CAT Strat
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Should I quit my job to prepare for CAT?

It’s been a while since I wrote a post, so I thought I will take up a question(s) that I am often asked and is most relevant at this point in time given that some of you might be looking at re-taking the CAT after an underwhelming CAT last year and others might be desperate to crack this year’s CAT.

  • is it wise to quit my job to prepare for the CAT?
  • will quitting my job have a negative impact on my profile?
  • how can I prepare if I am working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week?

These are questions that many aspirants ask themselves since there is a huge premium on acquiring a degree from a prestigious college and an MBA is for most the last big shot that they can take to get a big brand name on to their resume.

There are other reasons as well ranging from a mind-numbingly monotonous IT job to a horrible boss, to the existential dread — what will become of me and my life if I am stuck in my current situation forever.

Also, there are many who have faced this situation this before as well when they had set their eyes for the first time on getting two more Is than what God brought them into the world with — the IITs.

For most of my colleagues, the answer is a simple NO. But I think under certain circumstances quitting your job might be the best option in front of you with the proviso that you quit at the right time and do more than just prep for the CAT.

If you quit, be prepared to face the music in every single interview

Before anything else please understand that if you quit, in every single interview that you face you will have to answer the question — Why did you quit your job?

This question is bound to be followed by others such as

  • surely you did it just to prepare for the CAT!
  • so it means you are not good at multi-tasking?
  • more than half of our students have work-ex, do you mean to say that all of them had jobs that allowed them to put their feet up?

Forget at the interview stage, some institutes such as IIM-A ask this question in the FORM they send out to candidates they shortlist for the WAT-PI round — Do you have any breaks in your professional career? If YES, then please explain?

But you can rest assured that these questions have been successfully tackled by aspirants in the past and in IIM interviews at that.

But what is important is that you quit at the right time, plan your break to take up activities that enhance your profile and achieve things that will help you make a great pitch in the interview.

How will quitting affect your profile in terms of getting into an IIM?

First, let us look at the effect of quitting your job on your chances of getting a shortlist from a quantitative perspective.

There are colleges such as IIM-B and many others that give a weightage to work experience in the shortlisting process. In such cases, you will lose out on valuable points and will hence have to score higher on the test to get the shortlist than if you had stuck on in your job. So yes, there is a clear quantitative effect.

If you have two or more years of work-ex and the rest of your profile — X, XII, Grad Marks — is good you can on average score 0.5 – 0.75 percentile points lower than someone with no or low work-ex. But remember that this is only in the case of institutes that give a weightage to work-ex.

This quantitative effect as you will see will be negligible in the case of people with more than 30-36 months years of work experience since the points for work-ex are not directly proportional to the amount of work-ex in that they are capped after a point. To know more about IIM selection criteria you can read this post — The IIM Selection Criteria: Will I get a call from the IIMs?

The other way of looking at this question is from a qualitative perspective — in terms of how panelists will view you in the interview. Panelists more often than not feel that all MBA aspirants hate engineering and run after an MBA to make more money. So when they see candidates who have left what is on paper a promising professional opportunity, they tend to look at him/her in an unfavorable light and will expect them to justify the same.

How will quitting affect your profile in terms of the roles offered at top b-schools?

IIMs and other top-schools slot candidates into two categories for placements — regular and lateral.

Lateral placements are for people with a certain amount of work experience for roles that are above entry-level management roles. What is that certain amount of work experience?

It differs from college to college. Some base it on the absolute number of months such as 20, 22 or 24, others decide based on the average work-ex in the batch. Either way it usually falls into the 20-24 range.

Also, it is important to note that for some domains and firms having work-ex is a must-have and hence recruiters look purely at lateral candidates. What are the domains where relevant work-experience is a pre-requisite?

OPERATIONS roles, for example, most definitely go to people who have experience in shop-floor, product design, logistics, supply chain management etc. So engineers working in operations will do well to finish working for two years before entertaining thoughts of quitting.

IT CONSULTING roles for example again typically go to those with 2 plus years of experience in software.

Recruiters from new sectors such as e-commerce from firms such as Amazon also tend to look at candidates with a certain amount of work experience, usually IT or Analytics or technology.

General management firms such as Tata Administrative Services(TAS) and the Aditya Birla Group (ABG) also prefer people with work experience but they also take in freshers.

Roles in Marketing do not need work experience, with Marketing recruiters having a very strong preference for freshers or only those with very relevant work experience sales, marketing analytics, the same applies to HR as well.

For Finance your graduation discipline, the brand of the college you graduated from, and professional certifications such as CA, CFA, FRM matter way more than work experience. So if you are a Commerce Grad from a top-tier graduation college looking to build a career in Finance, work experience is not a must unless it is relevant.

For Consulting roles, the brand names on your resume matter more than anything else. It is not whether you have work-ex or not but firstly the brand value of the organization you worked with that matters more. IITian and NITian freshers with a strong academic profile stand a very high chance of getting shortlisted. Those from other colleges of national repute with stellar resumes in terms of academic and extra-curricular achievements also get shortlists.

Overall just to put things in perspective, about 30-40 percent of students in top b-schools are freshers.

How many months of work-ex makes it safe to quit?

So by now, it will be clear that quitting will not affect your chances if you do it after finishing 2 years of working, I would say around 24 months is maybe the ideal amount of work experience to have to go into an Indian b-school.

If you already have 3 years of experience and a relatively weak resume it makes sense to quit your job, prepare for CAT, and build your profile.

In what cases does quitting before 24 months make sense?

The only reason to quit before 24 months is if you are very clear that you want an industry and domain shift. So if you are an engineer from one of the core departments working in IT and you want to do an MBA to get away from not just IT services but also technology then it makes sense to quit your job before 24 months of experience.

The more work experience you accumulate in your industry the more likely you are to get roles within than industry or domain.

What is the best time to quit to prepare for CAT?

The simple answer is that if all you want to do is quit and prepare for  8 to 10 hours a day, you will not need more than 3 months. So working backward, your break should not start before 1-August.

It might seem as if I am speaking about aspirants who are already at a particular level, say 85 percentile. It might seem that if you are someone who is very out of touch with Math, you will need more time. But these arguments assume that you will have done no prep till August, which is not the case. Even if we consider these concerns legitimate since you know yourself better than I ever will, given that I know the CAT better than you ever will, your break should not start earlier than 1-June.

So at most your break will need to start 6 months before the CAT, not before that.

What you should be doing if you quit before August

If after going through the post so far, you have made up your mind to start your break for CAT prep by June this year then you should do more than just prepare for the CAT. Else as discussed above, interviewers will have a great time turning you over on both sides on a red-hot grill.

In all the cases where my students have successfully made it to a top b-school despite a break of 8 to 10 months by the time they faced their interviews, the students had taken up things to improve their skills and profile.

What are the things they took up?

  • Those who wanted to improve their communication & public speaking skills joined Toastmasters, cleared a few levels and got to hold a few positions of responsibility at Toastmasters.
  • Those who wanted to get some diversity into their profile worked with start-ups for Teach For India or a while.
  • Those who wanted to add some academic weight to their resume took up certification programs in their area of interest on Coursera.
  • Those who lacked any social work-related activities on their resume took up working with an NGO

You need not limit yourself to this; you can take up anything that you have a strong interest in — learning a dance form or languages or singing or photography — as long as you invest quality time and have something to show for it.

For a more detailed insight on how you can improve your profile to align it to your chosen domain post-MBA, you should read — How to build your profile

Too much of anything, even CAT Prep can be harmful

Apart from resume building these activities also ensure that you do not become obsessed with the CAT and pile up the pressure on yourself leading to test-day.

They offer a good break from CAT Prep in terms of taking your mind off the test and also helping you peak at the right time.

Peaking at the right time is very important because if you are doing nothing but doing CAT prep for 8 or more hours a day, you will peak in about 3 months time and come test-day you will have exhausted yourself.

This is the reason why sometimes teams that do not start off well in a tournament such as World Cups manage to get their act together over a period of time and peak in the final (Australia in the 1999 Cricket World Cup) whereas teams that seem to be hot favorites crash out.

I have tried to be as extensive as possible in terms of covering all the things that you need to consider before taking a call to quit. Even so, I am sure that each one of you might have unique backgrounds and aspirations making it tough for you to take a call. Feel free to post your queries regarding quitting in the comments section and I will answer them.



  1. I never advise my GMAT and GRE to quit their jobs. Worst thing is the ones who did often ended up doing equally as little work than when they were employed. I tend to think that if you’re employed and need to prepare, then you will find a way to accommodate both. It’s not easy, I get that, but I think quitting is a terrible idea.


    • Hi Tom,

      The differences between the admissions programs of Indian business schools and the international ones accepting the GMAT make quitting a relevant option in some cases:

      1. Percentile matters more than profile: The premier Indian b-schools, unlike international ones, do not give too much weight to work-ex in giving out an interview call. Getting a call hinges to a very large extent on scoring above the 99th percentile (in some case above 99.6) and on having great a GPA previously.

      2. It is a long, long, prep: While typical GMAT and GRE programs in India involve about 75 hours of classroom prep, the classroom prep for Indian exams are on average more than 150 hours. Added to this will be the at-home prep.

      3. Once a year test: Unlike the GRE and GMAT which can be taken at any time, the CAT is conducted only once a year in November, making the stakes of a failed attempt quite high.

      4. Quality of jobs: India is still a developing economy and the quality of jobs on offer is not very high. Most graduates ending up working in IT irrespective of the discipline they have pursued in graduation.

      Hope this helps put things in perspective.

      I would agree with you about not quitting the job for the GMAT or GRE, at best a break of a fortnight.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Tony. Thanks for the response. That sounds rather dramatic indeed. It amazes me so much emphasis is placed on tests. I’m focused on Mexico and Latam market. Seems to be some parallels and differences. Job quality can be poor here, salaries low and hours long. Makes times for finding prep hard. On the other side, percentile reqs are perhaps lower. A good score in top 10pc is very valuable, but there tends to be more of a focus on overall profile. Nepotism does play a role, too, for good or for bad. Interesting to learn more and yes, I agree, a short break may be a better option. Have a great one


  2. Neha says

    If someone has a job offer before completing graduation but the profile and salary are not very lucrative and the job requires long work hours (10-12 hours a day), then as a fresher, should one join the job in July and prepare for that year’s CAT on the side or not join and focus on CAT only?


    • Hi Neha,

      It depends on the sector you want to work in post-MBA. If you are looking forward to building a career in Marketing or Finance then work-ex does not play any role. For Operations and IT, 24 months of work-ex is almost mandatory.

      So yeah, you can pass on the job offer and prep for CAT but remember that you should take up profile-building activities as well.

      All the best!


  3. sreya says

    if someone dosen’t have a working experience will it create a negative impact on his or her profile…


    • Nope, it depends on the roles you are looking at post-MBA and the number of months of gap post your graduation.

      If you want to get into Marketing or Finance work-ex is not mandatory, whereas it is for Operations and IT.

      As far as importance in the selection process goes, IIM-A, for example, does not give any weightage to work-ex in the first call, whereas IIM-B does. You should read the post titled IIM Selection Criteria.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  4. Arun says

    “The more work experience you accumulate in your industry the more likely you are to get roles within than industry or domain.” Can you elaborate on this point? So if an individual has 3+ Years of work experience you can only get roles within the domain/industry we have 3+ Years experience in?


    • Hi Arun,

      An MBA primarily gives you growth and industry shift, yes but domain shifts are harder to come by.

      If you have 3 years of experience in an unrelated field, say, operations or IT, and you want to move into Marketing, it is not going to be easy. Since that work-ex brings nothing to the table and recruiters would rather hire freshers at lower salaries willing to take to the filed compared to those with work-ex people who would want post-MBA roles to be based on plush-office based ones.

      If you have 3 years of experience in an unrelated field, say, operations or IT, then you would need to do a CFA. There is no way you can compete for the same job with a CA or a Commerce Grad with work-ex, just because you have taken an MBA in Finance(they too have done the same, remember, and are CAs to boot).

      You can get into General Management Roles in firms such as TAS and ABG if you have a good profile.

      You can get into Consulting if the name of your college has three or four letters that everyone in the country recognizes.

      E-commerce is definitely possible and so are business-side roles in the same domain.

      A student of mine with a stellar academic profile and 4 years of core work-ex in Leyland, got a job with Leyland after work-ex post his 1-year MBA at ISB, albeit on the Sales side.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  5. Sandeep says

    Hello Mr. Tony Xavier,

    [A] First of all, a very succinctly written post. Kudos to that. _/\_

    [B] Second is this and it is quite a whopper: I quit ‘working’ about…..1000 days back (June 2016)! 😉 Why? Because of the reasons you had stated so eloquently – high work exp (42/44 months) and that too as a mere Quality Analyst (Software Tester basically) at Accenture (Mumbai & Bengaluru) and subsequently (after a 4 month gap) at a vintage company called Computer Sciences Corporation in Chennai.
    [C] The aforementioned gap (circa 2014) was because of a legit sob/macabre story – I met with a road accident. 😐

    [D] Anyway, I am somehow STILL (relatively) sane now 😀 despite being/having been ‘career-less’ for a looong time though I seem to have gotten extremely negative (understandably wouldn’t you say?) about prepping for competitive MBA exams and THEN coverting my chances of getting a premier B school convert even WHEN/IF I score as close to 100 percentile as possible.

    [E] So please give me your opinion as to whether I will even be able to pursue an MBA from one of the premier institutes (preferably IIM C or IIM A or IIM B or XLRI or FMS to name my top 5) albeit with a relatively average profile (10th – 91.6%, 12 – 88.2%, B.E (EEE) – 71%) especially with my voluntary ‘joblessness’ situation that is nearing 3 years now?

    [F] Oh and btw, after taking such an epic — and circumstantially enforced — sabbatical, I have obviously been up to a whole lot of things –> MMA, music, volunteering, theatre and even yoga! But I’m not sure if my ‘juvenile’ endeavours at keeping myself occupied would be seen in a possible light by the overlords in them institutes. Request you to kindly give me your thoughts on all this when free.

    PPS: Apologies if this comment seems too verbose and circumlocutory but I just…had to let it all out. 😀


    • Hi Sandeep,

      It is really, really, refreshing to read a fairly long comment without grammatical errors and with words used with the right connotation. Otherwise, reading the comments makes me want to start a blog to help MBA aspirants, with English as their medium of instruction throughout their schooling, become padha-likha in the right sense of the word as far as written English goes.

      Your work-ex and break are fairly epic in terms of duration and I would say the road to a two-year program is not cut and dry in your case. More than overlords, it is just that the recruiters who visit IIMs for 2-year programs would not come with too many jobs for your profile.

      So I would recommend taking up the GMAT as well and applying to 1-year programs (you have had enough fun :-))

      You can make a great case for your extra-curricular adventures during the break — it just depends on how you pitch it.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


      • Sandeep Kumar Jayakumar says

        My bad for the 18 days delayed — and somewhat rehashed — reply and many big thanks for the kind words boss. Much appreciated! 😀

        While I do understand that my road to the traditional “2-year MBA program is not cut and dry”, what can possibly be the reason for recruiters to not come up with too many jobs for my profile?! :O
        I figured that my profile will be in the sweet spot for recruiters (especially for the premier consulting gigs despite my not being one of the fellas from them double I institutes) since I happen to be one of the (hopefully few) oddballs who has the right amount of professional experience, varied extra-curricular…’experience’ AND the maturity (ahem!) that inevitably comes with age?

        Oh and I’m vying predominantly for the 2 year MBA mainly because of the aforementioned ‘epic gap’ since previous employment and what I believe is to be a proper ‘MBA experience’. 🙂
        And believe you me oooh IIM-L (right?) graduated mentor, this ‘enforced gap’ has been more strenuous than just all fun and games. Really. 😛


      • Hi Sandeep,

        I’ll cut to the chase instead of engaging in banter no matter how good the language.

        Recruiters at IIMs typically look for freshers or people with the 3 years and under work-ex. When they are looking for folks with higher work-ex they go to ISB or other 1-year MBA programs. The logic being that the more work-ex you accumulate the more you become a specialist in your field, and recruiters/consultants are looking at giving you senior roles within the domain, given the experience and hoping for the maturity that you are talking about.

        While you might want a 2-year experience, typically those with a certain amount of good work-ex have a high opportunity cost of one year’s lost salary and would not need a 2-year program.

        While your CV is very diverse, especially the extracurriculars, recruiters are more straight-jacketed. They have so many CVs to look through across campuses that they stick to tried and tested methods — the brand of graduation college & academic profile, the brand of employer and quality of work-ex and role. They will not look through the resumes in detail and infer that this guy might be fun and mature.

        The big consulting firms do not even shortlist you if you are not from an IIT or NIT unless you have done something remarkable (state first or second in X or XII or national level sports champ and stuff). Think about it, the whole batch wants to get into McKinsey and the firm has an extensive selection process that spans multiple rounds, will it possible for them to run a fine comb through every single resume? Even if they will they have the time and manpower to put so many candidates through multiple?

        The odds of them finding the kind of people they want are higher when they look through a cohort of IITians and NITians than by looking through the next rung of colleges. From my teaching experience as well, I know that these schools end up producing, on average. better candidates. The key part being, on average. I am nowhere saying that every IITian/NITian is better than every candidate from other colleges. How many people from your graduation batch itself would rate as potentially great MBA material?

        The more elite the firm, the higher their standards — they want achievers from elite colleges, the achievers part being very important. Typically a person getting a consult shortlist will be from an A-lister college, if not a fresher then he or she will have an A-lister work-ex and good academics.

        So while you think your profile is a sweet spot, it cannot be farther from the truth, as far as premier consulting firms go. Decent academics, 44 months of testing work-ex, a long gap with good extra-currics, do not translate into an A-Lister profile.

        So you will be better off applying to 1-year programs since the average age at 1-year programs is around 27, and the average work-ex is above 4 years.

        While this might not be what you want, this is something that you will get.

        The idea of this comment was not to deflate your aspirations but to give you a realistic idea of what recruiters want as opposed to what you want.

        I know the gap was not all fun and games, but am sure MMA, theatre, and yoga were fun.

        Hope this clarifies,

        All the best!


      • Also, this does not mean that all recruiters will find your profile unsuitable. I was referring only to the big brand consulting firms.

        All the best!


      • Sandeep Kumar Jayakumar says

        Hello Mr. Tony Xavier,

        You have my sincere thanks for once again being patient enough to enlighten me with your gyaan. I have a few more queries regarding your last reply. (There is no nested reply/comment feature here, huh?)
        And for your extended kindness, I’ll put ’em up in points so that it is — even — easier for you to reply to whenever you get some free time.

        1) My persistence/perseverance for a 2-year MBA was based on my belief that I will be overwhelmed by these 1-year MBA programs (regardless of the peer group) as:
        (i) I have voluntarily been out of the workforce for a sensnationally extended period of time
        (ii) I will also end up missing out on the Summer internships, campus activities and thereby the general vibes that a 2 year MBA would inevitably provide.
        Please bear in mind that I’m not even alluding to the ROI and other jazz because I’m honestly looking at an MBA degree to pay dividends in the much longer run — 5, 10, 15…and even 30 years from now.

        2) While I may have juuuust completed 3 years of ’employment’ ( 42 months – 3.5yrs, yes?), would this still be a negative factor for the adcom, placecom and even the companies that come to recruit when they use some kind of mass filtering criteria? Especially since I want to break out and restart my career afresh.

        3) Post my inevitable perfection in pre-MBA exams, 😉 would ageism be an (unspoken and unadmitted) factor for 2-year MBA programs when I try to seek admission and then subsequently employment after having been out of the workforce for a sensationally long period of time?

        4) I was already made aware of the way placements happen in these ‘elite institutes’ (through word-of-mouth and Google uncle also ofcourse :P) and that was partly a reason for me to continue to stay out of the workforce while I build my — admittedly non ‘A class’ — profile in meaningful ways. A biiig risk I know but a well intentioned one nonetheless.
        So, would I be able to fashion an opportunity and break this proverbial ‘glass ceiling’ (tilted in favour of peeps with stellar academic credentials) despite the seemingly difficult odds stacked against a non-pedigreed dude like me once I gain entry to these ‘hallowed campuses’? Or is the writing on the wall for 2 or even 1-year MBA programs regardless of whatever I do to change my present and thereby my future because of MY past? 😉

        Am I justified in all my mental (in more ways than one, eh? :D) reasonings in most of the above mentioned queries? Please hit me with your brutally honest thoughts as usual, chief. _/\_

        PS: Which IMS centre are you mentoring at? I can come and discuss with you face-face (during your working hours ofcourse!) regarding my incessant curious cat Qs rather than type looong Ramayana style essays here like one sociopath. 😛


      • Hi Sandeep,

        I am not advising you against a 2-year MBA but asking you to consider a 1-year MBA since all the factors that you have to fight against in a 2-year MBA — slightly higher work-ex and age — will disappear. Sometimes, having a cake without any icing (all the extras in a 2-year MBA that you spoke of) might not be a bad idea, as long as you get to eat the cake.

        It is not that your profile is bad, you will get really good options in Sales & Marketing and IT, it is just that Consulting is ruled out and General Management roles with firms such as TAS and ABG will be a really tough ask.

        It is not that the Placecom or Adcom will have anything against you, it is the companies that have to shortlist you.

        So go ahead and give a shot at 2-year MBA programs, apply to 1-year programs as well, and if you have admits from both then choose the one that your heart seems to be set on.

        If you have 6 months and it is more than enough for you to crack GMAT and CAT if you are not working or studying. Please do not give me the I want to score 100-percentile so I want to give all my effort to CAT. If you have the potential to score 100 then you wouldn’t need more than 3 months to do it.

        I do not operate out of a centre anymore, I work at the IMS HO in Mumbai. There is no point in talking ad nauseum, I am sure you know about the law of diminishing returns. So put your profile and your personality aside, forget about everything else, and crank them scores out, the first SimCAT starts in a few days.

        If you need to know or discuss more then that is the real problem.

        All the best!


      • Sandeep Kumar Jayakumar says

        Ad nauseum! 😀 😀 Oahahahaha! Apologies if my constant yapping seems to have rubbed you the wrong way but your in-your-face (virtually anyway) conversational skills was just too good for me to NOT partake in with — what I hoped was — a little of my own . 😀
        I’ll try to improve my brevity quotient henceforth (in this thread atleast). 🙂

        I figured that there’ll always be hidden benefits in going against the conventional trope. Ergo my almost rabid obsession with the 2 year MBA compared to the — relatively — more expensive and somewhat unappealing 1 year one. (I’d like to have my cake aaand eat it too. Maybe with extra cream and cherry on it as well. :P)

        But yeah, out of sheer respect for your near biblical levels of patience in this entire exchange and ofcourse, pragmatism, I’ll obviously be open-minded about both versions.
        Hope that I’ll get the same open-minded approach in these premier Indian B-schools and the companies that come for recruitment too. 😉

        Righto, I’ll now put an end to my nearly month loquaciousness here with a heartfelt thanks and slightly belated Easter greetings too. _/\_
        Hakuna MaTATA! 👐

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Pranil Yadav says

    Hello sir,
    I will be completing 3 years of experience in OEM by June end 2019. I scored 91.17 percentile in CAT -18. I will resign my job and prepare for CAT 19. But i am worried if this decision will affect me during interview. Is it a wise decision to make?


    • Hi Pranil,

      I think 3 years is more than enough work-ex.

      You need to take up three activities during this period to prove that quit the job and taking up these activities was a step in the right direction in terms of learning and exposure to enter an MBA program instead of accumulating another year of work-ex. Please go through the post on how to build your profile.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  7. Akash Belel says

    Hello sir
    I want to pursue career in digital marketing. Right now I am not getting any suitable job so i started blogging related to food and cooking. Can this be helpful in building my resume.


    • Hi Akash,

      It will add to your resume and it all depends on how you present it. A lot of people are advocating starting a blog as a profile-building exercise but I don’t think blogs are about profile-building. It is either a passion project — something that you have to talk or write about or it is a tool that is directly aligned to starting or supporting your own business.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  8. Rahul Banerjee says

    I liked your blog. However, I am currently working in a core industry (operations) and will complete 3 years of job experience (managerial) in July 2019. I was thinking of getting an MBA to climb up the corporate ladder faster, without quitting my job since I think the work experience will land me in a better position post MBA. How badly will not quitting my job affect my chances of getting a premier B- school like NITIE, etc.?


    • Hi Rahul,

      Once you have 3 years of work-ex, quitting won’t really hurt your chances of getting into a top b-school. I have had students converting old IIMs despite a break. Just ensure that you take up profile-building activities during your break so that you have some talking points.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  9. yogesh says

    Hi Sir,
    First of all thanks a lot for elaborating things in the layman terms and not scaring people off, like the answers in Quora.
    Second, I am in a dilemma now,your help would certainly help the cause. I left my job back in September for cat 2018. Scored decently, got the CAP and other decent calls but was taken to task about my profile in all the interviews. And by the look of it, there is not gonna be sunshine this time around.
    So clearly, I can look for working again but I won’t have much time for profile building and preparing for CAT simultaneously, as it takes a whole lot of time(was the reason behind leaving the Job).
    Or, I can carry on the break, prepare for CAT and build profile with the help of activities you mentioned in your other post and help my father in his business. Would love to have your opinion.,
    Btw my Profile:
    10/12/grad/work ex : 9.8 CGPA//68.8 %//59.9%//24 months.


    • Hi Yogesh,

      Glad you found the post useful.

      If you want to work in your father’s firm then ensure that you get proper salary slips and salary is credited on a particular day every month into your account. Otherwise, it will be considered a gap and not legitimate work-ex.

      Also, unless you really work on your profile and show that you have used your time well to develop talking points on multiple fronts you will have to defend a really long gap of 16 months when you go into the interview.

      You have to show that you are better than your XII and Grad marks, so for that, if you can take up something that can show that you are achievement-oriented and not a slacker — say running a half-marathon, or a decent body transformation or clearing many levels in a foreign language. If you manage that then you can clear the interview this time around.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  10. shael says

    Hello Sir,
    I wanted to ask, whether 2.5-3 years of work ex in organizations like TCS and Infosys are a deterrent for a good MBA college or a niche job later on?
    If yes, what needs to be done.
    If no, is it beneficial or inconsequential?
    Also, do general management roles require no prior work ex compulsorily?

    Thanks in advance.


    • Hi Shael,

      Work-ex in IT is useful if you want to get into business side roles in IT or get into e-commerce firms or tech-based start-ups.

      Technically they are not a deterrent to getting into an MBA program, but they will work against you getting a Marketing or Finance internship or summer placement since they’d rather take a fresher or person with relevant work-ex.

      As far as GM roles go, different groups have different policies. The Aditya Birla Group, for example, has different programs for people with less than and more than 2 years of work-ex — LEAD, and LEAP. GE has roles as per function, a student with IT work-ex in Ford got into the GE IT Leadership program from NMIMS.

      Technically, only roles in Ops and IT-Business/Consulting require work-ex for sure, the rest do not.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  11. Ayesha Agarwal says

    Hello Sir,
    I graduated from Christ University in 2018 and am now currently preparing for CAT 19. I already quit my job in Deloitte back in January after work ex of 5 months to prepare for CAT as it was difficult juggling both work and studies.
    Do you think a gap of nearly a year will have an extremely detrimental effect on my profile later?
    And what can I do currently to solve this issue. I am not too keen on taking up finance certifications as they too require a lot of time which I am now solely devoting to CAT prep.
    My profile is-
    X- 9.8 CGPA XII- 89%(Commerce) and Grad-75%(BBA)
    Thank You for your help Sir.


    • Hi Ayesha,

      If you by detrimental effect later, you mean during the MBA — summers and finals — no, it won’t have an effect.

      While taking up a CFA is out of the question. You can take up courses on Coursera and volunteer at an NGO so that you have some talking points for the interview. There is no way you can spend an entire day on CAT Prep for so many months on end.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!



      • Harshit Kashyap says

        Hello Sir,
        I have a similar profile, passed out in 2018 but i am working currently and plan to leave by June ( would have competed a year by then ). My work ex is in Operations but i want to pursue Marketing. Will leaving job and pursuing Profile Building activities ( toastmasters, NGO, certificate course in Digital Marketing ) would defend my decision for quitting Job? Or having a work ex of just 12 months will shed a bad light over my profile and thus affect my chances of admissions to IIM’s.
        Please comment


      • Hi Harshit,

        As I wrote in the post if you want to build a career in Operations then you should not quit, if you want to pursue Marketing then quitting and aligning your profile to Marketing makes sense.

        Work-ex in itself plays a role only in colleges that give a quantitative weight to work-ex. IIM-A, as I wrote, does not give any marks for work-ex, whereas IIM-B does! So yeah, quitting will quantitatively harm your chances of getting the first call but since the weightage is not very high you can make it up with a higher CAT score.

        As far as the whole bad light/good light business goes, what matters is how your decisions are aligned to your long-term goals and the quality of your work-ex and other experiences and how you present the same.

        Hope this clarifies,

        All the best!


  12. Madhura says

    Hello Sir,

    I’ve been working for almost a year now (in the Accounts team). I hold a Bachelor of Commerce degree. I’ve been finding it really hard to manage time to study as most of time goes at work or traveling. I thought I’ll quit in July or August and focus entirely on CAT. However, on the other side I do not want to sit at home till the MBA programme begins in around June2020. I am so confused! Post MA, I would prefer either Finance/HR/Marketing. I’m confused on this one too!


    • Hi Madhura,

      If you can’t see yourself sitting at home till June then first try to get a sabbatical of 3 or 4 months from your firm. Else, you quit your job but find another one and restart from January.

      By the way, if you take all the good exams — XAT, IIFT, NMAT, and SNAP — as you are supposed to, you will be done taking tests only by the first week of Jan. Scores will be out the second week of Jan and if you do well you will get calls will start coming in during the third week and you will have your interviews the whole of February. The better you do the more interviews you will have to give.

      So, essentially you will be free for three months — March, April, and May.

      And if you read my post well, I do advocate quitting to only prepare only for the CAT, there are enough and more profile-building activities you should take up.

      And if you are confused about which specialization to take you have even more work on your hands reading up all the books I have suggested here —

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  13. Madhura says

    Hello Sir,

    I’ve been working for almost a year now (in the Accounts team). I hold a Bachelor of Commerce degree. I’ve been finding it really hard to manage time to study as most of time goes at work or traveling. I thought I’ll quit in July or August and focus entirely on CAT. However, on the other side I do not want to sit at home till the MBA programme begins in around June2020. I am so confused! Post MBA, I would prefer either Finance/HR/Marketing. I’m confused on this one too!


  14. Pavan Kumar Konchada says

    Hi Sir, I quit TCS in the year 2018 august month. I started preparing for CAT and could able to fetch 87 percentile. And also got admit into Great Lakes. But I want to give one more try to get into IIMS. I am interested to get into Media management or marketing domain. Should I need to get a job and prepare for CAT while doing a job or should focus on my Resume building instead of job search?
    My resume Statistics are as follows:
    ICSE 73% ; 12Th 84.6% ; Engineering (EEE) 76.68 %
    3 years of work experience in IT, Datawarehousing.
    Competent communicator in Toastmasters,
    Worked with some NGOs.
    Now taking care of my Father’s Rice trading business.
    Also started a small startup, CAT mentorship program for a selected few.
    Does Rice trading business can be shown as a learning for sales and marketing?
    Thank you


    • Hi Pavan,

      You already have 3 years of work-ex, so you do not need to accumulate further work-ex.

      You can show the rice-trading business as experience but it has to be proper work-ex with salary slips.

      As far as this experience being aligned to sales and marketing goes, it depends on what you are doing in your father’s business.

      Are you handling the distribution network of retailers and are responsible for delivering a certain amount of sales every month?

      You will need to do some certification programs in Marketing on Coursera to bolster your case for a career in sales and marketing.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  15. Sunil Chanda says

    Hi Sir,
    I will be completing 3 years of work experience this June. I’m working with one of the top real estate companies’ in the country(as a part of the operations team). I appeared for CAT 2018 but did not do well. Do i still have a fair chance in CAT, by that i mean, will cracking CAT & going to one of the top IIMs still be beneficial for me?
    I’m in a quandary over this as people are mostly suggesting that going to an IIM with over 3 years of experience is of not much value and thus, advising me to take the GMAT exam and move on. However, at a certain point in life I was crazily dreaming about a life in IIM and now its tough to relinquish on it.


    • Hi Sunil,

      With 36 months of work-ex, your profile is not exactly one that will be aligned to the bulk of the roles that will be offered at the IIMs. But it does not mean that you have no shot there or should not look at the IIMs at all. You can look at general management roles in conglomerates such as TAS, ABG and others with your Ops experience.

      I’d suggest that you knock off the GMAT by June end and use it to apply to ISB and SPJIMR-Ops and then take a shot at the CAT.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  16. Rutul says

    I’m 2017 pass out with 10th/12th/graduation- 90/73.4/66.5%. I have a work experience of approx 20 months as a Field Application Engineer ( simulation platform based corporate training and projects,etc). I want to enter marketing field after MBA. Should I quit my job and take up some sales and marketing course while simultaneously preparing for CAT’19?


    • Hi Rutul,

      Quit your job if working and preparing for the CAT are not possible at the same time, you can then take up courses as you wrote.

      Else, I suppose the role offers enough client interaction and scope of people management, which can be leveraged for roles in Marketing.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  17. Pankush says

    Its Pankush this side, I am working as Financial Accounts Trainee from Last 4 months as my 2018 CAT didn’t go well ..But i am planning CAT 2019 ..And now i am confused at this state whether i should leave job or i have to continue with test series, As earlier I have taken coaching and my percentile was 82 .. What should i do…Anything from your side will be appreciable
    Thanks & Regards


    • Hi Pankush,

      It depends on how effectively you prepared for CAT 2018 and if your work will permit you to give a good shot at CAT 2019.

      If you are an IMS student then you get free repeat coaching and you can attend classes on topics that you feel you are weak at.

      If you cannot take up a classroom program then just test-series might not suffice. For those who have a percentile of 90 and above only a test-series will suffice. My suggestion would be the Maximiser program of IMS where you get tests as well as 15 workshops —

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best.


  18. Lakshya says


    Great effort to help us and finding extensive and adequate answers for all the queries.

    I also had some questions.

    1) I am a working Engineer in Telecom field with a work experience of 18 months(still working).
    2) I have a good score(above 90) in Xth and XIIth, but not so in college(67%).
    3) I am associated with NGO, Make A difference for 3 years and also part of office CSR team.

    I wanted to know based on this profile what should be my target %le to get into IIMs?
    Does it matter if my work ex is coming from a technical field rather than a “management” field?


    • Hi Lakshya,

      Glad you found the posts useful.

      Given your Grad Marks, you will find it tough to crack A and B but the other old IIMs are possible if you cross 99 assuming you are from the General Category. You should also apply to good private schools such as MDI and SPJIMR.

      As far as you work-ex goes, it is very rare for candidates to have management experience before a management education, so that is not a concern at all. If it were, IIMs will not be able to fill their seats!

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  19. Bhuvanendra Patil says

    Hello Sir,
    I feel I am lucky to find your article at the right time. Thank you very much for writing the article in a detailed manner.
    I went through all the above comments to find if any one of them matches my situation. But I found out that I have a different situation when compared to others.

    I graduated in Aeronautical Engineering back in June 2018 with a score of 73% (X;88 and XII;91%)and started to prepare for CAT 2018 till October only to get a score of 63%ile. Later in December, I started to work as an UAV (drone) flight trainer(There is a gap of 5 months after my graduation) and by the end of the June 2019, I will be having 6 months work experience. The current job not just involves training but at certain times the cross functional supports such as Demonstration, Trials and Testing. This is all about my profile as of now.

    The problem with the job is, it demands travelling between different states and during travel period, I will be out at least for a week. This is hampering my preparation as I am unable to devote consistent time slot for the preparation. And I have started to take CAT mocks in which the sores have still settled at around 60%ile. I have discerned that there are no signs of improvement. Now I am stuck in deciding whether to,
    1) Quit the job to prepare CAT and join another job soon after November.(In case of not clearing the Exam, I will have just 4 months professional gap)
    2) Continue the current job.
    (**And please tell me which which category does my job fall into)

    I have interest in investing in stocks and shares. So I am planning to opt FINANCE. And also, I have read job in operation sector provides a well balanced work-life when to compared to that in Finance sector. So I have thinking to opt either Finance or Operations.

    Thank you.


    • Hi Bhuvanendra,

      You have very unique work-ex that can broadly be categorised as Operations since you do training and testing.

      I think post-MBA Operations and General Management Roles in firms such as TAS, ABG, Amazon, and Mahindra will be best suited for your profile.

      And for these roles having 24 months of work-ex makes a lot of sense.

      So I would suggest going through my posts on preparing for the CAT and giving it another shot without quitting your job, there is no hurry to do an MBA.

      If you do not crack it this year then take a break next year and give it a shot. This is the best course of action for your profile.

      As far as Finance goes, I’d suggest being interested in trading and a specialisation in Finance are two separate things. It can be an interest that you can pursue on the side.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  20. Bhuvanendra Patil says

    But, I am unable to manage my own expenses with the salary I get. Moreover, I have education loan and I am also supposed to pay the EMIs. Bank officials told me that if I am going for higher studies, then the EMI payments can be delayed till I get job after completion of the studies.
    Considering all these factors, I thought it would be better if I could crack CAT and I get into B-Schools this time.
    Please correct me if I am wrong in my thinking.


    • If your salary will not go up after you finish a year and you cannot pay your EMIs and meet expenses despite managing them as well as you can, then maybe it is better to quit and prepare but will the bank wave off EMIs from now itself or when you start your higher-ed?

      Anyway, you are best positioned to take a call but as I said, Operations will be effectively ruled out with less than 1 year of work-ex. General management can still be possible.

      All the best!


  21. Bhuvanendra Patil says

    Recently there was an appraisal for my colleagues who have completed a year and max increment they got was 3-4k. So I am thinking its not good to wait for an year to get an increment of 1 or 2k. Instead quit the job and join another soon after November. With this case, if I take OPERATIONS, as you said I would get into general management. Does it mean I cant get into operations after working in general management.??

    Coming to bank, EMIs haven’t started yet. They are gonna reconsider it after completion of higher ed.

    Please excuse me if I am bothering you…


    • When I meant Operations, I meant that your profile with less than 2 years of pre-MBA work-ex might not match the expectations of firms looking at core Operations roles.


  22. Bhuvanendra Patil says

    Thanks a lot sir.
    Your suggestions really gonna help me to make my next decision. I can say, you helped to come out of the dilemma that’s haunting me from past 2 weeks.

    Once again, Thank you.


  23. Harsh Chaurasia says

    I just completed my engineeering in may 2019.
    my scores are (85/74/60) in (10/12/grad) respectively.
    I got placed in Accenture through college placement,the joining date is yet to come(expected around mid aug-sept)
    should i reject the job? and prepare for CAT .Meanwhile doing a digital marketing certification course and volunteering in NGO.
    or should I take up the job?
    will this gap affect my profile?


    • Hi Harsh,

      A delayed joining will not affect your profile in any way.

      As far as not taking up a job and preparing for CAT goes, the impact will be quantitative for colleges that give marks for work-ex, but since your joining is likely to be in September you are not likely to get any marks even if you work since they consider work-ex till July 31st.

      They will ask you in your interview though and you have to give an answer as to how this is more aligned to your career goals.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  24. Shameem says

    I am a 2018 engineering passout and will be completing 1 year in risk consulting profile coming July. I am not happy with my job and I don’t want to continue. But at the same time, I am not giving enough time for CAT preparation once I am getting back home from work. I am planning to quit in September and give a final push in the last 3 months. I got 93 percentile last year with no preparation. What do you suggest? My 10,12,Grad marks are 95,82,83.


    • Hi Shameem,

      As I outlined in the post above, you will have to answer the question in the interviews, but that should not be that big a deal.

      With a 93 with no prep, you should be able to score much higher with prep, so yeah you can go ahead and quit.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  25. Prashik says

    Hii Sir
    First of all thanks for this great post. But i was wanting an answer to this question of yours : “how can I prepare if I am working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week? “


  26. Vignesh says

    Hello Sir,
    I will be having 20 months of experience by July 2019( up to which CAT 2019 will consider work-ex ) and I work as a business consultant in energy trading and risk management sector, the job schedule is quite tight and very exhaustive. Is quitting by July and preparing for CFA level 1 a good option?
    I would like to hear your view of the entire scenario.


    • Hi Vignesh,

      If you can pull off both CFA-L1 (December) and CAT (November) it will be great, it is not that tough to pull off if your core skills are already at an 85 percentile. If your skills are at a 70 percentile level, I suggest focussing only the CAT during the next 6 months.

      If you take up the CFA and clear it, you will not need to take up any other profile-building activities as far as b-school interviews go, you have a solid reason why quitting was the best way ahead. From a placements perspective, adding some NGO experience can come in handy if you do have some already.

      So yeah, plan is demanding but do-able.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  27. Priyank says


    I am a graduate from SRCC (batch of 2018) with scores of 10 CGPA/ 95.3%/ 8.60 CGPA (81%) in Xth/XIIth/Grad. I got recruited ,through campus, in an alcobev start-up and have been working in the same for over a year. I have been involved in sales & trade planning.

    However, my actual interests do not lie in alcobev industry and want an industry shift. Ideally, I want to get into management consulting post-MBA.

    Considering this, would it make sense to quit my job and prepare for CAT (I have been studying for 2 hours daily since Apr of this year already) ? Further, are there realistic chances of getting consulting shortlists given that my work experience has not been in a renowned MNC or such?


    • Hi Priyank,

      To answer you questions in order:

      1. Do not quit because you do not like your industry, do it only if you cannot find time for your prep to see your desired scores. If a long-leave and regular prep will get you a 99-plus percentile then there is no need to quit.

      2. Consulting shortlists are primarily a function of college brand and academics, in your case both are pretty good. So yeah you do stand a chance.

      3. Sales and trade planning with an Alcobev start-up is a very unique profile that not too many people will have. I feel it is something that will give you a lot of talking points and scoring points if you present it well — both in b-school and campus interviews.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  28. Hi Tony Sir,
    I am currently working in ZS Associates Pune having 30 months work ex till now in ZS, prior to that I worked for 5 months in a software company. Sir, I wrote CAT 2018, I scored 98 in DILR, 99.71 in QA and 51 in VARC😐.

    Should I give it a try once more or am I late?
    I am thinking of quitting my job as I hardly get any time to study.
    I am thinking of writing GMAT as well.
    Sir, Please guide me what to do?


  29. Ajay Pareek says

    Hi Tony Sir,
    I am currently working in ZS Associates Pune having 30 months work ex till now in ZS, prior to that I worked for 5 months in a software company. Sir, I wrote CAT 2018, I scored 98 in DILR, 99.71 in QA and 51 in VARC😐.

    Should I give it a try once more or am I late?
    I am thinking of quitting my job as I hardly get any time to study.
    I am thinking of writing GMAT as well.
    Sir, Please guide me what to do?


    • Hi Ajay,

      I do not think 36 months is too much work-ex.

      If I were you, I will take another shot at the CAT and focus on getting the VA-RC percentile up and consolidating scores on the other sections.

      Do not look at the GMAT now given you poor Verbal Ability unless you want to apply to a lot of colleges (internationally since in India you have only ISB and SPJIMR as options). If you had a 90+ in Verbal and 80+ in Qa I would have advised going for the GMAT as well.

      I know ZS is killing with its work hours, I have had students from ZS Pune. You can quit but take up profile-building work, especially some NGO work if you want to get into Consulting since even McKinsey looks at the same.

      If you feel that you will have time to prepare for both CAT and GMAT if you quit your job, you can go ahead (but do not ask me for a Study Plan for the same). Those who want to do both within a span of a few months should have a very high base-level aptitude on both QA and VA and know how to draw up a plan that suits their very specific needs.

      You can always look at upping your Verbal Score up the CAT score without quitting and if things do not work out quitting and taking a shot at ISB and other Indian 1-year programs.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


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