Computer-based test will cut B-school profits

Computer-based test will cut B-school profits
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First Published: Wed, Jul 22 2009. 09 36 PM IST

Old school: A 2008 photo of students taking a mock CAT test in Dadar, Maharashtra. CAT was conducted in a pen-and-paper format for 33 years before its administering was farmed out to US-based Prometri
Old school: A 2008 photo of students taking a mock CAT test in Dadar, Maharashtra. CAT was conducted in a pen-and-paper format for 33 years before its administering was farmed out to US-based Prometri
Updated: Wed, Jul 22 2009. 09 36 PM IST
New Delhi: Introduction of a computer-based test (CBT) for admission to the class of 2010 at the elite Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other B-schools will come at a price.
The seven IIMs in the country—Ahmedabad, Calcutta, Lucknow, Indore, Shillong, Bangalore and Kozhikode—have in the past financed the conduct of the test and netted a surplus from the sale of application forms for the Common Admission Test (CAT).
After handing out a five-year, $40 million (Rs193 crore at today’s rate) contract to US-based testing company Prometric Inc.’s local arm, Prometric Testing Pvt. Ltd, to administer the CBT, the B-schools expect an increase in the cost of conducting the test. No surplus is likely.
Old school: A 2008 photo of students taking a mock CAT test in Dadar, Maharashtra. CAT was conducted in a pen-and-paper format for 33 years before its administering was farmed out to US-based Prometric. Satish Bate / Hindustan Times
“The cost will certainly go up, maybe 50-60% more than what we spent last year in administering the tests,” Devi Singh, director of IIM Lucknow and a member of the admissions committee, said in a phone interview.
“From Rs400-500 per student last year, we will be spending Rs700-800 per student this year,” he added.
CAT was conducted in a pen-and-paper format for 33 years before the job of administering it was farmed out to Prometric.
The cost for the B-schools will average an annual Rs39 crore over the five-year duration of the contract.
“IIMs in 2007 had earned around Rs24.2 crore selling these forms and spent around Rs6.2 crore for conducting the examination, making a profit of Rs18 crore,” said a senior faculty member at IIM Kozhikode who didn’t want to be named.
The profit from the sale of forms is equally distributed among the IIMs after deducting the cost of organizing CAT.
Not surprisingly, IIMs have raised the application form fee for the general category of candidates from Rs1,300 to Rs1,400 this year.
The administrators of the CAT examination, called the CAT group, a body consisting of admission committee heads from each of the IIMs, had in 2008 raised the cost of forms for general category of candidates by Rs200 to Rs1,300 and for those belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes by Rs100 to Rs650.
To be sure, there are benefits of taking the test online.
“Earlier, when IIMs would conduct the exams, the cost of faculty members supervising the tests, putting in hours examining papers and other related functions would not be calculated. One has to keep this in mind,” Singh said.
To deliver the first computerized version of CAT to an estimated 250,000 students this year, Prometric is strengthening its staff, services and technology infrastructure in India.
“We currently employ about 200 people in India. However, in assuming responsibility for CAT, we will be adding more resources,” Ramesh Nava, vice-president and general manager, for Asia Pacific, Japan and Africa, said in an email.
“Also, while Prometric already operates an extensive network of about 450 secure, proctored test centres throughout India, for the CAT exams, we will be setting up dedicated test centres that will be strategically positioned across 23 cities,” Nava said.
Besides the IIMs, CAT scores are considered for admission to two dozen other B-schools such as the SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai; Management Development Institute, Gurgaon; Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad; and National Institute of Industrial Engineering, Mumbai.
The switch to CBT marks an effort to introduce an error-free system for administering the test, which in the last few years has been marred by complaints of leaks and errors in question papers.
In 2003, for example, the question paper for CAT leaked ahead of the test, a first in its history. That led to a retest.
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First Published: Wed, Jul 22 2009. 09 36 PM IST