How Many Times Should You Appear For CAT?

CAT, the most important exam for the management aspirants, is a national level examination which happens once a year in November. It is not an exam of intelligence but of aptitude, what this means is that one needs to have skills of selection, pressure handling, and the ability to work harder than others, in addition to knowledge of Quantitative Aptitude, Verbal and Logical Reasoning & Data Interpretation. Every year it receives around two lakhs applications where the final success rate is very low, to say the least.

Those who are not successful in the examination, it might seem that the road ahead is completely barred for them. However, the reality is quite different. One should not think that one is incapable of cracking the exam if one has not been successful this time as you always have the choice to attempt the exam next year as neither there is no limit on age nor on the number of attempts. That doesn’t mean you should keep on attempting the exam. So, the major question that comes to many aspirants is how many times one should appear for CAT?

The answer to this quandary depends on an individual’s present conditions & time in hand that can be devoted to it. People usually attempt at CAT many times before landing in a college which they deem good enough to invest huge sums in. For some, it is a case of gaining valuable corporate world experience before the rigours of b-school come knocking; for others, it is about receiving additional work-ex points to augment their CAT score in pursuit of hallowed grounds.

Yet many times, aspirants tend to be in a “catch-22” situation as to which b-school to join. They may have some admits to colleges but may want to better their scores by say, next year’s CAT & so on.

The only way to clear any lingering doubt is properly assessed your current situation. If you are in a well-paying job which you somewhat don’t hate that much, there is no need to hasten your b-school admit; you should ideally wait for IIM ABC & ISB – apart from those, doing MBA, at least from India is not worth the effort. If you feel like the idea of being stuck in a dead-end job (happens to be IT in most cases) & would want a career change at the earliest, no need to delay it any further.

A very important point to be kept in mind is that very few are able to crack CAT & get their desired college in the first attempt. For most, the first attempt is usually a testing ground. Majority of aspirants start preparing for CAT in their final graduation year, so that year coupled with two years of work-ex would make three ideal attempts. Anything more than that would not be favourable from ROI point of view nor from any additional year lost in the process. Those people coming to IIMs after giving 5 or 6 attempts, they may eventually get the college as per their choice or something near to it, but lost years are usually never gained by them vis-à-vis placement or salary purposes, had they joined earlier. Also, a lot of many companies visiting campuses put a minimum & upper limit on work-ex while recruiting so, it would be better not to waste quality years ahead & instead join a reputed college.

Many times, aspirants take to the ego that they did not get this or that college – & that they must strive for it. Know this that unless you are after very specific roles in select companies, you will not lose much if you join, say IIM K over targeting IIM ABC. Also, from a pragmatic point of view, experience & skill, rather than alma-mater will take precedence after a certain time period in the corporate world has elapsed.

For people who have already exhausted three attempts, unless you really want to crack it, you may try a hand at other alternatives on offering – GMAT & other 1-year executive courses would be a better option. Also, in many cases, it may so happen that having several years of experience while attempting multiple times may lead to less salary compensation & no profile update, which may turn out to be the ultimate career hara-kiri.

I would like to conclude by suggesting a maximum of 3 attempts for CAT & beyond that – try for other alternatives on offer.

Jeetesh Varshney

Jeetesh Varshney is currently a student of the PGP 2018-20 batch of IIM Udaipur and a member of the InsideIIM Student Team and representative of Placement Preparation Committee of IIMU. He has previously completed his Computer Engineering from Harcourt Butler Technological Institute, Kanpur and has work experience in software development. He is an avid reader and his favourite authors include JK Rowling, Christopher C Doyle, Amish. He loves travelling and exploring new places and cultures, and nothing makes him happier than good food and chocolates. He is someone who learned a lot from InsideIIM while preparing for his management entrance exams and now writing stories on InsideIIM to share his experiences for the benefit of the future aspirants.



Ankur Bhargava

Well written. Could you also highlight the max work ex one should have at the time of admission? As I have work ex of 2.5 years as of now so should I give another attempt (which would be my second attempt as this year’s was my first attempt) and my work ex would be 3.5 or close to 4 by the time I join college.

Tashneema. Waquar

Your articles are damn helpful.. Specially for aspirants like us…!! Thanks a ton..!!


Nalin, Can you ask your question in detail in Q&A section? Do mention your complete profile.