Thank you to all those of you who filled in my CAT questionnaire (just - because I asked you to!) The exercise was not 'scientific' but I am sharing with you the results, coz some of it has been an eyeopener!
8 out of 9 people who responded were male and engineering students/ graduates.
Don't know if this reflects the readership of my blog or the general skew in the CAT-taking population (esp the male bit). But weirdly enough, it reflects the approximate class profile at India's top business schools!
Of these 9 people all are currently working:
Two were taking CAT for the first time (both are final year students - but doing their internships and hence technically, 'working')
One for the second time
And six for the third time!
Wow. The reason, I deduce, is that all the engineers are in good jobs and hence aiming only for a top 10 school. So they would rather attempt the exam again and again than settle for the school they got the first time.
The question is, does one's performance improve by taking the exam multiple times?
Well, this came as a revelation to me - YES! One guy's performance has jumped as much as 18 percentile while the average jump from one year to the next appears to be 10 percentile.
As regards classes:
One person has taken absolutely no classes.
Of the rest, TIME appears to be most popular (5 of the respondents were from South India).
Second most mentioned classes were IMS.
Since most were CAT veterans test series/ AIMCATs/ SIMCATs were more popular than classroom coaching. 2 of the 9 had taken a TIME + IMS combo while one had take Time + a local classe (Byju's) for Mock CATs (in Pune).
While some fit the mythical 'engineer' profile and are struggling with verbal ("I had problems with RCs and am looking to improve by reading books"), others are finding quant to be challenging.
Says one such banda, "English: 98-99 percentile, consistent; Quantis poor, DI is poor.". So, one cannot generalise :)
In fact DI seems to be an even bigger pain in the butt than quant. As one aspirant notes: "My quant is improving, but I am a slow starter. I go in this order: DI, Verbal, Quant. The Verbal section relaxes me. I am a bit rusty when I start. So I underperform in DI. Let's hope I start scoring in DI".
As far as study schedules go here is a typical response:
"On an average I manage around 2 hours everyday, 3 hours on a good day and 1-1.5 hours on a bad day. On Saturdays I manage around 2-3 hours excluding classes (4 hours)".
Only 1 out of 9 claims to put in 5.5 hrs a day. The average study period is about 2 hours. Surprisingly, half the people prefer to study in the morning, before leaving for work!
While all are somehow juggling work and prep, a few are making adjustments in their career to make it happen.
"I used to work in a startup earlier. I was there for 6 months just after graduation. But the work was gruelling, and since it was affecting my CAT prep, I left it to work at a Big Software Company (I was already placed here through campus placements)".
What is your strategy is going to be to improve over next 3 months?
Most plan to just 'read more' and take more Mock CATs. Here is a sample:
"Practice 2 RC and 2 DI sets daily. Honestly, just RCs will be good enough. The DI sets are thrown in just to do well in AIMCATs and increase the feel-good. I feel the real CAT will not have totally difficult DIs like TIME has. This is my idealistic strategy, which I may or may not follow, depending on mood. Weekly AIMCATs should do it for me".
Bschools they are aiming for:
The two freshers are interested 'only in IIMs'.
The repeater junta is a bit more pragmatic and includes a wider range of top bschools. Besides IIMs, they mentioned the following:
XLRI, FMS, MDI - 6
SP Jain - 4
IIFT - 2
SJSOM IITB - 3
NMIMS - 1
others - 1
Was a bit surprised to see S P Jain not in the XLRI/ FMS / MDI category in the minds of prospective MBAs. Average no of schools applied to seems to be 10 (some have counted all IIMs are 'one school' in which case that no is closer to 15!)
Which b-schools do you think you will get?
I asked this question, just. Maybe to see how confident people are... Three out of nine said they are expecting at least one IIM call. The rest had 'no idea' and one actually said 'none'.
He added,"My nondescript verbal communication and my excessive belief in my intelligence, coupled with lack of seriousness should stop me in the interviews. Last year I did not utter a word at the GDs, and later tried to justify this in the interviews".
Finally, a couple of the respondents shared the fact that they're confused. CAT karna bhi chahiye ya nahin?
The lone non-engineer says:
"I find the math section really hard to score on. Sometimes I think that may be I should do a course in Mass Media or Literature as I work in media. But then I'm told that MBA is more lucrative and also because my background is from a different faculty I am not eligible for the full time MA at Mumbai University.
Also I'm not sure how much weight a Mass Media degree really holds, in term of growth in my job. From I can see, it is mostly freshers who do the course at XIC or Sophias".
And one of the engineers is even more ruthless in his assessment:
"I pity those (including me), who have no idea why they are pursuing MBA. There's a vague incentive of money, but what will I do with the money if I have no time to use it?
And still we keep crowding the place, maybe because we are not smart/ brave enough to find anything better to do, or maybe because everybody else is also doing it".
Baat sahi hai but I say now that you are giving CAT, give it your best. Beyond that, que sera sera. What will be will be. Thanks to all of you for sharing and I'll be in touch!
P.S. 'Cracking careers' kicks off a special series called 'Countdown to CAT' from next week. If you are a CAT aspirant who'd like to be mentored by our experts in your weak areas, or have any questions regarding preparation and applications, I'd love to hear from you. As always, drop me a line at rashmi_b at yahoo.com.