Sunday, December 20, 2009

Online CAT: IIMs decide against re-test

The controversy sorrounding the maiden online CAT (Common Admission Test) for entry into prestigious IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) does not seem to die soon. In a decision that went in favour of the 216,000 candidates who completed the CAT 2009, the IIMs on December 17 said the computerised exam will not be scrapped. The decision was announced after a meeting of the IIM Directors and the CAT committee members with senior of the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) in New Delhi.

The outcome of the meeting was eagerly awaited by the student fraternity even as a section of the IIM faculty felt that the test be scrapped and a retest held in the paper-pencil format to maintain fairness of the prestigious exam. A re-test would have thrown the 2010 academic schedule haywire and clashed with other MBA entrance exams. On December 16, while the top brass were engaged in the MHRD meeting in New Delhi, a group of unidentified people shouted slogans and broke a few pots outside the IIM-Ahmedabad premises demanding scrapping of the test. The protesters claimed to be parents of the candidates, but it could not be verified.

The computerised test, which was conducted over 11 days starting November 28, was marred by technical glitches at several testing sites, affecting a few thousand candidates. The IIMs have announced one extra date, sometime in mid-January. Of the 241,000 candidates registered for the test, close to 216,000 completed the test successfully, IIM officials said, adding that paper-pencil tests were history now. The scrapping of test could have affected a majority of candidates who had written the test successfully. The coaching centres who enjoy a clientele of close to 200,000 prospective students, however, gave out mixed reactions. As per CAT committee officials, about 24,000 students did not show up for the test and around 2,000 candidates are yet to be tested.

The IIMs are in the process of identifying a system to provide another opportunity to genuine candidates who could not take the test due to reasons like premature exit through the exit/end button, slowness of computers while reviewing and refreshing questions, rebooting of computers and disruptions, missing graphics and data. IIMs have decided to continue with computer-based test for 2009. We also look forward to continue the CAT through computer-based testing in future, IIM-Ahmedabad director Samir Barua told reporters after the meeting.

The test, which was conducted by the IIMs in paper-pencil mode for the last 33 years, changed to computer-based format this year. The task for testing was handed over to US-based company, Prometric. However, the test incurred several technical problems from the start itself, affecting around 20,000 candidates across a 10-day span, leading the IIMs to extend the test by a day. Reports said, while directors of IIM-Ahmedabad and IIM-Bangalore were not in favour of scrapping the test, the heads of other five IIMs preferred a retest.

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