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Shrinwanti Banerjee, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, November 20, 2012
In the frenzy of b-school hunting, candidates inevitably get lost in a myriad of management entrance examinations — their gateways to the premier b-schools of the country. While several institutes conduct admissions on the basis of the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) Common Admission Test, popularly abbreviated as CAT, several of the hottest b-schools such as XLRI, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies and Symbiosis hold their own entrance exams.

The advantage of preparing for CAT is that it pretty much prepares you for most other management entrance tests in India. The level of CAT is either the same or higher as compared to the other tests, so preparing for it actually puts CAT candidates at an advantage.

Coming to the pattern of CAT, it consists of two sections – one on quantitative ability and data interpretation, and the other on verbal ability and logical reasoning. The syllabus is Class 10 level, but don’t let that fool you. The questions can get very difficult. Even in the case of the other entrance tests, the syllabus is the same. The purpose of all these exams is the same – to test your basic intelligence.

The IIFT entrance test and the Symbiosis National Aptitude Test or SNAP have patterns similar to that of CAT. The key difference is that they also have a section on current affairs, to prepare for which you simply need to follow the news regularly. Also, the examinations allow you to focus on your section of strength. In CAT you are given a fixed duration to solve each section.

The XLRI Admission Test or XAT is considered difficult, possibly more than CAT. The flexible pattern and unpredictability of the paper make it challenging. Its difficulty level varies  from year to year. In addition to the usual sections as in CAT, there are additional questions on decision-making, ethics, etc. Hence, XAT would normally require some more preparation.

NMAT is modelled like CAT with the dual advantages of no negative marking and a chance for a retest if you are not satisfied with your first attempt.

The author, an alumna of the Institute of Engineering and Management, Kolkata, is a first-year student at IIM Kozhikode. Her CAT percentile was 99.08.