Testing Glitch Causes Problems for Thousands of Indian Applicants

Posted by: Alison Damast on December 8, 2009

Thousands of Indian business school applicants who signed up for the online admission test for India’s most prestigious management schools were in for a rude surprise after the exam was found to be plagued by computer viruses and malware. Nearly 20,000 students across India had their exams rescheduled after problems with the exam were found at testing labs across the country, according to a report in India’s Economic Times.

This year was the first time that the Common Admission Test (CAT), the exam required by the seven state-sponsored Indian Institutes of Management, was offered online. There were 241,582 students registered for this year’s exam, 45,000 of whom were slated to take the new computer-based exam. Prometric, a U.S.-based test administration company, was contracted to deliver the test online on 17,000 computers in 32 cities across India during the testing period between Nov. 28 and Dec. 7. But problems arose on the first day of testing on Nov. 28, when 47 testing labs experienced virus problems and persisted over the next few days.

A notice on the official CAT Web site states:

Some testing labs have been experiencing technical difficulties mainly due to viruses and malware. Prometric is continually assessing these labs and should testing not be possible for any session at specific labs, affected candidates will be contacted by SMS and email. Rescheduling of these candidates will then be done and new appointments communicated again via SMS and email.

Students were allowed to reschedule their exam for another time period during the testing window, and the testing period was extended an extra day – Dec. 8 – to allow for retesting, according to a notice on the CAT Web site. However, there is concern that not all impacted students will be able to retake the exam within this year’s testing window, and many students still remain uncertain when they will be able to take the exam, according to reports in the Indian press.

A spokeswoman from Prometric did not return a phone call seeking comment.

But a press release issued by Prometric offers some hope to impacted test takers:

While the main testing window for the CAT 2009 will end on 8 December 2009 as scheduled, any registered candidate who may not have had an opportunity to complete testing by that date will be intimated of a subsequent date and venue for testing over the coming weeks. All candidates can be assured that they will receive an opportunity to test.

Sushma Swaraj, the leader of India’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, called the testing problems a “national shame,” according to a Dec. 1 story in the Hindustan Times.

“We call ourselves an IT superpower but we could not hold a successful online test. This is a national shame,” Swaraj told reporters last week.

Readers, have you had to reschedule your CAT exam? How do you think the IIMs and Prometric have been handling the situation?

Reader Comments

Ehklos

December 9, 2009 6:47 AM

I didn't have to reschedule my CAT exam but some of my friends have had to do so. One of my friend's exam was rescheduled on December 8th but he wasn't able to take the exam because he was also having university exams that day. When he tried calling prometric, it seems none of them took the call. Also, there were some reports in the media that some of the questions which came for the students in the initial days were repeated later on. I hope IIM's look into this matter. If they can do something on the lines of what GMAT did to a Chinese website recently, it would be awesome. (They should more importantly go through the networking sites and ban the students who cheated or received some sort of prior help for 5 years or so)

Vamsi Tetali

December 9, 2009 12:25 PM

I didn't have to reschedule my test but my confidence in the Indian Institutes of Management is all but diffused completely.
Technical glitches of different kinds led to a few candidates gaining additional time(in the form of time required to restart a machine that freezes midway during an attempt) and others losing time.
The testing environment was far from ideal with inexperienced proctors themselves often being a source of disturbance.
The questions themselves were far too easy compared to previous versions of the CAT, a test that was often referred to as the toughest management entrance test in the world.

Denzil Dsa

December 10, 2009 2:57 AM

I share Vamsi's fate and view of the total breakdown of anything that attributes an exam that sets the standadards while being affiliated to the IIMs that teach 'management', which in this case one cannot comment much. The proctors clearly lacked experience, the lab setup was crowded notwithstanding the equipment. While we were asked to secure our mobiles outside the lab, the mobiles phones of the proctors were rining at regular intervals in the lab. Although we arrived 2hrs prior to the scheduled start of the exam, the proctors without any remorse pronounced that the exam would be posptponed by an hour. During the exam, they would interrupt you with their instructions, if not discuss among themselves without any discreation. Even when we finished our exam within the two hr fifteen min time alloted, they intended to force us to stay back for over an hour, with an excuse that other test takers need to complete their tests. This entire affair amounts to bad management and has resulted in anything but a fair playing field for us CAT aspirants!

Suman Roy

December 23, 2009 5:12 PM

IIMs should cancel the Prometric contract and use another Co. Or set up an agency themselves to do the testing. The IIMs can also think of suing Prometric for this fiasco.

Johnny Depp

April 1, 2010 6:25 PM

IT Superpower? Yeah, right!

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