Engineers and the CAT exam; what is the equation?

Engineers and the CAT exam; what is the equation?

Engineers and the CAT exam
Engineers and the CAT exam

There is no dearth of sites which talk about CAT and engineers imprudently. Any information coming from IIMs is seen through the prism of doubt “Does it make it easier or tougher for Engineers?”

Let us not take a laid-back approach and instead go all out in deciphering the two primary myths centered on MBA in India and Engineers


Myth Number 1 – CAT is rigged in favour of engineers

Clearly this myth has no substance as the exam tests basic math, the kind of stuff students are expected to learn in class VI to X. If a keen 10th standard student were to take the CAT, he/she should ace the exam. There is nothing in the exam that engineers have a particular advantage in cracking. There is absolutely no overlap between the math engineers learn in their engineering and CAT.

All said and done why do so many engineers crack the exam. Two reasons stand out for clearly.


  1. Engineers do comprise of the largest faction of students taking the CAT exam. There is not a stunning revelation, but something a great many fabulously ignore while discussing CAT and engineers. They form a giant proportion of the applicant pool, it is to be expected that they should form a giant proportion of the people joining.


  1. Most Indian Engineers did not choose to do engineering; they went there because it is considered a good option. Now, this is vital. 90% of Indian 18-year olds do not have a clear idea about what they want to study (90% of the remaining are delusional, but that is an article for another time). Students try to do engineering because it is considered to be among the best options. Now, what this means is that engineering group enjoys a certain pre-selection. A great many try to do engineering. A bunch of them don’t get good seats, so do some other course. A further round of pre-selection happens for IITs and NITs. So, the simple truth is that among the guys who tried to do engineering (a large percentage of the population), some 20% succeed, and within this some 10% get into the very best colleges. Obviously, these guys are the ones who are better-suited to cracking another exam.


Draw a parallel to this. Let us take the leading providers for mock CATs in the Country and select the 1000 guys who have consistently scored the above 95th percentile in one or more of this. The chances are that 50% of these 1000 will make it to one of the top 10. Now imagine a backlash against them where complaints pour in about how the game is rigged in favour of these 1000. Correlation does not imply causality. If you have a large group that has gone through pre-selection, chances are it will do well in subsequent exams.


Testing basic quantitative ability and verbal ability has been accepted as a decent proxy for gauging ability and smarts. The CAT does a decent job of this. Feeling aggrieved that engineers crack this is akin to feeling aggrieved that the IIMs want smart people. A bunch of IIT-ians and NIT-ians do well in CAT because they are good. Not because they are favoured in any way. The exam is already a level playing field.


The arguments that the playing field is not level should be based on the content of the exam, not on the basis that engineers get in. Contrary to popular belief, the quant tested in CAT is not rocket science. Anyone who took CAT 2014 will tell you this.


Myth Number 2. The IIMs in a bid to increase diversity, have rigged the game against engineers

This myth can be exploded with a simple stat. In each of the past 3 years, give or take 95% of the entrants into IIMA have been engineers. Let us take in this stat again. We are not talking about a majority here, we are not even talking about a majority that can push through constitutional change, we are talking about overwhelming, minority-crushing, autocracy-threatening majority here. On the front of game being rigged against engineers, there is no room for even a conversation.


IIMA, after conducting a rigorous process where they claim to increase diversity manage to select  ~20 students every year who are not engineers.


So, where does this leave us?

If you are not an engineer, shed this persecution complex. Write two things down on a big white wall

1) CAT is not easier for engineers and

2) Correlation does not imply causality. (The second one should be written down on as many white walls as possible)


If you are an engineer, shed this persecution complex. If you are an engineer, you probably have a lot of practice in ignoring stuff written on walls, so do not write anything on a wall.


CAT tests aptitude, the interview process is also meritocratic. Anyone who puts his/her down prepares with focus and sincerity can crack this exam.


Fabulous internet myths on the same theme

  1. CAT is rigged in favour of engineers.
  2. CAT has made it extra tough for engineers to get through.
  3. IIMs have increased their focus on diversity this year
  4. Verbal will be made tougher this year in order to make it tougher for engineers (Engineers are supposedly better at Quant. Why should they be worse in Verbal?)
  5. Onscreen calculator has made it easier for engineers (Because they can type in numbers quicker)
  6. Onscreen calculator has made it easier for non-engineers (because engineers type in numbers incorrectly)
  7. Separate timings for each section has made life easier for non-engineers/engineers


All of these theories are peddled by people who do not have any better way of spending their time. Thankfully, they are debunked by people who even though they have far better ways of spending their time, have suddenly been so irritated by the amount of “expert gyaan” on silly websites have made it their evening’s work to rant on the internet. Have fun preparing for CAT.

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