“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Every year when CAT results are declared, there are a lot of students who end up with scores that are less than what they hoped to get. They are in dilemma as to whether they should prepare for one more year or to take up an institute in which they have got selected. Though there is no exact method to make this decision, I would like to put forth certain aspects which should be considered before the students make the final call.

It is very important to answer these questions as honestly as possible. All these aspects should be considered as a whole.

  1. Have you done the best preparation possible?

    A very important aspect for you to consider is as to whether you have given your best. Did you have semester exams/project deadlines/other factors which prevented you from giving your best? If you have not given your best last year and if you think that you can give your best in your next attempt or after a year, then you should seriously consider writing CAT again. Since you are most likely to work for around 35 more years, it makes sense to give your best and prepare for one more year and try to get into a better institute. This way you will also not regret about not giving your best. If you think you can do better preparation and can improve your score significantly then you must back yourself and try for one more year.

  2. Are you motivated enough to try for one more year?

    Preparing for one more year is not easy. A lot of people lose the momentum in their second or third attempt and end up with lower scores. Ask yourself if you have the motivation to work hard for one more year. There is no assurance that you will get a higher score. There will be more stress on you since you are preparing for one more year. You have to compete with the best and unless you are highly motivated to try for one more year, the increase in score will be marginal and you might just end up with a similar score. However, if you are clear that you have the motivation and you will be able to sustain it for one more year, then you should consider writing CAT again. Motivation can be increased in multiple ways like talking to a person who succeeded in his second or third attempt and who has a similar profile as yours. However, do not underestimate the stress of preparing for one more year.

  3. Have you come very close to your goals?

    I have seen students who have missed the cutoff of IIM’s by a very small margin. It is a very tough situation to be in. If you have come very close to your goal, then there is a very high chance that you will achieve it next time. However, you are mostly like to have many other good options available. There are 2 ways to succeed .One is to get into IIM’s and get into a top company and grow. The other is to get into other very good institutes that are almost at par with the IIM’s and choose your area where you want to specialize and become excellent in that area. One year spent in working on Mathematics and English could be spent on becoming better in your field. It is upto you to decide if you want to spend one more year to achieve your original goal or to modify your goals. Many institutes offer similar opportunities that IIM’s offer. Except for a few roles that might be exclusively available for a few IIM’s, most of the roles offered in top institutes are similar and most of the companies go for recruitment for most of the top institutes. If you are aiming at those few roles which are offered only at the IIM’s, it might make sense to write again. Otherwise, a better option might be to save a year and join a top institute. Getting an expert’s guidance esp. one who knows you well is recommended.

  4. Do you want to go for a specialized institute?

    There are some students who are very clear about their career and where they want to study .For e.g. some students want to have a career in Advertising /Rural Management. If you want to get into an institute which is known to specialize in one area, then you should try for it again. If you are unable to get into these institutes, explore colleges outside India which offer the course. There are very few people who are very clear about which area they want to spend the rest of their lives in. If you are one of those, then it makes no sense to join some institute which offers a general management course and not a specialized course..

  5. Have you decided on your specialization?

    If you get admission into a college for a particular specialization, you must think if that is what you really want. A lot of students choose finance as a specialization without knowing if a career in finance is the best possible career for them. They ace their interview because of prepared answers for possible questions. If you are not sure then you should not join such an institute. You must a) choose an institute which allows you to choose your specialization in the second year or b) write CAT again c)explore other options apart from CAT. Do not choose a discipline just because your cousin took it and got a very high paying job. Each person is different.

  6. Did you underperform in the exam (in one section or more)? Do you think you can improve significantly in your next attempt?

    Some students do very well in all sections, except one. Though their overall percentile might be high, they might not have cleared the sectional cutoff and hence might have lost out on getting a call from the IIM’s. It could have been a bad day. You might have panicked in the exam or you might have got tired and could not concentrate as hard as you wanted to. You might have had semester exams that just ended before CAT or might have had a very tough time at the office or you might have been sick. If you are one of those who have lost out on sectional cutoff of one section/underperformed on the day and feel that you can definitely improve significantly in the next attempt, you should seriously consider writing CAT again. You can surely improve on your score and get into a way better institute.

  7. How many times have you tried so far?

    Actually this should not matter as the past cannot be changed .You should also not let the past affect your future. Remember sunk cost. However, it is easier said than done. A lot of people really think that they cannot improve after their second attempt. If you have written twice, you could think that you have tried twice already and hence there can be no further improvement or you could think that you have the experience of writing twice and hence you are definitely going to improve in the next attempt. You can consider it a waste of time or you could consider it an investment. The best way would be to assess how you feel. This is about you and your career. If you feel you have tried enough, then choose from the options you have.

  8. What is your risk profile?

    Each of us has a different risk profile. There are people who cross the pacific ocean on a boat and there are those who do not want to get on a boat. The question “What if I get a lower score in the next attempt?” plays on the mind of a lot of students. There is a possibility that you could get lower in the next attempt. But should you think negatively? Should you make a decision based on negative thoughts? When you become a leader and take on a project, there is always a chance that things could fail. Will you give up on a project because there is a chance of failure? There are very few things in life that are certain. The best leaders would look at data that is available and make a decision based on the available data. Ideally that should be the way to make the decision. Consider all the other aspects mentioned and take a decision. If you are very afraid that your score would go down, then it is better to not write again. Many times these are self-fulfilling prophecies -“a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself “

  9. Did you start from a very low base in the previous attempt?

    Sometimes students start from a very low base in one of the sections. There are students who are not proficient in English to the required level as they might cover from a “Tamil Medium” of instruction. There are commerce students who have lost touch with Mathematics for many years. There are work experienced people who have not had the necessity to do calculations manually and hence lost touch in Mathematics. In spite of working hard for CAT, some of these people are not able to reach the cutoff. Preparing for one more year would surely help these people in getting a much higher score. If you are one of such people, you should consider preparing for one more year and write CAT again. I have seen students from “Tamil Medium” of instruction get into top IIM’s through sheer hard work and will power. One more year of preparation under proper guidance will surely give results

  10. Age, marriage plans and Support system.

    If your parents are planning to get you married in a couple of years or you are already married or if you do not have a strong support system at home, then you have to have a candid discussion with your parents/spouse on your course of action. Your decision to write CAT again should be based on the outcome of the discussion. Do not underestimate the pressure that family can exert on you. It will affect your preparation.

  11. Profile factor

    If you are an Engineer, Male and belong to the general category, the cutoff for the IIM’s is very high. However, there are many people who have made it into the IIM’s in the second attempt with this profile. Just get information on the cutoff required for getting into your dream institute before you make a decision. Another factor that you must take into consideration is the number of years of experience that you have. Having more years of experience might become a disadvantage if you want to change your field. However if you can convince your prospective employers as to how your experience would be valuable to them, then your experience would be an advantage to you. Get expert opinion on this if you are planning to shift to a new field. If you have reservation then your chances of getting selected is higher and a lot of people who prepare sincerely for second or third attempt achieve their goals..

  12. Opportunity cost

    If you join an institute, you are going to lose out on salary for one year or two years and you are going to spend a significant amount on fees and other expenses. If your current salary is already high and you are in a very good role, it makes no sense to join an average institute. Instead, you should try to join a top institute only even if it takes one more year. If you do not get into a top institute in India, consider writing GMAT and try to get into a top institute in some other country.

  13. Did you get excellent training

    Many people do not achieve their potential as they do not get proper guidance while preparing. Identifying weak areas early in your preparation along with clarification of doubts is very important towards optimizing your scores. If you did not get excellent training and if you feel that you will get proper training next year, then you can consider writing CAT again.

  14. Did you come to the interview stage and lose?

    If you lost out on a top b-school in the interview stage and if you have not got selected in other top b-schools, you should consider writing CAT again. However, if you have offers from other b-schools which are in the same category, then there is no point in writing again.

  15. Did you consider all options?

    Apart from CAT, there are many other ways of getting into a top b-school. GMAT is used by a lot of b-schools abroad. At present, GRE scores are also used by many institutes. Try to get information about courses and their selection procedure in institutes from multiple countries. If you have a very good profile with good work experience, the GMAT score requirement is low and can easily be obtained with little preparation. Also check if you have to do a full time course. Many start ups are offering managerial roles for high performers even if they have not done an MBA. If you are already very successful, check if you could get the role that you want by talking to Senior HR professionals. You could also consider doing an MBA program for executives. .

Other factors that might be specific to you like a lot of free days in your final year in college or a delayed joining date in the company where you got placed can also be taken into consideration.

All these aspects have to be considered together. The best way to decide if you want to spend one more year preparing for CAT is to consider all the factors and have a candid discussion with a well-wisher. It is very important to be honest to yourself when you are considering the factors. There is no point in spending one year on preparation and joining a slightly better b-school next year. You could spend the time on focusing on your specialization and getting certifications.

Clearing CAT indicates a high level of proficiency in certain areas. It indicates that a person is very good in certain skills which are valuable. However, not clearing CAT doesn’t mean that a person is not excellent. . If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. There are skills that are not measured in CAT which a person might possess and would help him/her become very successful. You might possess such qualities and you might be more successful if you hone your skills in areas where you are excellent instead of focusing on CAT preparation for one more year.

The most successful people believe in their abilities during dark times when things have not gone their way. It is important to back yourself in these times. The most important thing is that, whatever decision you take must be something that you do not regret later.

Believe in yourself, count your blessings and remember that the darkest hour is just before dawn. See the big picture. Live your life with passion. There are thousands of opportunities outside and if you work hard enough and long enough in a field where you have passion, you will definitely succeed. Make yourself mentally tough and chase your dreams.