The prestigious Common Admission Test (CAT) that opens doors for MBA-aspirants to the seven IIMs and about 150 B-Schools in India failed its maiden test as it took to a computer-based format for the first time in its more than three-decade history. On Saturday, snags were reported across many of the 105 centres and the exam was cancelled at least three centres. Sources said the first session was cancelled at as many as 11 centres. Officials involved in conducting the test said 350 students were unable to take the exam while other estimates put the number at around 500.
The students from the affected centres, mainly in Chennai, Bangalore, Bhopal, Kolkata, Delhi and Lucknow, will get to make another attempt over the next nine days, said Prometric, a US-based testing and assessment service provider to which the IIMs outsourced the work of conducting the exam. The tests, which were to have been held till December 7 in a total of 20 sessions, may now be extended by a day.
This is the second time in recent years that CAT has come under a cloud: question papers were leaked in 2003, but the IIMs escaped with their reputation intact after it was established that the institutes had no part to play in the incident. Saturday’s problems left a number of candidates nervous and as anxiety levels rose, some of those slated to take the exam in subsequent sessions rushed to the centres for a first-hand look at the situation.
“We were concerned about technical problems from the start, but did not expect it to happen on such a scale. Delays happened in the process of biometrics picture capturing. In many instances, candidates clicked on wrong choices leading to system failure. The affected candidates would be accommodated in the next sessions, and we may give one additional day,” said Satish Deodhar, chairman of panel that conducts CAT.
Though students were asked to report two hours before the scheduled start of the exam at 10 am, the test was delayed by at least 30 minutes at many centres as students could not log in. The problems ranged from pages not opening on the screen, options going missing, two people being allotted the same computer, to images not being downloaded properly.
There were angry reactions from students, parents and even the training institutes. “The failure of an exam like CAT raises doubts over the country’s IT prowess.” said a parent. MBAUniverise.com director Satwinder Singh said he was “shocked” and condemned “in the strongest words” the inability of the authorities to conduct the examination in an appropriate manner. “It reflects the under-preparedness of the test conducting agencies,” he said.
However, Mr Deodhar was of the view that though the first attempt at a computer-based test did not go off well, it was an historic moment. “There’s a quick learning we’ll do from the mistakes.” Some reports attributed failure at some centres to a ‘coordinated viral attack’ aimed at overloading the system but this could not be confirmed. Downplaying the glitches, Prometric India MD Soumitra Roy claimed that the exam was not cancelled at any of the centres. “As a result of isolated technical issues some candidates are being rescheduled and provided a new appointment via email and SMS.