It wont be wrong to say that this has been one of the most controversial years for securing an admission into a top Indian b-school. It is unbelievable how the Common Admission Test (CAT) has transformed from an unassailable test to one whose credibility is not fully convincing anymore.
There was a time when the 'best prepared' students used to adapt to the unpredictable CAT pattern on the spot and come out victorious. Nowadays the formula to success in the CAT has changed --- it is now more gender-dependent, slot-dependent, day-dependent, normalisation-dependent and graduation-dependent. Candidates always used to pray hard for a good result, but now they do not know how many parameters to individually pray for!
Here are some questions intriguing me about admission criteria that I wish to put forth to our top b-schools to see if there is any sound logic to the un-obvious logic that is staring us in our faces this year.
1. Application Rating: Please, for once, justify the Application Rating (AR) concept that the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad has come up with and try to help me with an answer to this question,
For aspirant A with 80% in 10th and 12th and 79.9% in graduation, the AR is 18.
For aspirant B with 80% in 10th and 12th and 80.1% in graduation, the AR is 27.
If A scores a 100 percentile in CAT and B a 98 percentile, then by the formula given by IIM Ahmedabad, B is better because of the minor 0.2% he has scored more in graduation, isn't it?
Is it proportionate and fair to be penalised with nine AR points for scoring 1% (approx 6 marks) less in 12th standard in some random subject? Is it not more sensible to consider a pro-rata system? If I have 75%, give me a 2.5 application rating, if I have a 78%, give me 2.8, but at least give me a fair shot!
2. The push for gender and non-engineering background: I am an MBA graduate from a reputed b-school. I was NEVER taught that management lessons were gender dependent. However, on trying really hard to understand the reason behind there being a gender push in some of the IIM criteria, I realised that there was a larger interest involved of helping an under-represented section of the society (women) join the corporate mainstream. Moreover, theoretically speaking, generally every industry tries to balance the demand-supply gap --- and hence it is probably the industry which has been demanding the right balance of gender ratio in b-school batches.
I am also an Engineer-MBA. I understand that engineers are a 'confused genre'. They are said to select the CAT route just because they do not want to take up technical roles but at the same time they are not 100% sure why they want to do an MBA either! But then, when you think of it, they have been the ones to take the CAT the most seriously and crack into the topmost percentiles.
I also know that for a BCom or BBA graduate, it is only a logical continuation of education to get a management degree. They have been the more focussed of the lot and had decided at least three years in advance to get into business related education.
However, rather than discriminating between genders and educational backgrounds post-results, it makes greater sense to include a section in the test that segregates the engineers from the others say a section on business, general knowledge, accountancy, etc. If crafted well, this section can serve the purpose of managing the required portfolio of the batch.
Either that, or the admissions process should be made explicitly subjective and based on essays explaining one's goals after MBA, statements of purpose and recommendation letters, so that people know exactly what direction to work hard in. If a non-engineer is able to convince the admissions committee of a better use of their MBA than another engineer with a better qualifying test score, then let the non-engineer deservingly get the seat. But let us at least know what we ought to be good at!
What is instead happening now, is that despite having worked hard to ace the CAT, having just 0.2% less marks in graduation and not being from the correct educational background or gender can lay my toiling waste. Is this fair?
3. University-percentage standards mismatch: 80% is the desired cut-off. Agreed! Does 80% mean the same across the multitude of India's universities? Is there such level of standardisation across universities that a graduate scoring an 80% from Mumbai University means the same as that from Pune University or Gujarat University or Kurukshetra University or Anna University? There is a HUGE gap in the scoring patterns across the country's undergraduate institutions. Are the IIMs making straightforward comparisons between scores from different universities or are they making equalisations or corrections based on historical data?
With no clear answers to the above questions, all I can do is wish the IIMs good luck in their pursuit of admitting the 'best batch' this year, pun intended.
The author Parasharan Chari is an alumnus of SP Jain and is currently serving as the Chief Operating Officer at Ahmedabad-based Endeavor Careers and is also associated with the design and development of its online testing portal www.CatGurus.com.