When to Take the CAT

when to take the cat-magoosh

When to take the CAT? Your options may be limited, but there are some choices. Image by ulleo.

If you’re wondering when to take the CAT, you’ll need to consider three important factors. Think about the CAT’s stated eligibility criteria, your personal goals, and your preparedness for the exam. This is especially true if you’re considering taking the CAT in 2017! Preparing for the CAT can be a worthwhile but time-consuming process. If you’re not certain that you want to take the CAT this year, you may waste precious time better spent on your studies or career. On the other hand, if you decide to take the CAT this year, you’ll be able to start preparing for the exam early. This will give you your best shot at a top score.

When to Take the CAT: Eligibility Criteria

When considering when to take the CAT, the first step is to make sure that you’re actually eligible to do so. If the testmakers won’t permit you to take the exam, you’ll have to reconsider your goals. Depending on your situation, you may have several options. If you’re not far enough along in your studies, simply focus on getting the best marks possible and wait until your final year of your Bachelor’s (or until after you’ve completed your professional degree).

The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) haven’t posted the 2017 eligibility notice yet (they usually don’t until late July). In the meantime, the 2016 criteria indicate patterns of eligibility from recent years ..

CandidatesDegrees RequiredMarks RequiredPercentage of Seats Reserved for Candidate Type
General (with Bachelor's)Bachelor's degree from an accredited university50%+N/A
General (with professional degree)Professional degree, including CA, CS, or ICWA50%+N/A
General (students)Final year of Bachelor's degree50%+N/A
Other Backward Classes, non-creamy*Bachelor's or professional degree/Final year of Bachelor's degree50%+27%
Scheduled CasteBachelor's or professional degree/Final year of Bachelor's degree45%+15%
Scheduled TribeBachelor's or professional degree/Final year of Bachelor's degree45%+7.5%
Persons with Disability (PWD)Bachelor's or professional degree/Final year of Bachelor's degree45%+3%

*Definitions of these terms are can be found in several sources (1) (2).

Of course, even if you are eligible for the exam, make sure that you’ve registered in time. Registration for the CAT has typically opened in August and run through the end of September. Because the IIMs only offer the CAT on one day every year, you’ll have to wait until next year to take the CAT if you’ve missed this deadline.

When to Take the CAT: Personal Goals

You should only take the CAT if you’re reasonably sure that you want to apply to IIMs for the following academic year. Why? In the first place, CAT scores expire after a year. This means that even if you take the test and ace it, your scores will expire before the next admissions cycle. Secondly, the CAT exam requires a fair amount of preparation, as we’ll look at in a moment. Do you have the time and desire to prepare for the CAT this year? If not, you may need to reconsider your goal of attending an IIM, as they require the CAT exam for admission.

When to Take the CAT: Preparedness

It’s a bit of a Catch-22: If you’re not certain that you want to go to an IIM, you may waste a lot of time preparing for the exam. On the other hand, if you don’t prepare and later decide that you do want to attend an IIM, it may be too late to prepare well. The good news is that the registration period for the CAT exam is early, in August and September, for a test that takes place in late November or early December. This gives you around three months to prepare for the test—an option that’s workable for many people‎.

The bottom line? If you meet the eligibility criteria this year and want to attend an IIM next year, this might be a great time to start studying for the 2017 CAT. When to take the CAT is a personal decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly, but remember: The exam is meant to help you on your way to a bright future at an IIM. So if you’re dreaming of that next educational step, go ahead and take it!

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