A Dummy's Guide to IIM Admissions

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THE INDIAN INSTITUTES OF MANAGEMENT (IIM) ARE SOME OF THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS IN THE COUNTRY. KARAN TECKCHANDANI BREAKS DOWN THE ADMISSION PROCESS FOR ASPIRING STUDENTS

The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are 13 of the country’s top business schools with the A, B and Cs being the cream of the crop, i.e., IIM Ahmedabad (IIMA), IIM Bangalore (IIMB) and IIM Calcutta (IIMC) , which are followed closely by IIM Indore and IIM Kozhikode in the rankings. The admission procedure to the flagship Post Graduate Programme (PGP), which is equivalent to the MBA offered by various business schools across the globe, is a 3-step process involving the Common Admission Test (CAT), the Written Ability test and the Personal Interview round. After factoring in scores from the these and the candidate’s academic history, extracurricular activities and work experience, the IIMs reach an objective score which determines the admission decision. The methodology of reaching said score is different for each IIM and is posted on their respective websites. Some IIMs place equal emphasis on all previous academic endeavours (like IIM Ahmedabad) while others place more importance on undergraduate marks (like IIM Bangalore). Priyank Patwari, alumnus of IIM Banglore, says, “Self belief is the most important asset one can have while trying to make the cut”.

1 COMMON ADMISSION TEST (CAT)

The first hurdle is to clear the Common Admission Test (CAT). Often referred to as the toughest exam in the world, it is no surprise the CAT sends shivers down the spines of potential candidates. But if one knows what it takes, it is just another exam. Priyank says, “To improve one’s chances one needs to put in a lot of effort and ensure that the focus is on the right areas, not to mention being smart during the exam itself ”.

Format of the CAT

.  Computer based test
.  2 sections (Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation and Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning)
.  Each section has 30 questions and a time limit of 70 minutes
.  You can jump around questions in one section but cannot jump between sections
.  Each right answer awards 3 marks while a wrong answer deducts 1 mark from the score

THE CAT CAN BE DAUNTING! THESE TIPS WILL HELP EASE THE BURDEN LEADING UP TO THE EXAM:

*  20 days before the exam, take computer based mock tests in a simulated testing environment. it will help you feel comfortable on the day of the exam.
*  After each mock test, check where you went wrong, analyse the mistakes and try to find a pattern and work on your weaknesses.
*  During the last week, don’t focus on your weaknesses as it’s already too late; rather focus on building your strengths.
*  Practise problem sets extensively and remember the important formulae.
*  Set a realistic target. Not everyone is capable of getting into IIM Ahmedabad. Know you capability and try to build from there to get into the best school possible.
*  During the exam, divide your section in 3 parts: easy, medium and hard. The Easy questions are those that you can solve without much thought; solve those first. The medium questions may require you to spend some time on the problem: solve those in the second round. leave the hard questions for when or if you have any time left after answering the easy and medium level questions.
*  Sometimes the answers may help you understand the questions. Substitute the answers in the questions and see which fits best.
*  Don’t study the day before the exam. Give your brain the chance to relax from the months spent preparing. Relax and get adequate sleep.
*  During the exam, don’t lose focus. Try keeping your calm if you can’t get the answer to a question. Move on, answer the other questions and come back to the difficult one later.

2 WRITTEN ABILITY

Acing the CAT is just the first hurdle in the admissions process. Those clearing the exam are then called by the IIMs for the Written Ability and Personal Interview rounds. Prior to this there used to be a Group Discussion round as well but it has been eliminated. Both the rounds take place at a common testing location or the campus of the respective IIM. The essay topics can include anything under the sun but the trend suggests current affairs are favourites.

Sample essay topics from past IIMA Written Ability tests

* Networking is more important than academics in business
* Pros and cons of the Education Bill
* More money, lower morals – the truth of investment banks
* The European debt crisis and how it could have been avoided
* Reservation in elite institutes

HERE ARE SOME TIPS TO CROSS THIS SECOND HURDLE:

* Different IIMs give different time limits to complete the essay. IIMB gives 30 minutes; IIM Lucknow gievs 15 minutes; IIMA gives 10 mintes.
* The only way to write a good essay is to follow the 3 Ps – Practise, Practise and Practise. The more you practise writing essays in conditions similar to the finals, the easier it will be to adjust to the test centre during D-day. It will give clarity of thought. Develop ability to think and articulate quickly.
* Practise by picking current affairs topics, since these are favorites of the IIMs. Aim to write at least one to three essays every day.
* While writing the actual essay, the content is more important than the grammatical structure and flow, which are important nevertheless.
* Put down as many logical points as possible during the essay. It will demonstrate your analytical and critical reasoning skills.
* Accuracy, spelling and grammar take precedence over impressive vocabulary.

3 PERSONAL INTERVIEW

The Written Ability round is followed by the Personal Interview. The interview is a chance for the school to look beyond the résumé and get a better picture of the candidate’s potency and ability to handle the rigours of the course and their fit for the program. Priyank’s advice is to “read up on current affairs, think through personals (questions like how does an MBA fit into your long term goal, etc) and most importantly, know yourself and your résumé very well ”.

Is the effort worth it?

“There is a general perception that the lessons learnt at an IIM are not as useful during the job as they are in getting one, I tend to disagree with this view. In my opinion, I am much better equipped to face challenges like extended work hours, tight deadlines, competitive environment, etc over and above the basic skills that are required to do my job thanks to the time spent at IIM.” – Priyank Patwari IIM Bangalore, Batch of 2011

HERE ARE SOME COMMONLY ASKED INTERVIEW QUESTIONS AND HOW TO ANSWER THEM:

Q) Tell us about yourself.
ANS: Explain about your family background, education and life experiences that made you decide to opt for a postgraduate business programme. Keep it short and relevant to the programme and institution.

Q) Why do you want ot pursue the PGP at our institution?
ANS: List all the reasons why their business school is the single best match for your career goals. Discuss its faculty, facilities, job placement record, location and all other reasons that demonstrate a deliberate choice.

Q) Tell us about your strengths and weaknesses.
ANS: Tell them about your strengths and give examples of how they have benefited you in the past. Be frank about your weaknesses and tel them how you’re working towards turning them into your strengths.

Q) Why should we accept you?
ANS: The interviewer asks this question when there are two identical candidates on paper. The admission is offered to the candidate who will contribute to an intellectual and interesting environment. This is also knows as the layover test, as in, a test to guage whether one would want to spend 6 hours next to a person at an airport during a layover.

Q) What are your career goals?
ANS: Be frank and don’t try to give an answer just to get into the school. The interviewers can see through that. Not Many people have a clear idea about what they want to do with their life, which is acceptable as long as they have the urge to grow and find what will make them happy.

Q) Where else have you applied?
ANS: The schools ask this to see if the candidate has been prudent and applied to other schools where he/she could be accepted as well.This demonstrates a sense of caution and planning-essential qualities that a leader must process.

Q) What questions do you have for me?
ANS: This is your last chance to show the interview your interest in the institution. Do thorough research on the school and make a list of good questions that’ll help you get a better idea of the school, its facilities, the programm and the on-campus activities.

 

Volume 3 Issue 6

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you for the above information.

    i am preparing for CAT exam and was looking for CAT coaching. One of my friends suggested me to opt for online CAT Coaching and asked me to check : CAT-MBA Video Study Material Course

    Can anybody help me in deciding whether to opt online coaching or go for offline mode? If anybody has any idea regarding this link, please let me know. Thnks in advance .

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