Prepare for CAT or settle for a tier 2 B-school? CAT is one of the most competitive exams in the country that happens once a year. Thousands of students appear for CAT each year after preparing all year round and try to score as high as possible to get into the top institutions. Many candidates after taking this stressful exam wonder whether it was their best attempt or should they try and give another attempt next year. Others might think that their performance was poor because of various reasons and try to convince themselves to prepare for CAT next year. Some might even think about settling with a tier 2 B-school. So, what exactly should you do in this scenario and what should be your final decision that will shape your future? Let’s shed some more light on the factors under which a candidate will ideally think about this scenario.
‘’The best way to predict the future is to create it’’
Your might think to prepare for CAT exam again if your aim is to get into a select top institutions (like IIMs) or you aim to get into a specific top tier college and your performance in this year’s CAT was not convincing. There can be various external reasons as well that can affect your performance like technical issues at the test center, not able to reach the center on time etc. Deciding on giving a re-attempt because of such reasons is a valid choice. Moreover, other reasons like lack of preparation, getting stressed or experiencing a brain fog during the exam can also result in poor performance.
There are several questions that you should ask yourself before making a final decision.
We generally have the habit of having negative thoughts first. Before jumping to any conclusion, wait for the results to be declared and then decide on this question. The first factor that needs to be considered is your preparation level. Only you know how much your level of preparation for the exam is and if you can do better. Analyze if you can give another year to your preparation and what will you do differently. What were the reasons behind not giving your best this time, will they hinder you again?
The fees of MBA colleges are high, and this can be a concern for many candidates. Especially who are planning to take a loan. Getting into top tier college will increase your chances of landing up with a job which will pay handsomely. The return on investment is usually really good so candidates will have a good chance of repaying the loan in less time. Whereas, if you plan on getting into a Tier 2 B school, the return on investment will be less and you will take more time to repay your loan. If this is your concern, then we suggest you prepare for CAT again and perform really well next year.
Suppose you score average or below average percentile in this attempt and think of reattempting and scoring better next year and get into top colleges. What are the odds that you will score better than this year? Will you be motivated enough for the whole year and go the extra mile and prepare really and score better? Or will you be prepared for what happens if you lose your motivation midway and end up not scoring well the next year as well? You should carefully think about this make up a firm decision. There is also a possibility that you can get into a decent college with this year’s score.
Your profile speaks a lot about you during MBA and during the interview processes. Taking a year gap can be presumed as a good or bad thing depending upon your current profile. If you are a fresher or have work experience, you should analyze how an MBA degree will add value to your current level of professional experience. Suppose you are a fresher and take a year gap and just do your CAT preparation, this can be conceived in a negative way as you did not do anything significant in that year. Similarly, if you have some work experience and take a year gap to prepare again, you will be asked to justify the reason behind this during placement interviews.
The fees of MBA colleges increase by 10-15% each year, so the decision to prepare for CAT should take this into account as well as the MBA fees, which is already very high for several tier-2 private colleges. Opportunity cost can be seen as the following: –
There are 4 options open for you, gain work experience, take up another PG degree, take a year drop to prepare or take admission in a tier 2 b-school. If you plan not to take admission in a tier 2 b-school, you might lose out on a valuable year and taking a drop year and reattempting can be daunting. Many people also don’t get time to prepare while working or studying something else. The opportunity cost here is that you might lose out on a good tier 2 b-school and not get the same chance next year.
The ideal work experience considered for taking admission into a b-school is less than 3 years for a 2-year PGDM program. Now, is the right time to take admission. You might have already attempted CAT once or twice before. If you still feel that you can do better with another year’s preparation then do attempt CAT exam again, but for placements companies generally prefer this level of work experience, as you currently have. The opportunity cost here is that you might now get the salary increment as much as you expect after your MBA. Also, the fees of MBA colleges increase by 10-15% each year and you might not get the ROI you expect.
Your decision should be based on the level of preparation you have already done for your previous attempts. Usually, CAT doesn’t require 3-4 years of preparation that might go into the medical entrance or UPSC entrance preparation. If you feel that you might get a good salary increment after MBA, then you should take up MBA now as it is the right time. Otherwise, you might look for 1-year executive MBA program as that would be more beneficial. The opportunity cost here would be that might still be on the same set of options in colleges next year and lose out on a valuable year for completing your PGDM degree.
Few aspirants aim only to specialize subjects such as foreign trade, human resources, communication, etc. If you are aiming for such an institute and were unable to clear it in this attempt then you have an additional decision to make- whether your current level of preparation can be improved in the next attempt. The implication of this decision can be that you are dissatisfied in your future job if you decide to take up MBA in a tier 2 b-school that doesn’t offer your preferred specialization.
The MBA entrance exams can be unpredictable as there isn’t a fixed structure or defined syllabus. The CAT paper pattern is unpredictable. The results can vary from year to year and it also depends on the profile of students attempting the exams in a particular year. But it is also true that several students score higher and get through to their dream colleges in subsequent attempts. As future managers, it is important to analyze all available outcomes and make a decision as there is no definite answer. Making a decision is very vital before deciding to prepare for CAT again or not. For example, if you have a secure job currently then you are valuably adding work experience to your profile.
Consider all the options that you have and analyze the pros and cons and implications of each. CAT is not the only exam that is the gateway to MBA colleges. There are several other options to get into reputed tier 2 MBA colleges in India like GMAT, NMAT, IIFT, SNAP etc. GRE scores are also accepted by many colleges currently. With a good work experience and a well-made profile, a good GMAT score is not too hard to achieve to get into prestigious colleges in India and abroad. There are many great programs for executives and one-year PGP courses from institutes like ISB, Hyderabad and XLRI Jamshedpur that can prove to be between for you than regular two-year courses and add the required skills to your profile. There are also various start-ups and other organizations that provide roles with scope for high potential and don’t require an MBA degree.
Ideally, this shouldn’t be a factor to make your decision of reattempting CAT exam. There can be several reasons why you weren’t able to give your full attention in your previous attempts. But you need to consider this. For example, many aspirants think that they have tried enough after attempting twice. If you feel that you can’t improve further, then choose from the options available. It can be either seen as an investment or wastage of resources. If you stay in the top percentage of students after getting into one of the few tier 2 b-schools and develop your profile intelligently, you can increase your chances of getting good job opportunities. Another implication can be that seeing the previous attempts as sunk costs, you develop a better strategy after having practically experienced the process of preparation and give another try and aim for the top this time.
Your parents are your biggest support system. Consult them before even considering to prepare for CAT again. There can be many issues that affect your decision-making like asking for monetary help from your parents, the responsibility of your siblings on your parents, the coaching and training that you can invest in your preparation for another year, etc. These factors might seem trivial at first but as you move ahead with your preparation, you need your family’s support both physically and psychologically.
All these aspects have to be considered together and the implications vary from person to person. There are pros and cons to both the decisions. Taking a re attempt will give you more time to prepare and be satisfied with your level of preparation. It will provide you one more chance to achieve your dream b-school. On the downside, it may also result in reduced motivation to prepare and lower CAT scores. There is also a possibility or receiving a tougher CAT paper next year. The CAT paper pattern keeps on changing.
On the other side of the coin, taking admission in a good or above average tier 2 b-school can be a good option for career growth as each candidate cannot reach IIMs. If you feel that you shouldn’t spend another year in preparation, then you should take up admission. Be honest with yourself while considering the factors and discuss with parents, mentors, and seniors.
Whatever decision you make, you should abide by it and always think positively.