK :-) ...Now that I'm on the other side , let me reflect a bit on this often crazy selection procedure and this much hyped exam.
Btw, all opinions listed below are extremely personal opinions.

1)  I know people who made it into ivy league schools like Kellog, Wharton and all, but couldn't crack CAT.. Just because of the fact that you cracked this exam does not mean that you are the most suitable candidate..and vice versa too.. Infact, the difference between 98 %ile ( no - IIM calls ) and 99.5%ile ( 5-6 IIM calls ) is often  2- 3 questions..  And seriously, there is no big difference between a person scoring 97 / 98  & another one scoring 99.5 odd %ile... These 2 -3 questions might go you way on some day..and might not go you way on another day... So, then why are IIMs so adamant on these so called cutoffs ? Its because of the sheer number of applicants.. Because of this huge number ( it think about 2.7 Lakh people are testing their luck on Nov-16 ) ,IIMs are forced to do an elimination procedure rather than selection..  Western MBA schools base their admission on lot of factors like your past experience, CV , SOP  etc..GMAT score is just one of their inputs..Infact, ppl with even 680 in GMAT might get interview calls from ivy leagues, but ppl with may be even 760 might miss out...And the differentiating factor there in profile..IIMs too weighs in the CV,experience etc in their selection procedure..but they are usually adamant on CAT cutoffs.

2) So, just because of the fact that you failed to make it through does not mean that you are not good might be plain unluck..And I've faced this unluck many times and missed out making it through couple of times.

3) Now over to the exam, CAT usually throws lot of, be prepared for that in exam hall..maybe it will come in different number of sections, maybe differential negatives, maybe progressive negative..or may be no surprise at all.. Keep your compsure whatever the situation be . Because quite lot of candidates lose out because of inability to handle these surprises

4) Be flexible enough to address your strategy in between..If a section is turning out to be easy,realize that everyone else too will find it easy..Hence cutoffs will go up. And you will have to attempt more questions to clear the cutoff.. And vice versa too..if a section is too tough, cutoffs will come down. 

5) Realize that CAT paper might have erroneous questions.. Such an erroneous question ensured that my DI score last time was below the IIMA cutoff.. So, if you feel that there is something wrong in some question, dont waste time... leave it and proceed to the next.

6) Dont make it an ego issue to solve any question that you attempt. If it is tough, dont waste time ..just leave it..there would be plenty of questions in the section

7) Over QA - tackle questions that match your strength..I used to be good in geometry &, used to pick those questions selectively. ..after that,attempt other questions

8) DI - your judgement in picking the right caselet is crucial.. And check all the answers that you have got in a caselet once again before marking them..because if you go wrong in a caselet, you may get all negatives :)

9) VA - If the pattern is like last two years, attempt the maximum.. The answers would be pretty ambiguous and coaching institutes too might go wrong in bringing out the verbal key..So, even if you are VA - stud, expect only 50% accuracy..and if your attempts are sufficiently high, this accuracy will ensure that you cross cutoff.. Last CAT, I attempted 22 out of 25 verbal questions...accuracy of half ..but still got 96.4 %ile in verbal. 

10)CAT is just the first step...Realize that your profile matters a lot in your final selection..If you are a versatile personality with all round achievements , you will have better chance than some analytic geek who scored 100%ile...So, work on your profile after the exam.

11)Once you are into IIMs, its a mad rush for CV- building.. A person having an exceptional CV with lots of achievements will be valued more than someone having just high grades during placements..So, the profile, CV ..all that matters a lot for an MBA aspirant..

12) For any urgent queries about the exam , use  -- thats a Pagalguy thread run by IIMK students..Someone among us will answer your queries about the exam.

So, good luck for CAT..Bell it :-)


Ramalakshmi Subramanian said...

A motivating post for CAT aspirants :)

Serendipity said...

I am not taking it after 3 years :D
And it kind of feels strange :)

True about the CV part... we were asking the profs about some dual degree program at Tuck we have here that allows us to do an MBA. His reply was that while the possibility exists on paper , the truth was that they admit people with 5-6 years work ex only:(

Kandarp said...

not that I dispute anything you say, but a little known fact is the very high importance given to GMAT scores by U.S b-schools.
( = not very different from us, after all :) )

Reminds me of our Hyd days man! All the mock CATs we used to attend - and the super restuarants we visited for lunch!

Arslan said...

You've obviously got a lot of experience with CAT. My one encounter did not leave me too impressed. Here's a creative criticism of it: