Things you should know about B-Schools in India

Things you should know about B-Schools in India

April 2009

*Some of the figures are an approximate.

This is not an attempt to discourage anyone from doing an Indian MBA. Just that these are few things coaching classes and peers will not tell you. Most don't understand and others are too lazy to analyze. I hope it helps some.

Total Number of test takers – CAT 2008: 246546

One should note that the above figures for each IIM are not mutually exclusive i.e. there are multiple call getters. Hence one cannot add all the numbers and say that many students got calls. The actual number of call getters will vary from year to year depending on the overlap. But in a year where selection criteria was vastly different for all the different IIMs, number of overlaps was less and thus number of people called in total was more. However, there will still not be more than 2000 candidates out of around 210,000 open category candidates who have 1 or more calls for group discussion and personal interviews. In total less than 1% of the population who takes the test gets a GD-PI call and only around 0.6% people finally make it to the IIMs.

Harvard Business School had 8661 applications in 2008. It admitted 900 candidates. 12% made it to Harvard. Almost all top Schools around the world admit approximately 10% or more of the total applications received. Even ISB Hyderabad, which has admitted 579 students for 2009-10 has a close to 10% acceptance record.

In India things are different. For about 240 seats at XLRI over 80,000 students wrote the entrance test in 2009. Tests like SNAP and NMAT also boast of over 50,000 applications.

The good thing about Indian B-schools is the fees. Even though most B-schools have increased fees by 75%-100% in the last 2 years in India, by all standards the financial burden is still very less compared to most B-schools abroad or even ISB hyderbabad.

The tests are not error-free

For 3 years in a row we have seen errors in the CAT paper. Students spend crucial time trying to solve a question which is wrong. It’s amazing almost no MBA entrance exam is error free! Invariably, there is an error. Actually, we should be thankful that these can be pointed out now because the question booklet is allowed to be retained by the test taker. Previously, the booklets would go back with the answer sheet. You would only know your final score/Percentile assuming that the question paper was error free. Sometimes, the paper may be error free but the answer keys may be wrong! Everyone knows what happened with the Snap Test in 2008. This was the first time they gave back the question booklet and hence, students could point out the mistakes due to wide discrepancy between the marks they should have got and the marks shown by the SNAP test scorecard.

I must tell you though that after the GMAT you directly get the score/Percentile. You cannot verify whether the answers were correct. You do not even know which questions you answered correctly and which ones you did not. You have to assume that the software and the GMAC are very competent and they will not make a mistake. Transparency is difficult because there are multiple tests and different people take those tests at different times. There is a chance of overlap of questions.

Placement figures are not verified by any independent agency

Most students join B-schools based on Placements. Most rankings focus on that. Most advertisements of newer B-schools talk about placements. The Indian Media is obsessed with placements. However, there is not a single B-school in India to the best of my knowledge that gets it’s placement process and figures verified by an external independent agency. Even the T.I.M.E institute gets its results/calls verified by KPMG.

There have been many instances where students have been fooled into joining a new B-school by advertisements that promise great placements. Only after joining they discover that the actual figures are miles away from the advertised ones.

Even students in esteemed institutions like the IIMs and XLRI claim privately that in order to keep their reputation intact official placement figures are manipulated in a way that suits them. No B-school in India barring maybe ISB discloses median salary. Mean salary can be very misleading. Of course I don’t have any proof that the B-schools abroad are 100% honest but prima facie the information they disclose seems very authentic.

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Short listing and selection criteria are subject to change anytime and it comes out only after the test is over!

Most IIMs disclose the criteria for short listing only after the test (CAT) is over. It changes every year and depending on the test the IIMs tweak their criteria. Let me explain how it affects students. 2007 CAT results were announced and students discovered that IIM Indore has given calls to people with percentile as low as 85 as long as their overall percentile is high. IIM Lucknow announced a 60% weightage to overall CAT score/percentile and a cutoff of 85 percentile per section. All this after the test was over! A genuine student would have tried to balance all 3 sections to get a 90+ in all or 95+ not looking at the overall Percentile and score. It may so happen that he would have got decent sectional scores but low overall score. But the IIMs called people who had screwed up one/two sections but had done very well overall! Fine, if this is your criteria at least disclose it before the test so that students can strategise! Chance does play a role in the current scheme of things. You have to keep your fingers crossed so that the IIMs decide upon a criterion that suits you!

Another example is the sudden introduction of Xth, XIIth and graduation marks in the selection process. Again, fine you want to introduce it. But at least tell us beforehand. There are some people who suddenly get shocks after the result. In spite of getting 99.5+ percentiles overall they still end up missing calls whereas people with 98.xx make it. In IIM B’s case even people with 95 may make it. (To be fair to IIM B though they have always maintained they take into account academic scores.)

Even other Indian B-schools do this. IIMs are not the only ones guilty. IMI Delhi tried doing it. There was a student outrage over it. They reverted to old.

Normalisation of Xth, XIIth and graduation scores is a mystery

Even when Xth/XIIth and graduation scores are taken into account, it is still a mystery whether normalization is done. Normalization means the process of bringing at par scores of various boards, streams and universities. Typically marking schemes of most boards in a country as diverse as India are very varied.

Now everyone knows in cities like Mumbai, that Commerce/Science/Arts marking schemes are very different. The IIMs compare them at par. They can’t have an explanation for this as they have no clue whether the person did his junior college in Commerce/Science/Arts. Reason: they don’t ask for it in the form! They only ask grad stream which may be different from 12th STD.

IIM B claims they normalize the scores. We will never know this. They will never reveal data that they have so you cannot be sure whether it was done. You will only know your score. Other IIMs don’t even claim to do it. IIM A has not done it this year (CAT 2008). I have a letter from them which they sent under RTI. IIM L also does not normalize. It is almost impossible for any Mumbai University engineer to get into IIM Shillong.

So basically, if your mum and dad put you in a board which follows a lower marking pattern you are bound to be doomed. I think the IIMs want people to start planning 20 years in advance if they want to send their children to IIM.

This is also true of other B-schools of India except SPJain who take into account academics.

Most B-school rankings are a farce

There is not too much debate on this issue. Anyone who has followed B-school rankings of different agencies and publications in India will tell you that these rankings are very misleading. Most of them are unscientific and tend to promote some or the other B-School.


Lesser said the better. In due course of time IIMs will have a batch with 50% reserved category applicants. The number of open category seats will remain unchanged though. Private B-schools do not have reservations yet. But some good B-schools indulge in Management quotas in order to make some more money.

Diversity and Female candidates

There is no diversity in Indian B-schools. Most have above 80% engineers. Some even have about 92-93% engineers. Girls form not more than 5-8% of the batch at the IIMs. Ratio is better at Private B-schools. This is due to less number of females applying (50,000 approx out of 246546 in 2008) and need to disclose selection criteria. One of the IIM directors has publicly admitted that previously they used to fuzz the results to get in more girls. A lot of tinkering done with the CAT test and the selection criteria in 2008 was to improve the female: male ratio. ISB Hyderabad due to a subjective process has about 28% of females in the batch. SPJain , MICA(close to 50%) and XLRI are other B-schools with relatively better female: male ratios. SPJain and MICA(due to the programme itself) have a better non-engineering students percentage too.

(Just in case you feel that way, it is not a case of sour grapes. I scored 99.7% in CAT 2008 with a 95% plus in all 3 sections. This is purely for the benefit of students who want to pursue management education in India.)

- Ankit Doshi