As they prepare for the CAT, how do rural candidates handle the absence of quality coaching centres, which represents a drawback?

For candidates from the bigger cities, the task of cracking entrance tests like the Common Admission Test (CAT) is made easier with a host of enabling features. This includes quality school and college education, greater awareness and a number of excellent coaching centres that help them prepare rigorously.

But for students from many small towns and villages where facilities are inadequate, preparing for management entrance examinations could be a monumental task.

S. Babu Shekar, a research scholar in Cuddalore who appeared twice for the CAT, said the cost involved in both preparations and subsequent admission to coveted B-schools is very high. This is one of the major issues that hamper the performance of students from a rural background, who are mostly from the lower-income groups.Secondly, in recent years, the change in the format of CAT to online testing has made the preparations more difficult for such students. “The policy-makers were highly inconsiderate of the plight of students in small towns and villages when they took the decision. For most of us, our first exposure to online testing was on the actual date of the exam and it overwhelmed us to an extent,” Mr. Shekar said.

Though some are willing to pay for training, the lack of quality coaching centres is adding to their pressures. “None of the established training centres have their shops here (Puducherry). The smaller ones have incompetent faculty who are unable to impart the kind of training required for success in management exams,” said R. Vijayan, who appeared for the exam recently and is awaiting results.

Prof. Anjaneya Swami, head, Department of Tourism Management at Pondicherry University, said that schools and colleges in rural areas hardly prepare students for the kind of skills necessary for cracking CAT. “The exposure at these educational institutions is bad and has a telling effect on the students' self-esteem. Often, this makes the difference when people prepare for tough examinations like the CAT,” he said.

S. Balasubramanian, the Director of Triumphant Institute of Management Education (T.I.M.E), said that there was hardly any difference between students from cities and towns when it comes to basic abilities or the willingness to work hard. He said that though special training helps the student assess where he or she stands with respect to competition by providing test exposure, they are not indispensable.

Venugopal, who made it to the XLRI Jamshedpur from Puducherry, said that to score well in these examinations without special coaching, a systematic approach is necessary. “It is not a requisite that you need to join these big coaching centres. Identify a good private tutor who has strong teaching skills to help you with the subjects. But most of the work has to be done by yourself,” he said.

He had worked out every problem in class VI to X maths textbooks and ensured reading a couple of newspapers everyday to improve language skills and general awareness before facing the test. “Also getting a preparation book of an established author would provide quality material to work out and helps you get acquainted with the test pattern,” he said.

Some tips that Mr. Balasubramanian gave for students from such places include getting access to past years' question papers (easily available online) and understanding the requirements of the exam. By working out as many papers as possible, the student can assess his weaknesses and get back to the drawing board to work on them.

Mr. Venugopal said that one should not give up on preparations if he or she fails to qualify in the first attempt. “Even for students with all facilities, these exams would require multiple attempts. Thus, perseverance is a key quality that students from small towns and villages should develop to come out successfully.”

Keywords: CAT exam