B-School Selection
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Should I take the GMAT?

In the previous post we discussed the rationale you should apply to decide whether you should retake the CAT and also look at options.

So if you arrived at the decision that you should retake the CAT and explore other options such as GMAT or even the GRE, read on.

As I had written in an earlier post, after the announcement of CAT  results many aspirants go into a shell. I some cases test-takers have prepared so well that it is impossible for them to come terms with a particular sectional percentiles. It is almost impossible to believe that one could have scored that percentile. I think it is fully justified to feel so since the test itself is not something that is foolproof.

It is not a precise test!

As a test the CAT is not only fickle but also imprecise. The Verbal section especially so. Right form the paper-based test days there was always a discrepancy between the official answer key to the answer key that various test-prep firms came out with. It goes without saying that all the discrepancies are usually in the Verbal section. If VA questions follow logic and not the specific understanding of the question-setter then there is no reason why so many IIM grads who are test-prep professionals working with different firms will arrive at answers different from those of the question-setters after hours of debating the questions among themselves!

When it comes to the Quant section however there is never an ambiguity, whenever a question has been pointed out to be incorrect it post the test, the authorities have recognised the same. Even so, it really begs the question — how tough is it to set one paper without errors? I used to head the Academics Team at IMS before this and we would have set about 20-40 papers for CAT in a single-season alone that too with the IIMs announcing a change in pattern around July!

While I have taken the CAT more than 10 times now, it is not my favourite test since I think it is far from being precisely designed as far as question-setting goes. Every year a different group of people set questions so there is no consistency in what they test year on year. Also, are the people who are setting questions, trained professionals who have acquired expertise over a period of time? No.

The GMAT is as precise as it can get as a test since the aim of the test is not to select or eliminate aspirants but to benchmark them.

So on the GMAT Verbal there is no room for ambiguity; there is no question of choosing the better option, 4 are wrong and 1 is right. It is not a question of degree but of kind.More importantly what they test has been extremely specific and consistent across the years. For example, they do not want to just test Grammar, they want to test your ability to apply a particular set of rules. The Quant as I will discuss later is considered simple but only seemingly so.

It is for this reason that the GMAT is my favourite test and its consistency is one of the reasons why I do not take the GMAT every year, what they test remains the same! A bit more about the nature of the GMAT here.

Should you take a shot at the GMAT?

The first thing that you need to ask yourself in order to decide this is — do you intend to to pursue an MBA abroad or are you looking at options in India.  For an MBA in India, the GMAT is accepted by very few schools in the top-most tier. The big names accepting GMAT as we know are ISB & S.P.Jain. The other schools that you can apply to via the GMAT route are Great Lakes Institute of Management (GLIM), IMT-Ghaziabad, TAPMI, IMI-Delhi and ICFAI.

So given that the options in India via the GMAT are limited does it make sense to take the GMAT?

If you are a GEM (General-Engineer-Male) then you know that to ensure that you get really good options in India via the CAT, you need to score at least a 97 percentile, which given the unpredictable nature of the CAT would be a gamble.

So whatever your work experience levels it makes sense to take the GMAT as a back up option since you cannot afford to put all your eggs into one basket on a re-take.

Those in this category with stellar academic profiles should definitely look at the GMAT since they stand a good chance at ISB and S.P.Jain.

If you belong to other categories and are looking for options only in India then a percentile above 93 percentile should suffice to get you calls from premier schools in India. If you feel you can score that much on the re-take then may be a GMAT attempt is not warranted.

If you are looking at international options as well then you have to take the GMAT.

What are international options through the GMAT?

There are quite a few options for those looking at international options through the GMAT.

Those with around a year of experience (as of today) and freshers can apply to Masters in Management or MIM Programs abroad since MBA programs usually consider a minimum of 3-years of work experience.

MIM programs are for those with little experience but aspire to business management roles. They cost much lesser than MBA programs and are easier to get into since selection is not based on high scores score and as an Indian applicant you will have the diversity advantage.

The GMAT score required for MIM Programs is in the 650-690 range. What they really look for is extra-curricular activities, positions of responsibility and academics. If you have a spike on two of these  a score of 650 would suffice. Two of my CEG students from last year are now pursuing there MIM from ESSEC Business School in Paris and had scores of 640 and 650 but with good profiles overall.

There are only a few good colleges that are offering these programs and hence placements should not be a problem provided you do well there and also manage to pick up a certain amount of French before you go there since most of the colleges are in Europe.  A lot of people have doubts about Europe but if you go into these premier schools there should not be a problem.

Those who will have 2 or more years of work experience (as of now) can look at applying to programs depending on their profile. But the big question is the fees you would have to shell out. If you aspire to pursue a Masters abroad but can’t afford the astronomical fees of mainstream MBA programs then

  • if you have IT experience can look at MIS Programs, they are shorter and offer a good ROI
  • if you have operations experience can look at an MS in Operations from premier schools such as Purdue

The mainstream MBA Programs in US are a risky proposition right now given the cost and also because they do not fall into the STEM category, making the VISA issue tricky. So unless you can get a scholarship it is better to look at programs in countries such as Singapore, Canada & Hong Kong.

But if you have a good profile and get a great GMAT score you can get scholarship into premier programs in the U.S. This year we have a girl student who secured full-scholarship into Darden — she is from SSN, has work experience with Ford and put a 760 on the GMAT (she took it got a 710 and then we planned a retake within a month to reach 760 since she was clear that she was not going without a scholarship)

Isn’t the GMAT easier than the CAT?

Most test-takers underestimate the GMAT. The Quant on the GMAT is definitely tougher than the Quant on the CAT in the last two years —

  • Data Sufficiency comprises half the Quant section, which makes it tricky,
  • formula-based problems are far and few in between and a majority will be based on logic
  • you see only one question at a time and you have to mark and answer and go ahead

The Verbal section is very well-defined in terms of syllabus and hence easier to prepare for but the concepts and skills tested definitely many notches higher.

The GMAT needs a minimum prep time of 3-months followed by 30-days of taking tests if want to be sure of crossing 700.

When should I take the GMAT?

The timing of your GMAT is probably the most crucial aspect in terms of maximising your options for an MBA. Firstly, I am sure that most of you who are thinking about the GMAT are also looking at having a shot at the CAT as well (at times it is very similar to a love interest one pursues despite repeated rebuffs!).

But what most test-takers do is that they go into 6-month recovery period post CAT and resurface in June saying they want to take the GMAT and the CAT both. The working logic in their heads is that I have already prepared for CAT Quant so I do not need to prepare for GMAT Quant I just need to prepare for GMAT Verbal, which should take two months and by September I can get back to CAT Prep. This is the worst thing to do since you will end up jeopardising both tests

Another factor that you need to consider is that CAT is notorious for changing patterns at the last moment, so come September you might be in with a surprise if you have to get accustomed to a new pattern.

Also, if you are looking at ISB then you would need time to write the essays for ISB a crucial part of the process and the first deadline is Oct-15. For international schools the essays become all the more important and writing them will eat into your prep time for the CAT is you start late.

One of the pre-requisites to be  a great manager is great planning skills; good planning as they say is half the job done.

So my advice to you if you are considering the GMAT is to finish it off before June, re-start your CAT Prep and  start working on the essays on the side so that you can do justice to everything.

A lot of students who have taken both tests have said that preparing for the GMAT helped them really improve their performance on the Verbal section of the CAT.

If you are considering the GMAT for international options then should definitely meet one of our consultants since they would be best placed to evaluate your profile and suggest options for you, all you need to do is get in touch with your IMS centre.

Another question that might be going around in your heads is — should I look at a GRE since I can take a shot at both MS and MBA programs? I will take that up in the next post.

You can post any queries you have in the comments section.


  1. pradeep says

    Hi Tony,

    Thanks for the informative post. I would like to know your thoughts on XLRI GM(1 year course for executives). It selects candidates based on XAT/GMAT score.



    • All the executive programs be it at the IIMs and XL are still in a very nascent stage both in terms of the number and quality of candidates they attract and the placements. So you will have to may be ready to get the tag and take the responsibility of finding the right job on yourself since after a certain number of years one becomes selective. In terms of quality of education there should not be a problem. As I said through GMAT, ISB is the best school to get into, the average work ex there is 4.8.


  2. Anmol says

    Hi sir,
    How is GLIM 1 year PGPM program which takes GMAT score aswell?
    I have 30 months of Telecom industry experience, should I retake CAT or join GLIM?


    • It is a decent program. You have to evaluate whether the salaries they offer and the firms that visit the campus fit into your scheme of things. If so then you can go ahead and join.

      All the best!


  3. Nishant says

    Hi sir,
    I am an IT guy with 1.5 years experience right now and looking for fall 2021 intake. My grades are
    Grad – 7.35(Not an IIT or NIT)
    X – 93.4
    XII – 94.6
    Have various awards and prizes in extra curricular and sports.

    Which colleges should I target in US and Europe?
    Is it worth joining 1 year MBA course? If so, which college?
    Are there any good college which offer admission in spring?
    Should I aim for MBA or MIM? What is the difference in ROI and career growth of them? Any idea on MBA in Business Analytics?


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