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CAT 2009: 'Glitch-ridden, inconsistent and unfair'

Last updated on: December 8, 2009 13:22 IST

Photographs: Rediff Archives

Following the fiasco that CAT 2009 has turned out to be, we asked test takers to share their experiences and advice for candidates yet to take the test. Here, Hyderabad-based Amol* recounts his horrors of the exam day:

Well I may not be an IIM aspirant but CAT is still a medium to get into a good B-school for me. I was decently prepared and based on my preparation I'd chalked out the various colleges I could get into and applied to them.
On the day of the CAT exam, December 7, this is how everything unfolded for me...

At noon: Driving through the bandh

I left my place in a rather confident state of mind, with the list of formulae precariously in my hands. There were four of us appearing for the same slot and the same centre and we were car-pooling. It was a day in Hyderabad when everything was shut down owing to the two-day city 'bandh'. All public transport was suspended, dharnas were being held and TRS (Telangana Rashtra Samithi) was going on a violent rampage in different parts of the city. Not the best confidence-booster knowing that you have to drive through the city to reach the centre.

As expected, 20 minutes into the drive we were stuck in a massive jam with unruly supporters damaging property and civilian cars right in front of our eyes. They even blocked the only road in the city which leads to our centre. This meant that we had to find some off-road track and drive some distance from the wrong side of the road to eventually bypass the entire nonsense.

Reaching the centre just in time, we proceeded towards the reporting room, where I was told that my driver's license wasn't acceptable as it wasn't the original but a duplicate coloured photo-copy and that if within five minutes I wasn't able to produce another photo ID, I would be barred from writing the exam! Luckily enough I was carrying one, for which I scurried back to my car and got it.

2 pm: Inside the exam hall

Finally, I thought, trying to recollect all the complex formulae and theorems after all the mess, I was in the exam room! Here is where we were to have our biometric fingerprinting, which was another weird process from my personal experience, cause in the first few attempts the system just refused to accept the fingerprints of my left index finger. Once all the formalities are completed, you are expected to sit for an hour and a half inside the exam room without peeking into others' computers, discussing anything with anyone and basically doing nothing, which is pure nonsense.

3.20 pm

By now I was already regretting having even registered for this exam and was cursing every person who was the brains behind computerising the CAT exam. The test started at its stipulated time which was the only good thing that happened in the entire day. It was all going well till I reached my DI section where in two questions, I was given a puzzle and hints but there was no question at all.

I read through the questions a number of times to make sure only to be left awe-struck by the inconsistency issues in the databases of Prometric.

Another shocker came when I was trying to solve a problem in DI but the data given before the commencement of the table and graph wasn't matching them at all. Infact it was pretty obvious that some mix-up had taken place. Even with my friend, two questions in a 3-question RC set mysteriously vanished when he was attempting it.

6 pm

Conclusion time for me: The paper was above average for me, which could have been better if situation in a local city is considered before going ahead with the exam, the entire process is optimised, the technical glitches resolved and the check in time reduced (it's more than a bloody airport check-in). These discrepancies did affect my performance by nearly 6 to 8 questions. For now, I thoroughly believe that this year's CAT paper should be completely scrapped and a re-test conducted sometime in February.

* Names changed on request

CAT 2009: Why I liked appearing for online CAT

Amid all the brickbats that the IIMs and Prometric are receiving for their handling of computer-based CAT, Amit Khaitan*, an engineering graduate from Jabalpur, is all praise for CAT 2009. Here's why he's singing hosannas for CAT 2009:

I really liked the concept of online CAT and I had a wonderful experience of giving CAT. I really liked this because:

  • Every one equally gets time to give the CAT and there is no error in collecting papers by stupid invigilators.
  • We save more time in marking which usually takes about 6 to 7 minutes for a complete paper. We need not give special attention towards the marking to make sure we have filled the oval completely.
  • There is lot of security through online CAT as no one can tamper with our answer sheets as in case of paper pencil exam.
  • We need not waste time filling in personal details.
  • And last but not the least, I have experienced educated people invigilating us this time unlike the last three times that I have appeared for.

This makes a huge difference as the invigilators are aware that we are appearing for best management test and will offer maximum possible assistance by not disturbing us. Throughout the paper the invigilators have made sure that there is no single noise till the completion of exam.

This experience I never had before in my last three attempts.

Hats off to IIMs and hats off to Prometric for their success. I know that many people have complaints but I think the project was so huge and conducting it was such a big challenge which according to me is a great success.

I think we should encourage IIMs and Prometric for online CAT and I am sure that they will work towards 100 per cent success next year.

Again! Hats off to IIMs and hats off to Prometric.

CAT 2009: 'Do they think that all this was worth it?'

Rajesh Hansraj*, a commerce graduate from Uttaranchal, who appeared for CAT 2009 on the last day expecting all the glitches would have been sorted out since then, is bitterly disappointed.

I scheduled my CAT exam on the last day, last slot keeping in mind that since the test is being held online for the first time so there might be some glitches in the software or organisation of the test.

But as they say with CAT 'always expect the unexpected' so as the first day first slot had some problems so did the last day last slot.

Though I had a strange kind of a feeling since the morning of my exam that something might go wrong I had no idea what fate and Prometric had in store for me. I reached my centre well in advance and went through the whole tiresome (and sometimes pretty useless) process and was seated on my system by 1.45 pm. Then we had nothing to do till 3.30 pm and once the go ahead was given by our proctor the whole problem started.

First even after being logged-in correctly for close to four hours the system didn't load the question paper and while evrybody started on, it took around 20 to 25 minutes to restore the system (which also added to the already high levels of anxiety and tension).

Then just 5 to 10 minutes into the paper there was this question which had all the relevant data but the actual question was missing with options shown below. When this fault was brough to the notice of the proctor he said  that he was only responsible for the system and the software and wasn't concerned about the content but still  agreed to check it with authorities to see if something was possible. So I waited for two hours and then when just 15 minutes were left I enquired of him again if he had received any information regarding the non-existent question to which he replied that now nothing can be done about it and I should have informed him earlier. And guess what... this wasn't all, because as the time started approaching 6 pm students started finshing thier exam and started discussing the paper. And by the time all of them moved out, around 10 to 12 really precious minutes of mine were wasted. I had to get up and allow three people at three diffrent times to leave.

So after a year's hardwork and pain and all the money wasted in the coaching centres and test series what I need to ask the CAT authorities is that do they think that all this was worth it?

Do the authorities still have it in them to come out and say that they have one of the best selection processes in the world and ensure that students who they are gonna select and the students on whom the government would spend lakhs over next two years would be the best talent in India and deserve what they will be getting?