To help you guide your entrance preparation journey to a top B-school, we have created FAQs categorized as per your preparation phases. These questions are a compilation of queries answered by CL gurus including GP & Team. Visit through the same and get your common queries resolved.

Initiation Phase

Admission Process &Eligibility

Can I get admission into IIMs with the GMAT score?

Overseas Indian candidates can apply to IIMs with a valid GMAT score instead of a CAT score. Required GMAT score is at least 700. Indian residents outside India fall under the "Overseas Indian candidates" category provided the candidate is an Indian passport holder who expects to live, work or study outside India, for at least 12 months continuously

What's the IIM procedure for an ST candidate?

The procedure for admission to IIMs (and other B schools) is the same for all categories. It is an entrance test (CAT/XAT/SNAP etc) followed by a personality assessment process. ST candidates can get a call from IIMs at a CAT score of 75%ile but to ensure a call from all the IIMs, the target score should be over 80%ile. With an 86% in 10th grade, 89.5% in 12th grade and 64% in my Bachelors of Pharmaceutical Sciences and 8.7 GPA in my Masters in Chemistry from a US University,

What are my chances of getting into decent b-schools. What are the top five b-schools in India, that, I can aim at? What should be my CAT Score?

  1. A call from IIM A is possible at a CAT score of 99.65%ile for engineers but as a non-engineer (science graduate) interview call is possible at a score of 99.3%ile.
  2. IIM C has a 77% weight for CAT score, 10% each for marks in X & XII and 3% for academic diversity hence a general male needs around 99.55%ile for an interview call.
  3. Unlike the above two, IIM B and IIM L have a complicated process with weight for almost everything. IIM B considers normalised scores of X & XII, work experience and graduation marks. It has a low weight for CAT score and hence with your profile you can get call from IIM B at 98%ile.
  4. IIM L has a 76% weight for CAT score hence a higher CAT score (compared to IIM B) of around 99%ile would be needed for an interview call.
  5. XLRI Jamshedpur would require a XAT score of 95%ile for an interview call but converting the call is usually difficult at a score lower than 97%ile.
  6. FMS Delhi University would give an interview call at 98.5%ile but to be sure of converting the call a CAT score of over 99.5%ile would be required.

Doubts & Apprehensions

I left my IT job to prepare for the CAT 2015. Will it lead to rejection in the IIM interviews?

Every year many students quit their jobs or have dropped 1-2 years make it to IIMs and other top MBA institutes across India. This is because CAT score is the most important component for interview short listing, followed by your past academic record. Work experience is usually not considered for the purpose and wherever it is considered, it has a low weight. 

In the final selection criteria also CAT score along with your performance in the personality assessment process (Interview, GD, WAT etc) together have over 85% weight in almost all institutes.

However, in the interview you will be asked about your reason for quitting and just sharing the real reason is good enough. You will not be rejected just because you quit your job. 

Regular practice along with Mock CATs and detailed analysis of all tests and weekly revision should be your focus. Do not forget to read the e-paper of Indian Express and The Hindu.

Is there ragging in IIMB?

There is no ragging in any of the IIMs and top MBA institutes because:

  1. Many juniors are older than the seniors and have more work experience.
  2. Unlike most graduation programs where the work load is not high, in IIMs no one has time for ragging.
  3. Besides, 2nd year students are worried about placements.
What consequences will the new CAT pattern have on engineers?

Engineers (good in Maths) now cannot hide behind LR and avoid RC. 
Good in Language (RC + Verbal) also cannot ignore LR or DI.
This paper will require you to do well in all areas.
For more details, please read a detailed blog post CAT 2015: Old wine in a new bottle

I have just secured admission at IIT KGP. When should I start preparing for CAT? I plan to give it just after graduating. Is it advisable to give the exam just after graduation?

It is best to take CAT in your final year as it is easier to prepare along with your college as compared to preparing along with a job. Also a 1 year experience is not a great advantage and the earlier one does an MBA the better it is for your career. 

It is a bit early for you to look at structured CAT preparation which should start in your 5th semester, till then you should look at the following:

  1. Focus on your engineering. Low marks in graduation could make you in-eligible for some of the IIMs, also in the interview your knowledge of engineering will be tested.
  2. Develop a reading habit, read books by different authors and of different genre @ at least 1 per month. A daily newspaper (The Hindu or Indian Express) along with current affairs weekly will help build your general awareness, reading comprehension, vocabulary and sentence correction all of which will be helpful in your MBA entrance process.
  3. Solve puzzles that come in newspapers and fro other sources and also get in the habit of mental/oral calculations (outside your college).
  4. In your 4th semester go through class 9-10 NCERT Maths books as it will cover almost the entire QA syllabus of CAT and other MBA entrances.
  5. In your 5th semester you an get into formal CAT preparation by enrolling for a correspondence or online MBA program. This is better than books and material from random websites as they are usually not updated and have at times irrelevant topics.
  6. Given that you are from IIT KGP, you should restrict yourself to CAT for top IIMs & FMS and to XAT for XLRI.
I have graduated this year. I gave CAT last year without any prep and now CAT is only 4 months away. Should I attempt the upcoming CAT ?

As a graduate without a job you have three options:

  1. Hunt for a job
  2. Prepare for CAT
  3. Both of the above.

Ideally you should go for option 3, but that would have been an option if you had prepared well for CAT last year and the only thing required in this attempt was practice and revision. With a "no preparation" last attempt, it will be worth while for you to prepare for CAT and give it one good shot. Do not worry about the gap year, every year many students with a gap year make it to IIMs and other top MBA institutes. Work ex is not considered for interview shortlisting in most IIMs and other MBA institutes and even for final selection it has very low weight. 

You should immediately join a classroom program to ensure that you are well prepared. Please contact your nearest CL centre or enroll now for a suitable program at http://www.careerlauncher.com/cat-mba/index.html

I had a back in last semester. Would I be allowed to sit for GD PI if I manage to get a decent CAT percentile?

Yes, you will be allowed to go through the personality assessment process and as long as you can clear your backlogs along with your final semester exams, it will not be an issue. You will be asked about the backlogs in the interview but it will not lead to rejection. Every year a few students with backlogs make it to the interview stage and make it to the IIMs and other top MBA institutes.

I am now heading to the 3rd year of CSE engineering at the University of Mumbai. Should I prepare for the CAT or the GRE?

The answer to CAT or GRE is a function of what you are looking for in your career. If you are keen to continue in the technical arena then GRE leading to MS for a top university in US is the preferred option but if you would rather shift to management then it has to be CAT leading to MBA from one of the top 10 MBA institutes.

From a career perspective both are very good and will provide you with many good opportunities so go for the one that you are more interested in.

Nearly 100 days to go for the upcoming CAT. Is it OK if I start preparing now and get a 90+ percentile?

100 days are good enough for a 99%ile, if you are willing to put in about 30 hours per week. First of all you have to be ahead of the class and not wait for a topic to be covered. A day before the class you should study the topic from the fundabook, so that you have better understanding and also will be able to clear your doubts. After the class, at home, you should go through what was covered in the class and also solve the MCQs at the end of the fundabooks. Do not worry about the non-MCQ unsolved questions. On completing the MCQs from the fundabook, start practicing from Test Gym. Start from the beginner level and move up to the Advanced level. In any case do take at least one test of RC, LR, VL and DI from Test Gym every day, since these areas require lots of practice. You should also take Mock CATs as per the schedule and if you have backlogs, then start taking them at the rate of 1 per week. Let this continue till end August and from September, you can move to 2 Mock CATs per week. 

Each practice test and Mock CAT should be analyzed in detail to ascertain what worked or did not work for you so that you and also the important questions. These important questions should be revised once a week.

The analysis process is explained in a blog post Things you must-do after every mock you take. Do not forget to allocate one day per week for revising important questions.

Effective September you should move to 2 Mock CATs per week and once you finish your practice material start attempting previous years CAT papers (1990-2008).
In addition to the above you should be reading the editorial, business and international pages of an e-paper daily (Indian Express or The Hindu).

Preparation Phase

Score Improvement & Strategy

Being a beginner at preparation this year and 92%ile last year, Is it possible to crack the CAT with a 99.5 percentile in 4 months and how?

Yes, it is possible, a 92%ile in last CAT attempt indicates that your concepts are by and large in place and to go up you need to focus on practice, testing, analysis and revision.

Devote 3 weeks to go through your last year’s material. Go through the concepts to ensure that you remember the basic formulae & techniques of solving different question types. Do revise the important MCQs of last years material/Mock CATs.

2 weeks into your revision of last year’s material start taking 1 Mock CAT per week. After completing the last year material, the focus should shift to practice wherein you should take at least 1 test of 20 minutes (12 questions) from each of the 5 areas (QA, DI, LR, RC and VL). 

Each practice test and Mock CAT should be analyzed in detail to ascertain what worked or did not work for you so that you and also the important questions. These important questions should be revised once a week.
The analysis process is explained in detail in blogpost Things you must-do after every mock you take.
Effective September, you should move to 2 Mock CATs per week and once you finish your practice material start attempting previous year CAT papers (1990-2008). 
In addition to the above, you should be reading the editorial, business and international pages of an e-paper daily (Indian Express or The Hindu).

How would have 99%ilers change their strategy with respect to the change in pattern of CAT 2015?

99%ilers will now need to ensure that they are not dependent on any one area and have covered all bases. Keeping in mind the new CAT pattern, CAT 2014 could have been attempted as given below:

QA: Attempt 27-28 out of 34 QA questions in 60 minutes

DILR: 24 questions from 6 data sets in 60 minutes as given below
DI - Attempt 3 out of 4 DI sets in 30 minutes 
LR - Attempt 3 out of 4 LR sets in 30 minutes

VRC: 25 questions in 60 minutes as given below
RC - Attempt 3 out of 4 RC passages in 30 minutes 
Verbal - Attempt 12-14 questions in 30 minutes

Obviously you can maximize your strong areas, but cannot ignore the others too.

You can refer to CAT 2015: Old wine in a new bottle for in-depth understanding of the new CAT pattern.

What would be the best approach to crack CAT 2015 given the new pattern?

As usual the changes in CAT are in the structure and the content or the kind of questions that will be asked has not changed but with the sectional time limits, the free-ing VALR section of LR, free-ing QADI section of DI and creating anew section of DILR means that the good in Maths cannot hide behind LR and will have to do well in RC and Verbal to make it to the next stage. Similarly those good in language cannot ignore DI or LR.
The right approach hence is not to ignore any area and regularly practice all questions types. RC and DI which are routinely ignored will now become important and should be practiced daily.

There is unlikely to be a time constraint in CAT 2015 and, especially in VRC, the tendency to over attempt will have to be controlled as it would lead to negative marks. Mark an answer in VRC only if you are sure.

The sectional time limits might lead to higher sectional scores of 95%ile and above but the overall cutoff is likely to go down because the time saved in a section cannot be utilized in the other sections. In CAT 2014 99%ie was at 190 marks and I expect this to fall to around 175 in CAT 2015. Sectional cutoffs could be in the range of 35-40 marks depending upon the section and its degree of difficulty.

An overall attempt of 75 with around 25 in each section should be sufficient.

For more details you can refer to the article CAT 2015: Old wine in a new bottle

Being a second year engineering student of tier-2 engineering College. Which is the best strategy for CAT-16 preparation via classroom coaching.

A 12-15 month period is usually good enough time for CAT preparation, hence, you can start formal preparation for CAT 2016 any time between August and November depending upon your requirements and your college schedule, the earlier the better. Irrespective of when you start your CAT preparation you should start the following immediately:

  1. Develop a reading habit, read books by different authors and of different genre @ at least 1 per month. A daily newspaper (The Hindu or Indian Express) along with current affairs weekly will help build your general awareness, reading comprehension, vocabulary and sentence correction all of which will be helpful in your MBA entrance process.
  2. Solve puzzles that come in newspapers and fro other sources and also get in the habit of mental/oral calculations (outside your college).
  3. Go through class 9-10 NCERT Maths books as it will cover almost the entire QA syllabus of CAT and other MBA entrances. This should be over in the next 2 months.
  4. Do not ignore your engineering classes, low marks in graduation could make you in-eligible for some of the IIMs, also in the interview your knowledge of engineering will be tested. Your summer internship and B.Tech projects and/or terms papers etc will all be important in the interview.

Queries Regarding Verbal

English is my weak area. Please guide me how to prepare for English for the CAT exam 2015.?

The first and the foremost thing you should begin is reading. Read newspapers, editorials, magazines. Also, make it a habit to talk to your family and friends in English. Apart from this, it is extremely important for you to go through the basics of Grammar.

Practicing frequently asked question types such as Parajumbles, Paracompletion, Summary, FIB, Critical Reasoning could be done through the Test Gym and its variants. It is more than important to go through each and every mock that you’ve given. Mark out the difficult words from the RC, learn their meaning and their usage in the context.

You must go through the following articles as well:

  1. 7 Rules to Excel in CAT VA
  2. The Art of Solving RC Passages
  3. 4 Rules to Master Paracompletion
How should I strategize my VA section as to attempt more with decent enough accuracy to clear the cut-offs.

The initial target should be to attempt a couple of RC passages and 12-14 Verbal questions in 60 minutes leading to an attempt of 20 in VRC. With 4 months to go you can definitely improve your attempts to around 25 in 60 minutes.

The initial target should be to attempt a couple of RC passages and 12-14 Verbal questions in 60 minutes leading to an attempt of 20 in VRC. With 4 months to go you can definitely improve your attempts to around 25 in 60 minutes.

Persistence is the key. You must immediately begin with taking Sectional Tests. This way you would be dealing with your section of difficulty, VA, more closely. This way you will also be able to develop a proper approach of attempting questions in the VRC questions. Also, you must start reading newspapers, editorials, magazines. This will not help you in the RCs but exposure to new styles of writing will also give you a better understanding of grammar. A student aspiring for the top IIMs should ideally be attempting 25 questions in VRC in 60 minutes.

Queries Regarding Quant

I am a CL student and have been regularly taking MOCK tests, but my scores are stuck between 80-90. What would be the preparation strategy to score 99+% in CAT 2015 specially with the new formats?

You must start taking Sectional Tests. This way you would be dealing with the QA section more closely. To clear your basics, solve more and more Test Gym questions from the topics that trouble you. Do read our article on ‘7 Rules to Excel in QA‘ to get more insight about strengthening the QA section.
Each practice test and Mock CAT should be analyzed in detail to ascertain what worked or did not work for you. During this introspection you will realize which type of questions you are comfortable with. The analysis process is explained in the blogpost Things you must-do after every mock you take

Attempts and Percentile

What percentile would be needed in the CAT 2015 to get a call from top IIMs (A, B, C, and L) at these credentials General/Male/1.5 years of Work experience; X-91% XII-93% B.Tech: 95% ?

With a terrific academic record and a work experience of 1.5 years you have a good chance of calls from all IIMs. 

  1. A call from IIM A is possible at a CAT score of 99.65%ile for engineers but for non-engineer then based on your academic stream interview call is possible at a score as low as 95%ile.
  2. IIM C has a 77% weight for CAT score, 10% each for marks in X & XII and 3% for academic diversity hence a general male needs around 99.55%ile for an interview call.
  3. Unlike the above two IIM B and L have a complicated process with weight for almost everything. IIM B considers normalized scores of X & XII, work experience and graduation marks. It ha a low weight for CAT score and hence with your profile you can get call from IIM B even at a score as low as 95%ile but to be safe you should target 98%ile.
  4. IIM L has a 76% weight for CAT score hence a higher CAT score (compared to IIM B) of around 99%ile would be needed for an interview call.

For more details you can refer to the IIM Profilizer at CL IIM Profilizer

Which previous years papers should I consider practicing, considering the revised CAT pattern to get a 90+ percentile?

CAT 2009-13 papers should not be considered since these were much more difficult and had a different pattern from what is expected for CAT 2015. Hence, the only relevant paper for a CAT 2015 aspirant is the CAT 2014 paper and as per which the approximate marks required for 90%ile were:

  1. QADI - 75 marks (25 net correct answers)
  2. VALR - 66 marks (22 net correct answers)
  3. Overall - 133 marks

CAT 2015 is expected to be a bit more difficult and hence the required marks for 90%ile in a section or overall could go down by 5-6 marks in each section and 8-10 marks overall.

In order to score a 99%ile in CAT 2015, please share information on "marks vs percentile"

As per CAT 2014 data, a 99%ile required 193 marks while 99.5%ile was at 205 marks out of a maximum of 300 marks. However it needs to be noted that this was the easiest CAT in the last 20 years and hence required an attempt of 75-80.
While it is difficult to predict the same for CAT 2015, one needs to remember that CAT 2014 was easy because it had a major pattern change. CAT 2015 is expected to have only a minor tinkering of last year’s pattern and hence the level of difficulty is expected to rise. My estimate is that 70-85 is likely to be a good attempt in CAT 2015. While one starts a test with a attempt level in mind based on an assumed level of difficulty, 5 minutes into the paper (or section) one should be able to gauge the level of difficulty of the section and accordingly increase or decrease your speed & hence the attempts.

How many attempts per section should I target to get in the 99th percentile considering the new CAT 2015 pattern?

Assuming the same level of difficulty as CAT 2014, the estimate for the score required for a 99%ile in CAT 2014 is:

  1. QA - net score of 70-75
  2. DILR - net score of 65-70
  3. VRC - net score of 55-60
  4. Overall - net score of around 175

Final Phase

B-schools - Query & Comparison

Being an engineering graduate (past school: 95.8% in 10th, 86.7% in class 12th) and with a percentile of 96.2 in CAT 2014, I got call from one of the IIMs but could not convert it. What should I do?
You can certainly consider giving a retake, if you seriously want to pursue post graduation from one of India’s top business schools. With your good academic record, you can increase your score to around 99%ile then calls are possible from almost all top institutes (except IIM A/C and FMS).
Which one is better: the NMIMS Mumbai, the IIM Rohtak, the IIM Raipur, the IIM Ranchi, the IIM Trichy, the IIM Udaipur or the IIM Kashipur considering the profile below?

Irrespective of the profile, order of preference among the institutes mentioned by you is given below. Please note that the gap (if any) between the six new IIMs is negligible and I am splitting hairs to give them a rank, but will prefer all the new IIMs over NMIMs.  

  1. IIM Ranchi
  2. IIM Rohtak.
  3. IIM Raipur
  4. IIM Trichy
  5. IIM Udaipur
  6. IIM Kashipur
  7. NMIMS Mumbai
What is the purpose of an on screen calculator in CAT Examination 2015?

CAT examination used to test your skills in various sets like QA,DI,VA,RC etc. Speed was the crucial part in it. I don't understand the logic behind providing an on screen calculator for the examination. My obvious thought Is that they are going for a tough examination, but other answers are most welcomed

There can be two obvious reasons: 

  1. to make your life easier in QA and in DI or
  2. to give tougher calculations

However, this could have been done to confuse the students because:

  1. CAT does not stress on calculation but on understanding and in QA, calculations have never been a problem
  2. In DI usually the calculations are not difficult and "what to calculate" rather than "how to calculate" is the problem area. However it might be a bit useful in this area.
  3. On screen calculator is available in GRE and GMAT but using it leads to greater time wastage because the calculations are usually simple and most of the students hardly use them.
What are the 2 good things for students in the new CAT 2015 pattern?

Sectional time limits and the on-screen calculators are two positive features that will help the students in CAT 2015.
The CAT date of 29th November is a huge positive because it gives students 4 months to get used to the new pattern. It is also gives sufficient preparation time to students who are just starting their CAT 2015 preparation.

For details, please read the blog post CAT 2015: Old wine in a new bottle

What is the essential document required to showcase work experience in the selection process of B-schools?
Experience letter from HR clearly stating the date of joining, your current role/designation and salary will be required to present.
Is it worth it to mention Articleship work experience at a CA firm while applying to IIMs or other Indian B-schools?
Yes, your post qualification work experience in a CA form should be mentioned as it will get you marks for work experience and also lead the interview into your work. IIMB had a higher weight for work ex and get you a call at a lower CAT score as compared to other IIMs. Similarly SP Jain has a high weight for relevant work experience so if you apply to SPJ for finance then you have a good chance of being short listed for the interview at a CAT score of 90%ile also.