Nearly 10,000 students have registered for the exam which is being held in 3 centres in Chennai

Approximately four hours before he flew abroad on a company visit, Umang Rungta finished a task, which he says, has almost acquired the status of an annual ritual – taking the CAT. “I have been aiming to get into the IIMs for three years. Now let us see… I will not quit my job unless I get into the best,” said the 26-year-old employee of an e-commerce company.

It was an important day for B-school aspirants such as him as CAT 2011 (Common Admission Test), the gateway to the 13 IIMs and over 150 business schools across the country, commenced on Saturday. Nearly 10,000 candidates have registered for the exam in Chennai, and sources estimate that 400 of them took it on the first day. “Many find it convenient to take the test at later dates, so that they have an idea of the pattern,” said T. Krishna, a student of Anna University. The test will be conducted in different sessions till November 18, and the candidates had to register online for a favourable slot.

Security was tight at all three examination centres - Everonn Education in Perungudi Industrial Estate; Saveetha Engineering College, Sriperumbudur; and Vel Tech Dr RR and Dr SR Technical University, Avadi.

The students were asked to report 90 minutes before the test which, as announced earlier, had only two sections instead of three. The first section had questions on quantitative ability and data interpretation (DI) while the second was based on verbal ability and logical reasoning. “By allocating 70 minutes for each section, the IIMs have taken off the burden of time management of the students, but they have to manage time within sections smartly to maximise attempts,” said S. Balasubramaniam, Director of T.I.M.E (Triumphant Institute of Management Education), Chennai.

“The DI was calculation-intensive but otherwise relatively okay; maybe it was because it was the first day,” said S. Bharath, an IT employee, who took the examination. Among other worries that seem to concern the candidates about the competitive examination is how the CAT evaluation committee plans to normalise the paper. “We have been told that the difficulty levels will be kept constant throughout the test period, but there is not much transparency on how they would they do it. This is one test where a single mark can cost you a seat,” said Prem Kumar, who attempted CAT for the first time.

Chennai, incidentally, has significantly fewer takers when it comes to the CAT when compared to other major cities. According to CAT 2011 data, it lags behind Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Pune. “It is only now that the B-school rage is catching up with the people here. There are just about 10,000 CAT takers here, compared to 18,000 in Bangalore and over 60,000 in New Delhi. We do not really have many reputed management institutes here either,” feels Ravi Chandran, an IIM-B alumnus and CAT trainer.

While the number of takers declined over the last two years ever since the test went online, this year has seen a slight reversal of the trend, says an official at Prometric India that conducts the test. Till last month, nearly 2.05 lakh candidates across the country had registered for the test, marginally exceeding last year's figure of 2.04 lakh. “Usually, several engineers opt for the JMET (admission test to pursue MBA at IITs). But this year as CAT replaces JMET, they have applied here. And FMS (Faculty of Management Studies) that has an examination, conducted by the University of Delhi had also decided to consider CAT score as eligibility,” says R. Jaishankar, a student of IIT- Madras.

However, the increase in the IIM fee structure might prove prohibitive for students. “The fee structure of the top B-schools have gone up from Rs.7 lakh to Rs.13 lakh for the course. Most banks do not lend loans to pursue MBAs in reputed private B-schools,” said K. Varun, an M.Com student targeting only the IIMs.

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Vasudha VenugopalJune 28, 2012