Is it possible to bell the CAT online?

This is a first person account of what happened with me on the first day of the much hyped and hysterical CAT exam. I had decided that since there is a 10 day window for the exam and the excessive media attention towards the exam, its better for me to pay off the liability on the very first day. That’s exactly what I did.

My exam was scheduled on Nov 28. 3.30 pm, Bandra, Mumbai. Before leaving home, at around 12.30 pm I chanced upon to see a couple of news channels who were beaming flashes that the CAT exam servers have crashed at certain locations. The most starking city of the lot was Bangalore. Isn’t Bangalore the IT hub of India? Isn’t that the city where the IT revolution in this country started? Isn’t the prized city of Karnataka the Silicon Valley of India? Then why did the servers crashed in Bangalore? And we say that our infrastructure is blah blah blah.

I left home thinking that Mumbai wont suffer such issues as this is THE city in India. Even at its worse this city is one of the best in the country. I was be be proved wrong shortly.

I reached my exam centre, Fr Agnel’s Engineering college at 1.15 pm. Waited for 15 minutes as the instructions clearly said that reach two hours before the exam and “NO ONE WOULD BE ALLOWED TO ENTER AFTER 2 pm.”

All the aspiring MBAs were standing outside the college till two as the first batch hadn’t finished their exam yet. For the record, the first batch was supposed to sit for the exam at 10.30 and finish at 12.30 pm. They started late as the servers in Mumbai crashed, too.

After 2 pm, we started to enter the college premises and went to our designated floors. My exam was scheduled at the 9th floor computer lab. Once at the 9the floor, the security incharge asked us to line up at the 8th floor, get ourselves checked- and return to the 9th floor. What other option did we have? After standing in the que
for 20 minutes, the security incharge tells us to go back on the 9th floor and get the required process started there. We go back. After the check, and zipping our phones, wallets, watches, pens, etc, we were asked to settle ourselves in a small room called auditorium. I clearly remember my space starved KC College in Mumbai had 5 times bigger class rooms than this “auditorium” at an engineering college.

Anyway, now totally cut-off from the world and no idea about the time (as our watches too, were taken away) we waited. Patiently, we waited, some slept, some made new friends, some glanced away from the window to the under construction Bandra-Worli sea link and some, to the swimming pool of Taj, Land’s End. I repented not getting my spectacle made and couldn’t see whats happening at a distance 😦

The imaginary clock was ticking lazily in the hot and humid Mumbai afternoon. Tick. Tick. Tick. The Prometric is a tick actually.

I cant believe that the prestigious IIMs, who teach Indians how to “manage” couldn’t manage a simple exam online? How difficult it could be if you have one year to prepare the infrastructure and an organisation like Prometric, a biggie who knows how to manage these online exams?

Somewhere post 4.30 pm the issues were sorted out and we slowed inched closer to our designated spaces. A finger-print scan and a picture later, I sat and waited yet again.

Ah yes, one more thing: Dear IIMs, please don’t think that we Indians are drop dead lame and stupid and still think that computers are some creepy machines which requires years and years of practice to master. The so called 15-minute tutorial was actually, technically a 30 second 9 steps interactive pictures. I can take on anyone in the world who defends that it was a video. It wasn’t.

After spending 30 seconds on the lame 9-step instruction screen, i waited yet again as the college didn’t let us start the exam before 5.30 pm. You read it correct, no typo there, 5.30 pm. An exam that was supposed to begin at 3.30 was a good 2 hours late. And mind you, were were asked to report 2 hours before the exam.

What followed wasn’t a smooth ride either. My computer crashed twice as the previous test taken was closed properly and a screen warning the same appeared every two minutes. I couldn’t begin the test for a good 5 minutes and was given technical assistance which somehow brought things under control.

I read in newspapers today morning that the CAT convenor has said that problems are bound to happen as this is the first time CAT is online. What? Really? Did he say that? hm.. This means, that when the American credit market crashed last year and the whole world collapsed afterwards, we should have said, “This is the first time this is happening so please bear with us.”

Shouldn’t the convenor be saying what steps they are taking to minimize the glitches?

Prometric, which boasts of being a Mr know-it-all in the online test space has failed miserably. How can so many servers crash at the same time? They knew that over 2 lakh aspirants will be sitting for the exam in these 10 days right?

Moreover, only 10,000 aspirants typed the exam on the first day. Prometric couldn’t manage 10,000 people, that too, in two slots.

2 thoughts on “Is it possible to bell the CAT online?

  1. Natalie Connolly January 19, 2010 at 5:47 pm Reply

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  2. Anonymous May 28, 2010 at 10:24 pm Reply

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