CAT: As value fades, registration numbers decline

With Common Admission Test (CAT) registrations on the decline, authorities have been forced this time too to extend last date for registration from September 20 to September 25, 2015.

With Common Admission Test (CAT) registrations on the decline, authorities have been forced this time too to extend the last date  for registration from September 20 to September 25, 2015 mid-night. This has happened for the second consecutive year and points to the fact that it no longer hold enough value for students looking to land the best jobs in India. Last year, the registration window was opened for one extra day because of what authorities described as  ‘technical glitch’, but no reason has been provided this year.

Efforts to find out reasons behind the move were stymied by lack of information coming from authorities. TCS, the test-conducting agency for CAT 2015, also refused to divulge any information as it has signed a nondisclosure agreement. Calls made to CAT administration didn’t yield any response and email sent to CAT convener Professor Tathagata Bandyopadhyay went unanswered.

However, the road to the fading glory of CAT, is evident from the data available.

The Common Admission Test (CAT) had been an important entrance exam in the students’ calendar for quite some time as it provided entrance into some of the most prestigious business schools in India including 19 Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other leading business institutes.

Established as the qualifying test for the IIMs in 2007, CAT started as a paper and pencil test conducted on a single day. The test saw registrations of around 2.5 lakh students, which rose further to 2.9 lakh in 2008. It was in 2009 when the entrance test went paperless and multiple-day format was introduced. The responsibility to conduct the test was given to US firm Prometric. This was intended to allow greater flexibility, but registrations declined to around 2.4 lakh.

Online registrations were introduced in the year 2013. That year too saw a decline by about 9.3% in registrations with around 1.94 lakh applications being made. The decline was blamed on B-school’s decision to increase fees and placements, which were becoming less attractive.

In 2014, TCS took over the responsibility to conduct CAT exams. The consultancy service reduced the 20-day test window to two days. The applicants were also given the option to select the test schedule and the centre. While registrations didn’t notice any major difference, over 28,000 candidates (15%) registered candidates skipped the exam, according to the reports.

To battle the decline, CAT exam pattern has been changed once again and has gone back to the one-day format. The exam will now have three sections – Quantitative ability, verbal ability & reading comprehension and data interpretation & logical reasoning – with each getting a 60-minute window and no switching between the sections will be allowed.

It remains to be seen whether the extension of last day for registrations bears fruit, or does it signal that students are increasingly voting with their feet as far as CAT is concerned.

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First published on: 25-09-2015 at 19:22 IST