Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mouse to bell the CAT - Online

There was this time, not many years ago when computers were something alien to the Indian students. Now it has become more of a necessity everywhere. I for one have got totally addicted to this case. Early morning, the first thing that pinches me is checking mail, reader, twitter etc..You probably can't do an MBA without a laptop. Projects, presentations, work... Everything is done on this wonderful machine. Thank you Bill gates, for Microsoft office.

Now even the entrance to this exam is going online from this year, according to a release by IIM, Bangalore.

Hundreds of thousands of students aspiring to get into the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) will now be answering the Common Admission Test (CAT) online from this year onwards.

The CAT, scores in which decide admission to the IIMs located in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Indore, Kozhikode, Lucknow and Shillong, will now be a Computer Based Test (CBT), said a statement issued by IIM-Bangalore on Monday.

This has been in news of late for some time now and the main reason is the exponentially increasing number of applicants.

While about 95,000 candidates took the CAT in 2003, the number rose to about 250,000 in 2008, indicating a whopping 163 percent rise.

According to the IIMs, this has resulted in severe strain on the administrative system of the institutes to conduct the CAT in its existing format.

Some people have raised concerns about the security of the test, which I am sure the CAT admissions committee would look into in detail and ensure all the process before going ahead. Outsourcing it to a third party is nice, but it would be held over a span of days. This has some issues, for one I believe the performance on that particular day, in those particular 3hrs is very crucial, and that very largely depends on the questions coming in.

I hope the committee ensures that everyone gets the same type of questions, and thus ensure fairness. This is far more crucial here as the scoring pattern of Cat has always been relative. 99 percentile meant you are in the top on percent of the applicants and nothing about your score. So maybe, a GMAT type score, say from 1000, would be a better metric, and take the Indian MBA system a little closer to the foreign B schools. (Not saying that they follow the best process, but an online test with different questions for different people has to be scored, and not compared).

What does this shift mean to the aspirant?

Rules would no doubt change. A slightly different skill set would be required, but of course the deserving student would still score. It is like a shift of cricket from one days to T20's – you still need to know cricket, but just adapt well to the new format. Of course, every deserving MBA from IIM should have this adaptability and ease of change, which is very essential in the current business environment.

What does this mean to the coaching insti's?

They need to setup computer labs or setup online systems to enable the students to practice tests. Also everyone is in complete confusion as to what exactly would be the pattern. Will rough sheets be given to work? Will the questions paper come all at once, or would it be question by question? How difficult it is to read the passages on the computer screen without the facility to highlight or underline the key words?

More on the topic in upcoming posts