Choosing the right B-school

Which Exams to Write?

The exams you write will clearly depend on the B-school you wish to join. However, often the dependence is not so clear. You can identify opportunities of a good B-school through the entrance exam as well. Read on.

The following things should be considered while looking for the B-schools to apply to:

Depending on your current level of preparedness, how much time and effort you are willing to put in and, you should get a realistic estimate of the score range you can expect in the main exam. While selecting the B-schools to apply to, you should select around 60% applications from the expected performance band (realistic case), around 20% from the band above your expected range (optimistic case) and the remaining from the lower band (pessimistic case).

AIMCAT percentile to actual CAT percentile:

We would want to give you a simple linear formula for converting the AIMCAT percentiles into your expected percentile in CAT. However, it often depends on a host of things and is not easily converted:

  1. Your CAT percentile depends not only on your level of preparedness but also on how you handle the pressure during the 170 min of the test. A difference of 2-3 right questions could mean a difference of 5-10 percentile points. AIMCATs are a measure of your level of preparedness at a given time, but they need not be a reflection of the degree of seriousness.
  2. As the AIMCATs progress, more and more "top – performers" join in to write the tests while many no-so-good-performers tend to stop writing the test. As a result, even though the number of test-takers remains the same, the degree of competition increases with every passing test.
  3. You can not say which is your true performance in the AIMCATs - a 98 percentile obtained in one AIMCAT or a 85 percentile obtained in another? It clearly is dependent on the recency of the performance and the degree of preparedness – as it has progressed.

In general, you can assume that if you perform to your potential during the test you would score several percentile points better than your best AIMCAT performance. The extent of improvement depends on the range of the best performance. The improvement would be around 5-8 points, 10-15 points and 15-20 points depending on your best performance being in the 90s, 80s and 70s respectively.

The number of B-schools that you need to apply to definitely depends on how keen you are to pursue an MBA or alternately how urgent it is for you to get into a B-school. If we look at three different categories of students, this would become clear:

  1. Pursuing final year of graduation: The student may be very keen on getting into a management institute but he/she can afford to try again next year if he/she does not get into an institute of one's choice. So, he/she may apply rather selectively. Again it would also depend on your placement prospects, the nature and location of the organization you could be joining etc. Remember, "You do your MBA only once. You must do it from a B-school that is at the top of your potential."
  2. Completed graduation and not involved in any full-time occupation: In this case, one would be advised to spread the applications to cover the best, average and the worst case scenario. You should definitely apply to a few extra institutes on the pessimistic side.
  3. Working professional: If you are employed, you should consider the level of placements you would want post MBA, discount for the fees (opportunity cost of money), how keen are you on changing your stream etc and apply only to institutes which conform to the minimum return on investment criteria.

Reservation Status:

Various B-schools offer reservation on the basis of Caste, Religion, Domicile, Family background etc. Please check if you are eligible for any of these and apply liberally to B-schools in the category. The following thumb rules should help

  1. If the cutoff for an IIM call for a general category student is around 97, then the cutoffs for OBC, SC, ST, PH categories would be around 90, 80, 75 and 70 percentiles respectively.
  2. All Government or State University-run B-schools would follow the government reservation norms. A few private Institutes would also have reservation.
  3. It is always better to visit the website of a B-school and confirm the reservation related policy in case of a doubt.

Please click here for the Reservation policy of B-schools in India

Sectoral Programmes:

The number of applications to the sectoral programme B-schools are generally lower than the General MBA programmes.

  1. Look for a programme that is Sectoral but sufficiently generic. For example, Human Resource Management is a sectoral programme but will offer you sufficient leverage in placement prospects. A programme that is too niche might pose difficulty if you wish to change your stream at a later stage.
  2. Even the B-schools offering regular MBA programmes have sectoral programmes. Look for detail. For example, NMIMS would have a programme for Banking, MDI has a programme for HR Management etc.

Please click here for the admission process adopted by various B-schools in India.

Regular MBA (PGP or MBA) VS Executive MBA VS One-Year MBA VS FPM:

The following pointers should help:

  1. There is no difference between PGP and MBA as far as placements go. Technically, a programme affiliated to a university offers MBA while a programme run by an autonomous institute offers PGPM/PGDM. IIMs offer PGDM.
  2. Executive MBAs are good for candidates with at least 3 years of experience and who do not require much placement assistance from the college.
  3. One year MBAs are typically offered by ISB, Hyderabad, IIMs, XLRI Jamshedpur, SPJain Mumbai and Great Lakes, Chennai. The programmes stand out on account of the reputation, saving of an year (during which you can earn to offset your costs).
  4. FPM (Fellowship Programmes in Management) are 3 year MBA programmes ideally suited for candidates who wish to take up Ph.D. in Management or teaching assignments. The job prospects are very different from the regular MBA programmes.

Please click here for a detailed comparison of the various types of MBA programmes offered in India.


A large number of management institutes boast of a 100% placement record for their students. With management institutes mushrooming all over the country these claims should not be taken at face value, and should be scrutinised more closely.

Please click here for the details of the Final/Summer placements at some of the top B-schools in India.

With the application (form) fee for each institute being in the range of Rs.500 to Rs.1600, you may not want to look at more than 10-12 institutes. It is always a good practice to select institutes across categories. At the same time, you also need to keep in mind that CAT, XAT, CMAT, SNAP, MAT and ATMA are comprehensive exams and you may need to apply to the institues seperately. So, the cost of application will have to be considered. The remaining exams viz IIFT, TISSNET, NMAT and MICAT are institute specific tests.

At the end of the year you could be choosing from a range of 12 B-school entrances (Institutes offering admission to more than a B-school: CAT, XAT, SNAP, CMAT, MAT, ATMA, Institutes offering admission to a single B-school (may have multiple campuses): IIFT, TISSNET, NMAT, MICAT, IBSAT).

Even though your CAT prep prepares you for all the exams, there are variations in the finer detail. And that could be an opportunity for you. For eg, XAT has a section on Decision Making, TISS NET has a relatively easier entrance test, IIFT has a liking for calculation intensive paper with a tough general awareness section, CMAT is a relatively easy exam offering B-schools in a very broad range. You only need to identify the exam where you are more likely to do better and make sure you apply to it.

Please click here to get an idea of the latest exam patterns for the National MBA Entrance tests.