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Is this CAT running out of lives?
Piyush Pandey |
July 13, 2005
he Common Admission Test, every collegian in India knows, makes a big difference in life. It either catapults you or kaputs you. As the entrance test for the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management, it is a nerve-racking experience students happily submit themselves to. Except that its future hangs in limbo.
For admissions this year, however, CAT is alive and safe, to be held on its scheduled date by the CAT Group, a body which comprises chairpersons of the admission and financial aid committees of the six IIMs. But talk of change is in the air.
"We have deferred the decision of outsourcing CAT as of now," says Bakul Dholakia, director, IIM-Ahmedabad, "but it does not mean we will not outsource CAT in the future."
As collegians also know, all has not been well with the CAT lately. The shameful leak of the test questionnaire in 2003 has injured its reputation, and re-inventing it would be a good way to spring back to form. "We are still exploring various options," says a CAT Group member, revealing that modalities are being worked out for outsourcing the test.
The idea has plenty of support. "Outsourcing CAT is a good idea as it will save the professors a lot of time and energy," says a faculty member of IIM-Ahmedabad, who would rather have the admission committee's time spent on interviewing a much wider breadth of candidates.
Anup Singh, director, Nirma Institute of Management, agrees. "The core business of institutes of excellence like the IIMs should be teaching rather than conducting tests," he says, making a case for a test operated along the pattern of America's GMAT.
Developed and administered by an independent testing service several times a year, the standardised GMAT can be taken (or retaken) by students at any convenient date, and then forwarded to any number of B-schools (which use the scores as one among many admission criteria). Moreover, GMAT is open to anybody who pays the fee to take the test.
Could that be the way to revitalise the CAT?
It's worth a thought. But, maybe, an additional way to enhance its longevity is to go beyond the administrative issues of testing and rethink the very test itself.
NIM's Singh sees no need to meddle with a test that has such a good track record in picking India's brightest students. Yet, the rapidly increasing number of whizkids taking the test is straining its value as a selection tool.
Such are the multitudes taking the CAT these days, goes the grumble, that only the ultra-numerate tend to get through.
The CAT is just too tilted towards geeks, complains Chiranjeet Sapre, an MBA aspirant, and he doesn't speak solely from personal disappointment.
Even CAT successes admit the test could be made fairer to non-engineers if skills of reason and analysis were tested in non-arithmetic ways as well. And, given the complexity of running businesses, the best performing managers are often those who vivify their frame of analysis with much more than a maze of numbers.
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