The biggest exam of the year for young management hopefuls -- the CAT -- was held on Sunday November 16.
Lakhs of ambitious young students and professionals across the country took the exam, vying for a spot at one of the prestigious IIMs or at any of the 110 B-schools across the country that require shining CAT scores.
Earning an MBA degree to most test-takers in turn offers a good chance of landing a job at an MNC. It also means a great start in your professional life as most B-schools promise placements in reputed companies. Of course, the money that comes with the job is no small attraction. And the CAT exam is the key to this coveted degree. It's the entrance exam that determines which B-school (if any) you will get admission to. Thus, it comes as no surprise that students spend months preparing for this exam, sometimes alongside their jobs.
While thousands invested many months and much money in preparing for the test, to others, the CAT was just another exam in the continuing search for a lucrative career.
What is the significance of this exam for an average student or working professional? And are careers in management as attractive as ever? We caught up with test-takers from across India to find out!
The precincts of Meenakshi College, Kodambakkam, Chennai, are peaceful, as though unaware of the nervous tension burgeoning in some parts of the building.
Anxious parents arrived a least half an hour before the end of the exam, pacing the tree-lined avenue, awaiting the arrival of their sons and daughters.
As the clock struck one and the students poured out, the scene was one of jubilant pandemonium.
Quite justified. Finally an opportunity to release their tensions after months of hard work.
The first was Mallikarjun, who straggled out rather forlornly -- and at the sight of whom eager parents immediately stiffened in anticipation. He seemed to shy away like a frightened colt as we approached him -- and the reason was soon obvious: he hadn't really done well.
The 23-year-old from Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh did have plans to pursue a course in management though -- "I think it has a future." Asked if he had an equally bright future, he seemed to dissolve into monosyllabic answers. The situation persisted when he was asked about the current economic scenario as well. After begging us fervently to not ask him any more questions, he made a plea for us to send him stills we'd taken -- and then disappeared into the chaotic crowd.
Candidate Two was far more promising: Anugraha, a 22-year-old BTech student looked the picture of a studious youngster. She explained, seriously, that she hoped to get into an IIM and added that there were lots of colleges and courses to choose from. "I'm confident of good scores," she replied with assurance. With her family's background in biotech, there was little reason for her to be nervous of the global scenario. "I'm hoping to specialise in international business when I complete my studies," she said firmly.
Inputs from Insiyah Vahanvaty (Mumbai), Navin Kumar (Delhi), Pavithra Srinivasan (Chennai), Shilpa Shet (Pune) and Vicky Nanjappa (Bangalore).
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj
Also see: CAT: The next step