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The post CAT catch!
Ulhas Vairagkar
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December 23, 2008

Now that the CAT is done with, it is time to once again start focusing on the plan ahead. Those of you who have slogged your brains out and have been biting your nails can now stop. And maybe even get a manicure. In about six weeks, many other B-schools will announce their results. While some celebration will certainly be called for, it is not yet the time to pop the bubbly. There are still battles to be fought and won.

First let me assure you that the odds are much better at the post CAT stage. For every seat up for grabs at the Indian Institutes of Management, IIMs (all six put together) there were approximately 160 candidates who wrote the CAT. Now consider this: for every seat that is available at various B-schools, they give out between three to seven calls for the next round! So, there is some relief there.

What needs to be done?

While almost all management institutes have a group discussion (GD) followed by interviews, some follow a slightly different process. A few schools like XLRI don't have a group discussion at all. All short-listed candidates are invited to attend an interview directly. Others like TAPMI have a GD, but expect candidates to write a short essay -- usually a summary of the GD -- as well. IIM-A, did away with the GD last year and asked students to write an essay instead.

Other assessment processes that institutes look at include psychometric tests, aptitude tests (MICAT of the Mudra Institute of Communication, Anand), group tasks (KIAMS, IMDR, etc), micro-presentations (ICFAI), extempore (FMS, LBS, etc), group interview (SP Jain) and so on.

However, while your chances are better (having got short-listed) the post-CAT tests are not a walk in the park, however confident you may be. There is more to it than just 'English'.

By now the B schools have tested you for your aptitude skills and have selected you for further consideration. Let's look at what their interest would be in selecting you.

Group discussions

Group discussions involve putting 8-12 students together in a group and giving them a topic and getting them to yell at each other for about 10 to 15 minutes. Alternately, these students may be given a situation, a one page story (called a case study) and asked to discuss the same. The following are the parameters of selection.

Group tasks

Like the GDs, the group tasks too aim at evaluating a candidate on group dynamics, leadership, communication and content. Just that, unlike a GD, here the 'topic' becomes the 'subject' meaning that no matter what one's academic background is, everyone is at the same level; no one has an advantage.

As the name suggests, candidates are given tasks or activities that they, as a group, have to achieve. Fairly straight.


Interviews bring about a fear of being brutalised by an essentially hostile panel looking to rip you apart, proverbial lambs to slaughter but nothing could be further from the truth. Except for a relatively rare case of 'stress interview' where the student is deliberately put under stress, most interviews are friendly affairs where the panel seeks to put the student at ease. This is done to ensure that they are able to elicit natural responses and best evaluate the student. The questioning and evaluation is done on these parameters.

Group interviews

These are like normal interviews and the parameters for evaluation are also the same. The only major difference is that here candidates are interviewed in batches. What this means is that 3 to 7 candidates (usually from similar backgrounds) are interviewed simultaneously.

Don't worry though as candidates speak one at a time and each candidate is evaluated individually.

Micro presentations / extempore

Again, like the name suggests, these are activities that are communication-intensive. But on the whole, they are looking for the following:

Tips on how to prepare

An Interview is about you. So don't look at readymade answers to questions. Please remember that the panel wishes to know you better, so start with knowing yourself better.

Understand the fact that preparation is required and that it will take time. So don't leave it for the last minute. Most importantly question yourself. Understand that any answer looks good unless it is tested. Most of the trouble is caused by supplementary questions. For example let's look at a possible scenario:

Q: Rohit, as a software engineer with some experience, why would you like to study management?

A: Sir, while I have a strong background as a technical person, I feel that my career prospects would be better if I added management skills and become a techno MBA. (applause, good answer).

Q: Define techno MBA? (Bong!)

A: Sir, a person having technical skills as well as management skills.

Q: But Rohit, would you need all these skills. If it is simply a case of more the merrier, why not add, medical, firefighting and culinary skills as well.

And the session can go on...

The author is director, T.I.M.E, Delhi [Images]

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