I have been asked this question many times in many fora and I had always provided a 'fudged' answer. So, I thought I could have some fun thinking about the real answer. Ergo, this post.
I completed my Post Graduate Diploma in Management more than
a decade ago. And like most of my classmates, I graduated with the feeling that
I had already completed one MBA too many. Why then do I take the CAT every
There are two reasons for this. The first is the
‘professional’ reason. I run 2IIM, an online education Company that focuses on
CAT preparation. I spend gazillion hours teaching students and creating content
and so it helps to have a sense of what the exam is all about.
The second, personal reason is probably more interesting. I
like the challenge of taking an exam where one has to reactivate the grey cells
for three hours. If you have ever sat down to try a crossword, math puzzle or
good old Sudoku, you will have a sense of what I am talking about here.
provides more context so test-taking is far more than being merely a fun
exercise of the brain. The exam setting creates an intensity that is absent elsewhere
and this adds to the thrill.
In one sense, the exam is also my own way of saying I can
compete with the youngsters today. Of striking a blow against the ageists, and
telling myself that the intermediary years spent on the drudgery of
stock-peddling have not (yet) dulled my senses.
The obvious question here is whether there might not be far
better avenues of challenging myself. There probably are. But they all probably
involve lot more practice and training. For instance, running marathons needs
six months of training and the very thought of consuming long miles with just
myself for company leaves me with dread. So, I want something that can push
me over a few short hours, preferably only once every twelve months or so.
Ergo, CAT. Besides, I have saved up long-distance running for the mid-life
Contrary to popular perception, the CAT is actually a high
quality exam. Any testing mechanism can commit two kinds of errors - It can let
in undeserving candidates, or it can miss out on deserving candidates. The
better exams do a good job on both counts. The CAT is very well designed for
limiting one kind of error - anyone who does well in the exam has to be
reasonably sharp; while the converse is not true. It is society that perversely
assumes the converse and therefore ends up placing enormous pressure on
candidates. Standardized tests cannot be created to cater to all types of
intelligences. We should be mature enough to accept that.
As a potential candidate, you are probably thinking – I have
read this piece about the motivations of a 35-year old ex-banker whose idea of
a good time is to take exams. What am I going to get out of this?
My experience as a test-taker has placed me in a unique
position of being able to view the exam not only as an involved participant,
but also as someone who is pressure-free as far as the wider consequences are
concerned. The one input I would give all aspirants is to have a sense of
joie-de-vivre while approaching the exam. Try to retain a sense of wonder about
the idea of solving problems or cracking puzzles. To cite a sports parallel,
football can be associated with either catenaccio or Joga Bonito. As far as CAT
goes, Joga Bonito (play beautifully).
Best wishes for the CAT.
An excerpt from this piece appeared in the India Today Aspire issue that can be found here.
The author, Rajesh
Balasubramanian is an alumnus from IIMB (2003) who runs 2IIM Online CAT
Coaching company. The author takes CAT every year and has the distinction of
having scored 100th percentile in CAT 2011, 2012 and CAT 2014.