CAT – XAT – IIFT – NMAT – IIFT: A Comparison

MBA education in India has gone through a rapid shift in the recent years. Post 2008, most Indian B-Schools were in a buoyant mood. Indian economy was showing little/ no signs of the global meltdown and campus hiring was in full swing. The result, most top-tier B-Schools, influenced by the stellar performance in the post-2008 scenario, the new reservation ruling and a host of other factors, nearly doubled the intake. But the times changed, the supposedly overheated Indian economy started cooling down and so did campus hiring. B-schools applications followed suit and we saw hundreds of B-Schools closing down between 2010 and 2012. But come 2012, signs of consolidation started appearing and B-School applications were again up. 

But as the equations about B-Schools ranking, reputation and placements have changed, it has become even more crucial to make that right choice in the selection of the entrance exam and the B-School one wants to target. This article tries to compare 4 of the most competitive and respected entrance exams (not necessarily in that order) and find out where they differ and what some of the similarities amongst them are. 

1. The older IIMs have, over the years moved towards a higher weightage for academic performance, in part due to recruiter feedback. So merely cracking the CAT may not get you your dream college if you have had a poor academic performance in the past. Thus, XAT/IIFT/NMAT become safer bets for candidates with poor academic record but able to perform well in the aptitude test. 

2. NMAT allows the candidates a retake at the test for additional fee. For those who don’t get their rhythm going at the first go, NMAT is an attractive option. 

3. The general management programs offered by IIMs are widely recognized and going by the sheer number of people appearing for CAT, they arguably are the most popular programs in India, but the other prominent B-Schools, especially those associated with the entrance exams listed here offer some programs which attract candidates passionate about those domains year-after-year due to their unique content and methodology: 

• XLRI HRM is ranked No.1 HRM programme in Asia-Pacific region. 
• NMIMS offers MBA in Actuarial science, a niche domain dealing with insurance, pension funds etc. 
• IIFT has widely recognized post graduate programs with special focus on International Trade. 

In essence, all these exams have their unique pros-and-cons and ultimately it should be a decision based on personal choice (read passion) and fitness with your profile. 

All the best!

-Vishal Vyas
PGP 2012-14, IIM Indore


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