Maharashtra: CAT exams to go electronic soon

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Mumbai, Nov 15: More than 2,75,000 students across the country will be appearing for the -- Common Admission Test (popularly known as CAT) for admissions to premier centres of Management learning tomorrow.

This CAT may be one of the last to be conducted by the Indian institutes of Management (IIMs), which had initiated steps to outsource the exams and make it external in the form of GRE and GMAT. CAT would go electronic, replacing current paper and pencil system, in all likelihood from 2010 if not 2009 and would go in for computer based assessment, considered to be more scientific and error free.

In recent years, the foolproof testing process of CAT had become a subject of debate following the leakage of test paper in 2003 and printing errors in 2006. Besides, there had also been sporadic complaints of impersonation each year.

About 2,000 seats in the Seven Indian institutes of Management and 100 other management institutes use the CAT numbers to finalise admission to their PG management programmes.

A management student had to go through a stringent selection process with the CAT scores having a weightage of 35 per cent.

Weightage was also provided by the premier institutes for previous experience and academic grades with group discussion and personal interview playing an important role in selection.

The IIMs had already set the ball rolling by inviting bidders for the computer based testing. Among the 30 initial bidders, IIMs have shortlisted four players -- Attest, Eduquity Career Technologies Pvt Ltd, ETC Prometric and Pearson VUE (Virtua University Enterprise). Among them Attest and Eduquity were Indian players with the former being a division of Aptech dealing in computer training and the later a Bangalore-based company conducting BITSAT for BITS, Pilani. The two Indian firms have very little experience in conducting such highly skilled test.

Among the Foreign players, ETC Prometric had been conducting Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and TOEFL for testing English skills and UK-based Pearson VUE was the sole testing partner for Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT) and CISCO corporation's suite of certification examinations.

Experts feel IIMs have to be extremely cautious in selecting the external testing partner in the wake of recent fiascoes involving ETC Prometric, which reports indicate, had goofed up its order relating to Standard Assessment Tests of the UK which examines 11 and 14-year-olds' neuracy and literacy skills. SATS, ETS's largest contract outside the US was cancelled due to lost scripts, inaccurate marking and delay in result declaration. It also had problem with TOEFL examination. A report in South China Morning Post recently said TOEFL aspirants in China, Taiwan, Japan, Kore and to lesser extent India, had to return because the computers would not download the internet based test.

The IIMs have felt the need to shift to the computer-based testing as it could effectively check leaks, errors or impersonation. Since each test paper that is generated online would be unique, the chances of use of unfair means could also be curbed, experts feel.


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