Hundreds of thousands of students aspiring to get into the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) will now be answering the Common Admission Test (CAT) online from this year onwards.
The CAT, scores in which decide admission to the IIMs located in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Indore, Kozhikode, Lucknow and Shillong, will now be a Computer Based Test (CBT), a statement issued by IIM-Bangalore said Monday.
The CAT scores not only determine admission into the IIMs, but also to several other reputed management institutes. According to the statement, the test will be conducted in a window of about 10 days at the end of the year.
The institutes claim that the computer based CAT will be candidate-friendly, flexible in the selection of test date, ease registration process, provide better physical environment and test experience, and enhanced security in terms of biometric identification of candidates and video monitoring.
But experts from training and coaching centres are worried about how this may affect the students' preparation.
"The content of the exam is not likely to be much different. Still, the fact that it will be on the computer will affect the preparation of students," Shiva Kumar of Career Launcher told IANS.
According to Kumar, students will have to prepare differently. "It is imperative that they put in more effort to take the test and practice papers online to make themselves comfortable with the CBT format."
While about 95,000 candidates took the CAT in 2003, the number rose to about 250,000 in 2008, indicating a whopping 163 percent rise.
According to the IIMs, this has resulted in severe strain on the administrative system of the institutes to conduct the CAT in its existing format.
"This year the number of MBA aspirants taking the test is likely to soar further, given that it's recession time," Kumar said.
IIMs have been conducting CAT in paper-and-pencil format for the last 33 years. Ninety percent of those who appear for the CAT are estimated to be proficient in working on computers.
"But they mostly use it for e-mailing or browsing the internet. Taking the test is a different thing altogether. Reading the comprehension portions or questions on screen and working out solutions will be entirely new to many," Kumar explained.
The coaching centres are also troubled that the format of questions is still unclear.
"Questions could appear one by one or all at once - this is unclear still," said an official of the Aakash Institutes.
"I am okay with this. My only concern is that with the CBT where will students do the paperwork? What about the extra sheets required for calculations?" asked Rahul Khanna, a banker, who will take the CAT this year.
Students will have to wait for clarifications as details about the computerised CAT will be available along with the CAT advertisement that will be released later this summer, the IIM-Bangalore statement said.