Prometric keeps 50 CAT centres shut, will allow retesting

Prometric keeps 50 CAT centres shut, will allow retesting

New Delhi: The online debut of the entrance examination for the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) continued to be plagued by glitches for a second day on Sunday, with Prometric Testing Pvt. Ltd keeping 50 test centres closed.

The local arm of the US-based testing company Prometric Inc., mandated to conduct the tests, struggled to bring order to the conduct of the first computer-based common admission test, or CAT, after the first day of examinations was disrupted by technical snags.

The test locations that were hit by the snags on Saturday, preventing 2,000 candidates from taking the exam, remained shut on Sunday as well, Prometric said on the official CAT website. Those who can’t take the test will be allowed to sit for the exam again, it said.

“While almost 20,000 candidates completed their exams on Day One, computer viruses at a number of testing centres prevented over 2,000 candidates from taking the exams," the company said in a press release issued on Sunday. “Prometric is committed to ensuring a smooth testing experience for CAT test-takers and has dispatched additional technicians and hardware to address these isolated issues."

The problems drew sharp reactions from students on blogs and Twitter, the micro-blogging site.

“This is like turning up for your wedding and finding that your bride hasn’t shown up," a coaching class director’s comment on the issue to The Telegraph newspaper was tweeted and re-tweeted on Sunday by IIM, Kolkata, students.

The online CAT—the test has been a pen-and-paper one for 33 years—had been widely heralded by the IIMs.

An engineering student who blogged for Mint after writing his test on Saturday said he began the examination even as other candidates complained that their computers weren’t starting. ( Read the blog post )

“All around me I could hear people complaining about their systems not responding. Even those of us for whom the exam did start found it hard to concentrate, what with all the noise and shouts all around the room," wrote the 21-year-old, whose identity Mint has not disclosed as the IIMs have made the candidates sign a non-disclosure agreement.

CAT is a time-bound test lasting 2 hours and 15 minutes. It tests candidates on reading comprehension, math and data interpretation.

The Mint blogger posted that a candidate in his room hit the “quit test" tab by mistake. The system accepted the instruction without seeking a confirmation.

At least 240,000 candidates are sitting for the test, considered the world’s toughest, over a 10-day period. At stake are seats in the seven IIMs, besides other business schools. It closes on 7 December.

Prometric, which handles global exams such as the graduate record examination, or GRE, and the test of English as a foreign language (Toefl) for admission to universities and colleges in the US, said the launch of the online CAT involved the delivery of exams to more than 360 test centres at 104 individual locations.

“While a significant majority of the candidates successfully completed their exams on Day 1, various technical issues arose at selected computers in approximately 50 labs that prevented approximately 2,000 exams from being delivered," the company said.

It said it will reschedule the test for candidates who could not take the test because of the technical snags.

“We were told at the test centre our exam will be re-scheduled and we will be informed by email or SMS. I have no information so far," said Astha Gupta, 23, who quit working for a non-governmental organization in August to prepare for CAT and sat for the test at a Delhi test centre on Saturday. She said her computer stopped working 1 hour into the test and could not be restarted.

The computer-based test is seen as the IIMs’ effort at creating a market for online testing services in the country and also introducing an error-free mechanism for their entrance examination.