This CAT turned out to be a computer-challenged, dysfunctional kitten. Press cuttings from across India mirror students woes.
Mouse-challenged CAT makes shameful debut


Computer glitches  hassle thousands of students across India, taking the Common Entrance Test for admission to the Indian Institutes of Management, online for the first time

IndiaTechOnline Comment

Management gurus and your  so-called technology partners, hang your  heads in shame  and go to the  back  of your own class.   Before you preach  global management practices  at  some of  the stiffest higher education fees in India, you should  practice the basic  tenet that  even small  businesses and development houses   adopt ( and without  any fancy MBA titles after their name).   That says,  don't unleash a software or hardware solution on the public, till you have tested it for every possible glitch -- and then tested it some more. And above all, don't blame   the customer  if anything goes wrong. It is for you to make your solution  dummy-proof.

The honchos responsible for conducting the   Common Admission  Test  (CAT) of the Indian Institutes of Management  (IIMs) and their technology partner Prometric, are apparently innocent of any such understanding. They joined to make the test an online affair for the first time this year -- and to handle the 241,500 students who had registered  to take the test, they  set up centres across 32 cities  where students could  write the test online, over a 10 day period starting November 28. Our math  says approx 24,000 students would have  been online simultaneously on any given day.  For a real time  online application, that does not appear to be a daunting  piece of logistics. 

Yet on Saturday,   reports poured in from  at least 10 centres  across the country of  computers hanging up,  passwords rejected, screens freezing, keyboards so slow, students just couldn't answer the questions. In centre after centre,  tests were cancelled and students asked to stand by to take it another day. 

The response of those in charge  has been ungracious to say the least. They stress that the students have lost nothing and can do it again.  No sensitivity, no apology,  for thousands of  young people who travel from interior places to reach the exam centres, spending  precious money on an overnight stay in a strange town. "Online tests are not time and space bound" is   the lofty reaction of IIM Kozhikode director D. Chatterjee, quoted in DNA.  No Sir,   we thought, pardon our  ignorance, that  online meant  just that --  time bound and instantaneous. The word is Real Time, Sir.    In one centre alone in Bangalore, 1000 students had to go home on Saturday without being able to do the CAT.

If IIM or their technology partners are too challenged  to set up an online test  where less than  50,000  log in at the same time, they are better off outsourcing the operation  to any of  the hundreds of Indian  service providers who routinely handle a   hundred times this  number .  We know of at least two state school boards in Kerala and Maharashtra who have  created   glitch-free online exam or admission systems where  the numbers are comparable. 

The world is watching you, IIM. They will be saying : These Indians  boast of being   the best  outsourced service providers, yet they can't   handle  a fairly simple piece of online logistics  without making a mess...

Back to the drawing board ( sorry, should we say CAD station?)  guys;  your online CAT has been a mouse-challenged  kitten.  Get IT right next time.

- Bangalore  Nov 29 2009