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IIM-B director on the CAT failure

By Kalpana Pathak
December 01, 2009 11:37 IST
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It was touted to be the poster boy of computerised exams. But three days hence, the Common Admission Test (CAT) for the MBA course has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

While the academic and student community has come down heavily on the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and Prometric, the company delivering the test, Pankaj Chandra, Director, IIM Bangalore, tells Kalpana Pathak the IIMs had planned well. Edited excerpts:

What went wrong?

These are teething pains. You can't say we did not plan it. We have partnered with the best in the world. Conducting an examination at this level is a very complex task. People are free to criticise and they will.  But this is technology. Out of 361 labs, 23 did not function on the first day. Of this, 11 were in Bangalore itself. But it is due to a virus attack. When dealing with technology, there is little that you can help.

What about the students who could  not appear for exams?

We had slotted 10 days for CAT and we kept around 15-20 per cent of excess capacity in each centre.  We also had kept two days, December 8 and 9, aside to meet contingencies like these. We will accommodate the students as per this.

Experts say IIMs relied too much on Prometric.

The IIMs have been involved at every stage. I have personally been to the test labs and seen the kind of arrangements made. Our strength, however, is not managing computer labs. We chose the best vendors. NIIT is our partner for the computer labs. We did mock runs a month and a half in advance before the examinations. All we can say is, we prepared to the best of our capacity. Technology is not in our hands. It's an occupational hazard.

Did the CAT committee go overboard in attaching frills like biometric identity systems and audio screening to exams?

We do not call it frills. We wanted that kind of security. These labs are sophisticated and the security level is important. Every movement of the student is captured. When it's not a paper-pencil test, using process like biometric identity systems and audio screening becomes important.

Experts suggest CAT be made into an independent organisation.

We would be doing that in future. It is only logical to do this.

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Kalpana Pathak
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