If you are one of those aspirants who thinks that they will not get the desired percentile, then understand this. CAT is just an exam and not a full stop to your MBA dreams. CAT score is not a stigma that you will have to live with throughout your life. You have a long life with infinite possibilities. You can’t let one exam define who you are.
Obviously CAT exam and going to a top b-school is important. But, anything that belittles you, or makes you feel small about yourself, isn’t worth it.
You have two options in front of you, neither right or wrong. But it's worth pondering over. You don’t have to make these decisions now. Take your time, and make a decision that is best for you.
Option 1 - Life Is An Open Door!
There are many roads to a great career and MBA is just one of them. Dhirubhai Ambani was just a metric pass. He was not academically brilliant, yet through exceptional leadership and business skills, he was able to build a business empire - Reliance Industries.
Spending yet another year preparing, appearing for mocks, taking a gap year, and nerve-wracking anxiety before CAT may not be worth it. Maybe fate has other plans for you. Maybe you will find other ways to build a career, something entirely different and amazing.
Option 2 - What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Become the epitome of resilience. Don’t give up on your MBA dream and do not settle for a mediocre management school. Revamp your prep style, talk to experts, go for coaching, take online courses and figure out a better test-taking strategy. But do it in a calm and composed manner, without hampering your well-being.
Pros of doing an MBA
- Network - The network is diverse. It doesn’t end with your peers but also includes alumni, professors, corporate recruiters, successful corporate leaders and entrepreneurs.
- Resources - You get access to a plethora of resources that allow you to produce some amazing work and research at an MBA college. The faculty is brilliant, and working with them lends perspective and knowledge.
- Brand - The brand holds immense power. An email with “@iimb.ac.in” will always have a high open-rate than an “@gmail.com” email.
- Skills - The soft skills of leadership, communication, managing people, etc is one of the crucial learnings that you gain from a business school. A finance student will learn how to manage a balance sheet and P&L on Day 1. Similarly, marketing student will learn what are the 4 P’s on Day 1. Yes, you don’t need a management institute to teach you that, but you may just perfect the art of bullshitting in your time in b-school.
- Money - Fact is, that the CTC for an MBA graduate is higher than that of an undergraduate or an MS/M. Eng. graduate. And, it takes longer and more determination to do a PhD. Opportunity cost in a nutshell.
Cons Of Doing An MBA
- Classes - You’re going back to school can be stressful. Especially, when you are not a fresher and have moved away from academics. It takes time to settle in.
- Fees - MBA is an expensive dream costing 20+ lakhs in some cases. This excludes mess bills, living expenses, and parties you might want to attend.
- Opportunity cost - There are people who have sacrificed a promotion that places them at the same level as hire from final placement. B-school in such cases can set them back 2 years.
- Value creation - MBA does not give you instant success. It may or may not speed up the process. The network and skills that you build in the course of your MBA can be acquired over time. In fact, there are cases when a network you build through the course of your work is much more meaningful and relevant.
In the end, Is an MBA a necessity? No. Did you know 40% of CEOs of premier Indian companies don’t have an MBA degree? Do entrepreneurs need to have an MBA degree? Absolutely not! Only a handful, merely 36% of founders from top-100 startups did an MBA. While an MBA is not a compulsory thing, it does expedites your career progression. It is not a need but you will learn and grow a lot by pursuing an MBA degree!
There are many aspirants who dread that their “GAP” year will make their profile unsuitable for certain b-schools. However, that is not always the case. It is not the gap year, but what you do in a gap year that determines whether your profile is suitable or unsuitable for a certain b-school.
Nitya Muralidharan, an XLRI Alum and an erstwhile gap year aspirant says, “A gap year does create a difference, some companies do notice it, but whenever I was asked the question during my interview, I told them the truth. It’s tougher to defend as the GAP increases, but we all have our reasons for making that choice, travel and writing was a major part of my reason and I did that, I don’t regret what I did, in hindsight I could have been more relaxed and less critical, when I spoke to my sister who studies in Singapore, she told me how several of her friends there take a gap for reasons as varied as travelling to serving at Doctors without Borders, and I was fascinated by their stories. Here I met several friends who took a gap for UPSC, they didn’t make it but I am sure it gave those valuable insights (and the ability to help us in economics assignments).”
How To Make Your Profile Stronger If You Have One GAP Year?
- Freelance/Internship: Freelancing or freelancing are two great choices to spend a gap year. You can take up projects from freelancer.com or an internship that can be found on internshala. It will be a great learning opportunity and provide you exposure too.
- Vocational and Online Courses: Acquiring new knowledge is never a bad thing. You can take vocational training or take up relevant courses related to MBA. Coursera, edX, udemy etc are some of the few portals that have certified courses, acting as an add-on to your profile.
- Play to your strengths: Are you a painter, a singer or a meme maker? Work on your passion and scale it up. You can even turn your hobby into a successful mini career if you are good at it and if you have time. Your entrepreneurial streak will make your profile more attractive.
If you have the strength, determination and an inner fire that is fueling up your MBA dream. Then you should definitely take the CAT again. This time your preparation and strategy has to be top-notch. You can do this either by taking up online courses or offline coaching. Following is a detailed comparison of the same.
|Online Coaching||Offline Coaching|
An IIM student has to say this about online coaching:
"A year before around the same time, I was in the same dilemma, but with the importance of self-study in mind and belief in myself, I started my CAT preparation on my own with the help of online coaching going against the orthodox way of classroom preparation. Once Horace said, “Well begun is half done” and taking into consideration the same for all of you future aspirants, here are some key learnings from my experiences of online CAT preparation.
- No matter how big the name of the coaching is, it’s only your self-study that will pay you.
- Since you may or may not get the chance to get taught by the best teachers in a classroom coaching, but in an online platform you can always view the lectures from the elite ones (in fact, they mostly put the best ones)"
While some aspirants like to study for CAT themselves, others require some guidance. There many private coaches around India that helps students study for CAT, but there are top 5 or 6 organisations that specialise in CAT prep. If you have decided to join a coaching institute, here are a few things that you need to consider:
Factor 1 - Cost
Coaching centres can charge anything from INR 35,000 up to INR 60,000. The offerings entail sectional tests, mock tests, classroom teaching, live events, webinars, peer learning opportunities, profile evaluation etc. Costs also depend on your availability and commitments.
For example, Career Launcher charges between Rs. 35,000 - 42,000 for weekend batches (for working professionals), and Rs. 35,000 - 60,000 for weekday batches.
Beware! There are many coaching centres that will charge less in the beginning, but bring up hidden charges later when you're in dire need of their product.
Factor 2 - Location
Location is an important factor that can influence your choice of a coaching class, both in terms of your city and your proximity to the coaching. This matters because of:
- Travel time - As aspirants every second of the next 11 months is crucial and you have to use it as efficiently as possible. For eg - If you are from New Mumbai, you cannot commute 4 hrs daily to Powai for your classes. These 4 hrs can be devoted - 4 sectionals, 1 mock, or finishing off the syllabus.
- Cost - Institute A can charge more in Mumbai as compared Ranchi. Whereas, Institute B will have uniform costs across branches. You need to consider that along with travel costs. Half of your salary/pocket money cannot go in taxi or bus-fare.
Factor 3 - Personal Attention
TIME, IMS and CL generally have 15-20+ students in each of their batches. Everyone has a different grasping speed and not everyone can get accustomed to the speed. If you need personal assistance or finding difficulty in coping up with the speed of the class, then coaching may not be the ideal choice for you. Try to search for private coaches or explore online courses.
Factor 4 - Test Series Offered
For scoring well in CAT, mock tests will be essential. You need to appear for both proctored and unproctored mock tests. Following coaching centres are popular for their mock test series and sectionals:
- IMS - SIMCAT Test Series
- TIME - AIMCAT Test Series
- CL - CL Test Series
- Cracku - Cracku CAT Test Series
- IMS - IMS Application Builder Modules
- TIME - Sectional Tests
- CL - CL Sectional Tests
Some claim AIMCATs to be toughest, while SIMCATs to have the toughest VA section. CL Test Series are known for maintaining CAT-level difficulty.
Factor 5 - Brand Matters
Many centres claim to offer the "BEST CAT COURSE", but lack the level of an actual CAT paper. Yes! You should explore all options out there, but put your trust, time and money to a known brand. They will provide you with high-quality mock series, online/offline teaching, and comprehensive study material.
Keep all the above-mentioned factors in mind, measure all the possibilities and make a decision that is right for you.
Till then stay tuned for detailed CAT 2020 Action Plan and other related content.