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CAT 2009: An ironic tale of (mis)management

December 11, 2009 10:24 IST

A few months ago, the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) had put CAT 2009 aspirants at ease by disclosing that the test would consist of 60-70 questions, have test duration of 2 hours and 30 minutes including an initial 15-minute tutorial and a total of three sections. But test-takers were blissfully unaware of what lay in store for them.

Today, the experience of taking the test has changed their underlying perception. Now, the new ingredients of CAT 2009 appear out to be:

  • Cancelled exams
  • Endless wait
  • Rejected passwords
  • Incompetent invigilators
  • Old CAT questions
  • Cheating
  • Lucky test-takers getting extra time and the unfortunate ones, less than that promised

The IIMs, epitomes of excellence in management education, have displayed equal expertise in mismanagement while conducting their entry-level evaluation. All management begins with planning but the IIMs have displayed their ineptitude by entrusting even this responsibility to the service provider and blaming viruses such as 'Conflicer' and 'W32 Nimda' for the blighted careers of students. The authorities seemed to have no back-up plan to deliver a fail-safe test. Infuriated students find this excuse frivolous and hard to believe. It would have been understandable if the viruses were found at a few exam centres but the situation suggests a lack of testing not in one but all centres.

The CAT 2009 experience left several students demoralised and dejected. Initially IIMs and Prometric had claimed that the computer-based test would be user-friendly, flexible in the selection of test date, provide better physical environment, and have enhanced security in terms of biometric identification and video monitoring of candidates. In reality, the test's strengths turned out to be shortcomings. Invigilators were not briefed regarding their conduct during the test nor was the test itself competitive.

The dissatisfaction reached its peak when test-takers who had traveled long distances, waited endlessly at exam centres only to be told that the exam would be rescheduled. Ironically, nobody appreciates the inconvenience and stress caused to students due to such cancellation of tests. Neelesh Kossambi, national manager, Media Marketing, IMS, is concerned about the fate of the students who could not take the test due to technical reasons. According to him, "The biggest challenge for the authorities now is to ensure a level playing field for all IIM aspirants."

The varying nature of the level of difficulty has also left both experts and students bewildered. While in the initial days test-takers found the exam easy and undemanding, the latter days presented a contrast.

Overall it has been a bumpy ride leaving students clueless about the future. It is a sorry state of affairs for students who were seriously attempting to make it to IIMs and could not give it their best shot because of technical glitches. All the hard work of the truly deserving has gone in vain. The American-based firm, Prometric has affirmed that they have identified the grey areas and several enhancements have been made to make the testing environment more congenial.

As for the candidates, they should treat bygones as bygones and stay in a positive frame of mind. There are other options. Stay calm and do well!

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