CAT to continue, govt seeks status report

CAT to continue, govt seeks status report
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First Published: Mon, Nov 30 2009. 11 20 PM IST

Seeking solutions: (L to R) Vijay Thadani, CEO, NIIT; Charles Karnan, COO, Prometric; Samir Barua; Satish Deodhar, convener, CAT; Saumitra Roy, managing director (India), Prometric; and Ramesh Nava. R
Seeking solutions: (L to R) Vijay Thadani, CEO, NIIT; Charles Karnan, COO, Prometric; Samir Barua; Satish Deodhar, convener, CAT; Saumitra Roy, managing director (India), Prometric; and Ramesh Nava. R
Updated: Mon, Nov 30 2009. 11 20 PM IST
Ahmedabad/New Delhi: The common admission test, or CAT, derailed by computer glitches in its online debut, will continue as scheduled, the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and testing company Prometric Testing Pvt. Ltd said on Monday.
Candidates who could not sit for the exam due to the technical snags will be retested within the 10-day window that ends on 7 December, IIM, Ahmedabad, director Samir Barua said in a press conference at the school campus.
Seeking solutions: (L to R) Vijay Thadani, CEO, NIIT; Charles Karnan, COO, Prometric; Samir Barua; Satish Deodhar, convener, CAT; Saumitra Roy, managing director (India), Prometric; and Ramesh Nava. Ramesh Dave / Mint
“On behalf of the IIMs, I would like to guarantee all the students who have not been able to take the exams due to the glitch that they will be rescheduled. If we do not do that, we have failed to do our duty,” Barua said. “We recognize their inconvenience and we also empathize with the students. Their test will be rescheduled and we have already kept slots to meet this kind of eventuality.”
Aspirants forced to abandon their attempt to sit for the tests that began on Saturday were not reassured.
“According to me, it can’t happen,” said Astha Gupta, 23, who quit a non-governmental organization in August to prepare for the test, which can help her win a seat in one of the seven IIMs.
Gupta, who sat for the test at a Delhi centre on Saturday, said her computer stopped working 1 hour into the examination and could not be restarted. “How will they fit us, the extra students? Where will they get computers from?”
Gupta said her test preparation company estimated that the retest may be held on 6 December, which would clash with the management aptitude test, or MAT, a qualifying test for several private business schools. She said she would be forced to forgo one of the tests in that case.
At least 240,000 candidates applied to take the online CAT, which has been marred by widespread technical snags. The local arm of the US-based testing company Prometric Inc. mandated to conduct the high-stakes test and the IIMs are under pressure to bring the system back on track.
PTI reported on Monday that the government had asked the IIMs for an update on the status of the test. The PTI report did not identify the official who spoke to the news agency. It said the human resource devlepment, or HRD, ministry, which oversees the IIMs, had written a letter to Satish Deodhar, CAT’s convenor for the seven IIMs, for a report on the disruptions.
“That information we would be able to provide as soon as we are able to get it from Prometric,” Barua was cited as saying by PTI.
Barua said virus attacks were responsible for the disruptions but test prep companies, which represent an annual $104 million (Rs483.6 crore) market, criticized Prometric for not being prepared by holding mock exams.
“The major reason appears to be virus attacks,” said Barua. “Though all precautions had been taken to ensure that our computer labs are insulated from such attack, even then there is always the possibility of virus attacks.”
An email to the media by test prep company Triumphant Institute of Management Education, or TIME, on Monday said Prometric’s claim of a virus “is difficult to accept”.
“Also, it fails to address the very real issues of undertrained staff and inadequate infrastructure. TIME has been conducting mock tests for its students since July and in the initial days faced similar problems. Our investigations showed that the servers were unable to take the load of so many people taking the test at the same time and, hence, we hired additional servers. Once this was done, a majority of the problems were sorted out. It is possible that the IIMs and Prometric may also be facing similar issues,” it said.
MBA community portals such as MBAUniverse.com said technical glitches continued on Monday, Day 3 of the test.
Prometric, which handles global exams such as the graduate record examination, or and the test of English as a foreign language for admission to universities and colleges in the US, has said the launch of the online CAT involved the delivery of exams to more than 360 test centres at 104 individual locations.
The company is facing one of its toughest challenges in a bid to leave a footprint on the largely pen-and-paper Indian testing market.
The company won a closely fought battle to secure a five-year, $40 million contract to administer CAT, beating competitors such as Pearson VUE of Pearson Plc, based in the UK, the sole testing partner worldwide for the graduate management admission test.
aparna.k@livemint.com
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First Published: Mon, Nov 30 2009. 11 20 PM IST
More Topics: CAT | IIM | Government | Prometric Testing | Pearson |