Approximately 7,000-8,000 candidates have not been able to take the computer-based CAT 2009 test due to snags in the Prometric-managed exam between Saturday and Monday, said Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad Director Dr Samir Barua at a press conference in Ahmedabad on Monday evening. A total of 47 testing labs failed on Saturday, another 33 labs collapsed on Sunday while about 30 labs could not administer the test on Monday, he added.
Sticking to the 'virus attack' theory and blaming the pitfalls of using technology, Prof Barua said, "The major reason appeared to be a virus attack. All precautions had been taken for protection against virus attack, but we did not succeed in doing so at a few labs. In some of the other centers, there were hardware problems and replacement took 2 hours."
"There are always bound to be problems in the first time such a huge exam takes place, especially if it is concerns technology. But we are working very hard to fix all the problems and accommodate all candidates," he added.
On rescheduling, he said, "We will try to accommodate the rescheduled tests within this week as we have a few empty slots available. But if required, we will stretch the CAT for two extra days on Dec 8 and 9." He added that the two-day extension would be avoided, as not all of the slots in this week were running on full capacity.
"When we reschedule, the students may not be able to choose a date or slot of their convenience. Their choice will thus get restricted. We'll try to make sure that the new slots are as convenient as per their initial choice. There would not be a single candidate who will not be able to take the test. But there will be inconvenience caused. Do we recognize and empathize with student? Yes we do. But the inconvenience is a fact of life and we cannot do anything at this stage," he said.
On some problems reported by candidates of disturbances caused by uncooperative invigilators who continued to use their mobile phones throughout the test, Prof Barua said, "We cannot be responsible if the invigilators talk on phone. The invigilators have moral responsibility too and something like this is possible even in paper based test."
"We believe that the ambience and environment has improved considerably since today," he said.
CAT Convenor Satish Deodhar ruled out the IIMs reverting back to the paper-based format and added that the CAT will be continue to be conducted online next year too.
"The preparation to make this online started in April 2007 but it took time to take off because of the tender process. We will continue to go in this direction and it's been a good beginning so far. Yes, we have somewhat failed, but we are correcting those problems now," he added.
Asked what sort of drills Prometric had conducted to prepare for the testing, Prometric Chief Operating Officer Charlie Karnan said that they had conducted mock drills at individual centers but not on a large scale. He added that 62% of affected candidates had already been rescheduled.
On problems reported by individual students of computer errors and reboots that gave some people extra time to solve problems, Prof Barua said, "If there is a genuine reason, they should report them to the center head and it would be considered. But if the students were idling their time away while the snag was being repaired then it is not the IIMs' responsibility."
Meanwhile, the Union Human Resources Development Ministry asked the IIMs to submit a report on the CAT failure.
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Edit: The quote about CAT continuing to remain online was incorrectly attributed to the IIMA Director in the title, whereas it was actually made by CAT Convenor Satish Deodhar. The error has been rectified.