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Now, a single entrance exam for all B-schools?

Last updated on: August 31, 2011 10:52 IST

Now, a single entrance exam for all B-schools?

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Lajwanti Dsouza
Is the closure of Joint National Management Test (JMET) only the beginning of the end of the various other specialised b-school entrance exams? The author explores the situation.

SS Mantha, chairman of the All India Council for Technical Education told media last week that from 2013 onwards, only one entrance exam (the CMAT) will come into force, though the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and deemed universities would be allowed to retain their tests.

While the idea is still at a nascent stage, it has already set-off discussions in b-school circles.

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Image: 2013 onwards, only one entrance exam (the CMAT) may come into force

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Single exam is easy

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The poll on the PaGaLGuY homepage indicates that of the 2386 who have voted so far, about 56 % prefer a single test. Students, when called randomly for a 'yes' or 'no' said that one exam would definitely ease the pressure off the 5-month exam season, which starts with Common Admission Test (CAT) and possibly ends with the Common Entrance Test (CET).

"It would also mean that a student can put in all his energies into one exam and make sure he scores well," said a student who was buying a voucher for CAT at an AXIS Bank branch.

Shashank Prabhu, a first year student with FMS Delhi, says that a single test can impact both the ways.

"From the aspirants' point of view, it would be easier to 'prepare' for a single test rather than adapt to various tests. And for the test administrators, it would be easier to design a single test rather than going for multiple tests. They can go for a well prepared good paper which could test the aspirants well."

Shashank added that having a common test would mean that all the intellectual resources are directed towards a single point and so, the quality is bound to be better.

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Image: With single test, the quality is bound to be better

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Different exams test different abilities

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Students also said that the current multiple exams actually test different abilities which in effect act as parameters for the b-schools.

Kriti Agarwal, first year student of Indian Institute of Management Indore says that there is a clear differentiation between the major b-school entrance examinations in terms of their pattern and what aspect of a student they are trying to evaluate.

Kirti's evaluation of the different papers is as follows:

  • CAT over the years has developed from a lengthy paper to a relatively short logical paper, giving more or less the same importance to all its sections Quantitative analysis, Data Interpretation and Verbal Analysis.
  • SNAP is number based and formula based and is relatively easy. It generally has high cut-offs.
  • XAT has always maintained a greater level of difficulty. This year's XAT exam was particularly tough with a great deal of emphasis on business logic and analysis. It also tests the students on their writing skills.
  • The entrance exam for FMS lays a great deal of emphasis on English and is a lengthy paper.
  • Various exams like SNAP and IIFT test the general knowledge of the aspirants.
  • NMAT is considered relatively easy with NMAT introducing a system of 3 attempts to the paper during their testing window.

Shashank slightly disagrees and states that there is no major difference between the different entrance tests, only the processes are different and so also the target audience.

"Top rankers might not target SNAP, NMAT, state entrances, etc. Also, some of these tests might have an additional section (general knowledge in case of IIFT and SNAP) or might be different in the type of questions asked (decision making caselets in XAT, vocabulary in FMS) or might tweak the cut-offs (no sectionals as with IIFT 2010, 50%ile sectionals as with FMS)," he says.

Shashank concludes that at the end the day, all b-school need candidates who are good across all the sections and the pool can be narrowed down so as to get a targeted number of people for GDPI.

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Image: Only the processes are different and so also the target audience

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Multiple tests, answer to bad hair day

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Students in general also point out that multiple tests help students to make good, a bad hair day.

"If one of the entrance exam papers is tough, there is still hope of another exam in a multiple exam system. But if there were one exam for all admissions, and if that one exam was bad, that would be the end," said a student.

Kirti adds that multiple exams are good because a single entrance exam may not benefit a set of students good in one particular section or having exceptional verbal or quantitative skills which help them get crack the exams which lay emphasis on these skills.

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Image: Multiple tests, answer to bad hair day

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Why faculty members are not too excited

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While several b-schools are not too excited, even faculty members also do not think very brightly about this idea.

Dr Parimal Merchant, Admissions Director, at SPJain Institute of Management and Research says that multiple tests have never been an issue with those setting the papers. "As it is there are many b-schools that take CAT, not just the IIMs so many students also take CAT. And exams test specific skills. It is up to the b-school to adopt their own selection criteria and admit the students. It hence does not then make any difference if there is one exam or many."

When asked whether students would be happy, Dr Merchant said "may be to a small extent as there are fewer students who take all the exams. Students generally sit for a choice of exams and base their b-school choice on them."

Director of the Regional College of Management, Orissa and president of the Association of Indian Management Schools (AIMS), Prof Prabir Pal is not at all impressed with what AICTE has mooted.

He said that in fact his association is ready to go to court against the AICTE in this regard. "We are already fighting a legal battle against AICTE for a variety of reasons including the issue of a common exam that AICTE wants as per their circulated dated December 2010. That matter has still not reached a final conclusion, then on what basis can AICTE even speak about another common entrance exam?" he asked.

But there are other voices among b-schools. According to Dr V Panduranga Rao, Director IMT, Hyderabad, the single exam will definitely help the student community, provided there is an error-free mechanism of maintaining quality and administration of the test. The appropriate example would be GMAT.

Dr Rao adds, "Different entrance exams emphasise different things which may or may not have any relevance to the 'course of study' the student intends to pursue. Aspirant's time, money and energy are being stressed out without any meaningful result." 

In fact, the issue of money was raised by quite a few people. It is largely felt that entrance exams are a big source of fund for the schools that conduct it.

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Image: Picture used for representation purposes only
Photographs: Rediff Archives
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Single exam will create confusion

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Even as students and b-schools battled it out on whether the single exam idea is practical or not, the fact that it has created confusion is also a point to be noted.

However, Sujata Khanna of Career Launcher has a totally different point of view.

She argues that if CAT is going to be retained and so also the exams by deemed universities, then which is the single exam that AICTE is talking about?

"If AICTE wants to come up with CMAT, then it will have to decide what to do with MAT and ATMA. Will they remain or be merged together or done away with?" she asks.

Ms Khanna adds that even if CMAT is made compulsory for the AICTE-affiliated b-schools, the fact will remain that with CAT, NMAT, SNAP and FMS entrance exam being allowed, CMAT will still be just another entrance exam.

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Image: Single exam will create confusion

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Will be helpful for a small percentage of students

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Authorities clarify

An AICTE official remarked that Mantha's statement was only an idea to make it easier for students who have to take so many different exams to gain entry to a b-school. "One exam will make the system simple," said the official.

Dr Dayanand Meshram, joint director at Department of Technical Education, Maharashtra confirmed that the idea was put up but there is no finality about it, as "AICTE can only suggest, it cannot implement without necessary sanctions."

When asked whether it was a good idea from DTE point of view to have one exam, Dr Meshram said that anyway the single exam (if ever it comes into play) will affect only a small percentage of students as the IIMs and deemed universities will continue to have their own exams.

"For this small percentage of students, it will be helpful," he said.

But with both students and b-school officials stating that the idea is not too bright, why is AICTE even thinking of it?


Image: Will be helpful for a small percentage of students

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