Are tests such as CAT to blame for unemployment among MBAs? | analysis | Hindustan Times
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Are tests such as CAT to blame for unemployment among MBAs?

The skill sets that show up well on exams such as CAT and GMAT and on which students are initially chosen, increasingly do not map with industry needs.

analysis Updated: Nov 30, 2017 18:23 IST
Top business schools around the world and in India have begun the process to de-emphasise standardised tests and in certain cases, eliminate their use altogether in the admissions process
Top business schools around the world and in India have begun the process to de-emphasise standardised tests and in certain cases, eliminate their use altogether in the admissions process(Hindustan Times)

Many MBAs who have recently graduated from India’s more than 4000 management institutes are unemployed. A news magazine claimed that “93% of Indian management graduates are ‘unemployable’. While we can contest the statistics, we also need to reflect seriously on what this says about the universities from where they graduated. Are standardised tests such as CAT to blame?

While standardised exams such as CAT are not solely to blame – there are very sound reasons for many institutions to utilise them— the poor employment outcomes do raise a red flag about: the curricula, the faculty, the manner in which education is imparted and tested, placement support and the selection process itself.

Standardised tests do have a function in a country like India, where the student demographic is large. It performs the important task of swift and painless initial filtering of candidates. But what are we trading away in return for institutional convenience and the seeming ‘clarity’ of the merit list?

Principally, the correlation of CAT scores by themselves with future career success has always been weak. In the radically changed, rapidly evolving competitive business environment, it is weaker still.

The skill sets that show up well on exams such as CAT and GMAT and on which students are initially chosen, increasingly do not match with industry needs.

Institutions need to prepare them to be the ‘new charioteers’ of the constantly evolving digital world. They must become agile learners, be comfortable in volatile competitive situations and rapidly update their strategies and business approaches on the fly. Unlike earlier, when students got the chance to learn “on the job”, nowadays, businesses do not always have that luxury. They require MBAs who can hit the ground running. Therefore, the onus of selecting and developing MBA candidates who will flourish in this competitive environment lies with the educational institutions.

Top business schools around the world and in India have begun the process of de-emphasising standardised tests and in certain cases, eliminate their use altogether in the admissions process. They are putting greater focus on essays, layered interviews, interactions and assessments designed to test mental agility, collaboration skills, and technology literacy.

What does this mean for both institutions and future MBA aspirants? For institutions, even as they move to modify their curricula and connect their learning to emerging need areas, it is important that they address any existing selection gaps. A big step is to devote more time and resources to the selection and screening process by adopting a more comprehensive approach that allows space for individual talent and expression to emerge, as opposed to screening it out with test scores. For aspirants, study the institution’s offerings much more closely, continue to upgrade yourself /acquire new skills and knowledge outside your curriculum; engage in projects and competitions that force you to address real world problems and most importantly, become accountable to yourself for your future job and career.

For both institution and MBA aspirant there is one common point: To be well selected means being well placed.

Shubhro Sen is director of School of Extended Education and Professional Development and School of Management and Entrepreneurship ) at Shiv Nadar University.

The views expressed are personal