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IIMs’ Moment of Shame

December 4, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Emanuel Joute

It’s one of the biggest ironies of sorts how the best management institutes in the country – the IIMs – failed in managing their common admission test, known as CAT, this year. Many feel that the IIMs were over ambitious and ill-prepared to go the online way for one of the toughest entrance exams in the world. A few questions arise. For one, what made them believe they can conduct an online test for over 2.4 lakh MBA aspirants in just 10 days, knowing full well how bad the online infrastructure in the country is? Secondly, were they short-sighted? There was no Plan-B in place. Thirdly, don’t they teach crisis management? They way they have handled the situation so far has been pathetic. For the first two days (tests began 28 November), it seemed they were clueless about how to handle the crisis. Communication was poor. It was only much after some politicians raised the issue that the IIMs and Prometric, the company entrusted with conducting the test, came out with a statement that several centres across the country had been affected by viruses. On 3 December, finally, the IIMs came out with a list of instructions for aspirants whose tests have been rescheduled, as well as for those who have already given the test.

In all, it has been a big drub to the IIM’s brand image. This comes in a year when the number of CAT takers fell from 2.7 lakh in 2008 to 2.4 lakh, with many attributing this fall to the poor 2009 placements. Also, some observers attribute this fall to CAT going the online way, taking into account the discrepancy of students’ background in India. “A mere mention of ‘online test’ would scare away a dozen people,” quips a teacher from an MBA coaching institute.

CAT is usually conducted between the last week of November and first week of December every year. This period is crucial as most of the universities across the country conduct their internal exams in December. In a country like India, it is well known that exams not only affect the student but the entire family. Preparation for any exams has its momentum, and re-igniting a lost momentum is not easy. And as Mint commented, CAT is a test that promises educational, financial and social mobility. Chaos and a lack of transparency is not what they expect from the high priests of management education.

  1. Amit Gupta
    December 15, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    I am sure all of us understand that the test was a computer based test and not an online examination – the use of the word online is only tantamount to computer based!

    Computer based tests are only a natural extention of pen and paper bases tests and is certainly here to stay – GMAT is held world over as a computer based test by Pearson Vue and the number of applicants is significant such as in the case of CAT.

    Where IIMs (read Prometric) faltered was lack of infrastructure and complete absence of Plan B. The much delayed reaction from their end only complicated matters..

  2. dechen
    December 4, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    I wish u had covered this from a PR point of view, as in how institutions should/have run smooth PR campaigns. I think that’s the story there (the rest was covered in the newsies anyway), that the crisis management wasn’t slick enough.
    Imagine that happening with say harvard? What would Harvard do?????????? Lol

    • Manish
      December 9, 2009 at 3:25 pm

      Objection sustained !!

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