Management seat aspirants, vying for that much-coveted seat in the elite Indian Institutes of Management, are looking at a critical fortnight ahead of them. The Common Admission Test, used as a yardstick for admission to the IIMs and 150 other top B-schools in the country, will be held from November 28 to December 7 this year.

With the added anxiety of a completely new computer-based format to grapple with, candidates are attending mock tests, brushing up on their computer skills and even attempting online tests to prepare themselves for D-Day. To quell their anxiety, the IIMs, with their partner Prometric, have even released a guide that could be downloaded from their website. In addition, candidates can view a “what to expect on test day” multimedia guide, which will take them through the procedure. Similar videos were released by Prometric, and a few other coaching centres, prior to the online registration process.

Given that most students these days are computer literate, how much of a challenge is the computer-based CAT? Says Prashanth Iyengar, a software professional appearing for CAT for the second consecutive year: “I am quite comfortable with the online version, and so is everybody who has appeared for any online test like the GRE or GMAT for example.” However, he adds, what is indeed worrisome is the fact that the exam is being held over 10 days. The exam, which ranks students on percentiles (emphasising on comparative or relative performance), is likely to have a different set of questions every day. “What remains to be seen is whether this will entail a change in difficulty levels over successive days,” he explains.

Unfamiliar ground

Even though sitting for a computer-based test does not require additional skill sets, and the IIMs have not announced any change in pattern, students are worried that swapping between sections might be an issue. On a more serious note, students who are not as computer-savvy feel that they might end up performing less than their optimum speed.

Commerce graduate Anamika Phadnis, a student at TIME coaching centre, says she never paid attention to typing fast or navigating through web pages. “Now, I am attending all the mock tests I can. I am working towards getting used to reading things off a screen,” she says, adding that retaining her attention level while reading off a screen, particularly when it comes to the Verbal Ability section, remains a challenge.

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