Unlocking the IIM door

  • Madhusheel Arora, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Nov 09, 2014 08:28 IST

The Common Admission Test (CAT) 2014 for entry to the hallowed portals of Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) and other top business schools starts next Sunday.

The competition, as always, is intense and the creams of the tricity’s student population and some with work experience too are busy strategising on how to get that extra mark to ensure they rank in the top bracket.

What does CAT test? The exam rates aspirants on the skill they display in recognising patterns and making sense of these dots to get the correct answer or make a profit, if the exam is considered as a business situation. The key is to be strong in principles and concepts.

It is a given that even the seemingly most random of events has a pattern; the challenge for an efficient and intelligent business manager, and also a good human being for that matter, is to find the logic quickly, accurately and then apply this knowledge to achieve desired goals. The goals can be increased profitability in business; better interpersonal relationships; buying a home and the billions of myriad dreams and thoughts we give birth to every day.

Look around and you would find at least one instance of a business establishment that professes to help achieve any or more of the following goals. For instance, a home loan company might be pestering you or there would be someone willing to make you a better communicator, and so on.

Relevance of CAT

A pithy observation of people who make it to the IIMs is that it is only once they were inside the institute, they understood the relevance of the exam; to test if the aspirant thought in a smart manner. It also helps immensely if one knows the philosophy behind the concept and the nuts and bolts of the creation of fundamentals.

For instance, a question that tests logical reasoning goes. If PQR×QS= PQRS, where PQR is a 3-digit number; QS is a two-digit number and PQRS is a four-digit number, find the value of Q?

Drawing another parallel

Let us now come to the reading comprehension section in the exam. The passages, it must be accepted, are dense and your first reaction is to want to throw your hands up in the air, curse those around and shred the paper in disgust. However, managing a business is difficult too and you are likely to find far more reasons to quit than to stick to routine fundamentals. You need to be calm, while being angry inside (not at the paper-setter, but yourself for not recognising the logic. He wants you to quit, silly).

Another ability tested is the courage to make assumptions. Most aspirants would know that guesses work only when there is some hard work and due diligence to back the choices made.

Hype and risk-taking

For all of the hype around an MBA, it needs to be admitted that once a structure is there to anything, risk-taking becomes less attractive and rewarding. Thus, we have more managers and fewer entrepreneurs, when management really only needs to be a tool to start new ventures. Will Harsha Bhogle and Chetan Bhagat have flowered, if they had limited their ambitions to just being IIM graduates?

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