Sunday, 8 May 2011

How to select a CAT prep institute?

With this year’s MBA entrance season done and the new season about to begin in full flow in the next couple of months, freshers as well as those enthusiastic about joining a coaching institute to help them out with their CAT prep would be confused with the plethora of options available. With each coaching institute claiming to be better than the rest, there are a few factors one needs to consider before one goes about joining an institute.

Faculty

Ask them about the credentials of their faculty and if possible, ask them for a demo lecture before you enroll for their programme. The big coaching classes have various branches and it is difficult for them to have the same set of teachers at all the centers. There might be a few lectures here and there from the biggies but the rest of the faculty consists of those who are affiliated to your center. Get to know about the faculty who are regular and if possible try getting reviews about them from the current year students. Also, enquire about their availability online and offline in case you have some doubts.

Number of tests

The number of simulated tests which are to be taken in a proctored environment is an important factor. Ask the institute about their tie-ups with the various colleges/web worlds/cyber cafes and if there would be any hindrances while taking the test. Make sure that you would be able to take the test in a proctored environment without getting distracted.
Also, the number of tests is an important factor. Ask the institute specifically about the number of proctored all-India tests and the other unproctored tests which wouldn’t be taken by many aspirants. Ask them if the cut-offs and percentiles would be available for the same and what kind of feedback would be given to the candidate.
Coaching institutes also offer mock tests for other management entrance tests except CAT (XAT, FMS, SNAP, IIFT, MAT, ATMA, IRMA, TISS, JMET, CET, etc.). Ask them if they provide papers for these tests too and whether they will be take-home or would be meant to be solved in a proctored environment.

Quality of tests and number of test-takers

Quality of tests can be known by asking previous year takers about it and the number of test takers is also readily available on the various threads running on PaGaLGuY. Do not blindly believe the tall claims made by the institutes regarding the number of test takers. The number of test takers is important because it gives you an idea as to where you stand amidst the serious test takers. The quality of tests is important as it makes you aware of your progress and your strong/weak areas.

Batch size/Batch quality

Enquire thoroughly about the size of the batch. Many coaching institutes have huge batches (sometimes running into a few hundred students at a time) and so, individual attention, personal doubt solving and approachability could be a problem. In case you require individual attention, try getting into a smaller batch.
Also ask if you are eligible for any of the special batches based on your performance in previous year tests or the scholarship tests which are conducted by a few institutes. The teaching quality and the student quality would definitely be better in these batches.

Material

Every coaching institute will provide you with its material. You can ask to have a look at the material and see whether it’s extensive or not. There is little to differentiate between institute materials as all of them cover almost the same things. Even if some institute gives you a lot of stuff, it is not necessary that you would end up solving the entire thing. Material is only to be used to build concepts and to get used to various topics. One need not get addicted to solving the entire set.
Also, many institutes provide the students with monthly magazines to keep them updated about the current happenings around the world. Do not forget to take these magazines regularly and if they don’t get delivered to you, do not hesitate to ask them for a copy.

Infrastructure/ Library

Many institutes allow their students to take the various books/novels home or read them in the classrooms. Get to know what kind of facility is available at your place. Also, have a look at the classrooms if possible and see if there are enough classrooms which have enough space to accommodate the various batches.
Also, if they conduct the online mocks at their center, ask them if they are technically equipped to carry out the test.

Online support

Most of the institutes have their own website and forums. Enquire about what kind of an online support will they be providing. Go through their website if possible and see their forums as to how active they are. Ask them if there would be any newsletters/tests on the site.

Accessibility

One of the more important factors that gets neglected. However good the faculty be, at the end of the day, you are the one who has to put in effort. Traveling for hours to reach the class would not be very helpful if you aren’t putting the effort. Also, you might lose motivation in a few days if the place is far off. For working junta, it becomes a pain to travel after a while. Consider all these aspects and think hard on why you want to join a particular center.
So, however sweetly the person at the counter speaks to you, it is important to get a few queries answered beforehand. At the end of the day, coaching institutes are a business and you are a consumer and so, have the right to ask things which concern you.

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