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A file photo of CAT aspirants outside an examination centre in Mumbai. Photo: Bachchan Kumar/HT (Bachchan Kumar/HT)
A file photo of CAT aspirants outside an examination centre in Mumbai. Photo: Bachchan Kumar/HT
(Bachchan Kumar/HT)

IIM entrance exam sees shift in aspirants’ demography

The entrance exam has seen a spike in the number of candidates from underprivileged sections and women

New Delhi: More women and people from less-developed states and underprivileged backgrounds are seeking admission to the country’s top business schools this year.

The trend is visible in demographic data of applicants appearing for CAT, the online test that is being held between 11 October and 6 November for admission to B-schools including the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs).

This year, the number of aspirants from other backward classes, scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs) has seen a jump of 12.7% from last year, Debashis Chatterjee, director of IIM-Kozhikode, told reporters. In all, there are 45,094 such candidates out of a total 214,068.

“The big picture is there is a shift in the candidate pool in terms of gender, social balance and work experience," Chatterjee added. This year, IIM-Kozhikode is conducting the common admission test, or CAT, the entrance exam for selection to 13 IIMs across India. There are around 3,500 seats at the IIMs.

Besides, in an indication of the growing aspirations of rural India, there has also been an increase in the number of candidates from less-developed states such as Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, up 5-8% from last year.

“This exam is an index of a broader change happening in our country at the societal level," Chatterjee said.

The IIMs said there has been significant growth (8.6%) in the number of female aspirants, while the number of those with at least two-three years of work experience has risen 43%.

This seems to have come after some IIMs started giving preference to female candidates to bring about heterogeneity and gender balance in the class room. For example, 35% of students in IIM-Kozhikode’s 2012-14 batch are women, double of what it was three years ago. But in IIM-Kashipur in Uttrakhand, set up 2011, there’s just one woman in the 2012 batch. Overall, the percentage of women in the IIMs is less than 15%.

“The growth in the number of women candidates is not surprising, but growth of SC and ST category students is a pleasant surprise," said Ajay Arora, founder-director of Vistamind, a management education coaching institute chain.

He said the increase in the number of students with work experience is an indication of greater maturity among applicants. “They understand the value of work experience and then (getting) an MBA degree," he said. “Moreover, they will not have to take a huge amount of study loan as part of it can come from their own savings."

While the number of female aspirants have risen, the IIMs are also thinking of making sure there are more students from non-engineering backgrounds such as humanities.

“IIMs are brainstorming and will come up with certain changes in the exam pattern in due course," said S.S.S. Kumar, convenor of CAT 2012.

“The exam pattern is a little skewed towards engineers. Maybe a little bit of balance is required. By bringing critical reasoning and essay writing, they can bring in more students from backgrounds like humanities," said Arora of Vistamind. “The focus should be to get the best of both worlds—a good student of humanities is better than a worse student of engineering."

CAT has two sections—the first is on quantitative ability and data interpretation, while the second is on verbal ability and logical reasoning.

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