Oh God, CAT or GMAT!

Yippee, I am back again! Wading through the comments and mails I have received for Part#1, I thought I would spend sometime discussing some major differentiating factors in studying for an MBA in India Vis-à-vis abroad. I am sure a majority of aspirants are pretty unclear whether it is the CAT or the GMAT that will be their saving grace. In my opinion, it is neither; it is your own self. Many young women, particularly from India, and these days, men too, look at an MBA in order to get away from nagging issues like family, marriage etc. It might hold water in some extreme cases but in others a little proactive thinking will help an individual in the long run.

See, any person who intends to give CAT a serious shot would be looking at a year’s preparation. (I am still talking about the average, normal human being ; don’t come back to me with wagging fingers, exceptions always abound!) Likewise, even taking up the GMAT and applying to the Top MBA Schools takes about a yearlong preparation. So, if some of you are planning up to wind up CAT in November and take GMAT in January (just incase the CAT thingy doesn’t work out!) and apply for the coming fall, I would say it would be a hotchpotch job and if you succeed in both, nothing like it! But the chances are, you might fail miserably in both. Another year gone by and no admit from your favorite school. So, the next plausible move would be looking at only one of them and going for it whole-heartedly. Yes, the same thing you could have done a year ago which brings us back to what we were discussing – CAT or GMAT.

Both the exams have their own limitations. In CAT, if you are gonna worry about those sectional cut-offs; in GMAT, you will grow weary of getting those ‘sentence-correction’ questions right. But honestly, both of these can be cured over a period of time with consistent hard work and grit. So the major distinction factor for all should not be the exam itself, rather it should be the destination where you will land up after this journey – in India or abroad, spending two best years of your life earning your MBA.

I am sure people with a few years of experience in any business or industry will be facing this dilemma more often than the recent graduates. The answer may not be simple but it is something that can be worked around after some serious thought. See, an MBA abroad keeps you away from your loved ones and not seeing one’s family for 2 years or more may prove to be challenging for some. But at the same time, living in a foreign land, shopping for groceries and being independent will give you the chance to rediscover your strengths & weaknesses and of course deal with some of your primal fears. You get to explore your real survival mechanisms. After all, cooking and cleaning may turn out to be the true culprits and not that ‘Statistics’ paper! And soon you will develop that ‘I-was-so-pampered-till-now’ attitude which might be gratifying for your family. All this hustle-bustle will prepare you well for the corporate workforce abroad, which can be quite uncertain and insecure to tread without some practice.

It is said that you will learn as much from your colleagues at a business school as from your professors. No doubt, in Indian schools you will meet some sharp, intellectual minds who might turn out to be the ‘Generation-Next’ leaders. But the diversity that a top school abroad gives is almost unmatchable. You might be sitting next to a doctor from Zambia in your ‘Economics’ class, dealing with an artist in your case-study assignment, striking a deal with that whacky young entrepreneur in the hallway and then tasting some interesting wines with a true wine connoisseur in the weekly Wine-Club meeting. So, at the end of the day, you will be reading so many mind-sets, talking about so many things, fighting so many attitudes that will soon help you discover the complete, knowledgeable adult you are slowly metamorphosing into. This is one of the interesting phenomena that the Admission Committee wants to see in each of its students. So, as they go admitting students into their programs, they have a general idea as to how the incoming class looks like and this is how, they on their part enhance the diversity in their classrooms. It might occur to you that you may not learn anything at all from your fellow mates but in reality, you will be breaking some of your own conventional shackled thoughts and slowly widening some of those narrow mindsets. Also interacting with people having 0-15 odd years of experience helps you to understand your own career graphs and gauge your future prospects in desired industries. But I still maintain, either here or anywhere else, your true personality is what makes you strike good friendships, gain more out of an MBA and open new vistas in your life.


Another deciding factor should be the place where you intend to work immediately after your MBA. I am completely ignoring the cases where you get recruited by some global conglomerates for working in their foreign offices after you graduate from a good institute in India. So, if you would love to be a part of corporate India with some frequent foreign visits then Indian B-Schools might be your true calling. Else if you are interested in the European or American markets, it will be worth your time to check out the B-Schools in these respective countries. Which brings us to the very next question about jobs and market conditions when you graduate. Very much unlike in India, campus recruitments are almost zilch in B-Schools abroad but you will definitely have a chance to meet many company representatives, talk about job profiles, network with the alumnus and alumni, socialize with the ‘right’ people, almost go out of your way to get a ‘job’ which basically means, even here, your dynamic ability counts a lot! So, are you game for that?

And studying in a Top Business School gives you not only a global exposure but also a branding for life with a very big alum community that you can tap onto at any point of time in your career. The salaries are steep and during the MBA, you can solve some real life problems through company internships and might just get some VC funding for some of your entrepreneurial ideas. Though the subject knowledge you acquire might be similar in either of these schools, the professors might be quite different. No doubt, our Indian schools too harness the best of the lot, but in many top US B-Schools you will see real CEOs and Chairmen taking a few lectures and professors who would authored the actual text-books share some of their management insights. Many schools have associated research departments and you studying at this source of knowledge will stand to gain from the latest market information to the newest mantras in business world.

So, as you see, choosing where to study might be one of the most interesting and rewarding things you could with your time. So before you head towards the next CAT coaching institute or try to check for the next available date for the GMAT, be sure you know where you are heading.

About the Authoress

The authoress, Sowmya aka Simba is one of the moderators of PaGaLGuY forum. She is currently working with a leading telecom provider in Mumbai, India and apart from being a regular volunteer of MLCS group; she has diverse interests in various activities that are beyond the scope of this small introduction. Having seen the admission process with interviews et al for 2 continuous years and being successful in getting admitted into 5 and a ½ schools out of 7 schools, she definitely has some useful things to share, though no one knows for sure where she is heading for her MBA. Now, she is enthused to help others go through the maze of applying and getting accepted by schools abroad.

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