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How To Approach For CAT And Other MBA’s Entrance Exam

How To Approach For CAT And Other MBA’s Entrance Exam

Common Admission Test (CAT)

Common Admission Test, colloquially known as CAT, is one of the most decorated MBA entrance tests in India. Every year more than two lakh students appear for the examination to get admitted into the top B-schools in India. CAT is conducted every year by one of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) B-schools testing students in terms of Quantitative Aptitude, Logical Reasoning, Data Interpretation and Verbal Ability. Candidates who clear the written test will have to appear for Written Ability Test (WAT) and Personal Interview (PI). Some of the autonomous institutes conduct Group Discussion (GD) in place of WAT. An elaborated description of the institutes and their eligibility criteria will be discussed further in this article.

This article would talk about the necessary strategies and the pain points to approach CAT. Note that this article is written keeping in mind an average student attempting CAT for the first time.

The Five Golden Rules: The following five points will give a holistic picture about CAT and would provide a base for an aspirant’s preparation.

1. Mentally prepared: CAT is such a competitive exam where not just your knowledge but also your presence of mind is tested. So, before you begin your journey to crack CAT it is suggested that you be prepared mentally to face the ups and downs in your preparation and not deviate from your aim at any stage.It is common that most aspirants give up during their preparation. It may be due to lack of focus, inability to face the fierce competition or lack of proper mentorship. As future managers, this is your first challenge. So, let the problems not hinder you to reach your goal.

2. Exam pattern: It is quite important to know the examination pattern before you start your preparation. Although most readers know the pattern, a recap would clear any uncertainties ifpresent. CAT is a computer based test given in India. Following is the pattern of CAT.

Section Number of Questions Duration
1 Quantitative Aptitude 34 60 mins
2 Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning 32 60 mins
3 Verbal and Reading Comprehension 34 60 mins
Total 100 3 hrs.


CAT does not test one’s ability to solve the toughest questions rather it tests the ability of the aspirant to score the highest marks in the stipulated time. So, as the aspirant take on his journey to crack CAT, he/she should start identifying the areas of strength and weakness simultaneously. This will give a direction to one’s preparation. The aspirant will have an idea on the areas he mustfocus. Identifying the weak and strong zones further helps the aspirant to try or move forward with a particular question.

    1. Mentor:For an aspirant who is giving CAT for the first time, it is strongly recommended to seek an expert’s guidance. A mentor certainly will show you the better path and provides you the necessary tips and tricks for a smart preparation.There are a number of CAT coaching institutes in India and it does not matter whether the institute has a good number of branches or high reputation or decorated lecturers. Choose a coaching institute in such a way that the mentor can sit with you and guide you in understanding how to analyse your mocks. Make sure you are able to understand what is being taught in the class.
    2. Topic tests & Mock test:Once a topic is covered, it is better if the aspirant can take a topic test. It will reinforce the concepts and act as a scale to test one’s understanding on the topic. At-least 4 months before the actual exam, CAT aspirants should start giving their mock exams. Certain exam aspects like time management, choosing the right questions, skipping the troublesome questions etc cannot be taught in class. One can only develop these skills through mock tests. And finally, the crucial part of the giving mock tests is to analyse them. Analysing a mock test will expose one’s areas of improvement. It will also give a picture of your ability to utilize the given time. Go through the solutions of each question even if you mark the right answer. It might give you an opportunity to find better ways to solve the question. Knowing mere answers to mock questions is not analysis. Analysis is to understand time management, weaker zones, strong zones etc and only a quality time with your mentor will help identify these aspects.Lack of proper mock analysis will not help the aspirant in any way. The aspirant might end up repeating the same mistakes over and over.
  1. Know Yourself:Hard work is the key to success in CAT. The more effort you put, the closer you move towards your goal. It does not mean to lock yourself up and study 24/7 and 365 days. Give time for your daily activities but do not deviate from your goal.Follow a strategy to approach the exam. The strategy is aspirant specific. One person’s strategy may or may not work for others. And a decent strategy can only be developed if you know about yourself. Understand your strong and weaker areas. Sit with your mentor and devise a plan for yourself. Implement it in your mock tests and analyse the output. Select the one which best suits you.

Certain tips which might help you:

    • Have a running-notes along with your preparation. List down formulas topic wise and revise them the night before actual CAT
    • CAT is never an engineer’s strong ground. In-fact some institutes provide additional points for non-engineers
    • A RC a day keeps bad percentile away
    • Though calculator is available, if an aspirant is thorough with basic multiplications, square, cubes, square-roots i will save a lot of time.
    • IIMs or rather any B-school does not want mathematicians or logicians. So, do not allot too much time on a single question. Do not let your ego take the better of you.
  • Follow a single coaching institute for questions. Solving questions from multiple

Eligibility criteria:

  • Bachelor’s Degree with at least 50% marks or equivalent CGPA
  • Candidates belonging to Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Differently Abled (DA) categories need only 45% marks
  • Candidates in final year of Graduation are also eligible to apply for CAT

Other MBA entrance Examinations

The above-mentioned analysis would also help crack other MBA examinations on a broader perspective. But it’s advisable to change according to the requirement of the examination.

Xavier Aptitude Test (XAT)

The exam will consist of two parts, Paper 1 and Paper 2. Paper 1 is objective paper with multiple choice questions. The sections of this paper are Verbal Ability, Decision Making, Quantitative Aptitude, General Awareness.

For Verbal Ability and Quantitative Aptitude, the preparation for CAT would be sufficient.  The exam differs from the other MBA entrance exams as it features a section on Decision Making. This is an area that checks your management aptitude by presenting different situations and cases, and asks you to identify the correct recourse in these situations.

Decision Making & Analytical Reasoning: It consistsof various business situations and you are expected to give a solution as a stake holder. In general, the questions have a dilemma for the parties involved and most of the choices involve an analysis of the possible gains and losses with each course of action adopted. Questions can be based on the following: ethical dilemmas, financial issues involving sales, revenues etc. of a company, employee management issues and general management scenarios. As far as what kind of decisions you should make, ensure that the decision taken is unbiased and does not favouranyparty. An ethical, balanced and answer from the perspective of all stakeholders involved is expected.

General Knowledge: To crack this section there is no better way than to read newspaper daily. There are many web pages which provide a gist of monthly news. It can act a booster to your daily preparation. Emphasis can be given on economics and business-related facts. Preparing current events for the last 6 months is essential. In static GK part, focus on awards, books & authors and geography.

Essay Writing:Most of the XAT essay topics are abstract in nature. The topic is based on either a common phrase or an idiom with a philosophical hint implied within. The examiner is not only looking for language skills here, but is also evaluating coherence of thoughts, ability to provide logical arguments and your knowledge level. Reading the editorial page of national newspapers may be of great help in this section. It is recommended that you write sample essays and get them assessed on content and style.

Concept strengthening should be followed by a solid practice. The aspirant can start taking mock exams regularly. While attempting the paper, keep in mind the basics of time management, prioritization and striking a right balance between speed and accuracy.

Eligibility criteria:

  • XAT eligibility does not impose any age bar to appear in XAT 2018 exam.
  • The candidate applying for XAT 2018 must fulfil one of the following XAT eligibility criteria 2018-
    • Completed Bachelor’s degree, or
    • Completed professional degree (CA/CS/ICWA), or
    • Should be in the final year of Bachelor’s degree
  • The candidates must declare and maintain a valid and unique email account and a phone number throughout the selection process.

Symbiosis National Aptitude Test (SNAP)

SNAP test is entrance test for colleges under Symbiosis University. There are 15 B-schools under Symbiosis banner and all these institutes consider SNAP scores for their admission process. The questions in SNAP paper are mostly moderate in difficulty level. What makes this examination challenging is that candidate must attempt and answer 150 questions under 120 minutes. It tests the quick decision-making ability of the student, time management and conceptual clarity along with aptitude. Candidates preparing for SNAP should work on their time management and identifying strong-weak zones in stipulated time. SNAP has an additional Current Affairs section. This section is considered to be the deciding factor by MBA Gurus as most students feel comfortable answering the remaining sections but face challenges answering this section. The section had questions based on Science, Business Awareness, Geography, Awards, Technology and majorly on Personalities. Students could have attempted 10-12 questions with 60-65 percent accuracy to score well in this section.

The preparation for CAT would be sufficient to score well in QA, LRDI and Verbal Ability section for SNAP.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Graduate from any recognized / statutory University with a minimum of 50% marks (45% for SC/ST).
  • Final year graduation students are also eligible to apply. However, they must complete their degree with requisite aggregate percentage or equivalent CGPA at the time of admission.


NMAT is the official entrance test for NMIMS University and 23 other B-schools across India.The computer-based test is conducted in a 75-day long window from October to December.

The exam has three sections: Language Skills, Quantitative Skills, Logical Reasoning. A proper preparation for CAT would suffice for NMAT. Candidates just have to work on their time management and few mocks to get a sense of the examination.

Tips to score well in NMIMS:

    • NMAT does not have negative marking. So, it is advised to students to attempt all questions without fail
    • A candidate can attempt NMAT up to three times in a single calendar year. The best score amongst the three would be considered for further evaluation
  • NMAT uses percentile method for evaluating students. The scores of students across 75-day period is finally adjusted and a percentile is drawn and declared by the institute.
  • It is better if a student can fix his slot at the very beginning of the test window. It has two major advantages: firstly, the student will have enough time to apply for the next attempt if the first attempt gets screwed up. Secondly, the student will have enough time to prepare for other exams like SNAP and XAT

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Bachelor’s Degree (10+2+3/4) in any discipline from a recognized University with minimum 50% marks in the aggregate.
  • Final year students of Graduate Courses can also apply.


B-schools in India:

The following table provides some of top B-schools in India with their qualifying examinations


MBACollege City Program Exams
IIM Ahmedabad Ahmedabad Post Graduate Programme in Management (PGP) CAT
IIM Bangalore Bengaluru Post-Graduate Programme in Management (PGP) CAT, GMAT
ISB Hyderabad Hyderabad Post-Graduate Programme in Management (PGP) GMAT
IIM Calcutta Kolkata Post Graduate Diploma in Management (PGDM) CAT
XLRI Jamshedpur Jamshedpur Post Graduate Diploma in Business Management (PGDBM) XAT, GMAT
IIM Lucknow Lucknow Post Graduate Programme in Management CAT
SP Jain Mumbai Post Graduate Diploma in Management (PGDM) CAT, XAT, GMAT
MDI Gurgaon Gurugram Post Graduate Programme in Management (PGPM) CAT, GMAT
IIM Kozhikode Kozhikode Post Graduate Programme in Management CAT
IIM Indore Indore Post Graduate Programme in Management (PGP) CAT
IMI Delhi New Delhi Post-Graduate Diploma in Management CAT, GMAT
NMIMS Mumbai Mumbai Master ofBusiness Administration (MBA) NMAT by GMAC
FMS New Delhi New Delhi Master of Business Administration (MBA) CAT
IMT Ghaziabad Ghaziabad Post Graduate Programme in Management (PGPM) CATXATGMAT
SIBM Pune Pune Master of Business Administration (MBA) SNAP
NITIE Mumbai Mumbai Post Graduate Diploma in Industrial Management (PGDIM) CAT
IIFT New Delhi: New Delhi MBA in International Business IIFT
All New IIMs Raipur, Ranchi, Rhotak,Trichy, Udaipur, Kashipur Post-Graduate Programme (PGP) CAT
IIM Shillong Shillong Post-Graduate Programme in Management CAT
XIMB Bhubaneshwar MBA in Business Management (MBA-BM) CAT, XAT, X-GMAT, GMAT


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