CAT goes online, students go offline

By SiliconIndia   |    61 Comments
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CAT goes online, students go offline
Bangalore: After a disappointing start to the online CAT, the authorities have given different theories to the problem ranging from a virus attack to server crash. However, in the eyes of students who are left in the lurch, things seem to be different.

With his eyes set on the top B-schools in the country, Srinath R.P. had prepared hard to bell the Common Admission Test (CAT) this year. His exam was scheduled to be held at R.V. College of Engineering, Bangalore at 10 am on 28 November. But, after reaching the centre, during the process of checking, Srinath got the shock of his life when he was informed by the authorities that his name was not downloading in the Prometric site.

"The authorities got in touch with Prometric/IIM authorities for more than three hours, but could not solve the problem. Then they told me that I can't take my CAT exam since my name is not downloading into the test site Roster," says Srinath. After the poor response, the authorities gave him Prometric Candidate Care contact number and asked him to call them for rescheduling the exam.

With a shimmer of hope left in his heart to take the exam this time, Srinath tried contacting Prometric, but this didn't put an end to his misery. "Even though I have tried contacting the number more than 20 times. There is no response and it only goes for redialing," says a dismayed Srinath, who is among thousands of candidates facing similar kinds of problem after the CAT went online. The students are also unsure about the rescheduled dates for their exam. The irony is that though India is touted as a technology hub, the dream of one of the prestigious exams in the country to go online is short-lived and the students are left in the dark.

Students who arrived at Garden City College in Bangalore were shocked when officials told them that the test had been called off because of a faulty server. There was complete confusion at the venue as none of the administrative officers knew what was happening and why the server was not working. Students held a dharna inside the exam hall.

Around 5,000 students will now have to take the CAT afresh at new dates throwing the original 10-day schedule into disarray. Technical experts blamed U.S. based Prometric - the agency entrusted with carrying out the first online version of CAT - for underestimating the magnitude of the task. "They didn't even have a Plan B," said a top official of another firm that runs online examinations, on condition of anonymity. Prometric said it has quarantined 50 labs across 14 centres on Sunday, and blamed the fiasco on a virus attack that went undetected.

The agency said that the problem was being sorted out, and the test was being rescheduled for the several affected candidates who would be informed through SMS and emails. A new date however, brings in new set of problems for the aspirants many of whom are employed and find it difficult to reschedule.

The seven IIMs and about 150 top B-schools base their admissions on CAT scores, and this year the exams were moved online hoping that it would speed up the process for the institutes and the 2.4 lakh candidates. IIMs' CAT panel gave the task to Prometrics, which runs online exams like GRE and TOEFL. However, with the situation taking a chaotic turn, IIM directors took stock of the situation and held a video conference on Sunday.

IIM Ahmedabad Director Samir Barua said computer labs were being sanitized. "We need to find out from where the virus attack happened," he said. Around 100 Prometric engineers have been pressed into service, said IIM Bangalore Director Pankaj Chandra.

"We, along with Prometric and NIIT, are trying to figure out where the problem lies. Since these computers were located in institutes, their backbone was used to download the software. In some places there were serious virus attacks. So we blocked some affected centres and others which we felt might get affected to clean up the computer system, remove viruses and reload the software," he said.

Only a small percentage of the total number of candidates has been affected, Chandra said. The centres where test could not be delivered on Sunday were in Bangalore, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Coimbatore, Ghaziabad, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Nagpur, Navi Mumbai, New Delhi and Varanasi.

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