The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are doing a last round of checks of the computer-based system they will use for the first time this year for their common admission test (CAT). There are fewer aspirants this year, though.
Around 242,000 aspirants will attempt to bell the CAT this year for entry into the reputed management institutes, compared to 276,000 last year.
The test will be held between November 28 and December 7 in 32 cities at 105 testing centres connected to a main server.
"We have chosen centres which have adequate equipment to ensure that the exam goes smoothly. We have back-ups ready at all centres. The systems at all centres have gone through a test run," Ishita Solanki, spokesperson of IIM Ahmedabad, told IANS.
Some experts there are fewer aspirants this year because they are unsure of the outcome of a computer-based test.
Gautam Puri, vice chairman of CAT coaching centre Career Launcher, told IANS: "Lack of computer proficiency of students from smaller towns is partly responsible for the lower registrations.
"After the test this year, in the next couple of years the registrations will go up again. But this year many have opted out of CAT and stuck to the OMR (optical marker reading) tests like in XLRI (XAT) and individual institute tests, because they feel there's an element of uncertainty with the CAT."
CAT aspirants have become more nervous after last week's incident when the online test server for admission to engineering courses at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) failed and the test had to be postponed.
Karthik, a 24-year-old engineering student from Visakhapatnam, said: "The questions will be different every day. The difficulty levels would naturally vary, but we have no idea on what basis they will be rated by the institutes this time."
Coaching centres have tried to pacify students, saying that the computer-based system should not pose a problem.
Amrita Dutta, regional marketing manager of IMS coaching centre, said: "The computer based CAT exam has been planned by Prometrics, who have conducted a number of such tests like TOFEL and GMAT. So students should face no problems during the exam."
"From the registration process to the expected exam pattern, we are facing a lot of problems. According to the computer-based exam rules, once we mark an answer there is no provision to unmark it. This will definitely affect the standard of results this year," said Ravi Teja, 22, from Mumbai.
Refuting this, Dutta said: "The test enables the students to review the answers and change previously marked answers."
CAT scores determine entry to the IIMs at Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta, Indore, Lucknow, Kozhikode and Shillong as well as Management Development Institute at Gurgaon, Institute of Management Training at Ghaziabad, Mudra Institute of Communications in Ahmedabad and Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research in Mumbai.
(Shweta Srinivasan can be contacted at email@example.com)