Hundred of thousands of people across the country register every year for the Common Admission Test (CAT). Last year, the registrations hit a surprising 218,664 candidates (That’s dropped from the years before, but more on that later).
It’s easy to see the need for this entrance test – millions of young Indians are trying to set themselves apart from the crowd and get an MBA from a prestigious university in the country. It opens up job opportunities which may not be available to an ordinary graduate or even a post-grad.
But for all the hard work and effort that goes into clearing CAT, does it really deliver the best possible career path for someone who wants to get into investment banking, consulting or marketing? Perhaps students are miscalculating the returns they are likely to get.
But that’s not an issue for enthusiastic young people trying to launch a career in India. If anything, tougher tests are a better way to set yourself apart from the ever expanding pool of applicants for jobs in this country. Another potential factor is the increasing popularity of the GMAT, the Graduate Management Admission Test offering better prospects to MBA aspirants in comparison.
There are, no doubt, a number of personal or professional reasons people prefer one entrance exam over the other. But for people considering one or the other, GMAT stands out as the better option. Here’s why:
Global perspective :
GMAT scores are accepted at business schools spread across the world. From harvard to Mumbai’s NMIMs, from Finland to Liberia, GMAT scores are considered for new applicants regardless of where they come from. The test opens up more than 1,700 universities4 , which includes all the top business schools in the world. CAT, on the other hand, severely restricts candidates primarily to India. It’s understandable that a lot of students clearly prefer to study in India rather than abroad (mainly due to cultural or financial issues), but this means there are far more students chasing far fewer seats at the country’s limited universities. Only three Indian business schools make it to the top 100 MBA schools on the planet (IIM Bangalore, IIM Ahmedabad and ISB). It is not be noted here that these three institutions also accept GMAT scores.
Wider Acceptance :
Let’s be honest, the word ‘learning’ has different connotations in different parts of the world. In India, solving tons of incredibly hard math questions and proving you aced your 10th, 12th and graduate degree is all you need to get into a b-school. The CAT is structured around rote learning and math skills, or in other words it is structured the same way many of our public schools are. Two-thirds of the coursework is based on data interpretation and quantitative aptitude. even the last one-third that’s left for verbal skills is basic grammar and syntax questions. GMAT, on the other hand, is a more wholesome experience. even learning the coursework is likely to actually improve the way you understand something, explain it with a well written essay and correcting the structure of a badly written paragraph.
Test Timing :
CAT can be taken once every year. If you miss the chance, fall sick on the day of the exam or simply fail the test, you have to wait a whole year to retake it. GMAT isn’t designed for students fresh out of college and is a lot more considerate. You can take the test multiple times a year and also repeat it after a 16-day period.
Score Validity :
After tons of hard work and preparation passing the test comes as a major achievement, but how long does that success last? CAT scores are only valid for the year. That means you must apply to institution you want or are eligible for as soon as you can. Your only other options are to retake the test next year or give up on the MBA program altogether. GMAT test scores are valid for up to five whole years.
International MBA :
Finally, learning to run a business or fulfill a role in marketing involves more than simply reading a book. Life experiences are just as, or arguably even more, important than learning the tricks of the trade through lectures. Let’s be clear, the curriculum is very much the same no matter where you do your MBA, but the difference lies in the way the course is structured and taught7 . Foreign universities tend to have a more practical approach to learning and there is a lot more emphasis in gaining ‘real-world’ exposure.
Considering all the reasons and weighing all the options you should probably go for a GMAT instead of CAT.