Common Admission Test (CAT) is the gateway to IIMs and other prestigious business schools in India. But at the same time, it is regarded as one of the toughest exams to crack due to very high competition.
A lot of aspirants prepare for CAT after their graduation while on a job. And if you are in a hectic job, you may find it very difficult to concentrate on your studies.
So what should one do in such a scenario? Is it a wise choice to quit the job and start CAT preparation with full dedication? Or, is it possible to prepare for CAT while working full time? Let’s find out.
As a business manager, in life, you will have to make difficult decisions. Consider this decision as one of them. And to take any important decision, you need to sit calmly and think about what options do you have and what would be the outcome of each option.
CAT is not a knowledge-intensive exam. It is a conceptual exam which needs a lot of practice. The syllabus of CAT is very limited. One can easily cover the basic concepts in a couple of months. The time taking part is to practice as many questions as you can. And practice needs discipline and sincerity.
It does not matter how many hours a day you study. What matters is that you do it every day, even though it is only for one hour each day. This kind of regularity is needed to master the concepts. Another aspect is mock tests, which you should take very sincerely.
If you are preparing for CAT or planning to start soon, you can read my detailed article here: How to start preparing for CAT
The complete list of books and material you will need for your CAT preparation can be found here: List of Important CAT Preparation Books
Now lets come to why people quit their jobs to prepare for CAT. Most of the time it is a bad manager, less salary or disillusionment with the current job. It makes sense to leave something for something much better. But you have to decide the right time to do it.
Having a job has multiple advantages for your CAT preparation as described below.
1) Without a job, you are in a do-or-die situation
If you have a job, no matter what happens, your career is not ruined. A jobless preparation becomes a do-or-die scenario because one has to have a career no matter how they perform in CAT. This puts undue pressure on the candidate and many times they are not even able to concentrate as much as they could if they prepared along with their jobs.
2) Job gives you a routine
This may seem trivial, but when you are working, you have a fixed routine everyday. You wake up on time, go to office, eat on time, sleep on time. Your efficiency is very high and you try to utilize every free minute you find during the day to prepare for CAT. When you leave your job, you have no compulsion to follow this routine anymore. And that’s where you lose focus. Without a routine, without discipline, you unknowingly waste time and your efficiency gets low. Combined with the first point above, it is a disastrous situation to be in.
3) Pre-MBA experience matters in campus placements
If you left your job for preparation and got into your dream B-School, your pre-MBA job experience will still play a role in your campus placements. It is usually easier to answer job based questions in interview compared to academics. Many companies count this experience to calculate offered CTC and designation. Even a few months of extra experience may get you a higher position at a better salary compared to your classmates.
4) A gap is a negative point in your CV
Quitting job to prepare for CAT puts a gap in your CV which is hard to defend in any job interview. No matter what you say, you are seen as a quitter who could not handle job pressure along with studies. This may not be true for you, but for an interviewer, this matters and it can ruin one’s chances to get the job.
5) A job is your plan B
Job acts as a plan B in case things do not turn out as you wish. A lot of aspirants argue that thinking about a plan B is doubting their capability even before they start. This thinking is wrong, as it does not consider the unpredictable scenarios. One may be perfectly capable of cracking the exam, but life is full of uncertainties and it does not harm to have a backup option.
6) Your savings will help you pay your bills
This may not look like a critical point, but it does have its own importance. If you are selected into multiple B-Schools, sometimes you need to pay booking amount for multiple colleges in case you are waiting for your dream college convert. Your savings from job will help you pay these. Also, with each passing year, MBA is getting more expensive. Even if you get into an IIM, you will have to pay more than 20 lakh rupees just in fees, accommodation, food etc. Add your personal expenses to this, and the amount will increase even more. Though you will easily get collateral free education loan as this is a risk free loan for banks, it will definitely ease you if you have some savings from your job which you can use either to pay first installment of fees or for your personal expenses.
All these factors are important and should be considered while making the decision.
When I was preparing for CAT, I was working too. I was tempted to leave my job based on reasons similar to most other CAT aspirants. It was a very hectic job coupled with many other factors. But I did not. And it was a good decision.
I always advise against leaving your job for CAT preparation. However, there may be exceptions and one should take this decision based on their own circumstances.
I hope my experience and views will help you make the right decision.