Common Admission Test (CAT) will go online from onwards

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Common Admission Test (CAT) will go online from 2009 onwards

The Common Admission Test (CAT) will finally, go online, from 2009 onwards, following months of deliberation. ET reported this first on October 24, 2007.

The Indian institutes of management (IIMs) including the Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of Management (RGI-IM) Shillong issued a pre-qualification bid on Monday inviting service providers, IT firms specialising in assessment and testing services, for computerisation of the CAT exam.

The decision is significant considering that it will benefit thousands of students who take CAT each year. Around 2,30,000 students appeared for CAT last year and the numbers are expected to increase to more than 3,00,000 in 2008.

According to sources close to the development, the IIMs are contemplating, that instead of a single day, CAT would be conducted online for almost 15 days, during which the students could take the exam on any of the days. Initially, though, the IIMs were contemplating a time period of 30 days.

“The initiative will be rolled out in 2009. The idea is to provide a time window, whereby students can take the examination within the stipulated period,” said HM Lucknow director Devi Singh.

The last forum of EM directors’ was held at IIM Lucknow on February 21. An additional reason, though, to take the CAT online is to reduce the time spent on administration and evaluation process. However, when ET contacted IIM-Ahmedabad director Samir Barua, he said, he has “no comments to offer on the recent development.”

The decision comes after a long wait. According to sources, the first directors’ forum was held in July 2007 where Prometric, one of the leading testing and assessment services firm, made a presentation to the directors of all seven IIMs.

The pre-qualification bid document states that the service provider will undertake tasks right from application processing, test construction, test delivery, result processing to score reporting. Prometric, Attest Testing Services (a wholly owned subsidiary of Aptech) among various other testing and assessment services firms are expected to bid for the contract.

Experts have lauded the decision. “From the students’ point of view, a particular day will cease to become the most important day of the year,” said Career Launcher chairman Satya Narayanan. There are other benefits too. With the CAT going online, 124 other management institutions which use the CAT score will also streamline their admission processes in accordance with the new system.

“There will be a substantial improvement in the process implementation, reduction of paper work and the logistics involved in conducting the examination,” said Compulink Systems associate vice-president Dilip Chart. In his earlier assignments, Mr Chart has been involved in online assessment systems.

Experts, though, believe that there will be significant challenges that the IIMs will have to overcome to implement a robust system. Primarily, providing physical infrastructure. Even for an examination like the Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT), approximately 2.5 lakh candidates across 100 countries take the examination throughout the year. CAT entails about the same number from India only within a much smaller time frame.

At present, CAT is conducted in 25 cities in India and GMAT can be taken from nine cities. If three lakh students have to take the examination within 15 days, it would amount to 20,000 students a day and in some cases this number could be even more. Says Mr Chart, “That will be a huge and a very difficult exercise for any service provider.” There is a case where implementation on such a large scale has failed. The computerization of the Xavier’s Admission Test (XAT) in 2002.

Another concern that the IIMs have put to rest is that the students’ will not be charged exorbitantly for taking the exam online. According to sources, the price is expected to increase marginally, about 40-50% from Rs.1,100 now to about Rs.1500-1600.

JEE Main

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