Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The mess that was CAT 2009

Students taking a computerized examImage by Extra Ketchup via FlickrI think I'm not exaggerating one bit when I say that this year's CAT was a mess! The most awaited exam went online this year with the examinees having the option to choose the exact date and time for appearing. Alas!

Thousands of candidates have been asked to reappear for their exams for some unknown reason, apparently a 'virus'. At least so says Prometric (the tech giant which is behind conducting the exam). You know the story! (If not check out this link from The Times Of India)

But here's the thing. India's most 'popular' exam (in all senses of the word) goes online and there's a 'virus' which repeatedly affects the system? A 'virus'? Erm...sorry, but just seems a bit too incredible to me this one. Most industry experts say that such a glitch should not have taken more than a day to fix! The real cause seems to be server problems. Or more specifically incapacity of servers at the exam centers. I mean, there's this huge exam and everyone knows how important it is, and there's this screw up of magnanimous proportions! I expect these to happen in local exams but in CAT? Most certainly not!

And now there's this 'fairness' argument which is being put forward. People who were able to take the CAT at the first go, might be at an advantage compared to candidates who could not. This could be a valid argument. And frankly it puts a real question mark on the entire exam really. Imagine the stress the candidates might be going through!

And the saddest part? The IIMs are thinking of going back to the pen and paper format. Although I'm more familiar with the pen and paper exam, online exams are much more 'neutral' or lets say, 'leak-proof'. Just because Prometric messed up their job doesnt really mean that online exams are a failure. After all, most major exams around the world are held online.

Hope the right lessons are learnt this time around and the rest of CAT this year and the next turns out to be error free and 'virus' free. And of course, to all those hard working folks appearing for CAT, all the very best!

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