Monday, November 30, 2009


We have e-tax, e-governance, e-commerce and so many 'e's that IIMs decided to join the race and create their own electronic version of the age old Common Admissions Test.

As usual I was there for my annual affair with CAT. Though it was my nth time(6th to be more precise), it was going to be different - CAT has become Computer based test. I had my share of fun in today's exam(the real reason why I still write CAT - It's not just admissions anymore, it's fun).

Got up at 6 to leave at 7. But it was to start at 10. So why so early? Because the Big BOSS(IIMs) had asked to reach 2 hours in advance. Infact they mentioned entry denial in case we reach later than 1:30 hours in advance of the test start. Well they were right - the amount of complexity they had put up for such a simple test did demand so much of time.

On making it to the hall, there was a queue at the main gate of the institute adjacent to the wall starting from the gate and going about 15 meters. It reminded me of my 'making of a passport' days, when I used to go and queue outside the passport office early in the morning. At the door, the security guard asked me to leave my weapons at the door(pen, pencil etc.). Ok, I recalled they did mention somewhere online that we would be provided with ammunition on the warfront and no need carrying the weight - I just wanted to make sure. After walking in, passed through a hall where a ppt was running explaining the CAT rules - not sure who was it for - there was no one in the hall! Going 1 floor downwards reached the door of the computer lab. Now it was time to check-in(yes that was the terminology used by IIMs). The check in security diligently collected all stuff from my pockets, including keys, wallets and sealed in a polythene as if these were some confiscated drugs. At last got a seat. But, it was still 8:15.

Now the real prometric stunts began. Each candidate was invited 1 by 1 and asked to submit finger prints of right and left index finger 3 times. Got photographed by that 1.3 megapixel web cam and landed back to my seat. After the invigilator entered some 2 unique usernames and passwords(what the hell were they for - no idea), the exam finally began. 2 options came up on the screen - "tutorial" ad "start the test". Wow - a tutorial at the begining of the test. The idea sounded good but no instruction. No information on what the candidates should do. I decied to skip the tutorial and start with the exam. Soon after I begin, the invigilator mentioned, please do not click on 'quit' button on your screen otherwise your paper will end and nothing can be done. I jut wondered why did the option exist during the exam if it had no purpose. Actually none, because one could not even click quit and go home. You would still need to be there till the last man standing has finished exam. To my surprsie, as soon as I clicked on 'start the test' it throws first question - no instructions, no idea about how many questions in all , how many sections, score per questions, negavtive marking. Nothing! I guess IIMs were so busy organizing the computer labs and card boardsbetween adjacent PCs that they forgot these details. 2:15 hours later with the answer of the last question on my rough sheet i looked up and it showed - time up! I realized how good were the old paper sheets. No one could have stopped me from marking that answer.

After all the magic from IIMs, the screen shows - your results will be aviable on 22nd January. What ?? So much in the name of hi tech stuff and still 45 days for results, like those board exam results. If they were to take 45 days for the results, I wonder what was the whole pupose of this e-CAT??

Was it really a need or just a drama? Was it a gift from NIIT and Prometric(the test makers) to CAT with other unknown gifts to the CAT committee?? Was it a need to copy GMAT without copying the quality of education provided by GMAT schools. Or was it just a 'go green' initiative from the IIMs? Were the quality of students not good enough with the traditional CAT. Would love to hear from CAT team some day.

My take - There was never a need for CAT to go online. Neither because it was ready nor because it helped it in any known sense. Neither it makes muh sense in India. Instead the money spent(rather wasted) on the whole IT infrastructure and prometric outsourcing could have been either saved and reduced from the application fee from 1400 to may be 1000 or 800 or the money could have been collected under a basket for scholarships.

Here was another example how the teachers of the local and global curriculams copied a western(global) idea locally without much analysis on local needs.

1 comment:

Dewdrop said...

Reading your post, even I was left wondering what was the whole purpose of CAT going online.

Anyways, All the best !!!