The growth in Indian economy since the turn of the millennium pushed up the demand for professional managers. To meet the rising demand, the supply lines responded with alacrity and a multitude of b-schools were set up, particularly in the last decade. The number of b-schools in the country currently stands at well over 3,000. Such a huge number immediately brings a question into the minds of MBA aspirants – which of these schools are worth aspiring for? A couple of adjunct questions would be: (a) which of these schools should I apply to?, and (b) if I get admission into some of these schools, which one of them should I join?

These are pretty important questions to which there are no easy answers. The answer would, to a large extent, depend on three key parameters: the aspirant's ability (both academic and aptitude), background (both academic and financial) and broad career objective. As the answer may be different for different individuals, MBA aspirants have to look at the possible set of 'good' schools to begin with and then apply her/his individual conditions to this set to pick out the best fit. In this context, the bigger question is, “Of the over 3,000 schools, which ones are the 'good' schools?”

For almost two decades now, T.I.M.E. has been guiding students to select the best schools. T.I.M.E. 's B-School Categorisation List, which details the names of India's top b-schools, has become an indispensable tool for anyone who is looking for an objective, unbiased and honest listing of India's best b-schools. The list is the result of a two-month long exercise involving the best brains across the country who have decades of experience in guiding and mentoring students to make the right career choices.

How the list was arrived at

The expert panel objectively sifts through such data to ensure that no “boastful” claims of the b-schools are carried into the final listing. The experts also contribute with their knowledge about the strength of the brand of various b-schools. The following parameters are used for the categorisation:

(I) Placement

Salaries on offer should not be the only reason for one to get into an MBA programme. It should be the various other advantages that are of prime importance – the career opportunities that an MBA provides in the short/long term, the speed of growth that it offers, the variety of roles that one can get into, etc., should be the main reasons. Salaries are only a concomitant factor. However, as the other parameters mentioned truly start bearing fruit with a time lag of anywhere between 5–15 years and hence cannot be measured objectively. They can be indirectly gauged through the salaries that recruiters offer on campus.

It is true that salary is pretty important as students invest two valuable years of their life and spend a considerable amount of money in fee for the MBA programme. Hence, it is only natural for them to expect a commensurate return and the salary figures reflect the quality of return.

Many b-schools resort to statistical (and various other kinds of) gimmickry while reporting the salary figures. While some schools may not release any data about placements, some list only the names of companies that visited the campus for placements and do not reveal any information about the final placement details. Some carry old data of the names of companies to create an impression as if all of them visited the campus for the latest round of placements. While inflating the placement figures is common, adding 'joining bonus' or 'variable pay' into the reported packages happens frequently too. Most schools do not reveal the percentage/number of students who were not 'placed'. The list, as one can see, is fairly long. One needs to, hence, exercise extreme caution while trying to understanding the placement details of b-schools.

Unfortunately, there is no standard reporting structure on placement data that the b-schools are required to follow. Any such requirement would put an end to trickery and would have made the picture on placements crystal clear to anybody who wants to understand it. It is heartening to know that the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) has taken the initiative to put in place a set of reporting standard called the Indian Placement Reporting Standards (IPRS). However, this laudable initiative, launched in 2011, has, not surprisingly, found little traction among Indian b-schools.

We at T.I.M.E. , love the transparency that a standard like the IPRS can bring into the system, particularly when the standard makes it mandatory for the b-schools to have their placement reports audited by a third party. As one of the very few education training companies in the world which get their results audited by a third party before going to town with them, we understand the kind of honesty and effort that goes into ensuring the quality of such an audit. We have, hence, as a part of the categorisation exercise, given positive credit to those schools that accept the IPRS and report their placements accordingly.

You can know more about the IPRS at

(ii) Cut-off score in entrance test

All MBA aspirants aim to get into India's top b-schools while the top b-schools wish to admit the best quality of students. As you see, a symbiotic relationship exists here. The students benefit from the brand and reputation of the b-school and the b-school benefits from the students' achievements – both academic and career-related. Hence, it is only natural for the schools to aspire to select only the best of the students. The quality of students directly impacts the amount of peer learning and hence, the quality of students is a significant measure of the stature of the school.

The cut-off percentile (i.e., the percentile value in the entrance test that the b-school considers for its admissions) is therefore a strong indicator of the quality of the students at a b-school; the higher the cut-off, the better will be the quality of the students at the b-school.

However, there are a few b-schools which accord significant weightage for other parameters like academics and work experience. The number of such schools is very low; also, even at these schools, the entrance test percentile values are significantly higher than some of the schools in the categories immediately below them.

(iii) Fee

Unlike placements and cut-off, fee is not a straight-forward parameter to work with. We cannot write off a school with a high fee nor can we praise a school for its low fee. Many top 10 schools charge an eye-popping fee of over 16 lakh (all inclusive); at the same time, we have schools in the same category (top 10) charging less than 4 lakh (all inclusive). To a large extent, fee is a function of who's managing the school – government/government-aided/private/private trust, etc. The IIMs, for example, are autonomous institutions which generate their own revenue, via fee and consulting. This explains why their fee is comparatively higher than a school like FMS Delhi, which is under Delhi University and has no revenue responsibilities due to which it can charge a fee of under 1 lakh.

While one should not select a school solely based on its fee, it is true that as the fee goes up, the Return on Investment (RoI) question kicks in. This means that unless a student gets a salary package of a certain value, the investment of fee doesn't make much financial sense. RoI is an increasingly crucial factor as one moves down the b-school categorisation list, particularly for schools beyond the top 50.

For the schools in the top 50, the placement figures justify the fee charged by the colleges in all the cases, unless the students do not perform well on campus during their MBA. It means that even after getting into an MBA programme, one needs to perform at one's best potential to ensure not only better quality of learning but also to guarantee a placement – a high quality one at that.

For schools beyond the top 50, a b-school's capacity to place the students drops (as we move down the list, particularly in the B and Others categories), fee should play a major role in the student's decision to join a school or not.

The added advantage for a student is that it is easier to secure an education loan for study at a top 50 college. For most of the IIMs, banks have special counters on the day of admissions just to process education loans. Most of these loans are collateral-free. As we move outside the top 50 and into the B and the Others categories, not only will getting a loan be increasingly difficult, it may also be provided at a higher interest rate, with a requirement of collateral, etc.

Keeping these factors in mind, we have not considered fee as a contributing factor to arrive at our final categorisation for the top 50 schools. For schools beyond the top 50 schools, fee has also been added as a contributing factor to determine the categories of the remaining schools in the list.

(iv) Location of the b-school

What has been said about fee not being a straight-forward parameter to handle also applies here to a large extent. There could be an excellent school in a relatively backward/not prominent location (and a not-so good school in a metro). However, please note that location plays an important role in attracting faculty and companies (for placements) to the campus.

But the effect of location could be countered to a great extent by the brand strength of an institute. Faculty and industry will equally prefer to go to IIMA or IIMI over a lower rung b-school in the metros. This is the primary reason why the new IIMs, despite being located in so-called “remote' locations, have been able to earn respect from both the academia and the industry in a very short span of time. But, as one moves down the list, particularly outside the top 50, the brand strength wanes and the influence of location starts picking up.

We have hence accounted for location by not considering it for the top 50 schools and bringing it in as a contributing factor for schools outside the top 50.

(v) Other factors

Factors like the quality of faculty and infrastructure will be fairly important parameters for students evaluating a particular b-school. While these are extremely significant, care needs to be taken while reading these data. The number of faculty with PhD that a school has is not a direct indicator of the quality of the school. Such claims should not be taken at face value as some of the names quoted may not be actually teaching at those schools. Number of full-time professors versus part-timers can also be a misleading datum and neither a high nor a low number here indicates better/inferior teaching. A good example is JBIMS, Mumbai, which has several visiting professors, and is doing excellently.

While the lack of infrastructure can be seen as a serious issue against a school without enough brand strength or a school outside the top 50, it cannot be said to be the case for top schools like the IIMs. Most of the new IIMs still operate out of temporary campuses but this has not dampened the quality of education, enthusiasm of students and the quality of placements.

The list below may spring two pertinent questions:

 (1) why are the one-year MBA programmes missing from the list?

(2) why the newest IIMs, like the ones at Sambalpur and Visakhapatnam, do not appear in the list? 

For the list, we consider only those schools that offer two-year MBA/PGDM programmes. Also, we consider any eligible schools only after they have completed two years of operation, meaning they would have at least one graduating batch. This way we ensure that we would be able to assess the school on all the parameters (including placements) that we consider for our categorisation.

Also note that the list takes into account only flagship programmes of the schools. For example, for a school like IIM Lucknow, the flagship PGP is considered. The PGP-Agri-Business Management (PGP-ABM) and PGP-Sustainability Management (PGP-SM) programmes are not considered on par with the flagship PGP. One needs to evaluate these programs separately considering the brand rub-off that IIM Lucknow provides them.

One also needs to understand that while IIML's PGP-ABM will have a significant brand rub-off and is a top programme to look forward to (based on one's interest in the sector), it cannot be said about the non-flagship programme of a school well below in the categorization list. To sum up, while care needs to be exercised while looking at the non-flagship programmes of b-schools even in the top 50, a lot of caution should come into play for those outside the top 50.

The B-School Categorization List gives aspirants a broad framework for selecting b-schools. You can use this list to shortlist the schools that you wish to apply to. You may also get in touch with faculty at T.I.M.E. who use this categorisation list to advise you after factoring in your background, performance in the AIMCATs and your aspiration levels.

The B-Schools in the list below are divided into seven broad categories:

Top 10 category features world-class institutes, such as the IIMs and XLRI, which every student aspires to secure an admission into. Many of these institutes are comparable with the best in the world. These institutes invariably have a 100% placement record. Even the not-so-academically-good students at these institutes manage to get good jobs on account of the 'rub-off' effect of the institute.

AAA+ and AAA categories of institutes have excellent B-schools in their own right. They offer high quality of education, faculty, and infrastructure facilities. These institutes have a near 100% placement record in most cases. A significant number of the top students at these institutes are able to secure placements that are comparable to those offered at the Top 10 institutes.

AA & A categories of institutes offer a high quality of education, faculty, and infrastructure facilities vying to compete with those in the top-three categories. These institutes are successful in providing high quality placements to their top students, especially those with good communication skills. These schools have established brand reputation and are well recognised by the industry. Many of the schools in these categories have 100% placement record.

BBB+ and BBB category schools are also well regarded by the industry across the country but may lag slightly behind in terms of the overall brand value, compared to the categories above. While many students get good placements, some of these schools may not have a 100% placement record.

BB & B categories schools are popular and have regular campus placements. Students from these institutes get placements from a combination of national and local-level companies.

Apart from all these, we have also listed B-Schools under the "Others" category, which has institutes that may be found to be lacking in one or more of: (a) infrastructure; (b) industry interface; (c) faculty; (d) alumni network; (e) curriculum, and (f) good placements. However, we believe these colleges are better than the hordes of others that do not feature in our list at all. You are hence advised to get thorough information (by visiting the campuses and speaking with past and current students) about these institutes before taking any decision regarding them.

This would mean that the top 50 schools – Top 10, AAA+, AAA-, AA and A categories – would be the schools to aspire for.

The first question one should ask is, 'How many b-schools should I apply to?' The answer to this depends on a few personal factors that were pointed out at the beginning of this note.

The first factor is your 'budget'. With the cost of application for each institute being in the range of Rs500 to Rs2500, an optimal number may be 10 to 12 schools. However, it could be slightly higher, if one can afford it. It is strongly advised that you apply to institutes across categories.

The second factor is your 'current status'. A final-year student, for example, can afford to be selective as he/she can make another attempt (the next year), while a person who has completed graduation and is not working will be keener to get into a b-school. A working professional with two years of work experience may be selective, while one with four-five years of work ex may not want to lose further time and play it safe by applying to more schools.

The third factor in deciding the number of institutes to which you should apply is 'your performance in the mock-tests'. Depending on your performance, you may want to hedge your risk by applying to more institutes – particularly, to institutes across categories that we discussed above.

Once the number of schools is decided upon, you must decide on the individual b-schools to apply to. It is a good practice to apply to institutes in three different categories – 50% of the schools in the category where you are likely to land calls for the second round, 30% of the schools in an aspiration level up – typically one level above your expected range – and 20% in the level below the expected range, to safeguard your interests in the case of a bad performance. All students should be applying to the IIMs by virtue of applying for the CAT. We would strongly advise you to apply to ALL the IIMs. The time for picking and choosing will come later – once you have landed the final selections.

Let me share an illustration for a better understanding: Let us say that you have decided to apply to ten institutes. First, check how you have performed in the AIMCATs and what your percentile score has been like. If you are in the 85 percentile range, you will need to apply to five institutes from the A category, three from AA and two from BBB+.

Key points to note:

    (i) While we have paid all possible attention to get objective data, as you move outside the top 50 schools towards the B and Others categories, you need to pay increasing attention to the RoI factor (as discussed earlier).

    (ii) What works as a great combination of schools for your friend may not, and in most cases will not, work for you. You have to apply your specific conditions of performance, ability and aspiration to zero in on the set of schools most suitable to you.

    (iii) Do not go blindly by placement figures alone. At the risk of repetition, the data quoted by the b-schools are to be taken with a pinch spoon of salt.

    (iv) The place of a school in a category is determined by a combination of factors. However, when all the factors are looked at together, the schools in the higher category are better overall, than the schools in the category below.

    (v) Within a category, the schools are listed only alphabetically and no 'in-category' ranking is done. Doing individual rankings for schools is not objectively possible and is also not totally fair to the b-schools. We arrive at category sizes keeping in mind that the schools in a category should broadly be equally recommendable. You would observe that the grouping categories do not have uniformity with regard to the number of b-schools per category. This was done to ensure homogeneity (placements, cut-offs, and brand value) amongst the b-schools within a category. If one wants to choose between schools within a category, a further study on the individual parameters for those schools should be taken up.

  • The schools are arranged in alphabetical order within each category.
  • The list comprises two-year programmes only. It does not include the one-year programmes such as the ones offered at the Indian School of Business (ISB) and the executive programmes offered by the IIMs.
Bschool_Name Entrance Test (s)
B. K. School of Business Management, Ahmedabad CMAT
Badruka College – Post Graduate Center (OU affiliated MBA), Hyderabad ICET
Bharati Vidyapeeth's Institute of Management Studies and Research, Mumbai Own Test
Fortune School of Business, New Delhi CAT/XAT/CMAT/ATMA/MAT
Institute of Management Development and Research (IMDR), Pune MAHCET/CAT/XAT/CMAT/ATMA/MAT
M. S. Ramiah Institute of Management, Bengaluru CAT/XAT/CMAT/GMAT/MAT/ATMA
MIT School of Management, Pune MAHCET/CAT/XAT/CMAT/ATMA/MAT
Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology (MNNIT), Allahabad CAT/CMAT
National Institute of Technology (NIT), Suratkal CAT/CMAT
New Delhi Institute of Management (NDIM), New Delhi CAT/MAT
Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, Gandhinagar CAT/XAT
PSG Institute of Management, Coimbatore CAT/MAT/TANCET
School of Communication & Management Studies (SCMS), Cochin CAT/XAT/MAT/ATMA
Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Hyderabad (SIBM-H) SNAP
Siva Sivani Institute of Management (SSIM), Hyderabad CAT/XAT/CMAT/GMAT/MAT/ATMA
Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication (SIMC), Pune SNAP
Symbiosis School of Banking Management (SSBM), Pune SNAP
Thakur Institute of Management Studies & Research, Mumbai MAHCET/CAT/XAT/CMAT/ATMA/MAT
University of Petroleum & Energy Studies (UPES), Dehradun CAT/XAT/CMAT/NMAT/MAT/Own Test
University School of Management Studies - Indraprastha University, Delhi Own Test
Vanguard Business School, Bengaluru CAT/XAT/CMAT/GMAT/MAT
Vivekanand Education Society's Institute of Management Studies & Research, Mumbai MAHCET/CAT/XAT/CMAT/ATMA/MAT
VIT Business School, Vellore CAT/XAT/CMAT/NMAT/MAT/GMAT
Xavier Institute of Social Service (XISS), Ranchi CAT/XAT/CMAT
Bschool_Name Entrance Test (s)
Acharya Institute of Management Studies, Bengaluru CAT/MAT
Army Institute of Management (AIM), Kolkata CAT, MAT, CMAT, KMAT, PGCET
Asia-Pacific Institute of Management, Delhi CAT/XAT/CMAT/GMAT/MAT
Birla Institute of Technology (BIT), Mesra, Ranchi CAT/XAT/CMAT/MAT
Christ Institute of Management, Ghaziabad CAT/XAT/CMAT/MAT/ATMA
Christ Institute of Management, Pune MAHCET/CAT/CMAT/MAT
Dhruva College of Management, Hyderabad CAT/XAT/CMAT/GMAT/MAT/ATMA
Gitam School of International Business, Visakhapatnam CAT/XAT/CMAT/MAT/GMAT/Own Test
Globsyn, Kolkata CAT/XAT
IILM Institute for Business and Management, Gurgaon CAT/XAT/CMAT/GMAT/MAT/ATMA
IILM Institute for Higher Education, Delhi CAT/XAT/CMAT/GMAT/MAT/ATMA
Indian Institute of Finance, New Delhi CAT/XAT/CMAT/GMAT/GRE
Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management (IITTM), Gwalior CAT/MAT/Own Test
Indian School of Mines (ISM), Dhanbad CAT
Indira Institute of Management, Pune MAHCET/CAT/XAT/CMAT/ATMA/MAT
Indus Business Academy (IBA), Bengaluru CAT/XAT/CMAT/MAT/ATMA/GMAT/GRE/GATE/STATE CETs
Jagan Institute of Management Studies, New Delhi CAT/XAT/CMAT/MAT/ATMA
Jaipuria Institute of Management, Jaipur CAT/XAT/CMAT/MAT/ATMA
Jaipuria Institute of Management, Lucknow CAT/XAT/CMAT/MAT/ATMA
Kirloskar Institute of Advanced Management Studies (KIAMS), Harihar CAT/XAT/CMAT/MAT/ATMA
Master School of Management, Meerut CAT/XAT
Myra School of Business, Mysuru CAT/XAT/GMAT/GRE
National Institute of Technology (NIT), Durgapur CAT/CMAT
National Institute of Technology (NIT), Warangal CAT /MAT
R. A. Podar Institute of Management, Jaipur Own Test
SRM University, Chennai Own Test
St Joseph's College of Business Administration, Bengaluru CAT/XAT/CMAT/ATMA/MAT
St Francis Institute of Management and Research (SFIMR), Mumbai MAHCET/CAT/XAT/CMAT/ATMA/MAT
Symbiosis Institute of Computer Studies and Research, Pune SNAP
Symbiosis Institute of Health Sciences, Pune SNAP
Symbiosis School of Media and Communication, Bengaluru SNAP
Xavier Institute of Management & Entreprenuership (XIME), Kochi CAT/XAT/CMAT/MAT