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MBA entrance tests: All you need to know

  Your preparedness for important management exams must be on in full swing along with the all-important CAT. You need to be familiar with the exam structure, which will help you fare well. Here’s an overview of the important exams so that you know how best to prepare.  

The Advanc’edge Team

Management entrance tests in India are primarily elimination tests. The institutes decide on a cut-off for the written test, just high enough to cull out around a broad number of aspirants, and among them, the institutes select around even lesser number of students.

Don’t make the mistake of preparing for every single test. Take your time, go through the pattern of each of the tests, and take the right decision.


The CAT is the most important one among all these tests, and more candidates take this test than any of the others. The test is usually held in November, and has now become completely online. The total time given to candidates for the test is 180 minutes instead of 170 minutes, with 60 minutes per section.  

The candidate must hold a Bachelor’s Degree, with at least 50% marksor equivalent CGPA (45% in case of the candidates belonging toScheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Persons withDisability (PWD)/Differently Abled (DA) category) awarded by anyof the Universities incorporated by an act of the central orstate legislature in India or other educational institutionsestablished by an act of Parliament or declared to be deemed as a University under Section 3 of the UGC Act, 1956, or possess anequivalent qualification recognised by the Ministry of HRD, Government of India. Final year students would also be eligible to takeCAT provided they complete their final exam by June of the exam year.

Test Date: November

Test Duration: 180 minutes

Test Mode: Computer based

Marking Scheme: Every correct answers carries 3 marks

Negative Marking: One negative mark for each incorrect answer

Test Conducted by: IIMs

Exam Pattern:
The test has three sections with the following break-up –

Section Time No of Questions
Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension 60 min 34
DI & LR 60 min 32
Quantitative Ability 60 min 34

As per the IIMs, students have to show equal competency in all three sections. (Mind you this is an IIM requirement and not a CAT requirement. Other institutes that accept the CAT only use the overall percentile) Quant, VA-RC and LR-DI: Performance in one area (or the lack of it) cannot be subsidised by performance in another.

There will be “TYPE-IN-THE-ANSWER (TITA)” questions in each section, for the first time in the history of the CAT. However, the history of the CAT is littered with such changes and students who are prepared do not have a problem at all.

Accepted institutes
Mostly all B-schools accept CAT scores including all the IIMs and other reputed institues like FMS, MDI-Gurgaon, SP Jain, NMIMS and others.

Cut-offs for the top seven IIMs.

Indicative cut-off percentiles for final call (2014-Final Admit)
B-school Sectional Percentile Overall Percentile
IIM A Each Section: 94 Gen: 99.67,
OBC: 96.42,
SC: 90.68,
ST: 81.10,
DA: 86.76
IIM B Each Section: 90 90
IIM C Each Section: 90 95
IIM L Each Section: 85 99
IIM Kozhikode Each Section: 80 98
IIM Indore Each Section: 85 98
IIM Shillong Each Section: 85 98

The Maharashtra Directorate of Technical Education (DTE) conducts MBA-CET (Common Entrance Test) for admissions to MBA/ MMS (Masters of Management Studies) programmes affiliated to the state university.
MBA-CET is also accepted by various PGDM programmes offered by autonomous colleges in Maharashtra.

Outside Maharashtra students could apply to All India seats in MBA / MMS colleges through MH-CET as well as few other national tests such as CAT, XAT, GMAT, CMAT, MAT and ATMA.

Passed with minimum of 50% marks in aggregate or equivalent CGPA (45% in case of candidates of backward class categories and Persons With Disability belonging to Maharashtra State only) in any Bachelor’s degree awarded by any of the Universities incorporated by an act of the central or state legislature in India or other educational institutions established by an act of Parliament or declared to be deemed as a University under Section 3 of the UGC Act, 1956 of minimum three years duration in any discipline recognised by the Association of Indian Universities, or possess an equivalent qualification recognised by the Ministry of HRD, Government of India. Final year students of Graduate Courses can also apply.

Test Date: Usually in March

Test Duration: 150 minutes (2.5 hrs)

Test Mode: Computer based

Marking Scheme: Each question carries 1 mark

Negative Marking: No negative marking for incorrect answers. Therefore, it is imperative that the students attempt all the questions and intelligently guess the answers to unsolved questions.

Test Conducted by: Directorate for Technical Education (DTE), Maharashtra.

What is a good score?
For a percentile of 99.9 and above, one will need to target a score of 150+ or more. This score is required to get into JBIMS, the best B-school under CET.

Exam pattern:
The test consists of 200 multiple choice questions arranged in random order that assess different areas. Duration of the test is 150 minutes (2½ hrs). There is no negative marking for incorrect answers. Therefore, it is imperative that the students attempt all the questions and intelligently guess answers to unsolved questions. Every correct answer fetches 1 mark, making it a total of 200 marks. A score of around 140+ will get you into the best college under MH-CET. The area wise distribution of questions over the last several years is as follows:

S. No Topics No. of
Mark per
1 Logical Reasoning 75 1 75
2 Abstract Reasoning 25 1 25
3 Quantitative Aptitude  50 1 50
4 Verbal Ability/ Reading comprehension 50 1 50
Total   200   200

Accepted institutes
A few of the institutes accepting CET score:

  • K. J. Somaiya
  • Welingkar

The expected cut-offs for past CET are as follows:

B-schools Total Seats
(Open Category)
CET cut off
(Open Category)
Seats (AI/ OMS) Cut-offs
JBIMS 120 38 99.85 18 99.99
SIMSREE – MMS 120 38 99.58 18 99.94
SIMSREE – PGDM 60 25 99.38 6 99.92
K. J. Somaiya 120 17 99.24 5 99.9
Welingkar 120 24 98.87 18 99.76

Xavier Aptitude test (XAT) is a national level pen and paper based management aptitude test. The admission of XLRI Jamshedpur and other Xavier Associate Management Institutes and over 140 B-schools will take place through XAT scores.

Graduates in any discipline from a recognised university or institute. Final year students would also be eligible to take XAT provided they complete their final exam by June of the exam year.

Test Date: The XAT is usually held in 1st Sunday of January.

Test Duration: 170 minutes

Test Mode: Paper based

Marking Scheme: Each question carries 1 mark

Negative Marking: As per the latest notification, a student can skip up to a total of 13 questions in the first 3 sections. Beyond this every skipped question will attract a penalty of 0.05 marks per question. In other words, you need to attempt a minimum of 65 questions out of 78 to avoid negative marking. Also, GK questions will not have negative marking.

Test Conducted by: XLRI conducts on behalf of the XAMI.

Exam Pattern
XAT 2016 will be on the similar pattern like last few years with some significant changes.

S. No Sections 2016-Questions 2015-Questions
1 Verbal and
Logical Ability
26 28
2 Decision Making 23 23
3 Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation 29 33
  Overall 78 84
4 General Knowledge* 25 30
  Essay Writing*    
*Scores required only for XLRI-Jamshedpur applicants

Accepted institutes
Admission is given on the basis of XAT to all postgraduate programmes at the Xavier institutes. Apart from these, a few other important institutes that accept XAT scores are:

  • Loyola Institutes of Business Administration
  • Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA)
  • Welingkar Institute of Management Development & Research
  • GIM Panaji
  • FORE - Delhi
  • Great Lakes Chennai/Gurgaon - PGPM 1 year
  • IMT Ghaziabad
  • IRMA - Anand
  • IIFM - Bhopal
  • K J Somaiya - Mumbai
  • LIBA, Chennai
  • Praxis, Kolkata
  • SIMSREE - Mumbai
  • TAPMI - Manipal

The XAT 2016 cut-offs for XLRI programmes along with sectional cut-offs are mentioned below (as published on XAT 2016 website).

  VA & LR DM QA & DI Overall
XLRI-BM 77.47 78.042 88.60 96
XLRI-HRM 69.128 68.978 69.00 94.4
XLRI-GMP - - - 69

The Symbiosis National Aptitude (SNAP) Test is a common and mandatory written entrance test conducted by the Symbiosis International University for admission into its postgraduate programmes.

Graduate from any recognised/ statutory University or Institute with a minimum of 50% marks (45% for SC/ST). Programmes which require specific discipline/subject specialisation need to be checked for eligibility as given by the respective Institute.

A candidate who has completed qualifying degree from any Foreign University must obtain an equivalence certificate from the Association of Indian Universities (AIU). All foreign degrees/qualifications need to be verified from AIU by the candidate before seeking admission to any programme of SIU. Final year students of Graduate Courses can also apply.

Test Date: 3rd Sunday of December

Test Duration: 120 Mins (2Hrs)

Test Mode: Paper based test (Candidate must use Blue or Black ball point pen only)

Marking Scheme: SNAP Test is an objective test. Each question has 4 responses.

Negative Marking: Each wrong answer attracts 25% negative marks.

Test conducted by: Symbiosis International University, Pune.

Exam pattern:
The overall structure of the SNAP exam remained the same as that of the previous years. The exam consisted of 3 sections having 40 questions of 1 mark each (Quantitative Ability, General English and General Awareness) and one section having 30 questions of 2 marks each (Analytical and Logical Reasoning).

Following table shows the overall structure of the exam.

Section Subject Area Number of Questions Marks per question Total marks
Section I Quantitative Ability 40 1 40
Section II General
40 1 40
Section III Analytical and Logical Reasoning 30 2 60
Section IV General Awareness 40 1 40
  Total 150   180

Accepted institutes
Admissions will be given on the basis of the SNAP test to all postgraduate programmes of Symbiosis International University. A few of the colleges accepting SNAP test score are given below:

  • Symbiosis Institute of Business Management (SIBM - Pune)
  • Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resources Development (SCMHRD)
  • Symbiosis Institute of International Business (SIIB)
  • Symbiosis Institute of Management Studies (SIMS)
  • Symbiosis Institute of Media & Communication, Pune (SIMC- Pune)
  • Symbiosis Institute of Operations Management (SIOM- Nashik)
  • Symbiosis Centre for Information Technology (SCIT), etc.

The cut-offs for SIBM Pune and SCMHRD Pune as per SNAP 2015 results are given below:

B-school Percentile Score
SIBM Pune 97.9031 69.75
SCMHRD Pune 96.6206 66.25

The NMAT by GMAC™ exam is computer-delivered and gives each candidate a randomly generated test from a pool of questions, delivered one-at-a-time. NMAT by GMAC™ can be taken thrice, with a 15-day gap between each, and the best of the scores shall be considered, provided the candidate has applied to the institute with each of the scores.

Earlier NMAT was conducted by Pearsonvue and considered by NMIMS for offering admission in its Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad campus. With effect 2015, NMAT has been conducted by GMAC™ and it is considered by 18 B-schools in India.

Bachelor’s Degree (10+2+3/4) in any discipline from a recognised university with minimum 50% marks in the aggregate. Final year graduation students can also apply.

Test Window Period: 7th October 2016 to 20th December 2016.

Test Duration: 120 minutes (Test Slots can be selected according to the availability at the selected Test center)

Test Mode: Computer based

Marking Scheme: Not Available

Negative Marking: No negative marking

Test Conducted by: NMAT by GMAC™

Exam pattern:
The NMAT is an objective type multiple-choice test comprising a total of 120 questions that have to be solved in 120 minutes. There are no descriptive questions in the test. Candidates can choose the order of sections according to their preference. Each of the three sections have individual section timings and candidates are supposed to answer and review the questions of a particular section within the allotted section time.
There are three sections in the test:

Section Number of Questions Time in Minutes
Language Skills 32 22
Quantitative Skills 48 60
Logical Reasoning 40 38
Total 120 120

Accepted institutes
On the basis of the NMAT, admissions will be given to the NMIMS Schools of Business Management at the Mumbai campus and the PDGM course at the Bengaluru and Hyderabad campus. Apart from that a few of the colleges accepting NMAT scores are as follows:

  • ICFAI Business School (IBS)
  • Alliance University
  • SRM University
  • BML Munjal University
  • VIT University
  • Ansal University

Below mentioned are the expected cut-offs of NMIMS Mumbai and Bengaluru/Hyderabad campuses:

Programme Sectional Score Overall Score
  QS LS LR  
NMIMS Mumbai campus Programme
1. MBA and MBA –HR- Mumbai  campus 65 50 55 208
2. MBA Pharma 45 50 45 160
NMIMS Bengaluru/Hyderabad campus PGDM Programme 60 50 50 196

The Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) was established in 1963 as an autonomous body under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to contribute in the skill building for the external trade sector of India. The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) has recognised IIFT as Grade ‘A’ Institution in 2005 as well as in 2015.

The Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) admission test is a written exam conducted by the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade for their New Delhi and Kolkata campus. The test duration is 120 minutes majorly divided into 4 sections (2 sections with 2 sub-parts). Number of seats offered in Delhi campus is 220 and Kolkata campus is 140.

Recognised Bachelor’s degree of minimum 3 years’ duration in any discipline. Candidates appearing for a qualifying examination can also apply subject to submission of proof of requisite qualification by beginning of October of the year of start of the course.

Test Date: Usually in November

Test Duration: 2 hours

Test Mode: Paper based

Marking Scheme: Differential. Equal marks for each question.

Negative Marking: 1/3 of allotted marks

Test Conducted by: IIFT

Exam pattern:
The exam follows the structure given in the table below:

Section Area # Questions Marks per Q
1 Part 1 Logical Reasoning 20 0.75
1 Part 2 Data Interpretation 18 1
2 Part 1 English Usage 20 0.75
2 part 2 Reading Comprehension 16 1
3 General Awareness 28 0.5
4 Quantitative Ability 22 1
  Overall 124  

IIFT is known to alter its test structure every year and also it has a differential marking scheme which makes it one of the most competitive entrance tests.

Accepted institutes
IIFT has two campuses in India – Delhi and Kolkata.

According to IIFT 2015 results, a score of 60.08 was equivalent to 99.7 percentile, a score of 58.35 was equivalent to 99.52 percentile, a score of 56.85 was equivalent to 99.31 percentile and a score of 55.09 was equivalent to 98.98 percentile.

The 2015 cut-off for IIFT-Delhi and Kolkata campuses is 48.5 for General candidates, 43.5 for OBC NCL candidates and 38.5 for SC, ST & PH candidates (Sectional cut-offs : VARC 8.75 DILR 8.68 GA 0.82 QT 4.34).


Tata Institute of Social Sciences conducts TISSNET which is a national level post graduate entrance exam. The exam is conducted for admissions to Masters in Social Work and related programmes offered by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). TISSNET scores are accepted only by TISS campuses across India.

Candidates having a bachelor’s degree with minimum of 3 years duration or its equivalent (under the 10+2+3 or 10+2+4 or 10+2+2+1 year bridge course pattern of study or any other pattern fulfilling the mandatory  requirements of 15 years formal education)  from a recognised university are eligible to apply. Final year  students of graduate courses can also apply.

Test Date: The exam is in January

Test Duration:  1 hour 40 minutes

Test Mode: Computer based

Marking Scheme: Each correct answer shall be awarded 1 mark.

Negative Marking: No negative marking

Test Conducted by: Tata Institute of Social Studies

Exam pattern:
TISS NET 2016 will not have negative marking for any programmes including HRM. Candidates who have applied for a single programme or multiple programmes will be attempting a single question paper with 100 questions, for a duration of 100 minutes. This includes candidates who have chosen HRM in combination with other programme/programmes also.

Section No. of questions
  2016 2015
General Awareness 40 30
Mathematical and Logical Reasoning 30 35
English 30 30
Total 100 95

Accepted institute:
Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai campus

The overall  TISSNET 2016 cutoffs for M.A. (HRM)- Mumbai campus, for all categories is mentioned below:

HRM programme TISSNET 2016 cut-offs
General 74
SC 62
ST Not available
PWD 57