Technical snags hit online CAT exams

Written by fe Bureaus | Agencies | New Delhi/Ahmedabad | Updated: Nov 30 2009, 04:14am hrs
The first-ever computer-based online Common Admission Test (CAT) of the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) got off to a troubled start on Saturday with the server crashing in some centres, forcing the authorities to reschedule the examination for those affected.

Students complained of glitches in certain centres in Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Lucknow, while in Bhopal the test could not take place at all.

Nearly 2.41 lakh students across the country would take the exam in 105 centres in 32 cities in the next 10 days for getting entry into seven IIMs and other B-schools. The IIMs have for the first time opted for the online CAT and an American software solutions provider, Prometric, is responsible for conducting the examination.

IIM-Bangalore director Pankaj Chandra, while admitting that there were problems in some centers due to a virus attack, said the test had been by and large successful. In a few rooms of some centres, there was virus attack on computers. Students in such centers will be given an alternative date for the test and they will be intimated, Chandra said.

CAT convener Sateesh Deodhar, however, attributed the problem to procedural delays. There were no widespread server crash. What happened was that there were delays due to many processes that we require to fulfil There were delays in processing fingerprints and photographs of candidates. Further, our test files are taking long to get downloaded due to strict data security provisions, he said, adding that the fact of students not being familiar with the system added to the confusion.

Deodhar admitted about 350 students from different centers of about five cities had failed to appear for the test by the evening on Saturday. He added affected students would be accommodated in other slots.

This was the first day. Such an attempt to take an on-line test of 2.41 lakh students in the span of 10 days is being carried out for the first time in the world. We must understand that there are bound to be some problems on the first day of such a huge exercise. The exams will be on for the next 10 days and there is nothing to worry about for the students as no one would be left out, Deodhar added.

However, according to reports from Bhopal and Punjab, server problems were responsible for the glitch. While servers in two centres in Mohali near Chandigarh crashed, the entire system in the computer lab another centre gave up, leading to rescheduling of the examination of over 100 students. There were similar reports from centers in other cities too.

In Bhopal, Technocrats Institute of Technology (TIT), the authorised centre to conduct, failed to provide question papers to the candidates. According to TIT public relation officer Vijay Anand, due to technical problems in the server the CAT examination for the first shift scheduled to begin from 10 am failed to start. Around 200 candidates in two shifts were supposed to take part in the first online CAT.

Naturally, the incidents have raised question marks over the preparedness of the CAT committee as well as lack of professional approach on part of the test organisers. They (Prometric) are considered to be one of the leading ones in this field, and IIMs being a role model of management, such mismanagement is not expected. The situation would have been avoided by arranging mock tests which all other private coaching institutes do, said Jaideep Singh Chaudhary, spokesperson for TIME Institute of Management, a coaching institute for CAT. He added the number of students affected could be low but the matter needed to be dealt stringently by CAT committee.

The authorities have promised to deal with any mismanagement in the arrangement of the test with all seriousness. Prometric is responsible for the online CAT and all the technicalities attached to it. We will find out from them what went wrong. Deodhar said.

In Gujarat the test was successful with around 6,500 students appearing on Saturday. So far, the process has been very smooth in Gujarat, an IIMA official said. The students adapted to the new system quickly so there was not any hitch so far, he added.