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Cracking Management Entrance Exams


Usha Albuquerque & Nidhi Prasad

The popularity of a career in management is largely due to the large salaries and perks offered to managers by organisations looking for the best talent. But it is also because management education is required for every sphere of economic activity. MBA institutes impart the training required by companies, and link the study programme to the job market, making an MBA the most sought after course for young people. With the steady growth of multinational competitors, the business community whether Indian or foreign, has recognised the urgent need for systematic and efficient management practices. This has opened up enormous opportunities for both men and women, from diverse spheres with the promise of lucrative salary packages, good status and scope for professional and personal growth.  

Management is an activity that makes best use of available resources - human, physical and monetary, to achieve an objective. Management involves taking decisions based on a number of factors so as to utilise the resources of an organisation for maximising its growth and profits. Management techniques and skills are therefore required in all areas of work. Not only in the organised sectors of commerce and industry, but in traditionally non-organised areas like agriculture and real estate as well, and in non-commercial establishments too, such as welfare, health, and development. Management institutes offer specializations not only in traditional fields like Finance, Marketing, HRM and Operations,  but also in subjects ranging from tourism management to IT, International Business and Foreign Trade, Advertising and Mass Communications, Entrepreneurship, Pharmacy Management, Hospital Management, Rural Management, Agri-Business, Family Business, Telecom and many others.

The best way of gaining entry into the hallowed portals of a good management job is by getting into a top ranking management institute in India. This is easier said than done – winning the marathon must be easier! Students therefore have many questions related to MBA exams preparation. What to do and what not to do? How does one prepare for the MBA exam? What must one do to get into the best institution ensuring a bright future?


The top B-Schools either affiliate themselves to a common national level entrance test, such as the CAT, or take their own aptitude test to select candidates. Every management aspirant in India is aware of CAT or Common Admission Test, which is undoubtedly the most sought after entrance exam for MBA entrance in India. It offers admission into more than 160 management institutes across India, including the 13 IIMs. However, there are several other exams besides CAT that a student can and must write. We collectively call them as OMETs (Other Management Entrance Tests). These would include XAT, SNAP, CMAT, MAT and Institute specific exams viz NMAT, TISSNET, IRMA, and IIFT. 

 Various common national level tests to get into the finest B-Schools of India are: 

1.            CAT: All IIMs' and 100+ more institutes.

2.            XAT: XLRI Jamshedpur, XIM Bhubaneshwar, S. P. Jain, GIM etc.

3.            SNAP: Institutes affiliated with Symbiosis University

4.            MH-CET: Colleges in Maharashtra

5.            CMAT: All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE)

 The scores in the admission test are used separately by each institute along with other parameters i.e. academic performance, work experience, group discussion, written assessment and interview performance etc. to select candidates.


The candidate must be a graduate with 50% marks or equivalent CGPA (45% in case of SC/ST/DA/PWD) or possess an equivalent qualification recognized by the Ministry of HRD, Government of India.

Candidates appearing for the final year of bachelor’s degree / equivalent qualification examination and those who have completed degree requirements and are awaiting results can also apply.

It is recommended that decision to go in for an M.B.A degree should be taken much before completion of the graduate degree or in the beginning of your professional career, in case you want to acquire some work experience before seeking admission. It is best to prepare a list of the Top 10 or Top 20 Business Schools and others also, alongside their eligibility criterion and the type of entrance examination, and then target the ones  you can realistically consider for admission.

The format of all the exams is broadly the same with multiple choice objective type questions from Quantitative Ability, Verbal Ability and Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning. In addition, some of the exams have a General Knowledge section, some tests are a combination of subjective and objective questions, such as XAT and MICAT. XAT also includes a section on Essay writing. Broadly, the written examinations are a test of mathematical and verbal ability, in a format that tests your knowledge as well as the speed and accuracy with which you comprehend and respond correctly to questions and situations presented to you. It's an elimination stage to shortlist candidates who then progress further to the next stages of Group Discussion and Personal Interview.

Those who clear the written test are called by the institutions they have applied  to participate in a group discussion, where they are observed  on their ability to handle a discussion, leadership qualities and so on.. In the final stage of selection the candidate is called for an interview by a panel of faculty members to assess the candidate’s personality  and ability to handle a management job.

The essential focus areas in which the students are tested are: -

*Command over English language, i.e. expression, vocabulary, precision and grammar.

*Logical and Reasoning ability- this requires basic knowledge of Math and Statistics, besides of course logical thinking in general.

*General Knowledge about the National and World affairs.

*Leadership Qualities and Public Speaking prowess, which are mainly tested through ‘Group Discussions’

The top 5 mantras on how to crack entrance exams

*             Learn

*             Practice

*             Dedication/commitment

*             Time management

*             Motivation

*Start working on your language skills and the communication ability. For this one must read a  standard National Daily Newspaper and a regular News Magazine on a daily basis, besides any other reading of your choice. This will also increase awareness about the current affairs.

*For correct vocabulary, spellings and grammatical usage, consult a standard Dictionary and note down what you have checked.

*For better-spoken expression, watch a good T.V. news program conducted by a news anchor who speaks in an easy and accent free tone. This has to be done every day

* Solving puzzles and participating in quiz competitions will enhance your logical ability.

*Invest in good standard preparation books and start taking on-line tests to check / enhance your score. check out MBA Entrance Exam Preparation Practice CDs and others preparatory material.

*Determine your weak areas and work on them for continuous improvement.

* Be prepared and open to ask for guidance and help from parents, friends and teachers.

*Join a standard Coaching Program, preferably for TWO years in succession. It should be a physical tutoring program and not a distance learning one for real effectiveness.

*Check with seniors and friends who have earlier got admission to good business schools and note down relevant points out of their experience.

* This list obviously is not complete but is meant to give you a clear idea of how-to-go-about-it.

 Apart from your inherent talents, serious and focused preparation is required. One needs to not only ‘Work Hard’ but also ‘Work Smart’ to get the most out of your efforts.

 Things to AVOID:

i)  Solving too many mocks, especially in a short span of time: This will just decrease your efficiency and increase your frustration. ii) Joining too many test series, thinking you will get the best of all. Most mock tests are similar to a great extent. iii) Getting depressed after one poor performance: I got 83 and 84 percentile in my last 2 mocks. Yet I ended up with a percentile of 96.54. So nothing to get disappointed about mock scores. They are just for practice and analysis. The most negative point about mocks is that most of them have a high standard of difficulty. Many people get frustrated after solving such problems. But in actual CAT, the problems will be logical based and you will hardly need to remember any formula or complicated step in order to solve them.

 The key reasons why a candidate should write other exams besides CAT are as follows:

 * Many top B-schools require you to write their own exams: For example, XLRI Jamshedpur uses XAT, SIBM Pune uses SNAP, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies uses NMAT etc. A lot of other b-schools would be using the performance of the candidates in one of these exams as a criterion for selection as well.

*It helps to diversify your risks: If a candidate does not have any other option besides CAT, he will be under a lot of pressure while writing CAT. And, God forbid if anything goes wrong while writing CAT he will be left with no options.

*Opportunity to capitalise on your strength(s): There are minor differences in the patterns of these exams including the areas tested and the difficulty level of the exams. It helps to identify the exam that best suits your strength areas and focus on them as well. For eg. If a student is good with general awareness then there are exams like SNAP, TISS, IIFT etc. For a candidate who does not have a very strong background in Math, TISS would again be a good target. CMAT is a new exam and is ideally suited for students who find CAT too difficult.

*Some exams give you extra time to prepare: Many of these exams are conducted much later than CAT. This means that for a student starting his preparation a little late there is a few extra months’ time for preparation. Some of these are conducted as late as January (XAT, TISSET etc) which means you get almost 2 more months to prepare.

Awareness and adequate preparation for these exams is essential, as these tests have patterns which are different from CAT.Let us look at the major Other Management Entrance Tests (OMETs) which would be conducted this year. 


XAT is the second most popular management entrance examination after CAT. XAT is conducted by XLRI, Jamshedpur on behalf of Xavier Association of Management Institutes. XAT scores are used by more than 100 institutes across India. XAT is usually conducted in the first week of January.

Common Management Admissions Test - CMAT 

It’s a one-stop test for admission into all the AICTE approved B-schools in the country. The exam is proposed to be conducted twice a year. However, an additional CMAT is being conducted this year so as to provide a chance to candidates who missed out on applying earlier. Unlike other management entrance exams of similar nature, CMAT gives you a shot at the premier B-schools of the country such as JBIMS, Sydenham, KJ Somaiya, IMT Nagpur, Hyderabad and GIM among others. 

 Symobiosis National Aptitude Test (SNAP) 

SNAP is an aptitude test conducted by the Symbiosis society as a first entry requirement for all the B schools under Symbiosis International University which has 12 B schools under its umbrella, 3 General management and the others- sectoral or specialized MBA's. The list of institutes includes SIBM Pune, SCMHRD Pune, SIBM Bangalore, SIIB Pune etc. The exam is considered a must for MBA aspirants thanks to this eclectic mix of colleges using its scorecard as a part of their selection processes. 

Management Aptitude Test (MAT) 

MAT is conducted by All India Management Association four times a year – February, May, September, and December in both the Formats-Paper pencil as well as Computer based. Even though the paper has a section on General Awareness, the score in this section is rarely used by any B-school for shortlisting candidates for the GDPI process. 

Exams conducted by Individual Institutes

*IIFT entrance test for IIFT New Delhi and Kolkata.

*TISSNET for Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai offering specialisation in a range of areas from HRM & IR to Social Entrepreneurship to Women empowerment etc. Like MAT, TISSNET is conducted in both paper-pencil and online format. The exam is usually conducted in the month of January.

* NMAT for NarseeMonjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore offering General MBA, Banking, Capital Markets and HRM. It is conducted in online format and that students can take max of three attempts and the best of three is taken as their final performance while short listing for GDPI.

*MICAT for Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad

*IBSAT for ICFAI Business School, Hyderabad and several other locations in the country.

(Usha Albuquerque is Director and Nidhi Prasad is Senior counseling Psychologist at  Careers Smart Pvt. Ltd New Delhi. E-mail :