Saturday, July 28, 2007

IIM Bangalore and the Order of Admissions

A top secret, highly classified document has just been released. Not by the CIA, but IIM Bangalore.

The cloaked in mystery, shrouded in enigma, super secret selection procedure to one of the most elite management institutes in the country is now a matter of public record. A 5 page document outlining exactly how IIM B admits candidates into its flagship 2 year PGP program is now available on the institute website.

All those of you giving CAT this year will no doubt be excited by the contents of the release. Like the CAT RC section, it's a bit of a daze to read so let me sum up what it says:

a) Stage 1 shortlist: This is prepared solely on the basis of performance in CAT. You need to achieve certain minimum cut offs in each section. Of course these cut offs vary from year to year, depending on how test takers have performed as a whole.

No big surprise here, we've kind of known this.

b) Stage 2 shortlist: Here is the real bombshell.

For all candidates in the first shortlist as stated in Table 1, the weighted total of the five components namely (a) work experience or professional course, (b) CAT, (c) 10th board, (d) 12th board, (e) bachelor’s as stated above was used to prepare a pre-GDPI rank list for calling candidates for the GDPI.

This means having a high CAT score is not enough to get an interview call to IIM B. Your past academic performance matters a hell of a lot.

How much? Well, the weightage is as follows:
CAT = 20
10th board=15
12th board=10
Bachelors= 15.
(If you have not completed Bachelor's your marks in undergrad years will be considered instead).

Weightage for work experience and/ or professional course was assigned as 10. Interestingly, CA is the ONLY professional course eligible for weight under the criteria 'professional course'. And the formula for work ex gives the highest score to candidates with an experience of 36 months duration.

Thus the profile of the candidate most likely to get a call from IIM B is as follows:
* High CAT score, cleared all sectional cut offs
* Consistent academic performance across 10th, 12th and graduation.
* 1-3 years work experience.
* A CA with good CAT scores and impressive academic record could have a small advantage.

However there are always exceptions to the rule and IIM B ackowledges that.

For all candidates in the first shortlist as stated in (1), the top 10 candidates in each sectional and total score in CAT, adjusted SSC, HSC, Bachelors and professional (CA) (from the first shortlist, as created in Table 1) automatically qualified for GDPI.

IIM B explains: These candidates were given a chance to appear for GDPI due to their exceptional performance on one parameter.

At the end of the process, however, they were treated like any other candidate and had to qualify on the basis of 'composite aggregate score'.

For each of the three elements of evaluation during the GDPI process – Group Discussion, Group Discussion Summary, Personal Interview - the average of the scores given by the two interviewing faculty was considered.

Weights as follows:
GD score - 7.5
G D summary - 7.5
Personal Interview - 20

Frankly, I never knew 'G D Summary' was important!

During the interview 'work experience quality' is evaluated on a 5 point scale (0 – 0.5 – 1 – 1.5 – 2) by each member of the panel. The average quality of work experience score was multiplied by the pre-GDPI work experience score and accordingly revised in Phase 2.

The Group Discussion score, Group Discussion Summary score, Personal Interview score, after standardization within interview panels, were added to the pre-GDPI total (with revisions in Work Ex Score, if any) to arrive at the final aggregate score.

And that is the basis of the final ranks. The 'total' scores were out of 105.

There is a separate note on candidates admitted through GMAT which is around 3-4 students a year.

My observations:
# When the IIMs started revealing percentile scores, one layer of secrecy was peeled away. Now, IIM B has gone fully public.

The revelations come following an RTI application filed by a disabled candidate who was not called for interview. However IIM B says it will reveal the 'formula' for this year's selections (which is tweaked from year to year) before CAT 2007. Wonder if other IIMs will decide to go 'transparent' as well!

# The subject of deepest debate re: the IIM B admit procedure is the amount of importance it gives to 'consistent and high performance in past academics'. This makes your class 10 boards one of the most crucial milestones in life!

The coaching class guys will have a lot of explaining to do. No matter how well you do in the present ie in clearing CAT, your past can and will will drag you down!

# Of course once you are shortlisted for an interview your communication skills in the GD and the impression you make in the interview do play an important role. The vague explanation given about what the panel looks for in the PI clearly indicates there is a level of subjectivity.

Each faculty used the Personal Interview to comprehensively evaluate the candidate’s motivation and ability to fit in and benefit from the PGP program.

Sounds like the 'X factor' rating to me. A bit of extra currics,confidence minus cockiness and wide eyed earnestness should see you through. Clarity of fundas on your undergrad subject also matters. Also...

All candidates were required to provide three confidential reference letters from their employers or faculty and this was also used in the personal interview evaluation.

Never knew about that one! But a positive step, in building a more 'complete picture'. Overall the subjective part of the admisson process - GD & PI - make up 33% of the aggregate score. That means there is a chance to play catch up relative to the ubergeeks who've made it with you so far!

# The other interesting thing is the amount of detailing involved at each stage. For example:

For all candidates in the first shortlist as stated in Table 1, the candidates’ percentage scores in the 10th and 12th board exams are standardized by dividing each score by the 90th percentile score obtained in that board. The database of 10th and 12th scores of all CAT applicants of the past two years was used for identifying the 90th percentile score for each 10th and 12th board for this purpose.

Ah. That's a lot of number work!

# Another point to note: OBC qualifying cut offs were specified although following the SC judgement OBC candidates were not actually called for interviews separately It's heartening to know the OBC cut offs were pegged very close to General cut offs.

eg In Data & Logic section General candidates needed to score 85% while OBCs neededt 75%. The qualifying score for SCs, STs and disabled was 50%.

# There is no mention of any 'quota' for people of different academic streams, or gender. Those from elite institutions don't get preference except that they are more likely to have been toppers in class 10 and 12 to begin with.

There is some debate on this subject going on here.

# Lastly, the mathematicalness of it all is astounding. This 'multi variate analysis' or whatchamacallit is very impressive and very Greek to the general public. Transparency cloaked in invisibility - Shri Harry Potter would have been pleased!

A current PGP at IIMB remarks: It can’t be proved that it’s the best way to process admissions, but it sure is the only way that is objective and looks successful, from the outside, at least.

In the final analysis I would say IIMs are designed to attract well rounded geeks. But emphasis on the geek aspect is higher, the well rounded bit a happy coincidence.

There are a lot of 'been a topper throughout my life' on these campuses. The exam and subsequent process is designed to admit this profile.

Someone should now study the co relation between ranks at the time of admission and ranks while on campus. And ten years later, co relate the same two ranks with the individual's performance in the corporate world.

I am sure some formula taking into account size of company, designation, pay packet, role, reporting relationships and so on could be figured out as a metric of 'success'.

The analysis should include a 33% weightage to an interview where personal satisfaction and that elusive thing called 'quality of life' is factored in.

And on a more philosophical note, I wonder when we will be freed of past patterns of thinking. Yes, the past can predict the future but it can also constrain it. The 'yesterday predicts tomorrow' line of thinking discounts the power of the human spirit to achieve and overcome. To rise to new challenges.

Regardless of what IIM B might say, you gotta shed the baggage of the past, live in the present and dream for the future!


  1. Good post.

    I totally agree with career metrics being incorporated into the process as well. And the "living with the past" is sure to discourage a lot of applicants. But it's a decent process overall, and if work experience could be upped in weight, the 10th and 12th combined together into a smaller component, it could be a least common denominator that we could probably nod our heads to.

    And yes, even when I joined, I had to give three letters of reference, a la Harvard. That's a good thing, methinks. It could bring out a lot of things about you that neither your CAT application nor your interview could achieve: what other people thought about you, in their own words.

    PS: And for the record, a bit contrary to what you mentioned, I'm not a current PGP--I've already graduated and am with Fidelity Investments. :) But that takes nothing away from anything.


  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. IIM would continue to attract huge talent who’d end in working for others than starting something of their own. Bcoz always win attitude guy definitely don’t try new things. Fear of failure would always be there. This clearly states that MBA degree would be useful only for landing into great and highly payable job than creating something worth to cherish. That’s the reason why you can’t find more entrepreneurs coming from crème la crème. If they come then you’d end up by putting into blog since these are all exception and Ofcourse that’s why you’re mentioning in your blog. They only knew about “SUCCESS”. These folks can’t accept defeat or disaster that could come in their way if they opt for starting something of their own. These guys are high quality people who’d nicely speak latest lingo (common and mediocre individual like me won’t understand) thatz filled with great amount of so called research stuff than coming up with simple terms. IIM would remain “NUMERO UNO” in attracting great and quality talent forever.

  4. True, past should not pull one's future down. But for an outsider who is trying to judge you.

    You've consistently performed well in the past implies you are likely to perform well in the future.

    The GDPI part (33% weightage is decent) tells if someone actually has the potential that his grade sheet depicts.

    Ofcourse, the reference letters should help get a third person opinion on the candidate. Though the math of the process is cumbersome, it does make sense.

    Basically, the goal is to try and get people who did well throughout instead an out of the world performance on the dat of CAT.

  5. "This means having a high CAT score is not enough to get an interview call to IIM B. Your past academic performance matters a hell of a lot."

    This is why.
    Many of My friends got calls from all IIMS except IIM bagalore. & They were cribing about transparancy. Now they must have known why they could not get call from IIM bangalore .

    ur post is soo useful 4 cat students.although i am not giving cat,i wud lik to recommand this to my'm i wud like u too read ma blog..!

  7. Nice post!

    One little comment -

    If you think yourself as recruiter/selector - then would you want to have - a consistent performer or a person who has shown a one time brilliance and multiple mediocrity?
    Would you play a Sehwag or a Dravid?


  8. i agree with pranav. for me its about achievement and consistency. if someone has a brilliant academic record but doesnt do that well in CAT, he prob deserves a second chance without losing a year. And same vice versa.

    Over the years, i've become a great believer in achievement, though for me this doesn't neccessarily mean academic achievement - if for example, you've been a great athlete or even a great editor of the school mag, that still classifies as achievement. in the current environment, even being a consistent blogger (frequency and uniform quality) would gain brownie points...
    overall - i think its a nice system. its always easy to knock a system but v difficult to create one !

  9. Very well written, Rashmi! This should help a lot of people out there to figure out why there have been cases in the past where they have got calls from ALL IIMs except for IIMB.

    I would very keenly be interested in a similar revelation from the other IIMs as well! Will they wait for an RTI enquiry to release something like this?

  10. An eyeopener for all Cat aspirants ... well written . Now we know that history is important . In fact even in B schools , forecasting methods heavily rely on past data and it is scientifically proven to be correct. So the process is technicaly correct but Rashmi's points are well taken . Nice post

  11. Hi guys,

    Accepted that 'have been' toppers are most likely to be more successful.Also they would be able to handle pressure and have the confidence to see themselves through:the kind corporations would like to rely upon since it would affect lot many people.

    Having said this,I think there would also be people who wouldnt have been the toppers but have the fire in their belly,have the capability to handle corporate operations.This genre maynot have suceeded in the past due several reasons like improper guidance,unsuitable surroundings,lack of motivation,etc.

    The challenge for the Indian mgmt education stalwarts should be to enable a process which could identify such cases.After all wot's the fun in taking already successful people and claiming that we are great since anyways they'll be successful.

    A possible solution could be an addition to the current process,a method is augmented such that these category of people is taken thorugh a denser PI.Here a lot of personal traits could be identified.

    All said and done,IIMs cannot be blamed.India has a population problem,competetion has been there and will always be.The authorities can help but follow some crudeness in name of elimination.

    I would be eager hear from anybody on

  12. I have heard IIM - A is the most coveted of them all, so their parameters/criteria should only be tougher if not equal to IIM - B.

    What happens to the rest of the students who qualify the CAT?

    Clearly, one of the IIMs gets the cream :-) and then it trickles down to the others.

    May be they share them!

    Someone from IIM-K says..."Hey, I got a crop of losers this year, IIM-B gets to keep all the gravy, I wants mai toppers, mai institute's gaat legacy, what about mai legacy, you waant me to look chickenfaced bhen them jaab hunters come to kampus?"

    Bangalore replies "Shut up Kaanpur, tell your crappy wannabe strategy consultants to work haard now, I keeps their tenth exam record in front of me, most of them did bery bery bad in Hindhi, you think you'll be good manager if you get viral fever just before your exaaaam, naansense"

  13. i shall not comment on whether the procedure is appropriate or not...
    i only want to thank u...
    because this was highly informative....

  14. finally..saw it 1st on ET. Interesting point about the coaching insties. GD summary..are u kidding me the same thing will be said by #3,#4 etc..but is the prep gonna be different or are potential Welches who have low acads gonna drop out?

  15. Hi
    Thats a pretty detailed post. However, my own experience is that the entire education imparted at the IIMs "moulds" people. It is not about getting the jacks out of boxes! It gears "good" students to be employed by "good" companies for "good" salaries. It is not a platform for the flawed genius.
    However, it is a chicken and egg situation. Did the admission process result in "moulded" graduates, or was the objective itself to create such graduates?
    If the objective indeed was to encourage the straight line thinking, the admission process is perfect!

  16. hi
    dis is a very useful information u hav provided.thanx

  17. I expected the process to be pretty close to what they have described.

    Your analysis is skin deep at most.
    "This 'multi variate analysis' or whatchamacallit is very impressive and very Greek to the general public. "

    You've come out of IIMA Rashmi. We expected better than this. Academics is so far ahead of the industry in using some of the mathematical techniques. The fact that IIMB's process is so scientific makes me feel proud of them.

    Their process was so good that they were not afraid of coming out in the open with it.

    I have seen enough number of geeks and other normal people come out of IIMs.

    You need a course in predictive statistics !!

  18. I am in complete disagreement with the post. Your attack on IIMB is unreasonable and not called for. You have a penchant for attacking B-schools other than yours. I have tried to respond to you in kind on

    Hope, next time you will be more responsible while voicing your opinions.

  19. well iim admission and giving a cat is very you have to strive hard

  20. well involving professional in selection process will make the students job very difficult.i hope best sucess to studrnts

  21. well my friend was trying for iim bangalore and he was not selected well going to bangalore for higher studies is a determination for future success

  22. I completely agree with sandeep. In this whole process there is no place for a flawed genius. One mistake at any stage in life and you are out of the game.
    They pick the cream with such a fine tuned process year after year, no wonder the placements are huge!

  23. 10th standard is a big indicator of the competence of a person. I use it to filter job applications at my consulting firm. 80% minimum in 10th standard suggests that the person has the aptitude towards learning. And business management - in b-school and in the real world - is all about learning from situations and innovating.

  24. its a very good selection tests the consistency of the person over the years.

  25. I'm quite disappointed with Ananya's take, the 10th std bit, its just some old-worldly view, a relic of the old Indian 'status-seeking era'.

    Look at me mate,a "mere" 50% something(ssc-wise), all of 25, worked my way up the ladder, multiple promotions I might add without blowing my horn, Running a profit center employing some 150+ folks, isn't what we call a child's business.

    My school of learning was/is The School of Hard Knocks, always will, the rest can keep mugging their books : )

  26. @Anannya

    "10th standard is a big indicator of the competence of a person" do you think people getting below 80% in SSC do not succeed? i think only people who got above 80% would agree with your views. And a persons attitude matters more than aptitude.We have many examples of people learning from situations and innovating who are not toppers at school/college.

  27. @Ananya, are you actually contributing to a process known as 'nation-building', or.. oh well.

  28. Rashmi, how bout taking a cue from our 'status-seekers' in education and in jobs, perhaps a write-up about them, on how not to cock-a-snook at everyone and how they could possibly avoid being the laughing stock, and contribute, positively, I might add.

  29. hi dudes,
    this post is seems to be very informative .it's always better to know the guide lines of your path
    and what u did is to bring illusion over the selection procedure in plane words

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