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Shot in the arm for CAT, as B-schools seek credibility

While competitive exams like JMET die a slow death, growing number of institutes take to CAT scores

Kalpana Pathak Vinay Umarji  |  Mumbai/ Ahmedabad 


At a review meeting in June, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, decided to do away with the Joint Entrance Test (JMET). The decade-old exam, a qualifying test for getting admissions into business schools run by IITs and the Indian Institute of Science, has now given way to the Common Admission Test (CAT), promoted by the Indian Institutes of (IIMs).

IIMs are elated at the growing popularity of CAT. In a maze of over a dozen qualifying examinations, CAT is the only one that attracts a few lakh aspirants every year. “It’s heartening to see quality institutes like IITs too joining the bandwagon to accepting CAT as a qualifying examination. This reinforces CAT’s credibility. This will not only push CAT’s popularity but also increase the number of registrations by 25 per cent,” said Janakiraman Moorthy, CAT convenor for 2011.

The death of JMET can be attributed to the fact that it was not too different from CAT in content. Most students who take JMET also appear for CAT. Also, it saw 30,000 students were enrolled for 2010, compared to 40,000 in 2009. In 2010, CAT saw about 206,000 registrations. However, after a fall in the number of students taking the CAT over the last two years, IIMs say they expect to see a growth this year. The third computer-based edition of the yearly-test, conducted by IIMs through partner Prometric, is expected to witness a 25 per cent rise in applications. In 2008, around 276,000 aspirants appeared for CAT. This fell to 240,000 in 2009.

Expectations of such a rise in applications may also be due to an almost glitch-free CAT last year, after a bumpy start in 2009, when IIMs and Prometric had to conduct the test in two phases, after thousands of candidates suffered technical glitches at several centres. Prometric also discontinued its partnership with NIIT after the first stint and moved on to tie up with MeritTrac and Everonn.

Ten new non-IIM B-schools would accept CAT scores this year, which would push the total number of non-IIM institutes accepting CAT scores to over 165. While B-schools registering with IIMs to use CAT scores pay a first time fee of Rs 2.5 lakh, regular B-schools pay Rs 2 lakh per annum for this.

IIMs plan to take the examination to international level in future and conduct it round-the-year. They have received requests from international B-schools to conduct CAT for them.

IIMs also plan to hive off CAT into a separate entity. “But that will be taken up in a year or two, since this year, we intend to focus only on strengthening the test. By having a separate entity for CAT, IIMs can focus on management education, while the former will take care of conducting the premier test,” said Moorthy.

As part of consolidation and to offer convenience to more candidates, three new cities – Bhilai, Jammu and Dehradun – have been added to the previous 33 test locations. This will help bring CAT closer to the northern states. Now, candidates will also be able to purchase CAT vouchers from 201 Axis Bank branches, an increase of 30 outlets, said Moorthy. CAT registrations which began this month are open till September 28.

This year, CAT will be conducted under a new format, with only two sections instead of three. The first section will focus on quantitative ability and data interpretation; the second on verbal ability and logical reasoning. These two sections will be implemented sequentially with separate time limits. The examination will be for 140 minutes, where candidates will have 70 minutes to answer 30 questions within each section, which will have an on-screen countdown timer. Once the time ends for the first section, they will move to the second and will no longer be able to go back.

“With the introduction of the new format, we want to see how it helps candidates to focus on specific content. Under the new format, candidates can concentrate on whichever section they are working on and it won’t give an undue advantage to candidates strong in a particular section,” said Moorthy.

First Published: Thu, September 01 2011. 00:04 IST