Is CAT really just an exam? In the land of dreams and aspirations that we live in, getting an admit into an IIT, IIM, IAS is the wildest dream for thousands of aspirants and their families alike.
Apart from being the entryway to the hallowed portals of management education in India, what makes CAT even more prestigious is that it is the source of redemption for many, being their only way out of a crappy job, a lacklustre career or in many cases even marriage (Ugh! The passive oppression the girls face in this country).
But since the last decade, this prestigious exam has been losing its charm as getting an admit into IIM is now no longer about clearing the CAT.
The IIMs have been dialling down on the weightage given to CAT and have started focusing more on academics and work experience.
Is this a move in the right direction? While I believe that good academics do mean that you are hardworking but there is also the age-old argument that good marks in 10th or 12th don’t really measure your management capabilities.
It is possible that the IIM fraternity lost their faith in CAT ever since it turned online and now in order to ensure that only the Creme-de-la-Creme students make it to the IIMs they have started putting roadblocks other than CAT.
But the tragedy is that there are many people who realise the fire in their belly quite later in life, which would mean average board marks (As in my case) and a crappy or mediocre grad college (As in my case) and no real MBA field related work experience but just a desire to satisfy their oversized ego in front for their girlfriend/boyfriend (As in my case).
So, what should the average engineer do, who was not told by the nurse in the delivery room at the time was his birth that “life is a race, mug up and score marks because in the end critical thinking and the ability to rapidly solve problems in an efficient manner might not matter (referencing to CAT there)”.
Well, there is no use of looking and regretting at your past mistake, the only thing that you can really do is overcome those mistakes.
“We Cannot Go Back and Start Over, But We Can Begin Now, and Make a New Ending”
So here we go, how to get an IIM admit despite an average profile.
· Destroy CAT: By this, I mean score 99.50+, although for GEM (General engineer male) 99.75 is the new 99 but a score in the upper 99s will fetch you a call from at least some of the old IIMs and all the new IIMs. This will also fetch you a call from MDI, NITIE, FMS and you will have a very good chance of converting them.
· Do certifications: This might not help you in getting more shortlists but will help in converting whatever calls you get: -
- CFA: This is the ultimate big bad certification consisting of 3 levels and many students do CFA level 1 or Level 2 even before joining a b-school. Being a CFA L1 will show the interview panel that you are serious about doing an MBA and clearly have both the analytical ability and persistence required to survive the b-school rigour.
- NCFM: NSE certification in financial markets. They have a range of modules, covering various aspects of Banking & Finance. These certification exams are easy. There is no training provided; you need to do a little study and pay just the testing fees and on clearing it (usually 50% marks) you will get a certificate about which you can boast about during the interview.
- FLIP: FLIP is a senior IIM alumni initiative; it provides online training and certifications. These online banking and finance courses are practical, easy to understand and job oriented, which makes them the best fit for an MBA finance student.
- Six Sigma: The BSI group offers 4 different certifications – The Six-Sigma yellow best (customised price), green belt (₹ 28,000) and the lean practitioner (₹ 28,000). These certifications are for people interested in operations, process management, and quality control.
- Google AdWords: An AdWords certification allows individuals to demonstrate that Google recognises them as an expert in online advertising. It’s a free certification and has to be renewed every 12 months.
- SHRM: Society for Human Resource Management is also known as the CFA of HR enthusiast. The written examination covers 18 separate areas of HR. Three thirty day windows are available for attempting the exam throughout the world.
PS: This is not an exhaustive list and you don’t have to do them all, it would be best to take up these certifications in accordance with your interests, any one or two of these certifications will give you a talking point during the interview and you can drive the interview panel away from your bad profile.
· Get PORs (Position of responsibility) / join some NGOs: Show that you can take up additional responsibility apart from you academics or work commitments.
· Stand out from the crowd: Believe me when I say this that most of the 98+ percentile people have similar profiles apart from their academics, so if you can do Bharatanatyam or know how to play musical instruments, it will be a huge advantage during the PI round. It shows that you have a vibrant personality and that you are not just a maggu (a stereotypical reference to a person who studies and rote learns a lot).
· Develop written and verbal communication skills: MBA is a lot about developing soft skills, in fact during my time at IIMK many of the prominent professors told us that in the GD-WAT-PI stage, the one aspect that they focus on the most is communication skills. All the marks in the world will pale when compared to the magic that wonderfully written or spoken words can create.
Since I am now a member of the InsideIIM student team, I will be writing quite regularly and in every one of my upcoming articles, I will have a section named Midnight Rumination which will mainly consist of motivating words or flashbacks from the time when I used to prepare for CAT.
"The supreme power that created the sun, the moon, the sky and all the wonders of this universe is also the same force that created you. Do you think it ever meant for you to be just average? You possess your own unique set of skills and abilities and the various experiences that you have had till now, good or bad, will only help you in reaching your destiny.”
People (including me) always have a long list of reasons as to why they cannot achieve something in life, I am not intelligent enough so I cannot clear CAT, I have bad acads, I cannot manage CAT prep with a job, IIMs take only IITians, I am too old for an MBA etc. But here’s the thing, these reasons are not reasons but excuses which can be overcome through sheer hard work and dedication.
So, till next time this is me signing off.
You can also read the story of how I cleared CAT here.
About the Author:
A die-hard Roger Federer fan, Karan is a singer and a musician who plays three percussion instruments. After spending the first 24 years of his life in Delhi he finally found solace in the beautiful city of Kozhikode. Known simply as Kakkar among his friends, he prides himself on having watched all the IMDB top 250 movies in a single summer long movie marathon. He loves helping out people and inspiring them to achieve their dreams.