• News
  • Columns
  • Interviews
  • BW Communities
  • Events
  • BW TV
  • Subscribe to Print
BW Businessworld

Starting Up

Photo Credit :

You have decided to go in for a management degree. So how do you start? Getting into a B-school is not just about how good a student you are or even how hard you prepare for the entrance test. The process, to be successful, required an enormous attention to detail on almost everything connected to the admission process - including the deadlines for picking up a form and submitting it. Here is the basic information you need to be aware of.

Test Pattern
B-schools grant admission on the basis of scores obtained in one or the other management aptitude test. The prominent tests are Common Admission Test (CAT), Xavier Admission Test (XAT), Management Aptitude Test (MAT), Joint Management Entrance Test (JMET), Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT), Narsee Monjee Management Aptitude Test (NMAT), and tests conducted by the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) and Faculty of Management Studies (FMS). While admission to a few institutes like FMS, Narsee Monjee and IIFT depend on tests conducted only by that particular institute, a number of other B-schools depend on standard tests like CAT, GMAT or MAT. Some institutes like the Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad accept both CAT and GMAT scores. So it is very important to match the admission test with the institute you have shortlisted.

Track The Dates
CAT is traditionally held on the third Sunday of November. Most prominent B-school entrance exams are held on Sundays between end November and February. The results of CAT are announced in early January, following which the personality assessment stage commences in February and continues till March. Final calls happen in March/April.

CAT dates are announced normally in July/August. Besides the IIM websites, major newspapers carry the announcement. The announcement lists out details such as eligibility criteria, availability of forms, scholarship/financial assistance, and terms and conditions. The IIFT forms are also issued around the same time. The different application forms - which are priced between Rs 600 and Rs 1,600 depending on the institute -- are available with the institute, or with branches of a bank specified in the admission announcement. In fact, most B-schools who accept CAT scores -- other than IIMs -- also allow you to download the application form from the institute website. All you need to do is fill the demand draft number in the form before posting it.

For an aspirant, the B-school calendar ideally begins with the announcements of availability of CAT forms and CAT date.

In case of CAT, candidates must be graduate from a recognised university with a minimum 50 per cent (45 per cent marks are for reserved category students). Students in the final year of graduation can also apply. Such students must furnish a letter from their institute head certifying that he/she is in final year and has obtained 50 per cent marks based on available scores. Though 50 per cent is the minimum marks required to sit for the entrance examination, most institutes except successful candidates to have a far better academic record. So don't ignore your graduation examination preparations in your eagerness to prepare for CAT or GMAT. Your scores on both fronts are important for getting into a B-school.

The Admission Form: Your Assessment Begins Here
Filling up a B-School admission forms should not be treated as a routine matter requiring little brains. Management entrance forms are not just about age, gender, educational qualification and domicile status. They also ask you for details on all sort of things like your goals in life, your values and experiences. You need to be careful while filling up these details because examiners tend to take everything you have written in your forms quite seriously.

To begin with, students should understand that exam forms are different from institute forms. Thus, filling the form for CAT is different from filling the form for IIM-A, MDI, Mudra Institute of Communications Ahmedabad (MICA), etc -- all of which are CAT-affiliated institutes. While exam forms entitles you to appear for CAT, the institute forms enables you to appear for an institute's admission process, including the group discussion and personal interview (GD/PI), once you have got good scores in your CAT.

Also bear in mind that some institutes send separate forms to candidates who have cleared the first stage of the written test, that is, GDPI. On the other hand some institutes demand the form to be submitted before the written stage is over.

Use The Right Words
This brings us to the crucial issue - paying emphasis to what you are writing in the form. Students tend to fill the form, forget it and later realise that what they had written constituted the crux of the interview. So, in a way, the personality assessment process starts much earlier than they realise.

Thus, for example, SP Jain institute's form is very elaborate, and requires a complete student profile. You have to do some introspection to fill that form, and use the right words. Cut-paste or borrowed formats don't work, as students realise to their discomfort when they face the interview panel. Similarly, IIFT has eight-nine detailed questions. IIMs have situational questions on ethical dilemmas. The questions range from describing yourself and mentioning a defining moment in your life to the books you read.

Follow a few basics while tackling with these questions. First, spend some time on these questions. Second, write the statement of purpose or SOP keeping your long-term goal in mind. It might be that management is your larger vision but why you prefer SPJIMR over FMS depends on what the pros and cons are. So think of an institute-specific approach, as well as the long term, broader management goal.

And, don't forget to keep a photocopy of the answers you have provided in the form. After all, you don't want to be surprised by the interview panel who may point out something you had casually written in the form.

Statements Of Purpose
Most B-schools now have essay type questions in their forms. Taking cue from the module followed by universities in the US, Indian B-schools too have started asking for SOPs and other relevant questions in their forms. These questions help the admission committee know more about a candidate and help them arrive at a shortlist. One has to understand that selection of an MBA student is not done purely on the basis of his/ her aptitude. Other facets of his personality, written and verbal communication and overall clarity about himself and his goal need to be checked.

Although the CAT form itself does not have any essay-type questions, all IIMs send a separate form before the GD/interview stage, which is full of such questions.

You can follow some simple steps while dealing with such questions. First, write down whatever comes to your mind. Do not worry about grammar or syntax or even whether the idea is getting conveyed. Second, sit down for some time and think deeply trying to improve the answers to some extent. The next step is to go to your mentor or a friend or any other person who has a good command over English language. Talks to him about what you want to say. He will suggest a few changes here and there, and probably correct the English. After this discussion, rewrite the responses and come back to the same person. Finally, do a spell check and also double check the grammar and finalise your answer.

There is no global solution or one-size-fits-all when it comes to an essay-type question. The answers vary according to your educational and family background, work experience, hobbies and interests.

In general the questions are of the following nature:

  • Write briefly about yourself, your personality.

  • How your friends, teachers, parents/ colleagues describe you as a person?

  • Mention about your extra-curricular activities/ hobbies and interests.

  • Briefly mention about a critical incident in your life when you have faced a problem. Mention the importance of that problem and how you planned to overcome it and how you succeeded in doing that.

  • Greatest influence/role model/idol.

  • What is your career goal and how this programme will help you to achieve that?

  • Why do you want to take management as a career?

  • Strengths and weakness.

Some General Guidance:

  • In the question: why you want to do an MBA, do not harp on the money factor. Try to talk about knowledge, exposure and career opportunity, ability to influence and lead and so on.

  • Regarding your personality, always portray a true picture. But use suitable phrases and words.

  • If you do not have any strong hobby, mention it under interest. Do not write vague answers like 'listening to music' or 'reading books'. Please mention what kind of music you like and specify what kind of books you read. Be specific about your likes and dislike.

With inputs from Businessworld B-School Guide