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Know your MBA strategy after CAT

Know your MBA strategy after CAT

Edited By Ashish Jha | Updated on Aug 20, 2014 12:00 PM IST | #XAT

After your CAT 2013 and IIFT 2013 exams you now must be preparing for other important exams like XAT, SNAP, TISSNET, CMAT and next stages for B-school admissions. While your MBA admission opportunity at IIMs through CAT 2013 will depend on your percentile bracket, experts suggest that you should now focus on other MBA exams before CAT results are out on January 14, 2014. A good performance in other MBA exams can bring you admission opportunity at many top B-schools with accept scores of other exams like XAT,  CMAT and others in addition to CAT score cut-off.

Careers360 brings you expert advice on what should you do after CAT. In this interview with Careers360, Vinayak Kudva, Head- PG India & Mumbai Region, IMS says that

MBA aspirants should now prepare for other MBA entrance tests and simultaneously start preparing for the second stage of selection which include Group Discussion (GD), Essay, and PI (Personal Interview) stages.


For any doubts and questions related to the exam pattern, preparation and other related queries, students can call the MBA 2013-14 Exam Helpline at 011-40360360.


Careers360: What should be admission strategy for MBA aspirants after CAT 2013?

Vinayak Kudva: By now, most of the MBA aspirants should have short-listed the B-schools and programs that match their profile and meet their aspirations. This in turn would decide the entrance exams, other than CAT, that they would need to appear for in the next two to three months – some of the important tests include the XAT, NMAT, SNAP, CET/CMAT and TISS NET. Though many application deadlines would have lapsed by the CAT, some entrance exams such as the XAT, TISS NET and CET Maharashtra can still be applied to.


So, immediately after the CAT, MBA aspirants should prepare for the entrance tests they plan to take and simultaneously start preparing for the second stage of selection: the GD/Essay/PI stage. It is very important not to waste time and energy on thinking about your performance in the CAT and how you might have approached particular problems differently. That is a thing of the past and you cannot change it.

Careers360: For a candidate who has already taken CAT 2013, what should be his immediate focus for XAT preparation now?

Vinayak Kudva: An oft repeated query from B-School aspirants is “What is the additional preparation that I need to do to crack tests like the XAT, IIFT, NMAT, TISS NET and SNAP?”  It is interesting to note that most of the tests mentioned above assess more or less the same concepts that are tested in the CAT. Hence, you will find that there is really not much difference when it comes to concept building for any of these tests.  However, the various tests differ in terms of the test structure, question types and overall difficulty level of the test. Therefore, we need to understand their test structure, get acclimatized to the different question types and develop specific strategies to ace these tests. More often than not, if you have prepared well enough for the CAT, there is a high chance that you will perform well in the other tests.


The XAT, in specific, has a section each on decision making, general awareness and essay writing. As these are not a part of the CAT, students should immediately start practicing these after their CAT. As far as the Verbal and Logical Ability section is concerned, the concepts that students need to learn remain the same, though question types are different.  In the Quantitative Ability section, traditionally, the XAT has tested candidates on Higher Math topics such as Calculus, Functions etc. However, the emphasis on this has reduced over the years and the XAT is also becoming a more logical test like the CAT. However, the level of difficulty of questions on Geometry and Number Theory is higher than that in the CAT. Moreover, concepts such as Remainder Theorem and Conversion of Base System are tested in more depth in the XAT than in the CAT.  Data Interpretation questions in the XAT are more data intensive than in the CAT. Each Data Interpretation set in the XAT contains more data in the form of tables/graphs than in the CAT.


Other essential differences between the CAT and the XAT are that the latter is still a paper-based test and this year is expected to consist of a main test of 2 hours 30-40 minutes (that will include about 110 questions on Verbal and Logical Ability, Decision Making, Quantitative Ability and General Awareness) and essay writing of 20 minutes.


Careers360:  You said that students should now also be focusing on GD and PI preparation. What are the key elements of GD/PI preparation for B-school admissions?


Vinayak Kudva: The second stage of the selection process of B-schools is a personality assessment stage. Various tools — such as group discussions, personal interview, essay writing, case discussions — are used to assess candidates’ interests, aptitude and personality.


The objective of a group discussion is to appraise a candidate’s ability to critically analyze a given piece of information and collectively work in a group to arrive at a solution or develop a perspective. B-schools conduct GDs to find out whether candidates possess the qualities that are critical to becoming an effective manager. The rationale behind this exercise is that when a group of human beings are given a task to accomplish within an unstructured situation, they will try to accomplish it by establishing some order or structure. In this process, they will reveal some of their personality characteristics.

Some B-schools organize a case discussion instead of a simple group discussion. A case-study simulates a real-life situation, and instills in you the thought process and action plans to get the best possible solution. There may not be any wrong or perfect solutions to a case study, but there definitely is a best possible solution, which the group is expected to collectively arrive at.

Both the above mentioned tools evaluate some basic personality traits such as clarity of thought, communication (including listening) skills, ability to critically evaluate and ability to interact in a group.

The most recent addition to the second stage of selection has been essay writing. A written essay gives the selectors an opportunity to assess the candidates' ability to organize, develop, and express ideas about the issue presented; provide relevant supporting reasons and examples; and control the elements of standard written English.

A personal interview is the last step to get to know the candidate well. Personality traits that cannot be uncovered through the first three tools are evaluated here. The selectors try to understand the kind of person the candidate is, what all are his/her interests, motivation, aspirations etc.

The key elements for GD/WAT/PI preparation are:

  1. Knowing the processes for GD/WAT/PI

  2. Knowing how to conduct yourself during these activities i.e. knowing what to do and what not to do.

  3. Working on the skills that will be tested through these activities

  4. Practicing till you gain confidence and are able to perform well

  5. Simultaneously enhancing your background knowledge of various areas so that you can build effective arguments for whatever topic might be given to you or effectively answer any questions that may be posed

Careers360:  When and how should they start preparing for GD/PI and WAT for next stage of admission process?

Vinayak Kudva:  Preparation for GD/WAT/PI involves two basic steps: gaining procedural knowledge and improving general awareness.

Procedural knowledge implies knowledge of the processes of GD/WAT/PI, their objectives, dos and don’ts etc. Most test prep companies conduct training sessions for the same after the CAT and a few other entrance exams have been conducted. As these activities involve interaction, it is advisable that candidates join a preparatory course for GD/WAT/PI as soon as they are through with most of their written tests.

Ideally, candidates should start improving general awareness (including self awareness and subject knowledge) as soon as they start their preparation for the written tests. As General Awareness is a very vast area, it makes sense to follow the top stories as and when they happen. Post the written tests, candidates should start enhancing their general awareness full-time by reading newspapers and magazines such as Outlook and Outlook Business. While reading up on news-making events, candidates should consider various aspects and arguments and use their own judgement to decide what their stand should be.

Personal Interview may include many questions from the subjects candidates have studied during their graduation or post graduation. Candidates should revise important concepts learnt in at least two major subjects and think about their real life applications.

As the PI tests candidates’ self awareness too, they should spend a few days introspecting. (Some common PI questions are discussed below)

Careers360: What kind of topics should a student prepare for GD this year?

Vinayak Kudva: The WAT/GD topics normally require you to take a stand, so they require you to be analytical and argumentative rather than descriptive. The topics are mostly of sociological significance and may be based on long standing or newly uncovered issues. Students should go through the topics allotted by various B-schools last year, to get an idea of what can be expected. Also, students should read up on the sensational stories of 2013, build arguments for/against the issues and decide their standpoint.

Some GD/WAT topics of last year are given below for your reference.

  • Organic food — good for individuals, bad for society

  • Impact of FDI in Indian retail market

  • It is advisable to raise legal drinking age limit to 25 years for responsible drinking.

  • Indian states need to be given more autonomy for progress.

  • The way I see it, 20 years down the line

  • It is claimed that the prevalence of crimes against women is due to the way women dress. Give your views either in support of or against this argument.

  • Do you think privatisation in sports helps to improve the situation of sports in India? What should the government do for the same? What are your suggestions to improve the level of participation and performance in sports in India?


Careers360: What are the common PI questions that an aspirant should expect?       

Vinayak Kudva: Through a personal interview, selectors try to assess candidates’ interests, aptitude and personality. They try to understand the candidates better by uncovering their aspirations, motivation, strengths, weaknesses, etc.

With this aim in mind, the most common PI questions posed by selectors are:

  • What is the meaning of your name? (typically used as an ice breaker)

  • Tell me something about yourself.

  • Why do you want to do an MBA?

  • What are your plans after an MBA?

  • What are you career goals?

  • Where do you see yourself 5/10 years from now?

  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?

  • Elaborate on your work experience.

  • What are your hobbies/interests? (technical questions on the same)


Candidates are questioned about the shift in academic streams, if any.

Candidates are questioned about a gap year, if any.

Candidates are questioned about poor academic performance. 

Some general awareness questions are asked.

Academic questions from the subjects the candidate has studied are also asked.

Information pertaining to the candidate’s home town is also sought in many cases.

Careers360: Please share some tips to answer PI questions that might be posed to candidates.

Vinayak Kudva: Considering that most of the B-School interviews will be scheduled in March, you should be aware of the important provisions of the Union Budget and the rationale behind the provisions. Be prepared to justify yourself if you support or oppose a particular provision in the budget.

Write down important points made in the books that you have read. Be clear on your own views on the book or the author’s viewpoint and be prepared to justify your stand. 

Make yourself aware of basic terms in economics, their implications and various issues concerning the Indian economy. Since the state of the economy affects all businesses in one way or the other, it is important to be aware of the same.    

Also know a bit about what to expect in the B-school and the different specializations offered by the B-school.

B-schools desire mature students who are able to think independently and are tolerant of differing views on an issue. You should be able to recognise the pros and cons of any issue.

Careers360: Many B-schools have introduced WAT also. Please share tips on WAT preparation?

Vinayak Kudva: The skills required performing well in a GD or WAT are quite similar. Though the communication medium is different (oral in a GD and written in a WAT), the mental work that candidates need to do, when presented a topic, remains the same.  Students need to learn how to analyse the topic/issue, identify or build relevant arguments and finalise their position on the issue. In a WAT, they then need to decide on the sequence in which they will present all this on paper (i.e. decide what will be the introduction, body and conclusion), and finally, write the essay neatly and coherently.

For all related queries visit our official CAT 2013 Discussion.

Also Read:

What after CAT 2013?

Stay tuned to bschool.Careers360 for more expert advice and updates on MBA admissions 2014.



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Here is the list of colleges you can get with 68%ile

JIMS Rohini Delhi
IMT Hyderabad
SOIL Institute of Management
Jaipuria Institute of Management Jaipur
Jaypee Business School
Dayananda Sagar Business School Bangalore
NSB Academy Bangalore
NDIM New Delhi

Hello Aspirant

Seeing your marks, it is evident you are good in academics. Thus, you can get into a good MBA college but mind you, it won't be easy because there are thousands of students who are as good as you, if not better. MBA colleges do not choose candidates solely based on academic performance, although it has a big weightage in their selection process. They test your presence of mind, intellect, and communication skills through Group Discussions and Interviews.

The safest way to get into a good MBA college is to score 96-97+ percentile and do really well in GD and  PI. Top MBA colleges in India are IIMs, XISS (Ranchi), TISS, Delhi School of Business, and Symbiosis.

Hope this helps

Hello Aspirant

Congratulations on your score, There are many good B schools at 80-85%ile in CAT and XAT
1)Great Lakes, Chennai
3) Goa Institute of Management
Do your research about these colleges as to what is their average package, the roles offered.

Colleges like NIBM specialize in Finance, and IRMA has a lot of sales marketing Roles. So ultimately the choice is yours which specialization you want to pursue.

Hello Aspirant,
Hope you are well

The  XAT cut-offs for IMT Nagpur and Welingkar Institute for their MBA program is between 70-80 percentile. So you have a good chance of getting a call from both institutes. However, the chances of conversion depend on your 10th, 12th, graduation marks.

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