IIM - CAT Coaching: Experts' Insights

IIM - CAT Coaching: Experts' Insights: July 2015

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What is the deal with CAT and Engineers?

There is an insane amount of utter tosh about CAT and Engineers floating around in some of the loonier corners of the internet (website that means education and a website that encompasses the WGSOMM of the MBA-realm come to mind). Every piece of information from the IIMs is viewed with through the glasses "Does it make it easier or tougher for Engineers?"

So, let us take an approach of not sitting on the fence and generally going all out and decimating the two primary myths centered on MBA in India and Engineers

Myth Number 1 - CAT is rigged in favour of engineers
This is humbug. The exam tests basic math, the kind of stuff students are expected to learn in class VI to X. If a keen 10th standard student were to take the CAT, he/she should ace the exam. There is nothing in the exam that engineers have a particular advantage in cracking. There is absolutely no overlap between the math engineers learn in their engineering and CAT. 

Then why do so many engineers crack this exam. Two clear reasons are present for this - Reading this might hurt the good part of the brain a little bit. So, pregnant ladies, people faint of heart and those utterly committed to feeding their delusions are requested to stop reading now.

i. A lot of engineers take this exam. The largest pool of applicants comprises engineers. There is not a stunning revelation, but something a great many fabulously ignore while discussing CAT and engineers. They form a giant proportion of the applicant pool, it is to be expected that they should form a giant proportion of the people joining. 

ii. Most Indian Engineers did not choose to do engineering, they went there because it is considered a good option. Now, this is vital. 90% of Indian 18-year olds do not have a clear idea about what they want to study (90% of the remaining are delusional, but that is an article for another time). Students try to do engineering because it is considered to be among the best options. Now, what this means is that engineering group enjoys a certain pre-selection. A great many try to do engineering. A bunch of them dont get good seats, so do some other course. A further round of pre-selection happens for IITs and NITs. So, the simple truth is that the among the guys who tried to do engineering (a large percentage of the population), some 20% succeed, and within this some 10% get into the very best colleges. Obviously, these guys are the ones who are better-suited to cracking another exam. 

Let me give you a parallel to this. Let us take the leading providers for mock CATs in the Country and select the 1000 guys who have consistently scored the above 95th percentile in one or more of this. The chances are that 50% of these 1000 will make it to one of the top 10. Now imagine a backlash against them where complaints pore in about how the game is rigged in favour of these 1000. Correlation does not imply causality. If you have a large group that has gone through pre-selection, chances are it will do well in subsequent exams. 

Testing basic quantitative ability and verbal ability has been accepted as a decent proxy for gauging ability and smarts. The CAT does a decent job of this. Feeling aggrieved that engineers crack this is akin to feeling aggrieved that the IIMs want smart people. A bunch of IIT-ians and NIT-ians do well in CAT because they are good. Not because they are favoured in any way. The exam is already a level playing field.

The arguments that the playing field is not level should be based on the content of the exam, not on the basis that engineers get in. Contrary to popular belief, the quant tested in CAT is not rocket science. Anyone who took CAT 2014 will tell you this. 

To put differently, "Some people are born to do BA literature, some miss out and land in BA literature, and some have BA literature as the best thing they can do". If you are really smart, and chose to do BA literature rather than have it thrust down your throat, the CAT is the best way to prove it. Asking for a a lower percentile cut off to get into the IIMs deprives BA literature grads the opportunity to prove their worth. 

Myth Number 2. The IIMs in a bid to increase diversity, have rigged the game against engineers
This myth can be exploded with a simple stat. In each of the past 3 years, give or take 95% of the entrants into IIMA have been engineers. Let us take in this stat again. We are not talking about a majority here, we are not even talking about a majority that can push through constitutional change, we are talking about overwhelming, minority-crushing, autocracy-threatening majority here. On the front of game being rigged against engineers, there is no room for even a conversation. 

IIMA, after conducting a rigorous process where they claim to increase diversity manage to select  ~20 students every year who are not engineers. 

So, where does this leave us
If you are not an engineer, shed this persecution complex. Write two things down on a big white wall 1) CAT is not easier for engineers and 2) Correlation does not imply causality. (The second one should be written down on as many white walls as possible)

If you are an engineer, shed this persecution complex. If you are an engineer, you probably have a lot of practice in ignoring stuff written on walls, so do not write anything on a wall. 

CAT tests aptitude, the interview process is also meritocratic. Anyone who puts his/her down prepares with focus and sincerity can crack this exam. (Of course it helps immensely if you have the 2IIM Online Course to help)

Fabulous internet myths on the same theme
1. CAT is rigged in favour of engineers. 
2. CAT has made it extra tough for engineers to get through. 
3. IIMs have increased their focus on diversity this year. (Why this year. Because of astrological reasons)
4. Verbal will be made tougher this year in order to make it tougher for engineers (Engineers are supposedly better at Quant. Why should they be worse in Verbal?)
5. Onscreen calculator has made it easier for engineers (Because they can type in numbers quicker )
6. Onscreen calculator has made it easier for non-engineers (because engineers type in numbers incorrectly)
7. Separate timings for each section has made life easier for non-engineers/engineers 

All of these theories are peddled by people who do not have any better way of spending their time. Thankfully, they are debunked by people who even though they have far better ways of spending their time, have suddenly been so irritated by the amount of "expert gyaan" on silly websites have made it their evening's work to rant on the internet. Have fun preparing for CAT.

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

CAT 2015 Notification - How does it change preparation plan?

CAT 2015 notification is out. First up, let us get the facts

1. Exam on one day, on Nov 29th.
2. Time-limit now 180 mins ( from 170 minutes previously). Time limit in 3 tight compartments, one hour each for three sections, QA, DI-LR and Verbal. 34 questions each in Quant and Verbal, 32 in DI-LR
3. Some questions may not be of Multiple-Choice type.
4. Onscreen calculator will be allowed for computation.

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose -  The more things change, the more they stay the same
This is not an overhaul. What they test, how long they test it for, roughly when the test happens, and most parts of the format are same as last year's. Notwithstanding what all the "Guru"s and gyaan websites will tell you, the changes are fairly cosmetic in nature. The change to have some questions as non MCQ is also minor. This will not change the approach to the paper or the preparation plan one bit. A great many of the small tweaks have made the test better.

Counter-intuitively, time allotted per section being fixed might make the exam easier to navigate
Now, effectively CAT becomes three one-hour tests  rather than one long test. It appears that some freedom has been taken away from students. However, the freedom to shift time from one section to another was very often something that complicated rather than simplified things. Students jumped sections too many times, started fretting about section cut-offs, strived needlessly to achieve 'balance', and too often just ended up wasting time in the exam hall. Now that this freedom of time-shifting has been taken off, you need to just think of this as three exams in 3 hours. So, forget about section cut-offs and attack this paper with a sense of relief.

Computational pressure being taken off is a joy
The on-screen calculator is a boon. No two ways about it. CAT was never about multiplying or dividing numbers quickly, or about doing 13.8% of 98.4 in 20 seconds. But students never got it, and unfortunately coaching institutes could never tire of peddling short-cuts. Now, this myth has been removed. Learn from the basics, forget Vedic Math. Short-cut nonsense has already made many people sacrifice fundamentals. Perhaps this will help us refocus.

Reading becomes even more important
Previous avatars of CAT gave a student the luxury of 'hiding' in LR. Of planning to attempt 14-15 questions in LR, only one RC passage, 8-10 other questions in the mixed bag bundle and hope to get 99th percentile in the verbal section. Now, that LR has been bundled off as a separate section, there is a huge risk in ignoring RC. The sentence correction, sentence rearrangement, sentence elimination etc are also heavily dependent on comfort levels with reading. So, shed that reluctance to read, select novels, magazines, newspapers, websites and read away.

Exam has neither been made easy for engineers, nor has it become tougher.
Every input from the IIMs is interpreted these days in terms of "What does it do the engineers". Some one somewhere is going to say that online calculators' presence and the divvying up of sections has made the game tougher for engineers. This is humbug. Similarly, someone is going to say allotting only one hour for Quant is going to make it tougher for non-engineers. This is also humbug. CAT tests students aptitude. CAT does not test aptitude as defined by aptitude for engineers and non-engineers separately.

Preparation plan remains same. Mock CAT strategies will have to be tweaked a little bit
Quant, verbal, DI and LR are tested in a competitive exam that is objective and conducted across the Country. This is how CAT could have been described in 1990, 2000, 2010 or 2015. So, prepare from basics, do the drill and fine-tune with mock CATs. The only difference between 2010 or now is that one can sit at home and have access to the best CAT preparation thanks to the Internet. Apart from this, very little has changed.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Current trends and What next in MBA, B-schools & CAT coaching

Set of articles on Pagalguy.com by Rajesh balasubramanian on Trends in CAT, MBA and CAT preparation industry. What's next for B-schools, Cat training institutes and CAT aspirants!

Article on Why fewer people take CAT these days!  http://www.pagalguy.com/articles/why-are-fewer-people-taking-cat-these-days-34904205

Continued with an article on ONLINE coaching! http://www.pagalguy.com/articles/is-online-coaching-for-cat-the-next-big-thing-34980108

Monday, July 13, 2015

GMAT or CAT: I am planning to go for GMAT instead of CAT because I have heard GMAT is easier, is that wise?

Very frequently, I see students opting for GMAT purely because they think CAT is tough. The reasoning goes like this - CAT is too competitive. With GMAT, I can get into a college with any score. This whole line of reasoning usually reminds me of the old Birbal story where Akbar sends Birbal on a trip to find the 10 biggest fools in the kingdom. A part of the story goes thus -

Birbal was coming back to the palace in the dark. He saw a man searching for something under a street lamp, and stopped to help him. 
'What have you lost?' asked Birbal.
'A ring from my finger.'
As they could find nothing, Birbal naturally asked: 'Are you sure you dropped it here?'
'No,' was the answer. 'I dropped it over there, but it's dark there and light here. I am searching where I can see.' 

Many students' most preferred reason for taking GMAT is the fact that they think it is easier than CAT. To put it bluntly, this is daft. This piece of daftness has been built on 3 wonderful myths.

Myth 1: Indian students totally crack GMAT and are among the best students in top global B-schools
The GMAT exam is not that easy. It is a myth that Indian students totally 'crack' the GMAT. Importantly, beyond getting a good GMAT score, one needs to write essays, and have a solid profile to have a crack at the best colleges,Graduating from one of the top 20 in the US is excellent, but there is no great honour in graduating from the 75th ranked school in the US. Because of law of large numbers, some of the best Indian students join the best B-schools in the US and do well there as well. These are the guys who score 750 in GMAT and are generally among the ones good enough to score 99.5 percentile in CAT as well.

Myth 2: With even a just-about-decent GMAT score, I can get into a good college
Think about this, is it going to be easier to get into the top 20 colleges in the US, than into the top 20 in India? Lot of people spend time and effort, get a middling 670 score and go nowhere with this. Unless you are a rockstar, a 670 is unlikely to secure a great admit. 670 pegs you at around the 83rd percentile. One-sixth of the total 2.4 lakh or so applicants have scored more than you. All other things being equal, you can hope to join a college that a student ranked 40,000th in the world can get into. Sorry to be blunt about this, but this is what the numbers say.

Myth 3: If I am taking the GMAT, I must be really ambitious (and cool). 
Cracking the GMAT suggests ambition, merely taking it, or worse just preparing for it conveys no such thing. Very often, students want to feed into the I-am-built-for-bigger-things story by joining some middling college with the ok-ish score they have.

For a large number (unfortunately very large number), merely planning to take the GMAT slakes a big part of their ambition. So, once this is I-am-going-to-try-for-an-MBA gig is done, they continue with their lives. In many ways, this is probably the lesser to the two evils.

Do the research
Now, I am not suggesting that people who take the GMAT do not know what they are doing. About 60% of the test-takers are serious, prepare well, plan well, know their chances, know the costs of doing an MBA in the US and generally go about this entire process with a level of seriousness. Be clear about why you are taking the GMAT and do sufficient research for this. Do not take the exam merely because it is easier than CAT.

Do not invite hubris
In many ways, the GMAT is far better structured to test what it aims to test than the CAT. The quality of questions (not the difficulty level), the adaptive engine, the level of feedback provided, the ability to distinguish between conceptual clarity and drill - in all these aspects the GMAT is head and shoulders above the CAT. I am a big fan of the GMAT exam and am often disappointed with how the CAT is conducted in our Country.

Merely designating GMAT as "easier than CAT" does a disservice to the exam, This attitude makes aspirants complacent even before they begin preparation and invites hubris.

Things to keep in mind while choosing between GMAT and CAT
There are many factors to consider while choosing between GMAT and CAT. The top few are given below - Click on this article to get more info

As far as India is concerned, the biggest fish is CAT
Give or take 90 out of the top 100 select based on CAT, with quite of a few of these selecting based only on CAT. This includes the IIMs (13 of these, soon to be 18), IITs, SP Jain, FMS, Bajaj, NITIE, MDI, IMT, among a great many others

For international MBAs, it is GMAT
Almost all universities in the US, UK, Australia, Singapore, Europe select based on GMAT. In India ISB and Great Lakes select based on GMAT. All the IIMs (+ MDI, XLRI etc) use the GMAT score for admissions into their executive MBA programs.

CAT or GMAT, which one should I take?
There are two simple rules
1. If you want to do in India, take CAT. If you want to go abroad, take GMAT.
2. If you are a fresher, take CAT. If you have more than 8 years of experience, give preference to GMAT

If you have 2-4 years of experience, and not sure whether you want to do MBA in India or abroad, then the decision is even simpler. Take both....

India or abroad, Fresher or Experienced candidate - these are the two relevant factors to consider while choosing between GMAT and CAT. Easy or difficult is a far less important criterion.

Apologies if I have been harsh on this blog post. Best wishes for your entrance exam preparations - be it for GMAT or CAT.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

CAT Online preparation: D-Day strategies - Question selection and time-management in CAT

Continuing the FAQ series, Having a clear-cut strategy and a well-defined plan for the D-day is very crucial. In this article, we are going to focus on 3 specific questions - 1).How much time to spend on each question? 2.How to identify questions that I should skip? 3.Is there an advantage to be gained by solving tougher questions?

Find a detailed write up on the same @ pagalguy.com

For a great Online course, Which delivers better than expected and still doesn't compromise on Quality, in addition to saving time and energy spent in travelling to and fro to classroom! Visit online.2iim.com to give it a try for free!

CAT coaching online: Job and CAT preparation: "Should I quit my job to prepare?

Believe it's the most pestering question among Job goers & CAT aspirants!

Rajesh Balasubramanian and Saravana Baskar answer some of the most sought after questions from CAT aspirants in this series! This video has answers to several questions
1.How to juggle between Job and CAT preparation?
2.How much time should I spend daily preparing?
3.Should i quit my Job?

Detailed article @ pagalguy.com

Shopping and trading is Online. Even Bill payments. CAT is online too!
Why not CAT preparation? Have a go at Online.2iim.com for 4 free classes. Try Before you Buy!!

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