As far as training for entrance to management institutes goes, there seem to be only two that really count. TIME
and IMS. IMS is the grand old daddy, dating all the way back to 1977.
It's come a long way since then: courses today range from the highest-visibility CAT and ICET preparation to "psychrometric testing" for school kids to help anxious parents add a couple of furrows to their brows.
The Hyderabad center's a lot more recent ? about 4 years old ? and is expanding even at the time of this review (early 2006). The very nicely maintained center at Begumpet continues, while a new one is coming up at Mehdipatnam.
In fact, it's the quality of the maintenance of the center that really marks it from most of the other competing centers. There's a very professional touch to the look and feel of the centers, to the brochures, and the numerous publications that are brought out by IMS. The counselling at the centers, though, could be better.
In fact, it probably should
be better since there are so many options to choose from. The IMS website lists courses on numerous entrance exams, but the Hyderabad centers don't offer all of these as yet. There are classroom courses for the CAT/ICET in several different flavors, courses for the GMAT/GRE/TOEFL, preparatory sessions for Visa interviews, and so on. And almost every course has a correspondence equivalent. And variable durations.
There are also loads of publications ? from pamphlets to CD-equipped self-study guides ? that you could buy, but there's no doubt that it's the CAT/ICET training that attracts the most attention. So how good is it?
There are three aspects: the material, the trainer (if you opt for a classroom program) and the sample-tests.
The material is well-prepared, as zillions of students who went through the correspondence courses will vouch for. Not much to talk about there.
The main attraction of the classroom courses is supposed to be the faculty, but as with most training centers, the faculty is often culled from a roster of part-timers. And as a natural result, the quality of the training varies from time to time.
The strength of the CAT courses lies in the numerous and frequent sample tests IMS conducts. IMS calls its tests "SIMCATs". These have a reputation for being even tougher than the actual CAT itself. The SIMCATs can be attended by students of both the correspondence and classroom courses, and by indivuduals who are not students of IMS too.
The real reason to pick the classroom course over the correspondence one, if you can afford it ? Rs. 22,020 vs. Rs. 5,900 at this time - is the chance to meet other aspirants. Since CAT performance is evaluated relative to other participants, this is a useful part of the preparation cycle.
Undergraduate students, who're the main target customer base, can also sign up for courses to help prepare for MCA entrance exams. Counselling is provided (at a fee) for education abroad. The "MBA Admission Counselling Consulting" costs about Rs. 11,000 for international admissions, and about Rs. 5,500 for Indian colleges.
Correspondence courses are fairly affordable, with prices being in the low thousands, so it's pretty common to see students pick an institute or center for classroom courses based on physical proximity, to accumulate material from various centers (including material of previous years) and to sign up for the sample-exams of more than one institute. IMS claims to have a larger national presence than any of the others, though that statistic has the same value as most other statistics.
The website-enrolment-form that allows applicants from Antarctica is, either way, perhaps just a shade ambitious.