‘Only Shortlisted, Not Selected’ – The Difference Between Cracking CAT And Belling It


Most of you would be happy at getting a call from the IIMs. Some people might feel dejected on underperforming & blame it on the normalization process. Also, a few would cry unfair at having been wronged for not getting calls from other B-schools in spite of having a respectable score. But the bottom line is that the first stage is over. No matter how much privileged you feel at having a high percentile or brood over your score for that matter, it’s time to move on.  As you might have heard or known, this marks the end of the rejection process. Selection starts from here.

I am not here to tell you if you would make it to the other side of things. Nobody can tell you that. On THE day, anything can happen. You may start on a good note & carry the “feel-good” right through the process. OR you might have a bad day. A tough panel or the guy who walked into the interview room previously might have raised the bar. The point is that anything can happen. Realize that & also accept your helplessness in this regard. It would help you if you stop zeroing in on the “Ifs & Buts”. At the end of the day it is your preparation & the confidence that comes from a sound preparation. It’s the same thing as – you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. So buck up.

Another thing that some students tend to do is revelling in the glory of having multiple calls & calling up others about their opinion on which IIM should they go to. Wake up. As I said, the selection process starts from here. Some of those who have not been shortlisted might have had a bad day on the test day. You have only been shortlisted, not selected. There’s no point in thinking along these lines at this stage. Convert your calls & then “take a call”.

Now let’s get to what needs to be done. First, you have to start reading up a lot. Be it Newspapers, magazines or online reading. The Hindu & Economic Times are suggested. People lick them during the run-up to interviews & sadly you are no exception. Simple Correlation. The more you know, the better you would be at ideating or writing/speaking about a particular issue.

Read up about your interests & hobbies. You could be asked anything under the sun. Freshers could be asked questions about their favourite subject(s). So choose your subjects & start brushing up. Experienced guys could be asked about their work experience, their roles & responsibilities, their company, the industry the company is in. So, don’t think that you have an edge over the freshers just because you had been in a company. You should be able to justify your edge. This applies to Freshers too. You guys would have to do your homework on your achievements, your projects, your internships and the like. Just saying that you were the college president won’t be enough. Start making points of your exact roles & responsibilities. It would help.

Another reason why I am asking you guys to read up is that while in an interview when you find yourself in a no-man’s land situation, the interviewer might move to other areas to give you another chance to prove yourself. On an average day, it works out that way. For you to be able to leverage this opportunity, it makes sense to have more options. By options, I mean a good range of areas where you are strong. How would you be strong if you haven’t read about it? Doesn’t it make sense?

Written analysis has been introduced for the first time. Hence the exactness of what would be asked is not known. But broadly speaking, you might be asked to write an essay on a particular topic or you might be provided with a case. Essay writing has been around right from the Stone Age & there’s nothing I can add to all that you might already know about it. Again reading up on varied areas & practising writing would help oil those creaky joints, especially if you haven’t done it for a while.

A case has a narrative, a story, a set of events that unfold over time in a particular place. Cases consist of a given problem situation. They could be real-life situations or simulated situations. Students are placed in the shoes of the decision maker. Different pressures, considerations & trade-offs need to be weighed in making the decision. Information available is mostly incomplete & assumptions, if needed, could be taken. There is no single answer. Differences in approaches are common & acceptable. But the rationale behind them needs to be clearly outlined.

One of the most important & definitely one that almost every candidate faces is “why MBA?”.  Yet people tend to goof up on this one more than often. The same holds true for other personals like what in MBA, what after MBA, short term & long term goals, where do you see yourself in ‘x’ years from now etc. etc. Trust me, it doesn’t come easy. A lot of introspection, retrospection needs to go into this. The answers would have to be refined multiple times till they “sound right” & satisfactory. It’s an iterative process & inputs need to be taken from other people. The more you work on them, the more mistakes you would come to know & the better it would get. Unless you have a sponge in your heads, I trust you to not answer the “why MBA?” question as “My Dad told me to”, “I want to do an MBA for the money”, “My friends were appearing too & I didn’t want to feel left out”. Jokes apart, I think you got my point.  Remember, that your answer to the ‘why MBA’ question need not be a Nobel Prize winning one. You should be able to show how an MBA degree would add value to what you have done to date. The “fit” between your personal reasons & what an MBA degree offers, has to exist and make meaningful sense.

There’s one last thought process that I would want to address. I believe it would linger in the minds of quite a few people, irritating like an urge to scratch when you can’t. Of late, lines have been drawn between the IIMs & the so-called, “new IIMs”. There would be some of you wondering if they are bang for the buck & find motivation lacking. This feeling is what I am talking about. For people who haven’t landed up on calls from their “dream” colleges & want to wait another year to give it another shot, here’s my personal take. Can you get into a better college next year?  Yes, you can. Don’t let go of the hope, otherwise what is the point in waiting another year anyway. Should you wait another year if you knew you are definitely getting your dream B-school? I would wait. But what is the whole point here we are trying to address. Look beyond all this at the larger picture. It’s your career we are talking about. If you think you can’t be proactive and gain the best out of a college, the ‘culture’ at other B-schools won’t affect you much either, because let’s face it, you are not built that way. College doesn’t maketh the students, students maketh the college. If all bums got into IIM A B C, IIMs A B C won’t be A B C. New IIMs would be a different experience and I don’t mean an inferior one if you have the guts for it. If you want the brand name to work for you and thus decide to wait, it doesn’t work that way.

The “New IIMs”, so to say, would give you opportunities which other colleges can’t. I know it might sound as if it is all easy and cool to say this sitting in a B-school, but trust me when I say this. People who make it big don’t need the B-school tags, the B-schools need them to show what awesome alumni they have. It all comes down to the basics-“Believing in your capabilities”. And I don’t mean the capability to crack CAT. More than 4000 chaps do it every single year. My take: Bite the bullet, go for the college and make the ‘culture’ there. You won’t regret it. And as for the placements, they are comparable.

I want to wrap up by saying that- take it easy. It might seem an uphill task but it’s not rocket science. It might take time to start falling into place but eventually, it will, given your efforts.

All the very best!

Somyakanta Nanda,
IIM Raipur






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