Hello CAT Takers,
CAT is now done and dusted. It is time to move on. Chances are that if you are on this page, you are already ready to do so. Whether your CAT went well or not, this EXCLUSIVE article is designed to help you for your next stage of preparation. It is quite comprehensive and covers everything that you need to do from the moment your CAT gets over till the time you enter your b-school. Bookmark this page. Visit it at every stage of your preparation from here on. Tell us in the comments below with what more content and guidance we can provide you with.
Happy Reading and Best of Luck With Your Preparation!
- Other Exams
- MBA Interview Prep
- Pre-MBA Courses
- Pre-MBA Internships
What To Do If CAT Didn't Go As Planned?
Dear CAT Takers,
At the outset, pat yourself on your back for having attempted what’s touted to be one of the most difficult exams in the country, CAT. “A race run is as good as one”, the fact that you prepared for the litmus test of CAT and finally took it, is testimony enough that you are a warrior regardless of the result.
Success at CAT is as unpredictable as the earthquakes. Preparation alone doesn't guarantee that one would knock the exam down. In fact, it’s the constant interplay among your preparation, your luck, your “day” and of course the extraneous factors (like the weather, your health, your exam center, your state of mind among others), which you clearly have no control over, that finally decide how you fare in the exam. The three sections of the paper might not have been your best friends on the D-Day. A slight fraction of score flickering here and there can shake your percentile tremendously, but does that mean that you are any less smart or that you have any fewer opportunities? No, it certainly does not. All it means is that you are prepared for the bigger battle. The battle of life.
Now let us get to the good news. While preparing for CAT, you end up preparing for so many exams together that you have no idea of how many doors of opportunities open up even IF CAT ditched you. Bank on these opportunities.
An MBA is not the end of life. It might give you a headstart in your career, but there are myriad other ways to achieve the same. Also, wait, MBA however rosy it might sound to be, has a dark side too. Here’s what numbers have to say about MBA grads:
- The Times of India in a recent survey found out that 1 of every 2 MBA grad fails to land a job in India.
- A study conducted by ASSOCHAM, India, revealed that 93% of MBA graduates are unemployable.
- Only 46% of MBA grads are satisfied, if not happy, with their jobs.
- Only a third of the world's CEOs have an MBA.
These statistics are proof enough that CAT or an MBA alone cannot change the trajectory of your life. You can still reach the same goal, the route taken, however, might not be the same.
Here on, you have three routes that you can take. One, focus on the exams that you still stand a chance to crack-IIFT, XAT, GMAT, among others; and simultaneously chart your GD-PI prep schedule to ensure that you crack these colleges. Two, focus on what you’re doing and push the envelope there. They say, “the grass is green where you are, water it”. So water your grass. Invest in your current job and take a professional leap. Three, take CAT again.
Failure, they say, is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. So, start afresh. Learn from your previous mistakes and fix them. Knock CAT down doubly strong. Remember, you may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.
To quote Joseph Campbell, “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.” So, breathe, spread your wings of confidence and set a fresh flight. This time aiming to soar a little higher & a little stronger.
What To Do The Day After CAT?
Now that one of the most harrowing exams at this point in your life is over, you need to do one very important thing. Breathe. Do not immediately start thinking about how it went. Take a couple of hours to rest your body and mind. Every aspirant needs to forget about LRDI for some time and be themselves again.
As a suggestion we would like you to take up the 3R approach:
1. Relax: Take some time for yourself and do what you love best. It could be listening to music, playing your guitar (just like you mentioned in the CV) or maybe play a couple of rounds of PUBG. This is important so that you don’t stress yourself out too much. And also, it helps to take a break from all the hard work you have been doing for the past couple of months or weeks.
2. Research: By now, a lot of reputed institutes and online forums would have come up with their solutions and predictions. Career Launcher has been a decent predictor in the past two years. So, you can get a general idea of how “good” or “bad” you have performed. Those words are in quotes because at the end we have to understand and accept that CAT performance is subjective and it’s not the end of the world if you do not perform well in it.
3. Reorganize: For a lot of the upcoming exams, you will have to brush up or, in some cases, build up your GK skills. Take this day to decide where to study from and which areas to focus on.
- For those who did well in CAT, do decide how to change your strategy to tailor fit the other exams as many of them have a different pattern and have a higher attempt rate as compared to CAT.
- For those who think they didn’t do well, take this day to choose the exams you want to focus on and build a plan accordingly. For e.g. If you want to focus on XAT, you need to start your preparations for the Decision-Making section.
Time-Table To Follow From November 26, 2018, To January 15, 2019
So you thought it’s a wrap? Well, not so soon. Taking CAT is not the end, it perhaps only a beginning. The beginning of your prep for other B-School exams that you far had conveniently neglected under the shroud of CAT, the beginning of your toil to crack the entrance process of B-Schools and having your GD/PI/WAT game strong, the beginning of your journey of becoming B-School ready before you embark on your journey of transformation in July 2019.
Sounds like a heap of things to do? It is no less, trust me. It, therefore, is imperative to have a timeline for all that you need to do in the next 7 weeks. Here’s a week wise plan of how you can organize the tasks that you need to undertake in your power-packed 7 weeks that follow CAT:
Week 1: 26th November-2nd December: - TACKLE MICAT-1 AND IIFT
Months of hard work & toiling behind shortcuts & formulae, striving hard to get every question right, all of it in your quest to bell the CAT. Your efforts so far were focused on CAT. However, you can’t lay all your eggs in the CAT basket. You need to customize your preparation for other exams too. With MICAT-1 & IIFT scheduled on the 1st & 2nd of December, you need start working on the nuances of the paper. Particularly the GK section. Don’t fall into the trap of doing everything, not because it doesn't help but because in a week’s time you practically can’t. Analyze the past papers of MICAT/IIFT and figure out what kind of questions are more likely to appear in the paper and prepare accordingly. Alongside, make sure you take one full-length IIFT paper daily throughout the week and analyze the same. Try taking the test in the same time slot as that of the exam.
Week 2 & 3: 3rd December-16th December: - TACKLE SNAP - START GD-PI PREP
Week-2 & 3 should entail two major activities: One, start preparing for GD-PI-WAT. Two, focus your attention to SNAP scheduled on the 16th of December. The call conversion ratio at B-Schools is as low as less than 10%. It takes an astute preparation of GD-PI-WAT to maximize your chances of making it to the college of your dreams. InsideIIM would be conducting separate GD-PI-WAT webinars and will provide exclusive prep material to ensure that you ace the art of cracking B-School interviews better than anyone else. What makes these weeks even more crucial is the fact that they happen to be the weeks preceding SNAP. Here is where you can start aligning your prep more to the SNAP focused mocks.
Week 4: 17th December- 23rd December: - START PREPPING FOR XAT
The most important component of preparing yourself for the B-School life begins with inculcating the habit of reading newspaper, daily. If you haven't been able to develop this habit so far, now is the time. This will not help you prepare for the GK section of XAT but will also help you frame your answers for PIs. Besides, its high time you start solving the past XAT papers typically the Decision Making questions. This is one section that people are most alien to. Hence, practicing past papers of DM will not only help you understand the section and develop an approach for it but will also help you maximize your overall score.
Week 5: 24th December- 30th December: - XAT PREP AND MOCK INTERVIEWS
Week 5 is typically when you should start appearing for mock interviews. This is also the right time to start revisiting your CV: your undergrad subjects, your work experience, your hobby among others; and read about each one of them in details. Besides, take two sectional and one full-length XAT tests every day during week 5. By the end of week 5, you should be ready with the test taking strategy for XAT’19.
Week 6: 31st December- 6th January: - XAT IS HERE
Ah, the XAT week is here. It’s going to be a power-packed week where you will need to start applying to colleges whose applications open up around this time. Simultaneously you also need to smoothen your rough edges from XAT prep. Use this week to revise the XAT specific GK questions too. Divide your GK prep across 3-4 days and get it done in this week.
Week 7: 7th January- 12th January: RESULTS WILL BE OUT SOON! MAKE EVERY MOMENT COUNT.
By week 7 you're already in the grind of your GD-PI-WAT prep, have been reading the newspaper, attending mock sessions and applying for colleges. While you do all of these don’t forget that TISS is around the corner, it’s scheduled on the 13th of January. Make sure you have solved the past papers well and that you have your test taking strategy in place. From this point onwards, you need to start reading the basics of MBA domains: Operations, Marketing, Finance, Strategy, Human Resource and also read the basics of economics and mathematics. These are the things that make a huge part of the interview.
So, what are you waiting for?
Go fasten your seatbelts and let the 7-week roller coaster ride begin.
What Are The Next Steps?
1. Other Exams: Now that the CAT is over and many of you are thinking of chilling, but it is not the time to lose the slack because still, many management exams are on the way. Major exams to focus on after CAT are:
1. NMAT by GMAC, if you chose the slot in window 4 or 5
2. Common Management Admission Test (CMAT)
3. Xavier Aptitude Test (XAT)
4. Symbiosis National Aptitude Test (SNAP)
5. Management Aptitude Test (MAT)
6. Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) Exam
7. MICA Admission Test (MICAT)
8. Maharashtra Common Entrance Test (MAH-CET)
9. Institute of Rural Management, Anand Admission Test (IRMASAT)
10. Tata Institute of Social Sciences National Entrance Test (TISSNET)
2. MBA Interview Prep: Group discussion, Personal Interviews and Written Ability Test is a very important part of the MBA Admission Process. It is imperative to know that CAT is merely an elimination round. Cracking CAT will only bring you one half closer to your dream. The only way to get into your dream b-school is by being as prepared for this selection round as you were for CAT.
The key over here is communication. It is essential to understand what to say, what not to say, and how to say what you need to say during a PI or GD. Same goes for WAT. Candidates should know the crucial points to write in the essay.
Please note that GD has been scrapped as a part of the process at many IIMs and b-schools. Instead, WAT and PI are the preferred tools for selection of candidates into the MBA program.
PRO TIP And GYAAN -
There is no difference between you – the one who scored a percentile enough to get a call from the b-school and the guy who didn’t score a percentile enough to get a call. Sure, you are ahead of the curve. But what are you going to do to keep it that way? Here’s a suggestion - A complete course to help you get into a b-school of your choice. From GD preparation, Interview Skills, and Grooming Hacks. We cover it all. 4 Modules and 26 videos with lifetime access. Let this be your bible from now on. Want to know more about how the course will be? To access the free module, please click here.
- Personal Interview:
- Please remember that it is okay to say that you don’t know something in an interview. Instead of answering a question without any knowledge about the topic, be humble and state that you are not aware of the facts.
- Here’s the classic opening question in a PI – ‘Tell me something about yourself’. The answer to this question can make or break the interview. Typically, one should talk very briefly about family, education, career goals, hobbies and interests. Do not talk a lot about the past. Briefly refer to past education, life journey, and future plans.
- Another common question is ‘Why MBA?’. Answer such questions keeping in mind the holistic development you’ll get during MBA and acquisition of skills for lifelong success in personal and domestic space.
- The third common interview question is – ‘Where do you see yourself five years from now?’. While answering this, focus on skills development, increased responsibility while highlighting your goals as an achievement. But do not say I want to become VP or General Manager or similar stuff.
- Group Discussion
- Start with reading newspapers and editorials if you haven’t started already. This is where you would get the meat for your GD.
- Try to enter the GD at the right point, such when others are taking a small pause.Do not interject anyone. Be loud and assertive on points.
- It is not necessary to arrive at a consensus during a GD. Candidates have different opinions and consensus can’t be arrived at times. But it is necessary to conclude the GD.
- Either initiate the GD, or conclude it. Or be a mediator. Do something that will help you create an impression.
- Do not try to prove others wrong in a GD. Just remember it is not a debate but a group discussion.
- Ensure participation by putting up relevant points, showing maturity. Do NOT get personal. Build your arguments with facts, figures, and situations. Keep a logical approach throughout the GD. It becomes easy to build on others argument and conclude.
- Written Ability Test
- WAT topics can be as abstract as ‘ART is a four letter word’ to something more focus on current trends. So, keep reading the news, latest trends and articles on India’s growth stories.
- Reading Newspapers - Business Standard, Mint, Economic Times, The Hindu, etc are preferred options.
- This round test the candidate’s language, articulation, and content. So be careful about what you write.
- While preparing for WAT or essay round, refer to any available textbooks. But daily practice is the key here.
An SOP is a long-form essay that is often asked by colleges before GDPI. Usually, about 500-1000 words, this essay seeks to understand the candidate’s life, the motivations for the chosen career path and his/her goals. B-Schools could also ask question-based essays or simply to present your statement of purpose. An SOP could include your goals, your previous academic achievements, and the career path you have taken up. Another important point to mention is to write about your personal motivations for wanting to join the said course/b-school. Also, how joining the b-school can help you achieve your goal.
How to write a winning SOP - Below is the list of what all you should include in your SOP:
- Your long term and short term goals - clearly defined.
- Focus more on citing incidents of your achievement and teamwork/leadership rather than just stating them.
- How do you plan to give back to society?
- All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. Talk about your extracurricular activities.
- Why the particular b-school?
Remember that there is no exhaustive list of what all you can include in an SOP. What you need to remember is that in such a case, it becomes equally important to understand what all you must not include in your SOP
- All your Accomplishments: In SOP, mention only those accomplishments that make the most sense to your candidacy
- Your Family History
- Financial Details
- Too many details about your Academic Projects/ Jobs
BONUS READ -
- Pre-MBA Courses: After you are done with all your Interviews, you will be left with a lot of time before joining the B-School. During that, you can do a number of courses which will definitely help you while you will be in the Campus. Here is a list of some the courses:
- MS-Excel: You can start with learning Ms-Excel, as it is an indispensable part of MBA. For learning MS Excel, we would recommend a course on Konversations. Check it out here.
- Accounting: If you are from a non-commerce background and more so if you are an engineer!!) we will strongly recommend “Financial Accounting and Analysis by IIM Bangalore”. Check it out here.
- Stress to Success: Time at the b-school is going to be one of the most stressful times of your life. It is important to ensure that you do not burn out. Also, managing stress is one of the most important skills that employers look for these days. Check out the course here.
- PowerPoint Presentation: Making an effective presentation is going to be a part of your daily routine. This is what you will be doing a lot. And I actually mean a lot. Like literally every day. You may even have to cheat on Excel for Powerpoint.
- Read Kotler: Marketing Management by Philip Kotler, Kevin Lane Keller will be your Holy Bible for the next two years if you are interested in marketing, it’s better to at least be acquainted with it. You can find the pdf version of the book in just one google search.
- Pre-MBA Internships: A Pre-MBA internship is your stepping stone to get into the corporate world! Apply to these great MBA internships and kick-start your management career, especially if you are a fresher.
- Vacations: The months before business school goes by fast. Many MBA alumni and current students advice to enjoy this time because this would be a break that one would never get back. Here are the things one should do during this time prior to business school:
- Travel: Before joining B-School, go on a trip with your friends or solo, whatever suits you. But definitely take a break and take yourself out.
- Read Novels: Do read novels of your favourite writers which were piled up because of CAT preparation as you will not get this much free time to read novels in the college because there you will be busy in reading cases.
- Celebrate Life with friends and Family: Till now you were busy in college, job and management entrance exams preparation due to which somewhere you cut off with your friends and family and were not able to spend quality time with them. This is the perfect time to thank your family and friends who stood with you during your hard times by spending quality time with them.
How To Research And Choose B-Schools
The most important way to select a school is to decide on a framework to judge all of them out there. Should I choose IIM Kozhikode over IIM Indore? Is XLRI better than SPJIMR? Is MDI HR better than TISS HR? How do you decide between all the options out there?
Here are some of the most important factors to keep in mind when you sit down to take a call:
- Peer Group: Almost all B-Schools have a strong culture of peer-based learning. Rather than the teachers force feeding you theories and concepts, class participation is made mandatory so that students learn to dive deep into the subject and ask stimulating questions. The better the peer group in your college, the better your learning will be. So check out the kind of peer group colleges have. Usually, they mention this in their pre-placement infographics that they put on LinkedIn. Pro-tip: Follow all good colleges on social media. It helps give you some perspective.
- History of the institute and Fees: Check the history of the institute and dig up the news about them that’s online. The older and more successful a college is, the better their Alumni network will be. In some case, exceptions may be there especially with the new IIMs. But on a broader note, this does hold. Look at the fees. While it’s very easy to get an education loan from banks, there are colleges out there which are pretty good and have very less fees. A college like NITIE, which is a gem of a college for the operations profile, has a fee of under 10 lakhs in total. This would ensure a better return on investment as compared to a college like IIM Indore of Kozhikode if you are interested in ops. People have left old IIMs to go for PGDM in FMS, Delhi because the investment is almost zero.
- Placements: Go through the placement reports of the colleges from the past two years with a fine comb. Do the companies visiting campus meet your expectations? What is the median CTC offered? Make sure to see the range of packages offered and the primary industry the companies belong to. It will help a lot to align the college with your preference vis-a-vis marketing, finance, ops etc. This will also help you decide on your RoI (Return on Investment). Brand name in the industry is different from how we perceive it. Apart from that, if there’s a gap between the number of students and the number of students placed then it is a red flag for the college.
- Faculty: Go through the faculty list of the departments you are interested in. Look at the credentials of their faculty members. A great set of faculties can take the institute to places. It is important because MBA is mostly based on a case-based pedagogy and experiential learning mechanisms. Not having good professors would not add much value to your profile afterwards.
- Infrastructure and Campus Life: A great hostel life, a well-maintained library, a self-sufficient campus with everything available inside is important for you to have a great campus life for the next 2 years of your life. And trust us when we say, the most unforgettable two years of your life.
- Location: If colleges clash on all these parameters, then look at the location of the colleges. The better the location, the easily accessible it will be. This plays a vital role when it comes to placements, conferences, quality of life and other things such as ease of road trips.
We have compiled a guide of comparisons of different b-schools. Thereby making your research slightly easy. Check out the comparative guides here.
Ultimate Reading Lists - Curated Articles From InsideIIM And The Web - Recommended Reads
In the world full of noise, this is an attempt to get you to read the best content around the web. All of these pieces are timeless. This space is for when you want to do some light reading.
For when you need motivation -
- Fuck Validation
‘Who have you given the authority? The authority to tell you that you are okay or even great? Does it belong to your parents who approve of your career choice? Have you authorized your teacher to give you that extra ounce of attention that makes you feel everything is perfect? Are you going to let your marks or certificates validate you? Or will it be your summer job? Here’s an experiment. Why not fuck validation?’
Read the entire article here.
- Why You’re Not Motivated and 3 Handy Tools to Fix It
‘Remember that deliberate practise has one objective: to improve performance. ‘People who play tennis once a week for years don’t get any better if they do the same thing each time,’ Ericsson has said. ‘Deliberate practise is about changing your performance, setting new goals and straining yourself to reach a bit higher each time.’’
Read the entire article here.
- Shut Up And Be Grateful
‘The fact that you’re reading this sentence means that you are richer and more educated than 99.5% of people in human history. It means you have almost immediate access to over half of all of the information and data ever created by the human race. It means you have the ability to educate yourself on subjects people previously spent their entire lifetimes to learn.’ Read the entire article here.
- Marcus Aurelius on How to Motivate Yourself to Get Out of Bed in the Morning and Go to Work
Here, work is synonymous to anything that you need to bring yourself to do. So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?
Read the entire article here.
- Living Your 20s – The Uncomfortable Confusion
If you think that you are confused about something - it could be anything; from your life to your career to your personal relationships, then this one's for you. ‘The confusion of the 20s can be very uncomfortable. Not knowing what you want and seeing others get ‘ahead’ is disconcerting. But I would not wish it to be any other way for you.’ Read the entire article here.
For when you need to know more about the b-school life -
- 50 Things You Must Know About IIMs
This is not an exhaustive list. But it is a good place to start. It gives you a good insight into what you can expect from your b-school life - from academics to professors to dating. It has it all. Read it here.
- Dark Side Of MBA – Things That They Don’t Tell You Before Joining The B-School
Without a doubt, getting into a b-school will be one of the best things that happen to you. However, there is another side to it as well. Especially if you are one of those who thinks that ‘Ab Toh Life Set Hai, Boss’. Because this can be far from the truth. Read more about it here.
- 25 Untold Secrets About IIMs
The series of miseries, tons of FOMOs, an abundance of self-doubt, heaps of nervousness, loads of peer pressure, and a plethora of sleepless nights are just around the corner; if you get into a b-school. This article will prepare you for it. Read more here.
For when CAT results are out -
- CAT Results – Didn’t Make It? Resist And Fight!
For the thousands who didn’t get the calls or the percentiles but still have the potential to change the world. Read the entire article here.
- Have an IIM call? Show Some Humility.
If you have an interview call from the IIMs, thank god or whatever supreme power you believe in and get on with it. If you believe that just because you have a call or you have converted the call, you are superior allow us to put things into perspective. Read the entire article here.
If you want to be a better learner -
- Let Go of the Learning Baggage
We all want to learn better. That means retaining information, processing it, being able to use it when needed. More knowledge means better instincts; better insights into opportunities for both you and your organization. You will ultimately produce better work if you give yourself the space to learn. Yet often organizations get in the way of learning.
Read the entire article here.
If you want to be an entrepreneur -
- The Arrogant Fool At IIM – Ankit Doshi, Creator Of InsideIIM – Konversations
Watch this video if you are on the verge of quitting your dream. This will inspire you like nothing else will. Ankit Doshi is an IIM Indore alumnus. He was almost on the verge of quitting the b-school. But he stayed. And he made his hobby his work. His entrepreneurship venture. Watch his video here.
- 33 Things Every Aspiring Entrepreneur Should Know
‘Mark Cuban once said that for every great business idea you have, you should assume that 100 other people have had the same idea and are already working on it. Business ideas don’t matter. What matters is execution.’ Read the article here.
If you want to read more -
- Just Twenty-Five Pages a Day
It’s 25 pages a day. That’s it. Just commit to that, and then do it. What will 25 pages a day get you? Find out here.
- While You’re Waiting For Your CAT Results
Since you have already decided to pursue an MBA, it’s only fair that you acquaint yourself with what’s in store for you. Reading some of these books will give you different perspectives not only on business but also on life. It will expose you to the myriad challenges that businesses faced and how they overcame them to emerge victoriously. Read the list here.
- Books You Can Read While Preparing For CAT (And Later Too)
While the books should give you some pleasure, it should also teach you a thing or two. So, here are a few suggestions that you can get your hands on. The author read most of them and found them very interesting, and each one of them changed his life in one way or another. Read the entire article here.
If you are in no particular mood - some random yet interesting reads -
Albert Camus on the Three Antidotes to the Absurdity of Life
Fuck Your Feelings
The Ship of Theseus: A Brilliant Ancient Thought Experiment Exploring What Makes You You
The Opposite of Loneliness
Create a Meaningful Morning Routine by Making These Two Key Changes
Are Intelligent People More Lonely?
Why We Are All Addicts
BONUS READ - A LETTER TO AN ASPIRING INTELLECTUAL
If you are here, chances are that you are already ahead of the curve. You are on your way to making a better life for yourself. A better career. A better person. Being an intellectual, sometimes, is an important part of growth. If you think you are an intellectual, you must read this.
How To Develop A Hobby And Keep At It - THIS IS IMPORTANT
Suppose there are 2 candidates who are applying for a job. Both of them have graduated from similar NITs, worked in established companies as engineers for about 2-2.5 years and have finally landed at B-Schools of similar pedigree. They both specialized in the same function and their academic performance has been consistently similar over the years. This sort of scenario is not unlikely: you will find students having similar profiles such as yours by the dozen in any B-School. But in this case, what if one of the candidates is all of these things mentioned above, but also something more? What if he/she is a marketing maverick but also a hiking enthusiast? Or plays the cello? Wins amateur baking competitions? None of these things are relevant to the job, you may very well say. Yet, this person does stand a greater chance of making it through.
At the core of any interview experience lies a very basic challenge: you have to make sure your panel likes you. Of course, the more articulate, presentable and yes, fascinating, you are, the easier it gets to make someone like you. If you can’t pique someone’s interest during an interview, you have already lost the battle. But that’s not the only reason why the hiker gets the job over the average guy. It’s the fact that this person knows how to lead a wholesome life.
There are a number of reasons why having a constructive hobby can help in an interview. As mentioned above, it shows you are a wholesome person, not just another dissatisfied entity pushing a 9-to-5, someone doing nothing other than the absolute basics to get by in life. It shows that not only do you go beyond the expected, you also take charge of your own happiness and well-being (think of the whole idea of work-life balance: a woman/man with a hobby has this one thing sorted!). The curiosity and effort it takes to nurture a hobby show that you are capable of engaging with your surroundings in a positive way. Most importantly, hobbies take time, commitment and dedicated effort. Who doesn’t like someone who exhibits these traits? In the span of a 30-minute interview, hobbies are the best way to prove that you have these qualities. Hobbies are also a great way to connect with the right people. An MD of a reputed company had a clear recollection of one of the many summer interns working at his organization because the two of them would play a round of tennis every evening on the company premises! Did you ever think a hobby could help in building a good impression and expanding your professional network?
How do you set about developing a hobby? Now that CAT is done and dusted, it’s a good time to begin. While we can’t tell you which hobby to take up, it makes sense to look back on things you may have achieved in a particular domain during your childhood. Maybe you won a couple of dance competitions back in school. Or won prizes for your poetry. Those are things you could take up again. It would help you sell your consistency to the panel: that you have always loved dancing and you stuck to it over the years. Plus, it would be something that you actually do enjoy and probably have good memories about. Because enjoying your hobby, whether it’s reconnecting with something old or starting off a fresh chapter, is very important. Your hobby should be making you calmer or fitter or happier, but whatever it is, it should contribute to your life meaningfully. It’s not just a CV point, it’s your key to staying sane in the middle of life’s many challenges.
There will always be something you wish you had tried out when you were younger. Maybe it’s time you actually did try it out! It would be helpful to make the hobby a constructive one: you should be able to talk about how it has contributed to your personality, taught you valuable qualities such as discipline (so maybe movie marathons on the couch don’t qualify!) It is also recommended that your hobby be certifiable or at least have proof of some kind. If you are learning a musical instrument, a good idea would be to take the exams that would certify your proficiency. For those interested in art, maintaining a portfolio is a good idea. Certified tests come as part and parcel of a foreign language course.
If you want to build up the foundations of a hobby in the interim between appearing for CAT and going for an interview call, a few suggestions would be to take up short-term language courses, attend workshops in a particular field (yoga, cooking, art and craft) or at the very least, read a lot! These are things you could easily mention on your profile quite legitimately, while at the same time impressing your panel. Taking up music, dance or a sport is relatively more time taking and requires more time to show results, but these activities have unique benefits to balance out our stressful, sedentary lives.
So what superpower are you going to develop? :)
Now the last but the most important bit. Read this only if you think MBA is not for you. If you are determined to do an MBA, then you can skip the next part.
If not MBA, then what?
You’ve written CAT already, so you probably have some inkling of how it went. If it went well, good for you. If it didn’t, then something better is in store for you! A competitive exam is no measure of your capabilities. The person who scores a 99.99 is not necessarily a much smarter or more capable person than someone who scores an 85. But the top scorer clearly has something that others don’t: an aptitude for cracking competitive exams. Not everyone is born with this aptitude, but on the flip side, there’s seldom any people who have no aptitude at all! So if CAT isn’t working for you, it’s time to introspect and figure out what will.
Whether it’s your maiden attempt at CAT or whether you’ve done it a few times, don’t for once think that just because you took CAT, you HAVE to go to a B-School. If things fall in place and you convert a fairly good school as per your capabilities and aspirations, nothing like it. But there is little value creation is breaking your back to take a loan and study in a school where you don’t feel happy or intellectually stimulated and at the end of the course, you just realise what you knew all along: you aren’t meant for management. In B-School, we are taught about the sunk cost fallacy. Dear reader, don’t fall for it!
Once you have acknowledged that maybe MBA isn’t what kindles you, it’s time to look at other options. By virtue of graduation, you already have a skill set. Is there any way to expand that? For non-engineers, getting a Master’s degree, doing research under qualified mentors and looking at fellowships are some ways to take forward the previous learning. This holds particularly true in the case of Humanities, fine arts etc. In such cases, an advanced degree could open up doors for research, teaching, publishing papers and working with a subject that interests you. For engineers, working or otherwise, upgrading our skill set could be valuable in unlocking better employment opportunities, so scanning the market to see which skills are most in demand is a good starting point.
In case you don’t want to continue with what you have in hand, then you will have to chart out a completely new path for yourself. You could look at post-graduate programmes (Masters/Diploma) in management that several Indian universities offer, if you are still keen on taking up management. These would not be very resource-intensive, but at the same time, they would give you a warm-up to concepts in management and make you employable in managerial domains. Once you have joined a company, you could eventually go for an executive program at a premier B-School: these often happen over weekends/in the short term and might not be as competitive as the full-time programmes are. Alternately, you could look for management courses abroad, if you have accumulated 3 or more years of work experience.
The other option is to go for entrepreneurship. Had you done an MBA, it would have been a significant expense for almost 2 years. Why not invest that amount in your business idea? If you are confident that you will thrive in business and have done your research well, why not make a small investment in a project and see how it goes? Many wildly successful businesses (including Apple!) have had humble beginnings. And this is the best way to take ownership of your own career and be your own boss!
If you are still short of ideas, but flexible in your approach, do a bit of research. Find out which skills are most needed in the job market and how you can acquire them. It could be by means of a degree, a certification course, an apprenticeship. But the essence is to understand where the demand lies and to cater to it in a way that suits your area of strength. This could be something as typical as a CA or CS, or as niche as translation experts!
Before you take a decision, consider a few vital questions:
- Is this going to enrich me professionally?
- Do I plan to do this in the long run? If not, will this help me get closer to what I ultimately want?
- What are the risks involved?
- What do I stand to gain if this works out?
- If this fails, what can be my fall back option?
Coldplay might claim that lights will guide you home. But between you and me, in-depth research and careful planning are what will.
Now, if you think that MBA is the only means to get you to your dream career and your goal then this is what you need to do. Focus on the other entrance exams. Here's a short guide to help you with the same.
Exam Details: IIFT entrance exam has more number of questions than CAT. One has to attempt a total of 100 questions for CAT, whereas for IIFT, it has been quite variable – 124, 123 and 114 questions in IIFT 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively. The IIFT entrance examination lasts for two hours. IIFT entrance exam is conducted in pen and paper mode. This makes a huge difference when it comes to how you approach the paper.
Registration Date: Closed.
Exam Date: 2nd December 2018.
Exam Prep Plan: Since it is a paper-pencil test, you can switch between the different sections as and when you wish. This allows you the flexibility to spend more time on the sections that you are weak in, while breezing through your strong suits. Following are the sections that are there in the exam -
(i) Data Interpretation, (ii) Logical Reasoning, (iii) Reading Comprehension, (iv) Verbal Ability, (v) Quantitative Ability and (vi) General Awareness - each of sections have a different cutoff.
General Awareness: The GK section is one of the most dreaded sections of the IIFT Entrance Examination. Read more about how to crack it here.
Check the webinar for the adjustments you need to make from CAT to IIFT in the last one week here.
Exam Details: Symbiosis National Aptitude Test (SNAP) is a national level management entrance exam, administered by Symbiosis International University (SIU) for admission in 15 Symbiosis institutes. It is an objective based test. Each question has 4 responses. Candidate should choose an appropriate response. Each wrong answer attracts 0.25 negative marks. The question will consist of 150 questions carrying one mark for each right answer.
Registration Dates: The SNAP 2018 application process will end on November 26, 2018.
Exam Dates: The test will be held online on December 16, 2018. SNAP Test Admit Card should be printed from the SNAP website which will be available on December 1, 2018.
Exam Prep Plan: What differentiates the test from the CAT is the General Awareness Section and the overall level of difficulty (LoD); the General Awareness section has a key role to play in the SNAP, while it is absent in the CAT. Further, the overall LoD of SNAP is perceived to be historically lower than that of the CAT. You need to develop a preparation strategy to crack SNAP Entrance Exam. From 2017 onwards, the SNAP exam will take place in an online format. Below is the section-wise strategy to do well in the exam
- Quantitative Ability, Data Interpretation & Data Sufficiency
Traditionally speaking, the SNAP exam emphasises greatly on Arithmetic questions. It covers topics like Time and Work, Mixtures and Allegations, Ratio and Proportion, Percentages, Time and Distance, Averages and Profit & Loss. As far as Geometry is concerned, Mensuration has been a fairly regular part of the exam.
Data Sufficiency is present in SNAP on a fluctuating basis. In general, the Data Interpretation questions asked in SNAP are fairly easy and are not as complex as the ones asked in XAT/ CAT or as calculation intensive as the ones asked in the IIFT test. The trick here is to maximise attempts.
- Analytical & Logical Reasoning
The Analytical and Logical Reasoning section witnessed a total of 40 Questions and each question carried one mark. This section is a potpourri of sorts and features questions from diverse areas. The popular areas from which questions are asked are critical reasoning, deductive logic, analogies, logical reasoning sets, series, visual reasoning, arrangement, blood relations and puzzles. Logical Reasoning can be practised using puzzle books and other books on reasoning.
In the SNAP Analytical and Logical Reasoning section, an attempt of 20+ questions within 30 minutes should be the target.
- General English
Generally, this is an easy section in SNAP. It features a host of vocabulary questions, grammar questions and short RC passages. Around 4 to 5 RC questions have appeared in this section and there has been a greater focus on vocabulary-based questions. Keeping this in mind, you are advised to learn and revise as many words as possible. In the SNAP Verbal section, you should try to attempt 29-30 questions within 30 minutes. Read good books and newspapers. Read a national daily and pay close attention to its editorial pages. Learn a minimum of 20-30 words daily, along with their multifarious usages.
- General Awareness
This was one area that gives grief to a number of the students-the reason was the vastness of the SNAP General Awareness syllabus! But from 2017 onwards, the major area quizzed by SNAP in this area is current affairs. Generally, GK sections have very low cut-offs. So, one should attempt questions with certainty and conviction, and hold back from guessing randomly. An attempt of approximately 15-20 questions within 10 minutes should be targeted. Mostly go through the current news of the year 2018.
Do practise a good number of mocks to know your strengths and weaknesses and to increase your speed as SNAP is a speed test. Avoid blind guesses as much as possible as there will be negative marking and have a time cut-off for each question and don't get consumed by a question and miss out a decent score.
Exam Details: The exam is conducted by XLRI on behalf of the Xavier Association of Management Institutes and is a gateway for aspirants to get admission into XLRI - Xavier School of Management and other management institutes that accept the XAT score.
Registration Dates: The XAT 2019 application process will end on 30th November 2018.
Exam Date: XAT 2019 will be conducted on 6th January 2019.
For a detailed exam preparation plan and stories, please check this.
Registration Date: Registrations need to be completed by December 10, 2018
Exam Dates: Sunday January 13, 2019
Exam Prep Plan:
The beauty of TISSNET is that, unlike the gamut of competitive exams, it doesn’t have the concept of percentiles. So you are your only competitor. Just like what we had back in school, it’s a 100 mark exam: the higher you score, the higher your chances of clearing the cutoff. For the last few years, the cut-off has ranged between 80-85, depending on the difficulty level of the exam and the number of applicants.
The examination tests your verbal and quantitative abilities and general awareness. For those who have been preparing for exams such as CAT, the first two should not be difficult. However, you must keep in mind that there is no room for missing out a single mark out of the 60 dedicated to these 2 sections (30 marks each). Unless you have scored 58-60 in these 2 sections, you will become heavily dependent on the 40 mark general awareness section, which is the real deal breaker in the case of TISS. The difficulty level and the variety of topics covered in the GK section of TISSNET is higher than any other management competitive entrance. Therefore, unless you are a pro at this, you do not want to lose out on any marks in the other two sections. That way, if you have already scored a 60, you only need to get other 25-27 questions right in the GK section in order to qualify for the next steps. However, in the case of TISS, a cumulative scoring system is followed. This means that if you can push up your score to a 90, it will lead to a higher overall score than someone who qualified with only the cutoff (provided you don't have great differentials in scores in the GD or PI).
Hence, maximising your score remains the priority for TISSNET. Assuming that the quantitative and verbal questions (largely belonging to Level of Difficulty 1) are not going to be a problem area for you, GK is what you should really focus on. Unlike other examinations, TISSNET is not really focused on speed. So this actually makes things much easier: you only need to get your GK right!
How to prepare for GK? For static GK, there are enough resources available, both online and offline. In my case, I simply borrowed the GK books that are used by middle-school students. It covered most aspects of static GK, plus it was in a very distinctive and colourful format, with a lot of pictures and flash-card style boxes on the margins. This made it very easy for me to retain the facts without the feeling of having to mug them up. As for current GK, I found it more challenging because it’s anything and everything under the sun. My trick was to read newspaper headlines every day for the last 2 months before TISSNET. This is easier said than done. Whereas I was only supposed to read headlines and recall names and dates of important recent events, I would get sucked into reading an interesting article and thus end up spending too much time on this exercise, thereby losing the real focus. So this method calls for a lot of self-discipline, to only focus on what is useful and keep this activity brief. Other ways would be to follow GK capsules, although this is more cumbersome to remember. A lot of UPSC content is relevant for the TISSNET GK section, so checking out the GK resources on sites catering to UPSC students is helpful. I would also suggest group studying for the GK section, because collective fact-finding and sharing not only makes these facts easier to retain plus it covers a lot of variety when each member is focusing on a particular category.
What is also to be kept in mind is that the real challenge is not just TISSNET but what comes once you qualify, The GD and PI are the real deal breakers since the ratio of selected students is a highly competitive one, in our 60-odd batch size. So if you are really keen on cracking TISSNET, I would suggest that you also start working on the PI soon after the TISSNET exam is done, because you will get only a small window between the shortlist and the actual interview date to prepare.
What To Do If You Are A Working Professional?
If you are a working professional, there are more options for you than you might know. Many b-schools, including ISB, offers a one-year program for working professionals which are at par with the IIMs, and other top b-schools, if not better.
Studying at a b-school like ISB sure has its merits. However, the fee is quite steep. A proper analysis of ROI, your ambition, and comparison study of ISB is required before you embark on the journey to this b-school. Also, this would mean an additional preparation for GMAT.