As CAT registrations drop, coaching institutes compensate by promoting MBA abroad

Interest in the Common Admissions Test (CAT), which had been enjoying a boom until 2009 has been on the wane since 2010. Both, the CAT 2010 and CAT 2011 have seen registrations in the vicinity of 2.05 lakhs, a steep 15% drop compared to 2009.

This decrease has not come without its own share of impact on the MBA test preparation industry. The dip in CAT registrations has pushed coaching institutes to fish for alternative modes of revenue to retain the lost clientele, primary among them promoting training for the Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT), accepted as the qualifying score by business schools in the western world, as well as an increasing number of b-schools in India and Asia.

Until two years ago, the interest in CAT clearly dominated a prospective candidates mind. There were very few enquiries about MBA abroad coming to us due to the high fees and some of the minimum requirement like 3 to 4 years work experience at all major b-schools abroad, Vinayak Kudwa, Head – Products at IMS Learning Resources Mumbai head office told PaGaLGuY.

We had been promoting GMAT since a number of years. But after the decline in the CAT numbers, we have just doubled our efforts to clear up all misconceptions that people face in relation to GMAT and an MBA degree abroad, said Mr Kudwa.

Bidyut Dutta, Admissions Consultant at Career Launcher, New Delhi said, Today, a degree at the Indian School of Business (ISB) Hyderabad would cost as much as a degree from Singapore. Secondly, many universities abroad are introducing programs such as the Masters in Management (MM), which do not require any work experience before admissions. All this is making the idea of an MBA abroad approachable to many.

Coaching institutes are using various means to provide information about GMAT to prospectives and attract them towards the idea of an MBA abroad — which includes being better equipped to field GMAT-related queries, circulating handbooks containing information on the MM degree across universities abroad, and/or holding an increasing number of GMAT-specific seminars in Indias colleges.

While some candidates are finding this information overload helpful, others seem confused. Initially, I had no intention of registering for the GMAT. However, the people at my coaching institute made me see that there was no harm in keeping other options open, besides the CAT. And at the end of the day, the idea of an MBA abroad also holds appeal to both me and my parents, said Nikita Khana, student at T.I.M.E. coaching institute, Kailash Colony, Delhi.

For others, GMAT has always been an important option and a counselling session by a coaching institute has reinforced the opinion. I want to do an MBA from the United States and preparing for the GMAT seems to be the best option if I want to pursue my dream, 20-year old Hetal Bhanushali told PaGaLGuY. She said that the counselling sessions at her coaching institutes had been helpful.

Career Launcher has witnessed a rise of 125% in the number of student admissions in GMAT training programs over the past two years. Our GMAT batches have a national standardised capacity of 18 to 20 students each. Until a couple of years ago, many batches were running half empty but today they are full. Also, smaller cities like Lucknow, which earlier did not have any GMAT classes have requested us to start them, said Career Launchers Managing Director Gautam Puri.

Nidhi Rai, Centre Manager of Career Launcher, Lucknow said, Currently, we do not hold GMAT classes. However, we have received requests for GMAT training and are directing all the requests to the head office, awaiting a go-ahead for starting a GMAT batch.”

IMS on the other hand, has witnessed an annual rise of 5% in student admissions in GMAT coaching classes over the last two years. The number of GMAT inquiries have increased drastically, says Mr Kudwa, attributing the rise to the company’s marketing efforts.

He pointed that data released by the Graduate Admission Management Council (GMAC) also revealed that the number of fresh graduates without work experience, appearing for the GMAT, had increased this year.

According to the GMACs Applications Trends Survey 2011, Masters in Management programs continue to experience overall growth 69% of the programmes received more applications this year than in 2010. Foreign candidates account for 59% of all MM applicants. Individuals from Asian-Pacific countries represent 43% of the applicants to Master in Management programs, followed by 30% from Europe.

Such reports show that the trend is on the rise, Mr Kudwa said.

An admission through the CAT has become increasingly complicated in the past couple of years, which is making some people look at the GMAT as an alternative. There may not be a substantial surge in the numbers currently, but trends show that the following years may see GMAT numbers catching up drastically, said a senior marketing professional from T.I.M.E.s Hyderabad office, who did not wish to be named.