Whitepaper on Indian Test Prep Industry

By Nikhil Mahajan, Co-Founder, CL Educate

Technology as a Transformative agent for both Knowledge based and Aptitude based Test Preparation

  • Indian Test-Prep Market: Exponential growth story
  • Two ends of a spectrum: Knowledge based & aptitude based tests
  • Technology as a strategic tool
  • ‘Career Launcher’ brand - extending leadership into knowledge based tests

Indian Test Prep Market

Strong drivers include evolving assessment needs, +ve demographics, rising internet penetration and technological innovations

Indian Test-Prep industry has come a long way from being either a metro focused ‘star teacher’ or largely unregulated home-tuitions driven delivery catering mostly to the creamy layer. Explosive growth in employment opportunities, increasing schools penetration, more higher-ed and professional avenues fuelled by rising Government focus and expenditure, rising private institutions as well as corporate involvement, burgeoning middle class and most importantly technology led blurring of geographical boundaries has changed the basic fabric of the industry.

“Once restricted to textbooks and printed study notes, the segment has evolved to a mix of classroom delivery, study material, live and pre-recorded video sessions delivered online, online dissemination and testing, where students can access course material via online portals and smartphone applications.”

Improving scalability, evident in emergence of a host of renowned chains of coaching classes, has translated into standardised, logical, more mature offerings for the test-taker.

Today, in the higher education segment there are over 50 mainstream competitive exams that are conducted by various prestigious institutions and bodies for admissions to their programmes. Starting from standard XII till post-graduation, a student, on an average, prepares for about half a dozen exams at every stage of his/her academic career. Not only has the cumulative number of test takers for these exams quadrupled over the last decade, there is a fairly prevalent cross-pollination wherein students of one academic diaspora sit for exams of other academic and professional courses. With the increase in the number of test takers the competition toughens and makes opting for a comprehensive test preparation course extremely logical.

Research agency CRISIL estimated Indian Test-Prep market to be Rs 37,800 crore in FY16, having grown at robust 14% CAGR in last 7 odd years. The market is in a demographic sweet spot with growth further accelerated via digital. CRISIL expects the growth to sustain at 13% CAGR creating an Rs 70,200 crore industry in next five years.

Classification according to objectives

The competitive exams can be put into two baskets, aptitude based exams and knowledge based exams. The fundamental point of difference between the two lies in the depth of core subject matter expertise being assessed. An aptitude exam, such as CAT, CLAT or even GMAT, is a test of the student’s application of the concepts he learnt back in classes 7 to 10. There is no standard or conventional way of solving aptitude questions - no step marking, no way to check if the answer was arrived by guess-work, smartness or a step by step methodology - and that’s where the student’s astuteness comes into the picture. You could go about solving at least 60% of the CAT paper just by eliminating the options and crack it with a 99+%ile. A complex data interpretation set can be best solved by almost ignoring the values given in the question and approximating it to the nearest most comfortable numbers! Aptitude based assessments have importance as an admission criteria for general management institutes, bank internships, etc. especially as the conventional regulatory examinations provide limited means to assess important employability skills.

Assessment objective based Classification of Test-Prep market

Aptitude based exams market in India

Knowledge exams, on the other hand, require accurate and in-depth knowledge about the subject. More often than not, there is just one standard method of solving a problem which generally, can’t always be arrived at by intuition or elimination. Rather, it needs to be learnt and in some cases, be memorised. One part of these is aptitude however predominantly it is the subject knowledge that is tested. These focus on the learning done in classes 11 and 12 from the core subjects of the academic stream of the student.

Knowledge based exams market in India

For any knowledge based exam preparation, be it IIT-JEE, PMT or even Civils, a lot of onus lies on the faculty and his/her elegance of innovatively presenting the subject matter to the students. “Hence, technology as a tool is even more important in knowledge based segment to increase accessibility of domain experts to masses.”

Technology - strategic for scalability

The learning landscape has been transformed in India, as well as globally, by internet adoption throwing up successful innovative technology based models be it online from your laptop or mobile, from comfort of home/ office or VSAT based delivery via classrooms. In a faculty driven market, two things that do have a make-or-break impact on any test prep player is innovative use of technology and a good outreach. Technology makes it possible for a good program to cater an extremely large audience irrespective of location. From a delivery perspective need for a specialist faculty and higher faculty interaction in instruction is highest for engineering-based knowledge tests such as GATE that has multiple streams such as electrical, mechanical, etc. Typically highly specialised faculties are often focused on metros, and physical limitations of a classroom size limits their reach. VSAT based simulcast delivery of lectures that allows interaction resolves this problem. In Tier 3 & 4 towns, VSAT based delivery is useful for both knowledge based and aptitude based exams as flying down faculties raises the unit economics and such interactions are usually less frequent than desirable.

Optimal Delivery Channels for effective teaching at reasonable costs


Tier 1 & 2 towns

Tier 3 & 4 towns

Aptitude based tests

Physical Classes

VSAT Classes

Knowledge based Engineering tests



Knowledge based other tests

Physical*/  VSAT


*With more enrolments economic viability of a Physical Classroom increases.

‘Career Launcher’ brand - extending leadership into knowledge tests

With our orientation towards technology as a driver for better program delivery, established brand and benchmark content, we possess a stronghold in the aptitude exams market. Our recent acquisitions of ETEN IAS and ETEN CA has further strengthened our technologically driven bouquet of offerings after which providing quality teaching to a student at any location has ceased to be a problem.

Most of the knowledge based exams like GATE, Civils, GRE have one part of the exam that is a test of aptitude. Even at this point in time, our portfolio does include the aptitude portion of these exams. This naturally puts us 87 146 292 12 64 104 3 17 43 6 25 45 7 29 59 FY09 FY16 FY21e Rs Bn Engg Medical Engg (GATE) Accounting (CA IPCC, CA Final) UPSC 114 281 543 14% CAGR 14% CAGR in a position where we are looking to enter the knowledge exams market i.e. IITJEE, Medical, CA/CPT. We are also in good stead to leverage on to our far-reaching and established CL centre network that caters to the students at over 192 locations.