How to prepare for MBA entrance exams?

MBA has become a coveted degree in India, since last couple of decades. Everyone wants one, even doctors, teachers, and lawyers!

And why not. MBA fits well with almost all professions. MBA is about growing business, and making money. So, MBA programmes offer a knowledge that’s required by all and sundry.

Though most of the MBA programmes are dominated by engineers, but you will find students from all backgrounds. Diversity in something all good MBA colleges aspire for. That’s because creating a new business, or growing an existing one needs one to be aware of opportunities in various sectors. Spending time with students of various backgrounds will provide you that exposure and opportunity.

People do MBA due to various reasons:

  • Most of us want to get a good campus placement at the end of two years.
  • Some of us want to get an MBA degree to enhance our resume, and help us in promotions. Many people in IT industry get an executive MBA for this purpose only.
  • Some of us just want to get a higher education degree, especially those who have done BBA. Going for an MBA is a natural next step for them.

Whatever, be your reason, if you are one of those souls who are looking to get an MBA degree (or diploma), we are here to inform and help you in this aspect.


You must be clear in your goals regarding MBA. You will definitely be asked this question in interview - Why you intend to do an MBA ?

In fact, some colleges require the candidates to submit a Statement of Purpose (SoP) in advance. In it a student has to write down a single page article, mentioning why he or she wants to do MBA, and how will it help in their life goals. Basically, they want to see whether you are clear in your life goals, or are just applying to get any random high paying job at the end of the course.

In this article, we will try to cover various dimensions involved in MBA preparation.

Table of Contents
  • How to prepare for written objective exam?
  • How to prepare for Interview?
  • How to prepare for GD?

How to prepare for written objective exam?

You will face questions from these main areas in objective written examination:

  • Quant – You will get questions from topics such as Percentage, Profit & Loss, Number System, P&C, Probability, etc.
  • Data Interpretation (DI) – For example, Data Chart, Pie Chart, Bar Graph, etc.
  • Reasoning - You will get questions from topics such as Cubes, Blood Relations, Calendar, and many types of Puzzles (e.g. Comparison, Seating Arrangement, Scheduling, etc.).
  • English – Focus will be more on Reading Comprehension (RC) and Grammar, and less on straight-forward Vocabulary.

For Quant and Reasoning you may refer to the following sources:

  • Read Quant topics from some standard sources, such as Arun Sharma’s book on CAT preparation, Quant material of TIME coaching (maybe that of Career Launcher too), etc. Questions asked are of 10th class difficulty level. There are only very few formulae that you need to mug up. Focus of MBA exams is more on checking your raw logical abilities, not whether you remember the formulae or not.
  • For Reasoning, go through the material of TIME coaching (maybe that of Career Launcher too). Again, there are very few formulae to mug up here. You may do well even without mugging up a single formula.
  • You need not study any book for DI, or Puzzles. Just attempt mock tests of TIME, CL, IMS, or any such good MBA coaching. Go through their explanations. You will learn a lot. Obviously, you should go through last years’ MBA papers too.

English (or Verbal Section) will take some time to get better at, if you are weak in it. It’s a slow process, and the best way to be good at any language is to get good quality school education at a young age. However, if you want to start improving now, you may start by going through a good English Grammar book, such as Wren & Martin. For Vocabulary you may read Norman Lewis or Baron’s guide for GRE, etc. But the best way to improve vocab and reading comprehension abilities is to develop wide reading habits – read a good quality English newspaper, novels, etc.

The theory part in MBA is not that wide. It’s more about practice. So, give a lot of home tests, as well as mock tests in exam settings. All-India test series conducted by TIME and CL are the leading test series for MBA preparation in India. Difficulty level of TIME test series is generally a bit higher than that of CL test series.

My Experience

I gave various MBA exams from 2008 to 2009, while I was working as a software engineer in Noida. I got calls from IIFT-Delhi, XLRI-Jamshedpur (as well as Bhubneshwar), IIT-Mumbai (Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management), MDI-Gurgaon, IMT-Ghaziabad, Symbiosis (SIBM, SCMHRD), etc.

I scored almost 99 percentile in XAT-2009, 216 AIR in JMET (for MBA programme of IITs), and was among top 20 in Symbiosis MBA entrance examination.

I really messed up my CAT-2009 paper because of one Sentence Correction set, and ended up getting only around 98 percentile (which was not enough to secure any IIM call). Never got a call from FMS either. At the end, I joined Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management, IIT-Mumbai in 2009.

You will need around a year to get good in these subjects (given that you are not very weak in them). I will share my study plan with you. You may follow it if you want.

  • In the first 3-4 months I just focussed on reading all the topics of Quant and Reasoning from a few books, and coaching materials. I was working as a software engineer then, and I used to study from 7 in the evening till 1-2 AM. And then 1-2 hours in the morning, before leaving for office. Used to take out some time in office too. I also joined a CAT coaching class in Noida (on weekends). Though it was not very useful, except for the test series.

  • Once, I covered the basics, I started giving myself sectional tests at home. That is, 10-15 MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions) from a single topic, under time-restrictions. I measured my accuracy, the questions I was finding hard to solve, time-taken in every kind of question. Through this I started getting a very good idea of my strong and weak areas, not just on the macro-level of topics, but on the micro-level of question-types.

  • I also used to give an All-India mock test every week or so. It helped me compare my progress in comparison of others. It also helped me check myself in exam situations, get used to time-pressure, and maintain concentration and speed over long duration. But the best way I used mock tests, is by conducting post-test analysis. I used to invest 3-4 hours after the test, in analysing my mistakes, my accuracy levels, time-taken, flaw in my test-giving strategy, etc. Sometimes, I even used to give that test again at home, to see how I could have done better. This is the probably the single biggest, and most important exam preparation tip that I can give you. Some students find it hard to improve their score or percentile after attaining a certain level. This is how those guys can improve and be amongst the toppers.

  • If you want to improve your performance in a certain topic, then just focus on that topic for 7-10 days, or a couple of weeks. That’s how I converted many of my weak areas into my areas of strength. For example, I just focussed on DI and TSD (Time, Speed, Distance) for a couple of weeks. By the end of those two weeks, I gained so many insights, and got so good at solving questions from these two topics (with high accuracy and within very less time), that they became my strong areas for the rest of my life. I did this for many other topics too. When you put in high amount of concentration, for a long duration of time on a single topic, with regularity and consistency, magic starts to happen.

  • Learn various methods to solve a question mentally, without using pen and paper. Practice the method that you find the fastest, and the most accurate. Practice that method a thousand times. This will help you under stressful exam conditions.

  • Also, learn to use the options. Options can help you much more than you anticipate, especially in MBA exams. That’s because question-setters sometimes expect you to make use of the options. They formulate the question this way. They want to check whether you can think out of the box. They want to check your problem-solving skills, and not just Quant/Reasoning skills. In fact, I can show you a few questions that cannot even be solved without using options.


If you are not doing good in test series, don’t worry. Things will improve with time. Keep on studying.

In my first year of preparation, I used to score pathetic in mock tests. Many-a-times the difficulty level of these mock tests is kept too high. Once in a TIME mock test paper for CAT in 2007, I was only able to attempt 5 questions out of 30 in Quant section. Not a score of 5, I am talking about just an attempt of 5 questions. I felt like a loser after that test. Lost all my confidence.

But from second year onwards, I started featuring amongst the toppers. I got top 100 All-India rank in TIME and CL test series more than once in 2008-09. It reflected in my MBA exams results in 2009.

MBA entrance exam preparation online free

If you do not want to join a coaching, and you want to study for MBA right from the comfort of your home, you can do so. You may refer to our online Aptitude preparation guides for free:

These websites should help you immensely in your preparation. Though you may refer to many other sources too. Believe me you will find many good websites and YouTube channels that will guide you. There’s no need to attend any coaching as such.

There are also some famous forums, where you will find other students preparing for MBA exams. For example,, or tathagat (earlier it used to be totalgadha)

We hope, now you know how to prepare for MBA entrance exam at home (or for any other Aptitude based exam).

Right mindset for Aptitude exams

It’s absolutely essential to have the right mindset while attempting aptitude tests. Even a student with less knowledge and practice (but the right attitude) may score more than a student who is much more knowledgeable in such exams. Let’s see why.

An MBA entrance exam relies on aptitude tests so as to check many of your abilities:

  • Ability to solve a problem smartly – with minimum effort and least amount of time
  • Fluid intelligence – That is, they check your reasoning capacity, concentration under pressure, etc. They are not interested in how much facts you know, or how much you have mugged up in school and college.
  • Urgency – Believe me, it creates a lot of difference. You just cannot afford to relax during an MBA exam. You cannot waste more than 1-1.5 minutes on a given question. So, you need to plan in advance how much time you are going to invest in every section, and roughly in every question. You may have to change the plan a bit depending on the actual paper you get.

I have seen many students focussing more on the difficult questions in MBA exams, especially those with Maths background. They often take it on their ego. Remember, our goal in MBA exams in to score as high as possible, and for that we need to avoid difficult questions, not waste our time on them.

In fact, sometimes paper setters put in a few very difficult or very lengthy questions deliberately to waste your time. These are called traps or time-bombs. If a student falls in their trap, his paper will be ruined.

So, in MBA entrance exams just knowing the concepts and then solving the questions is not sufficient. You should also know what questions not to attempt – you need to develop that eye.

Know your Strengths and Weaknesses

In MBA entrance exams we must focus on and target our strong areas. For example, I knew that my DI and Reasoning skills were good. That’s why I always tried to target these sections first.

I was not that good in Compound Interest questions (I used to waste a lot of time), so I never used to attempt a question from this topic. Maybe only when I had attempted all else.

So, be clear on your strengths and weaknesses. If you are not aware of your own strengths and weakness, you will waste much more time in exam.

Also, be flexible. Sometime, our strengths convert into weaknesses, and vice-versa. For example, I was good in Probability, but once I encountered a really tough question from this topic in IIFT entrance examination. I wasted too much time on it, which I could have utilized in solving other questions. A bad judgement error!

Also, I considered my Verbal skills to be average when exams like CAT and FMS were concerned. I got only around 98 percentile in CAT 2009. That’s because I wasted full 10 minutes on 5 sentence correction questions – 4 of which I got wrong in the end. So, I got a net 0 marks for those 10 minutes. That messed up my whole paper. However, I was good in Logical reasoning questions that were asked in English section of XAT, and I used to attempt them at the very start. Later on, I gave some Bank exams (e.g. IBPS, SBI, etc.), and English section in these exams was so easy that I almost scored 100%. So, while my verbal skills were average in CAT paper, those skills became awesome when I gave other exams.

So, you need to be smart. Know your strengths and weaknesses in general. And also in relation to a given paper that you are going to give. Make your exam-time strategy accordingly.

You are weak in a particular topic, if:

  • you cannot solve questions from that topic, or
  • your accuracy is not good (i.e. you often make mistakes)
  • you take a lot of time in solving questions from that topic.

Consider yourself strong in a topic only if you can solve questions from that area quickly, and with decent amount of accuracy.

Make a diary, and list down all the topics and question-types in three categories – Strong, Weak, Normal. Work on and focus more on the areas you are weak in at home. Focus more on your strengths in the exam hall. Simple, right!

But many students do the other way round. This is a tendency you need to check. This is what is being tested by MBA colleges. Whether you are smart enough to know yourself, and then manage the problems around you in an effective manner.

You will find may students who were good in Maths in school doing poorly in Aptitude exams, and vice-versa. Now you know the reason why. That’s why I always tell my students that Aptitude Skills are a bit different than Maths – the mindset needs to be reversed.

People good in Maths are hard-working and want to solve difficult questions. People good in aptitude are lazy and want to solve easy questions. And by lazy, I mean people who always focus on solving a problem smartly, by investing minimum effort possible, finding innovative solutions that are not visible to hard-working people. That’s what management is all about after all!


Preparation for various MBA exams is almost the same. So, you should prepare for the toughest exam out there. If you will prepare for CAT, other exams will automatically get covered.

For all other MBA entrance exams, just see their previous year papers and make your strategy accordingly. For example, in our times the Maths section of XAT (for entry into XLRI Jamshedpur, and Bhuvneshwar) and JMET (for entry into MBA programme of IITs) used to be much tougher than that in CAT. Similarly, English section of FMS used to be tougher than that of CAT. So, we just used to change our strategy accordingly. We always aim to attempt the toughest section at the last.

It’s a bit like Cricket. When we learn to play cricket, we just learn to bat, bowl, and field. Then once we go to a stadium, we observe the pitch and make our strategy there and then. Some pitches will help seamers, some will help spinners, etc.

MBA exams are known to change their pattern drastically every year. Difficulty-level of various sections change, number of questions change. This is done intentionally, so as to check your management skills – whether you can recognize the easier sections and questions, whether you can manage time and perform under pressure while facing a new pattern.

How to prepare for Interview?

You should not wait till you get a call to start preparing for the next stage. Start early. Make sure you are reading a good quality English daily newspaper. Give special focus on Economy and Business news. If possible, read the editorial section of Economic times too.

Also, improve your soft skills, such as group discussion skills, presentation skills, extempore, public speaking, etc. You will need these skills all your life – in MBA college, in job, etc. You may form a group with your friends and practice. You may also join an advanced batch of any Spoken English institute, where you get a chance to participate in GDs, and give mock interviews, etc.

Once you secure a call from a good MBA college, it’s time to put in all the effort to convert that call into a seat. You may attend some mock interviews in MBA coachings.

How to prepare for GD?

Many MBA colleges do conduct a GD, along with the interview. For example, IIMs, FMS, IITs, IIFT-Delhi, XLRI-Jamshedpur (for their HR programme), IMT-Ghaziabad, etc.

So, make sure you read a lot, and are capable of speaking on a wide variety of topics, ranging from Economy, to Current Affairs, to Philosophy, etc.

Also, practice is important. If you have never been in a GD, you will most probably mess up. Either you will not be able to open your mouth, or you will speak a lot without making any qualitatively rich contribution.

Make sure you speak at least 2-3 times in a 10-minute GD. However, quality of your points matters more than the time for which you spoke (Quality over Quantity). You will be given 2-3 minutes to think on the GD topic, before the GD starts. Note down important points.


It’s good if you start, but it’s not essential. I never initiated in GD, but I did well even then. There’s a lot of pressure on the person who starts, as he’s doing the work of ice-breaking and setting the tone of the entire discussion. All the lime-light will be on him. However, it does not matter as much as some people think.

However, do not insert those points forcefully during the discussion. When you speak, it preferably should advance or counter the point that others have made. If you agree with something that someone else has said, you may say – I completely agree, or I agree to that to some extent, etc.

Be polite, even if you do not agree with someone. Don’t say – No, you are wrong! Rather you may say, I may agree with you to some extent, but I hold a different opinion, or the facts prove otherwise, etc.

All these sentences will help you enter the discussion. When you agree with someone, he/she will be more willing to give you space to speak.

But make sure you do not participate in a fish market – that is, when many people start speaking at the same time. In my experience, when that happens, the whole group suffers. I have seen the whole GD group being eliminated – no one was selected because their discussion was very chaotic.

Anyways, in most of the GDs, all candidates are given a chance to speak uninterrupted for a minute or two at the end of the discussion – to conclude their arguments. Here, you can make some points that you were not able to make during the open-for-all discussion.

Remember that, you are not just competing with the people in your group, you are competing with many more. And these guys are not only judging your speaking and logical skills, but also your listening skills, your counter-argument skills, and your ability to work in a team.

So, before the GD, I used to meet with all the candidates of my group and tell them that we should work like a team, and not create a fish market like situation. We will give all people a chance to speak. This will eventually leave a good impression on the judges, and all will benefit. Believe me, this is what I used to do before GD.

And it used to work! In most of the GDs that I took part in, whether it was for placement in IT company, or for MBA college, or in Air Force SSB, the success rate of my GD group was much higher than other GD groups.

It also helped me to get to know other candidates in the group and establish a certain rapport of team-player. Sometimes I even bonded with some of the candidates in that small time, and during the GD we even helped each other by letting the other person speak. All these small things matter.


If you want to know about the best MBA colleges in India, you may refer to this article of ours.

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