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Posted at: Feb 20, 2019, 8:18 AM; last updated: Feb 20, 2019, 8:18 AM (IST)TESTING TIMES: CAT

Think twice before quitting job

Think twice before quitting job


The Common Admission Test (popularly known as the CAT) is a MBA entrance test for admissions into the IIMs and several other prestigious B-schools in our country. CAT is open to all MBA aspirants unlike business schools abroad that have a mandatory work experience criterion. It is sufficient for a candidate applying for CAT to have a bachelor’s degree in any discipline. 

However, aspirants with work experience have an edge over aspirants who are fresh from college. For working professionals a two-year MBA degree offers a leap in designation, pay and job functions that might otherwise take slightly longer time. 

Generally working professionals quit their current jobs to prepare for CAT. But this is a risky decision according to many. Venkatesh from Chennai feels he made a mistake quitting his full-time role in a software firm to prepare for the CAT. “I had 1.5 years work experience and had taken the CAT twice previously. I knew that it needed rigorous preparation. So I quit my job and planned to prepare for three months. I did not anticipate falling sick with jaundice two weeks before the CAT, and subsequently, I did not score enough to get into an IIM. I eventually got admitted into a premier B-school. But all my options were closed by the time I realised I might not enter an IIM”.

CAT is undoubtedly one of the toughest exams to crack in our country. Every serious aspirant would want to succeed with flying colours. But would a working professional be able to do justice to the CAT by juggling work and test preparation? Does staying in job guarantee success? 

No one rule

It is important to understand that everyone is different. There is no common template to apply in this decision-making scenario. One must look inwards and assess one’s capabilities and traits independently before arriving at a decision. Harshavardhan, student in an IIM, believes job environment, work load and work timings played a big part in his decision to quit his job for the second time to prepare for the CAT. He was working in the manufacturing sector, with a shift system, and found it very difficult to prepare after putting in long hours at work. “CAT is very unpredictable, and one’s performance in those threehours will determine one’s life. But after a person quits a job, he is motivated to perform because he has a lot at stake. This acts as a push factor for the people to perform better”. 

Aspirants should not follow the trend of quitting or staying put blindly without logic. Time management, discipline and work-life balance are few factors apart from the cognitive effort required to crack the exam that should influence an aspirant in their decision making. Critical evaluation by the individual with regard to staying in job or quitting is mandatory.

Understand & assess risks

While remaining employed while preparing for CATmay give an advantage in the selection process or may give the aspirant a buffer in case he does not get a good score. According to Sajan Kumar, student in an IIM, “Why did you quit job to focus only on this particular exam?” will be a grilling question that aspirants must be prepared to face in their admission interviews and learners will need to justify this decision appropriately. 

A working aspirant must understand that balancing work and preparation would cost him all the weekends and holidays over a year. 

Aspirants must be ready to manage pressures at work and prepare well for CAT during this period. A candidate who is choosing to quit his job to prepare for the CAT must evaluate if he can forgo the salary drawn for this period. 

In the event of clearing the CAT, the student invests two and half years of his life towards the MBA degree that includes the preparation time. In the event of not clearing the CAT or scoring lesser than anticipated, the student stands to lose up to a year of his career (this includes time taken to clear the interviews and group tasks and wait time for the results as well) The opportunity cost in this case is relatively high. There is also the case of a gap in one's career which will need to be justified. 

Other options

Part-time jobs are a good way of avoiding a career break in one’s CV as well. Many aspirants choose to tutor at CAT coaching centres during these career breaks. This works well for them because they just not prepare for the exam, but also strengthen their knowledge and understanding of concepts. 

Another option is to  request the workplace for a sabbatical to study for the test.

— The writer is an Associate Professor at Indian Institute of Management Amritsar. 



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