This post is formally an entry for the InsideIIM B-school Debate
Institute: IIFT Delhi
Teammate: Harshit Garg
Link to article being refuted: http://insideiim.com/now-get-the-iim-tag-at-45-percentile-what-is-brand-iim-worth/
Disclaimer: The views expressed here do not reflect the personal opinions of the author, they are put forward solely for the purpose of the debate competition.
I would like to start by shedding some light on the minimum acceptable cutoffs prevalent for the premier B-schools in the country, or more specifically the IIMs. What is the purpose of these lower limits? Are they a real indication of the quality that goes into the IIMs each year or are they entirely irrelevant?
These minimum cutoffs are only meant to ensure that in case of extremely few applications or abysmal performances by the candidates in any particular year, the standards set by these institutes do not drop. Now, this may be relevant for other countries, but not for a country like India which has an ever increasing number of applicants for CAT (the figure is already close to 200,000). With such high participation it is next to impossible that the minimum cutoffs actually come into the picture.
Actual cutoffs that are applicable for admission to the IIMs are much higher. In spite of the recent shift towards diversity in B-schools, the actual cutoffs are not coming even close the minimum requirements. A 70-odd minimum percentile is seen only on paper, which is meaningless for all practical purposes. Even today, with the tremendous increase in the number of seats in IIMs, a candidate needs to secure at least an 85 percentile in each section to even harbour hopes of being shortlisted for an IIM, be it 1 of the 7 older ones, or any of the new 6.
The fact that cutoffs have reduced to some extent cannot be neglected. But does that indicate a compromise in quality? For this, the percentiles do not reflect a very accurate picture. An 85 percentile means that the candidate has secured better scores than around 170,000 others who sat for the test, which is by no stretch of the imagination, a mean feat. Add to that the fact that an 85 percentile in each of the two sections of CAT result in an overall percentile in the range of 90-95. This means that consistent performances in each section lead to an overall standing among the top 10 percent of all candidates. Even then, it is possible that the candidate may not even be called for the next round of selection!
Diversity in B-schools is a very hotly debated topic. Diversity does cause a slight reduction in the cutoffs. But do the standards fall? Are the candidates who get a few extra marks for diversity purposes any less capable of becoming good business leaders in the future? If this was the case, all students previously admitted to IIMs should have gone on to become hugely successful and those from other B-schools should not have achieved much in life. A candidate’s or on the whole, a person’s abilities and potentials cannot be judged or even estimated by an online MCQ test. A couple of poor judgement calls would have earlier lead to the candidate missing out on a top B-school, whereas under the new system, he/she will have an opportunity to showcase his/her other skills such as communication, confidence and general awareness among others and secure a seat in one of the coveted management institutes which he/she deserves.
Tests like CAT are not selection processes but are elimination processes, and that too only because it is not feasible to individually evaluate each and every one of the 200,000 candidates applying for admission every year. Yes, a basic aptitude level needs to be judged, but with such numbers and with the talent India has, students at even the minimum levels are way above average.
We have all read the famous quote from none other than Bill Gates which goes “I failed in some subjects in exam, but my friend passed in all. Now he is an engineer in Microsoft and I am the owner of Microsoft.” I am sure all students not very proficient in studies like me, relished reading it and sharing it with everyone. So why did Gates make such a statement? Was is just a joke, or did it have a meaning to it? I am not, by any means, demeaning those students who have achieved high grades. All I am trying to say is that studies are not the only important thing in life. Grades cannot measure success.
Brand IIM has been built up by the alumni through their exploits in the real world. By reducing cutoffs, the IIMs are actually able to choose from a wider pool of talent which invariably leads to better selections. The quality of the mangers emerging from the IIMs is rising and will continue to do so. So, is this system diluting Brand IIM or is it in fact enhancing it?