Clarification on IIM CAT website
In view of increasing number of candidates IIMs are considering various alternatives for modifying the process of conducting CAT, if necessary. Online testing is one of those alternatives. The proposals are at the preliminary stage of discussion.
So whether it will happen in November 2009, or 2010, or even happen at all is still very open.
I spoke to John Gabriel, CMO, of IMS Learning resources to get a sense of how going online could affect students and their test prep. This is the gist of what he had to say:
CAT going online has several advantages but a few disadvantages as well.
It is a huge logistical exercise. When XAT tried an online test a few years ago it failed because they had no generator back up (electricity failure being a common problem in India!). But then CAT will not be a simultaneous but a staggered test.
- If they adopt the computer adaptive model (which I think they will), it will be a better way of assessing students. You can't do well just by chance or 'tukka'.
- The current D-day system creates a lot of stress for students. Some students fall sick or simply have a bad day.
- Greater flexibility for students is always welcome, they can schedule test according to exams or any other contingencies
Of course we don't know several things:
- Will the CAT score be provided right after the test, as in GMAT? That would be a major advantage because you know where you stand. If you score 98 percentile you need not give many other exams and apply to more colleged 'just in case'. The student would save quite a lot of money.
- Are you allowed to repeat the exam, say one month later? This would give those who have not done so well a second chance.
- The number of students taking CAT is growing year on year by about 30%. Most of the growth is coming from small towns.
Currently CAT is held in 23-24 centres. Will the online CAT also be held across that many centres? If not, the cost of test goes up for small town students. They will have to travel to the exam centre.
- Also, would everyone have access to practising on a computer? If not they will have to pay and use cybercafes.
The question is: how many students, even in metros are really computer savvy. Adapting to change will take time.
eg There are long (and boring) reading comprehension passages. Right now you can underline some portions, flip the page back and forth. That is what we are used to. Reading long passages on screen and scrolling up and down is difficult
Impact on coaching classes
IMS will still get students to their classroom courses because:
1) Discipline - students wish to come to a class, where there are peers and have a study pattern of some kind to motivate them
2) Conceptual clarity - they wish to clarify basics from peers and a live teacher.
3) Readiness: Application of interlinked concepts within a problem and improved test preparedness
4) Testing - IMS already does extensive SIMCATs and trains 50% of the market for GMAT (which is an online test)
So there should not be a problem in providing online modules which students can take at home and get instant feedback, performance tracking etc.
I would add: The biggest challenge is in tackling numbers. Currently the only other online management exam is NMAT. But they I just discovered have/ had 2 versions: a written test and acomputer based one. Students seem to feel they have a better chance of admissions with the written version.
Am not even sure if there is an online version anymore as it is not mentioned anywhere on the NMIMS website A call to the institute confirms that the NMAT for full time MBA is a written test. And they did not seem to know what happened to the online option.
That leaves us with BITSAT. In 2007 BITSAT was taken by close to 1 lakh students as an online test, in a staggered manner. This was 30% more than the 68, 466 who took BITSAT in 2006.
The test was conducted in 16 centres across 35 days. Not clear who is the technical partner.
And really, NUMBERS is what makes this entire exercise so staggering. In 2007 655, 506 GMAT scores were reported (no of test takers is less as many take it more than once). The nos taking GMAT from India is close to 14,000 and rising.
In India, GMAT is administered by Prometric across 9 centres.
As per wikipedia, GMAT also administers written tests in 'international locations where an extensive network of computers has not yet been established'.But I don't think it's practical to have a hybrid model for CAT...
I do think this is a difficult to implement idea. But if done correctly, it will ultimately benefit students.
Anyways, you are safe if giving CAT this year. Aage dekhte hain hota hai kya!