Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Analysing CAT - GD/PI calls

As someone who graduated out of an IIM (and one who cruised through those two years with a lot of jest), one feels nostalgic with every CAT result and one follows it with a lot of personal interest. And dare I say, CAT results do follow interesting trend, that is if they follow a trend.

It has grown tougher
May be I am saying the obvious. CAT has grown tougher. No, I don't mean it comprises tougher questions - that ofcourse it does. I am referring to the fact that getting a good rank in CAT has become tougher. And this is NOT because the toughness of questions have grown. Let me explain.

CAT has reduced from being a 240 question test (mid 1990s) to 90 question test (CAT 2005). However it has remained a test that a normal human being will not be able to complete in 120 minutes - thus the question content has grown tougher & thats no big deal.

However, this year CAT was taken by more than 1,75,000 people. The average score in the test was expected to be around 50 marks. This would mean on every 1/3 of mark their could be on an average more than 300 students. Thus a difference of 1 mark between two aspirants could mean a rank difference of more than a thousand. This means that every second (& I mean every second) lost becomes fatal to one's chances of making it to the list.

Multiple attempts
A surprisingly large number of students who are getting GD/PI calls are second, third even fourth time takers of CAT. Gone are the days when you would meet sharp students suggesting I worked my ass up for about three months & whoosh I had a call in hand. No more, even the sharpest of the lot generally do not get a call if they do not groom themselves up for the two hours.

The explanation though is simpler. People - in their first attempts often do not understand the depth or extent of application & focus that CAT now a days demands. Secondly, most are not able to strike a balance between either their graduation studies or their jobs and their CAT preparations. Last, a very large number of CAT aspirants who are doing well during their preparations - are often unable to take the pressure of the D-day - those 120 minutes of real test time.

These people after doing relatively poorer understand that theyr were quite close to success & have missed it narrowly. Their focus as a result increases & their determination to crack the test multiplies. Thats when they get into a now or never mode.

Work Experience
Again this might be repeating the obvious. But, increasingly the B-Schools seem to be toeing the line that MBA is better done after a few years in the industry. The call patterns - with more than 50% calls to people with work experience - seem to be consolidating that line of thought.

Increasingly - people with work experience are getting calls at relatively low percentile.

The individual matters
Increasingly - coaching classes and the strategies they seem to build seem to be getting irrelevant. The CAT has followed such erratic movements in its character that year on year these strategies actually harm the student more than they help. The coaching classes have become, at best, a tool to provide an aspirant a regularity in their work and a group/environment to prepare for. What has mattered the most in the people who finally received a call is their self drive to make it and also the fact they have learnt from their experiences.

However, everyone is invited
A word of caution here - all type of people are recieving calls, fresh under graduates, people who have taken drop to prepare, people with work ex, people with diverse backgrounds, people with hindi medium education. One is only trying to look at the larger trends in a structured manner. The above criteria does not necessarily bring success. One is in touch with people who did not make it after working for many years or after many trials.

The trend is that the percentage of people in the overall call getters seem to be growing in the above directions.