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Wondering how to crack CAT Exam if you are a GEM?

The curse of being a GEM

I looked for GEM’s literal meaning on google and this is what it said– “an outstanding person or thing”. However, the definition of this word for MBA aspirants is entirely different. The word GEM stands for General, Engineer, Male which is indeed a horrifying nightmare combo for anyone who holds an ambition of getting into prestigious IIMs of our country. The efforts and devotion needed by this breed of aspirants are manifold that of others.

A lot of GEM aspirants have approached me over years to evaluate their chances of getting into a good college. As someone who was in the same shoes a few years back, I can totally empathize with their concerns. Unfortunately, the criteria of shortlisting by IIMs keep on revising every year with some minor tweaks here and there, but the crux of the story is the focus of IIMs to introduce diversity in their batches lately.

It is believed that CAT is slightly favourable towards engineers as they are naturally good at maths. To ensure a level playing field, colleges have come up with ways to reward those who are not from engineering backgrounds (academic diversity).

Another argument that recruiters normally express is the dearth of female candidates in colleges. And hence a lot of institutes have started rewarding extra points to female candidates while preparing the shortlists (gender diversity). In effect, the weightage of the CAT percentile has diminished to accommodate academic and gender diversity. This has been done as a lot of male engineers had been getting into IIMs leaving less space for aspirants from other backgrounds.

What does this mean for GEMs?

The entire story can be concluded by the meme below:

And if you are still dedicated and passionate enough for it, you will have to earn it by performing extraordinarily well in CAT. But there is another catch, IIMs are not going to condone you just like that for the old sins you have committed in your life. They are eyeing candidates who have been a consistent performer throughout their life in all walks of their life, especially in academics. And this is specifically the reason why a lot of colleges assign weightage to candidates’ 10th, 12th and graduation scores while preparing shortlists.

Some colleges like IIM-Indore have criteria which might as well reject a 100 percentile over someone who has a 90 percentile, like 74/100 marks in their weightage are dedicated for candidates’ 10th and 12th scores (CAT score weightage is 20/100). In fact, all the colleges have a decent weightage for 10th,12th and grade scores, but IIM Indore seems to have taken it to a new level. 

And hence it is very important for aspirants to be realistic about their expectations and know beforehand the nuances which IIMs employ while preparing the shortlists.

The journey is even tougher for aspirants who have got work experience ranging between 0 and 12 months, as most of the IIMs give a significant weightage to candidates’ work experience.

The weightage is significant enough to bridge the gap in marks between a 98 and 99 percentile i.e. if you are a fresher and have secured 99.6 percentile against someone who has secured 98.6 percentile and has got a work-ex of 36 months, you might have the same weighted final score. Add to this the academic diversity and gender diversity scores, even a 100 percentile might not suffice at times.

The holy grail for GEMs

However, there is one IIM which still revers candidates who manage to secure a high percentile and forgives for most of the old sins. It is the holy grail for most of the GEMs. As you might have guessed correctly, I am talking about IIM Calcutta. Over the years, IIMC has not tweaked their criteria much and still believe in rewarding those who have secured good scores in CAT. 56/100 marks are dedicated to CAT scores and ~40 is dedicated to 10th, 12th, and grade scores.

But the criteria for getting these 40 marks are quite relaxed in comparison to other colleges and hence even the average profile candidates stand a good chance to get a shortlist here if they score a good percentile.

Even Lucknow has a high CAT score weightage, but they are rigid on other parameters which might not be favourable for GEMs. Amongst other good colleges, FMS, MDI, NITIE, IIFT, and XLRI are the ones which a GEM aspirant can focus on, as they atone for your past sins if you have a good percentile in written examinations. 😊

Bringing down the curtains

Here are the consolidated links for Top-6 IIMs which you can peruse to gauge your chances of securing a call from there. 

Getting a high percentile is a prerequisite to standing a chance of having a shortlist from these colleges. You cannot go back to your past and change what you have done or what you are. The only thing that is under your control is what you do in your present, which would also shape your future. Take up the cudgels and focus on taming this wild CAT with your full intensity and passion 😊

GEMs after reading this post 


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Indrajeet Singh
Indrajeet Singh
The mastermind behind IQuanta, Indrajeet Singh is an expert in Quant and has devised some ingenious formulae and shortcuts to significantly cut down on the time taken to solve a problem

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