Almost three lakh students seeking admission into IIMs in November this year will be able to appear for the Common Admission Test (CAT) online, as India's premier management institutes seek to transform the over three-decade-old examination system and provide more flexibility to IIM aspirants by adopting an Internet – based system. The new computer-based test (CBT) will be embraced by IIMs across Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Indore, Kozhikode, Lucknow and Shillong, and will allow students to select a date convenient to them from a specified period of 10 days. 'CBT CAT will be a candidate-friendly test in terms of flexibility in the selection of test date, ease of registration process, better physical environment and test experience,' told professor Amarnath Krishnaswamy of IIM Bangalore (IIM-B). The new system is also expected to help the IIMs cope effectively with the increasing number of candidates every year. While around 95,000 candidates took CAT in 2003, the number rose to about 250,000 last year, reflecting a growth of over 163% and bringing the administrative system under severe pressure.
CBT will integrate the processes involving programme information, test delivery, receipt of admit cards and score reports apart from ensuring better security through online video monitoring and biometric identification of candidates. A web-based examination system is also expected to help aspirants in remote towns take the test. 'The online CAT ensures that we can reach out in a much bigger way. The exam can be administered in many locations where the internet is available,' said IIM Calcutta dean (programme initiatives) Saibal Chattopadhyay. However, students such as Arvind Sharma who passed out of IIM-B this year say the new system might not help students accustomed to doing rough calculations on paper. Meanwhile, training institutes such as Ahmedabad-based Endeavor Careers, which are focused on helping CAT aspirants through coaching, said they will upgrade their systems accordingly. This is not the first time IIMs have attempted to modernise the examination system. In late 1980, CAT embraced optical machine reading technology for faster evaluation of answer sheets.