In the frenzy of b-school hunting candidates inevitably get lost in a myriad of management entrance examinations- their gateways to the premier b-schools of the country. While several institutes conduct admissions on the basis of Common Admission Test, popularly abbreviated as CAT, conducted by the IIMs, several of the hottest b-schools such as XLRI, IIFT, NMIMS and Symbiosis prefer to conduct their own entrance exams. 

The advantage of preparing for CAT is that it pretty much prepares you for most other management entrance tests in India. In fact the level of CAT is either the same or higher as compared to the other examinations, so preparing for it actually puts CAT candidates at an advantage.

Coming to the pattern of CAT, it consists of 2 sections- one on quantitative ability and data interpretation, and the other on verbal ability and logical reasoning. The syllabus is class X level, but don’t let that fool you. The questions can get very difficult. Even in case of the other entrance exams the syllabus is the same. The purpose of all these exams is one- to test your basic intelligence.

The IIFT entrance test and the Symbiosis National Aptitude Test (SNAP) have patterns similar to that of CAT. The key difference is that they also have a section on current affairs, to prepare for which you simply need to follow the news regularly. Also, the examinations allow you to focus on your section of strength. In CAT you are given fixed time durations to solve each of the sections.

The XLRI Admission Test or XAT is considered as a difficult exam, possibly more than CAT. The flexible pattern and unpredictability of the paper make it challenging. Its difficulty level varies year to year. In addition to the usual sections as are in CAT there are additional questions on decision making, ethics, etc. Hence XAT would normally require some more preparation.

The Narsi Monjee Admission Test or NMAT is modelled like CAT with the dual advantages of no negative marking and a chance for a retest if you are not satisfied with your first attempt.
At the end of the day a unified entrance exam for all the Indian b-schools would obviously be a much needed relief to the candidates, and CAT provides that relief up to some degree. Given the difficulty level of CAT, the standard that the candidate strives to achieve in terms of preparation makes it a cinch to bag the other exams too, with just a little extra work on the points of difference.

-Shrinwanti Banerjee
Second year student at IIM-Kozhikode


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