An MBA (Master in Business Administration) or PGDBM (Postgraduate Diploma in Business Management) is a postgraduate professional qualification, internationally recognised and widely accepted for a successful career in the business world. However, due to the mismatch between the number of good Business Schools and the vast number of aspirants for the postgraduate qualification in management, the entire selection and admission process has become highly competitive. As a result, each B-school has to eliminate students at all stages of the selection process before they finally prepare a list of candidates selected for admission.

The first and most important stage which is, in fact, the base of the selection process is the Written Test. This is called by different school a candidate is applying to. The well-known Written test conducted by the Indian Instititutes of Management (IIMs) is known as the Common Admission Test (CAT) in which prominent private business schools also participate under an MoU with the IIMs.
CAT is not, in fact, an intelligence test. It is basically, a Business Aptitude Test intended to identify those students who are likely to perform well in the area of business management. It is also important to know that the CAT score is only one of the criteria for the final selection of a candidate. Other criteria include the condidate's performance in the Group Discussion (GD) and Personal Interview (PI) and his/her academic record. CAT basically assesses a candidate in two basic areas - Quantitative Ability and the Verbal Ability required to become a good management professional.
Quantitative Problems given in CAT measure a candidate's mathematical skill. These problems also assess his/her skills in Data Interpretation and Data Sufficiency. Data Interpretation problems assess the candidate's ability to analyse and interpret information in graphic or tabular form. DAta Sufficiency problems assess his/her ability to analyse a problem with the assistance of the information supplied. Quantitative Ability determines the level of proficiency of the candidate in decision-making.
Verbal ability problems assess the candidate's ability to understand and comprehend written English. This is tested through Reading Comprehensin, Verbal Reasoning and English Usage questions. The purpose of the above assessment is to know your level of written communication skills which is important for anyone holding a managerial position.

Preparation for CAT needs developing proficiency in a) understanding the fundamentals of the relevant subjects; b) applying the concepts which have been learnt in those subjects; and c) regular test practice.
Understanding the fundamentals of a subject is extremely important. Unless you are clear in your fundamentals you will not be able to use the knowledge gained in that subject. So, complete the study of one chapter of a subject at a time and solve the exercises as per your study scheme prior to going on to the next chapter. Leaving a chapter incomplete will not help. The application of concepts include taking tests which are necessarily aimed at applying your learning of these. These two stages of preparation for CAT will determine whether you understand the subjects properly.
There is no need to stress that practice makes perfect. Having acquired a level of proficiency in the relevant subjects, you need to focus on developing the required test-taking knowledge and skills. Practice through mock tests as this will help you achieve success in CAT. In fact, there is nothing like a mock test to tell you what you are good at and what areas you need to improve on.

After taking a test, do a post-test analysis as this will assist you in knowing whether you were able to finish the test well within the allotted time - and with a sufficient score. It will also help you to know which questions you could not tackle well and why. The post-test analysis will also help you to fine tune your answers and to make improvements wherever they are required. Next week we will look at the various different sections in the exam - what they comprise of an what you can do to ace the CAT.
The author is Chairman, Joint Admission Committee, IMT, Ghaziabad, Nagpur and Dubai.

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