Guest Column: Nikunj Bhagat, Alumnus IIMB,Mentor- CL Kolkata

With the CAT testing window starting on 16th Oct 2013 and your preparation drawing towards a close, it is time to decide on the B-Schools you would like to apply to. The notifications of many B-Schools is have come out and for some of them the last date for application is approaching. Do keep a track of the notification and the last dates, browse the newspaper everyday, especially on weekends. The last dates are very important and you should not miss out on an application deadline because of carelessness.

Parameters to finalise your wish list:

  • Your CAT Percentile as estimated by the CL Percentile Predictor or your Scores in the Proctored Mocks CATs.
  • Current occupation, i.e., are you a fresher or have work experience?
  • Alternate career options, i.e., what if no MBA?
  • Situational ability to wait for another attempt at CAT

Let us closely evaluate each of the above mentioned parameters and check out the decision points.

Your Percentile – as per CL Percentile Predictor and your Mock CAT scores:

This is the most important parameter to decide on which B-Schools one should apply to.

The percentiles give you an idea of your potential, both overall and sectional. Given the huge number of students who take CL Proc Mocks the percentiles you get is a safe indicator of what to expect on the D-Day. Past experience has shown that the actual CAT percentiles are a shade above the percentile which students get in the CL Proc Mocks. Typically one should zero in on the highest percentile and the median percentile one has scored in the ProcMocks. Your range of applying to the B-Schools should be from five percentile below your median percentile to five percentile above your highest percentile. For example, if your highest percentile is 90 and median percentile is 80 then you should be applying to institutes whose cutoffs range from 75 to 95 percentile. Sometimes the range could be very high, in which case one needs to cherry pick a few from each bracket.

The above list can be further fine tuned after analyzing your actual performance in CAT. Based on the number of attempts and the accuracy percentage you generally maintain in the ProcMocks, one should estimate the net score. You could then project your percentile on the basis of the analysis given on the CL website. The final list should be prepared after taking into consideration both – the performance in the ProcMocks and the actual performance on the D-Day. Do remember that you are only guesstimating the actual performance. Hence we feel that the performance in the ProcMocks should be a better parameter to decide.

Sectional cutoffs are critical only for institutes which have cutoffs in excess of 90 percentile. Even amongst the institutes which require sectional cutoffs, barring the top IIMs and the IITs, most of the sectional cutoffs are in the range of 60-80. Moreover with CAT having only two sections, that too timed, one should not worry about sectional cutoffs while applying. One should also remember that CAT scores are not the only deciding factor for getting calls. Past academic performance and work experience matters for certain institutes. Some institutes are giving preference to non-engineers and females.

Category A+(above 95 %ile) IIM (A,B,C,L,I,K,S), FMS, XLRI, Jamunalal Bajaj, IIT(B), IIT(D), NITIE, S.P.Jain, MDI
Category A(90-95 %ile) New IIMs, MDI, XIMB, TISS(HR), IIFT, SIBM(Pune), SCMHRD, NM(Mumbai), IRMA, IIT(Kgp), IIT(M), IIT(R), IIT(K), UBS, MFC, MBE, IMT(Ghaziabad), IMI, Great Lakes (1 yr prog)
Category B+(85-90 %ile) MIB(DU), MHORD(DU), KJ Somaiya, BIM, UBS, FORE, LBS, TAPMI, SIIB, SIBM(Bglr), GIM.
Category B(80-85 %ile) KJ Somaiya-IB, FORE-IB, Welingkar, SRCC(GBO)  LIBA, NIRMA, NIBM(Pune), IFMR, IIFM, ICFAI(Hyderabad)
Category C(65-80 %ile) BIMTECH, IISWBM, IMT(Nagpur), XIME, NL Dalmia, SDMIMD, Amrita, BIMM, ITM, SIES, ICFAI(Mumbai, Gurgaon)


1. In addition to the above institutes, there are certain specialized programs offered
by IIFT(Foreign Trade), MICA(Advertising and Communications),
TISS(Human Resources) and IRMA(Rural Management).
2. Only Engineers and M.Sc students can apply to IITs and NITIE
3. Some of the above mentioned institutes accept scores of other tests such as XAT,
4. Institutes only in Category A and above consider sectional cutoffs. However
there are exceptions such as IIT(D), all institutes under SNAP and
IMT(Ghaziabad) who do not consider sectional cutoffs.

Current occupation:

Case I: Fresher in final year of graduation without a job in hand

You have age and time on your side so you can be a bit selective while applying. You should be looking at institutes only in Category B and above. If your scores are not good enough to match this, it is better to give yourself another year. Prepare further and improve your scores. Do not compromise so early. If you decide to wait, do try to keep yourself busy with some job or professional course alongside your preparation.

Case II: Fresher in final year of graduation with a job in hand  (CTC > 4 lakh per annum)

You already have a decent job in hand so you should be very selective while applying. You should be looking at institutes only in Category A and above. If your scores are not good enough to match this, it is better to gather some work experience and then take CAT later. Perhaps it would make sense to look at CAT 2014 as it would ensure that you have work experience of almost two years. This would enhance your chances of selection to the top B-Schools.

Case III: Graduated in 2012/13 and currently not working

Try applying to as many institutes as you can which fall in the range of your percentiles. Ideally, you should be looking at institutes in Category B and above. But if your scores are not good enough, you could consider a few institutes in Category C. It is suggested that you do not rush in selecting an institute. Many institutes in Category C will keep extending their last dates well beyond Jan/Feb 2013, so please wait till all your actual tests like XAT/SNAP/NMAT etc. are over. Even after that, we would strongly recommend a physical visit to institutes which you have shortlisted in Category C before taking the final plunge.

Case IV: Working for less than 2 years

Depending on your current organization and salary, you will have to take a call. But under no circumstances should you be looking at institutes below Category B+. Your decision should also be influenced with factors such as past CAT experience, your temperament, family issues and your growth potential in your present job.

Case V: Working for more than 2 years

You are already settled in your job and drawing a reasonably good salary. You will have to be very selective while applying. You should only look at institues in Category A and above. There are institutes like IIM Bangalore, S.P.Jain, Great Lakes who have a strong bias towards people of your background. You should definitely be considering them. Also most of the other top B-Schools including IITs give extra points to people with work experience. Even with a below par CAT percentile, you could fancy your chances in these institutes. As in Case IV, your decision should also be influenced with factors such as past CAT experience, temperament, family issues, opportunity cost of pursuing MBA, growth potential in your present job and the current industry scenario. This might be a good time to take a break from the corporate world and go back to an educational institute.

Alternate Career Options:

This parameter needs to be looked at only if you have a very strong second line of career choice. Engineering students considering M-Tech, MS etc. should weigh the pros and cons of both careers and then decide. Non-engineering students pursuing CA/CS should be only looking at institutes in Category A and above.

Situational ability to wait for another attempt at CAT 

This would comprise many factors such as age, temperament, family background, financial issues and opportunity cost of pursuing MBA.

Combination of all the above parameters should be looked at to prepare the final wish list. You should apply to a few extra institutes to give yourself more choices later. It is always better to leave an institute after being selected rather than living with a regret of not having applied. The experience gained in the personality assessment round goes a long way in helping in further applications. No doubt each application comes with a cost, but do not try to save a few thousand rupees. Do remember that you are chasing a course which would cost you in lakhs.

Nikunj is an IIM B Alumnus. He has been mentoring MBA aspirants over the last 12 years. His interest includes cricket, movies, organizing events and cracking puzzles. He loves travelling and exploring new places.
He can be reached at