After using the pen-and-paper format for the last 33 years, the IIMs have finally decided to computerise the examination process. What does this mean for the 2.5 lakh students who will attempt the examination? Will the ‘online CAT’ be a tougher nut to crack?
JAM finds out what the mood is, what the worries are, and how best to prepare for this new format!
Talk of the test going ‘online’ has been in the air for some time now. The only question was – will it be in 2009, or 2010? Now we know- the CAT goes online from this year itself. And it looks like the majority of the junta is quiet comfortable with the idea!
A survey conducted by JAM reveals that 80% of the respondents said they are ‘not worried about CAT going online’. The 20% who say they are apprehensive are really stressing on the details. The questions are:
Will the difficulty level be same across tests? (as CAT will now be conducted across 10 days and not as a single examination)
Will candidates be allowed to go back and answer questions or will it be like the GMAT?
And what about the rough work using pencil and paper. Will students lose precious time going back and forth?
What’s more, while those living in major metros and on campuses which have computer access and wireless LAN may be very comfortable with computers, that’s not the case with all students.
“I am not very familiar with computers, so computerisation of CAT is making me anxious,” says Bhakti Nandurikar, a final year engineering student from Nashik..
Abhishek Pore, a commerce graduate from Poddar College, on the other hand is actually quite excited. “I am anyday more comfortable with computers than pen and paper. For a netizen like me, there can be nothing better than an online test.”
Jasmine Nadar, a BMS student from Mulund College of Commerce sums up the general mood as she observes, “ CAT is a tough exam. So as long as I work hard for it, it won’t make a difference whether it is computerised or not.”
For all those who are confused about the computer-based CAT, here is some further gyaan on the exam.
But is the CAT really going online?
Well, not really. Though CAT 2009 will be computer based, it cannot be called an online test, as no internet connection will be required during the test.
Unlike an online exam, which is delivered directly using the internet, this test will be downloaded on a computer in the examination terminal. This should eliminate concerns among students regarding internet disconnection or slow internet speed. And there is little or no chance of the exam getting ‘hacked’.
Hence, CAT remains essentially the same, except the fact that it will make use of a computer interface. At least that’s what we know so far. The details will be known in July when the CAT bulletin is released.
What are the advantages?
You will have more flexibility in selecting a test date. The examination will be conducted over a span of 10 days in the month of November. In all there will be 30 tests which means 3 tests will be conducted each day. This is a boon for students whose exam dates often clashed with the CAT.
The registration process is expected to be easier and you won’t be giving the exam in a cramped classroom with a creaking fan. There will also be enhanced security in terms of biometric identification of candidates and video monitoring.
Will it be ‘Computer Adaptive’?
GMAT is a computer adaptive test where the level of the questions served to the candidate increases with every correct answer he or she gives. Also, one cannot go back and answer a question in GMAT once it has been skipped.
As far as CAT is concerned, there is no clarity on whether there will be varied levels of difficulty. And will the paper be served section by section, or question by question? Nobody knows.
Ideally, the overall difficulty level of the test paper should be the same for all test takers. And one should be able to scroll down the paper – or at least go back and forth within sections in the time allotted.
In case the papers have varying levels of difficulty, the IIMs promise they will use statistical tools to normalise the scores.
Will CAT be India’s first mass online test?
No- that honour goes to BITSAT, the test used by Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) for admission to its campuses in Pilani, Goa, Hyderabad and Dubai. The test is taken by over 1 lakh students every year.
BITSAT is a computer based test conducted over a period of 30 days. It is not computer adaptive – students can scroll back and forth to answer questions. If you complete the test early you can attempt ‘bonus questions’ for extra marks.
However BITSAT is conducted by Bangalore based ‘Eduequity’ while CAT will administered by Prometric, which conducts the GMAT and GRE exam.
Finally, why go from PBT to CBT at all?
Conducting a paper based test (PBT) had become a strain on the administrative system of the IIMs. That’s because the numbers taking the exam has been increasing year on year. In a big way!.
While 95,000 students gave CAT in 2003, the number sky rocketed to 2,50,000 in 2008. This year, more than 3, 00,000 students are expected to appear for CAT.
Computer based tests (CBTs) are more accurate (because of less human intervention) and can be taken by a larger number of people. CBT will make things easier for the IIMs and make the process more error proof.
Straight from the Experts
Coaching classes do not foresee any problem in computerising the CAT. They have in fact welcomed the move as a necessary change in the system of examination. “Computerisation of CAT will only make it more student-friendly,” said Arks Srinivas of TIME, a leading CAT coaching institute. “At TIME have started preparing our students accordingly,” he added.
CAT is being computerised & …
I am in high spirits because…
1.It will minimise the risk of paper leakage
2.Foreign students may be able to take the test locally rather than flying down to India for doing so.
I am seriously distressed because…
The cost of taking the CAT 2009 is expected to be higher this year.
It is difficult to sustain your concentration while reading on a computer screen for 2-3 hours.
Some cool fundas to help you crack the CAT
First of all, prepare for CAT the same way as earlier. That is, concentrate on the fundamentals and concepts. Three months before CAT, start taking computer based mock tests – either at a coaching centre or online.
Familiarise yourself with reading on the screen. Visit newspaper and magazine websites – read one long article online everyday.
Practice the sections you are not comfortable with more and more. The computer-based test may make it compulsory to solve a certain section first.
After all, it’s the CAT, so expect the unexpected.
Here’s wishing all JAMmers good luck for chasing the CAT. May the fastest mice win!
– Ketki Yennemadi
Which is the ‘BEST’ coaching class for CAT?
Results of the ‘CAT Coaching Class Survey’ conducted online by JAM Magazine
btw May 20-30 2009.
Which mode of study do students prefer?
Classroom remains the most popular option
Classroom + Test series is the second choice
Only Test series is a close third
Hot new trend: Online coaching is an option which is gaining acceptance!
I studied with www.mindinsight.com It is free
as of now and it has numerous online materials for
CAT preparation. Some unique ways of preparing
for CAT and other exams are also there.
Like battle of wits, mightier pen etc
– Supratim, RVCE Bangalore
Most popular coaching institutes
In classroom there is a neck to neck race between TIME and IMS while Career Launcher comes in third. Smaller classes are also popular with students in specific cities. e.g. CPLC in Mumbai, Endeavour in Ahmedabad, Byju’s in Bangalore.
I joined IMS as I’d heard a lot about their
English course material and faculty, and verbal
being the weakest section for me, it suited me.
But I wasn’t totally satisfied with the overall outcome.
Later joined CPLC (Chitale Personalised Learning
Centre) at Juhu. They have excellecent faculty for
Maths and DI while English teachers were average.
– Anshul Agrawal, Mumbai
In Test series TIME is the overwhelming choice. IMS is the second choice, with a few preferring to join both to understand where they stand!
I chose TIME because the difficulty level almost
equivalent to CAT. Also the large number of test
takers gives accurate picture of one’s ranking.
– Rahul M, Hyderabad
IMS – more popular in Mumbai and Bangalore
Time – Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and across IITs and NITs
What students want from their coaching institutes Wishlist
Small Classroom sessions for Test series students
– Deepak Bawankar , ICFAI Tech Pune – TIME student
More focus on analytical part
Nitin Goyal, TITS Bhiwani – TIME student
Personal one to one attention
Vineet Nandan Gupta, St Xavier’s College, Mumbai
Efficiency. Online Support.
Rehab Chougle RGIT
More personalized teachers with expertise in the
subject e.g.M.A. in Literature helps a lot than just
another MBA guy who cracked CAT and becomes
a English teacher (not done!!)
Karthik Thomas RGIT Mumbai
Should quickly ramp up infrastructure and ensure
we get adequate exposure to online based format.
Ankit NIT Jaipur
Some more individual attention and encouragement
to people when they answer questions well etc.
Arvind Sridharan , NIT Trichy
I think coachings should provide some personal
attention to their students. For example some students
can be weak in some topics while stronger in others,
so some extra attention should be provided to help
the students especially in their weak areas. Even the
analysis of the tests should be done in much detail
and a track of performance should be maintained.
Anshul Agrawal Mumbai
Frequent tests, more interaction with tutors.
Praveen Damodhar PESIT Bangalore
They could invite previous CAT aspirants who
have succeeded at cracking CAT as a part
of guest lectures. This would help people in
knowing the Do’s/Don’ts and it will be a great
platform to get their doubts cleared.
Gaurav Luniya, Bangalore
Better website maintenance for more online discussion,
Vivek.P College of Engineering Guindy, Anna university
Round the clock assistance. A 24 hour helpline maybe.