Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Prometric goes solo, drops CAT partners

US-headquartered test-conducting firm Prometric Inc. has gone solo by dropping its Indian partners to conduct the computer-based common admission test (CAT) for the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) this year. After two years of association, it has cut its ties with Everonn Education Ltd and MeritTrac Services Pvt. Ltd. This is not the first time that Prometric has dropped partners. In 2010, it went ahead with the test without NIIT Ltd, which helped it deliver the first computer-based CAT exam in 2009.

CAT 2012 is being conducted between 11 October and 6 November. A total of 214,068 candidates have registered for the test, seeking a berth in one of the 13 IIMs.

The first edition of the online CAT was mired by controversy due to technical glitches hindering thousands of students from writing the exam. A nationwide protest forced authorities to allow the aggrieved students to sit for the test a few months after the window closed. In 2010, Prometric roped in Everonn and Manipal education group-promoted MeritTrac to deliver the test.

“Yes, we are delivering the test by ourselves this time. Mutually, we have separated from Everonn and MetriTrac for CAT 2012,” said Soumitra Roy, Managing Director of Prometric India. An Everonn official said it was “not facilitating” IIM-CAT. “This is a strategic decision on the part of the company,” the official said, requesting anonymity. The IIMs confirmed the development.

S.S.S. Kumar, convenor of CAT-2012, said there are two partners — Axis Bank Ltd for the sale of vouchers, and Prometric, for delivering the tests. “They (Prometric) have gone ahead without their partners. Few days (of the test window) has gone and we have no problem in conducting the tests. We expect them to deliver a glitch-free exam,” Kumar said.

The US company may have begun preparations to go solo in September 2011 with the launch of its own hi-tech testing labs in Gurgaon and Hyderabad at the time. Mint had reported on 30 September a CAT convenor and a professor of IIM-Kolkata saying that Prometric may go solo in the near future.

Prometric’s move was an indication of its potential and ambitions for India, said Bharat Gulia, senior manager (education practice) at auditing and consulting firm Ernst & Young. “There is a good traction towards computer-based testing and its natural progression on the part of Prometric to expand. It’s seems a long-term plan,” Gulia said. He said India’s education sector is growing and “international companies are now looking at the country for opportunities ”.

The move may help Prometric in its bid to gain a bigger share of the growing Indian education market at a time when Pearson Education has managed to expand its footprint. Pearson acquired local firm TutorVista last year, besides setting up a joint venture with Educomp Solutions Ltd for skill education called IndiaCan.

Fiona Collins, Managing Director, Pearson VUE India, the test-conducting arm of Pearson, said: “Computer-based test is becoming increasingly popular across India, with some of the country’s leading examination bodies having transitioned from pencil and paper to computer-based delivery... Pearson VUE sees a bright future”. She said the market is growing because the process is tamper-proof and convenient both for institutes and candidates.

Roy of Prometric said that its augmenting capability and will continue to grow in India, reflecting why it went solo for CAT 2012. Reacting to the development, Nagendran S., Executive Vice-President, MeritTrac, said it’s not partnering Prometric because of “different business priorities”. In the next four to five years, at least 100 million computer-based tests will be conducted in India, he said. Last year, MetritTrac delivered at least 2 million such tests.

Conducting examinations “is a specialist function. World over, only specialist organizations have succeeded in this business. The most important knowledge to have is the knowledge of the examination processes, which are sacrosanct”, Nagendran said.

Source: Mint, October 17, 2012

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