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CAT’s out of the bag; enter GATE

Chetna Mehra
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Applications for CAT fell to 1.94 lakh this year

The number of applicants for the common admission test (CAT), the ticket to the country’s best business schools, has declined considerably this year. Only 1.94 lakh registered for the exam this year, against 2.14 lakh in 2012, and a massive 2.9 lakh in 2008. This year, the CAT is being held from October 16 to November 11. The last date for applications was September 26.

So, what are these applicants who are shying away from CAT up to? As most CAT applicants are engineers and with GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering) becoming mandatory for public sector jobs, many of them are attempting this exam and giving the coveted CAT a miss.

“CAT prep is our most visible product offering but the growing category is definitely GATE prep,” says Ajay Antony, Director, Chennai, of Triumphant Institute of Management Education (TIME). “As the number of CAT aspirants declines, they are bound to shift to other career options. Since CAT-takers are mostly engineers, aspirants for GATE have gone up tremendously.”

Many engineers are taking GATE to qualify for public sector jobs nowadays, according to Antony. “It is one of the reasons we have seen more than double the growth in GATE prep in the last three years,” he adds.

Sandeep Manudhane, Chairman of PT Education, agrees that the overall pace of the CAT prep industry has slowed compared with the boom times of 2007-08. “The registration for our CAT prep training has dropped 10-15 per cent in the last few years but our other programmes are on a significant growth trajectory.”

PT Education has a separate IAS academy for civil services preparation.

“Students know that the glory years of an MBA will take their time to return and are not afraid to explore multiple options,” says Manudhane. Some even pursue MBA prep and IAS prep at the same time, he adds. “MBA prep takes around a year-and-a-half, whereas IAS prep can take much longer. So, students prefer to study for both.”

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STILL a SWEETHEART

Though the numbers indicate a decline, Vijay Jha, Senior Vice-President, Career Launcher, shares a different point of view. “The number of CAT aspirants has more or less stabilised, it remains close to 2 lakh each year,” says Jha. “It’s not really a decline but we may call it rationalisation of numbers, as earlier too many non-serious people were also attempting CAT.” Also, many third- or fourth-rung institutes have shut down as well, hence, the correction in application numbers. “Top-rung business schools have not experienced a decline in applications,” he adds.

Antony of TIME says compared with 2011there is definitely a a lull in the market but the real picture will only emerge next year. “Students are becoming more careful in exercising options, but MBA/CAT still remains their preferred choice,” he adds.

(This article was published on October 6, 2013)
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