New Delhi: The hugely competitive Common Admission Test (CAT) for admission into business schools went online for the first time on Saturday, but several students had a harrowing time as computers crashed in 11 centres across the country.
The unexpected fault occurred soon after the CAT examination began in 32 cities, but organisers said it affected only a small number of the 12,000-odd aspirants who appeared on the first day of the staggered exam.
The organisers termed the failure as "teething problems" since the test switched over this year to a computer-based system from the earlier optical reader marking paper-based tests.
Satish Deodhar, convenor of the CAT committee of the IIMs, said the main reason for the problem was "incompatibility of some softwares at centres with servers".
"This is the first time the CAT is being held online. Despite our efforts to keep a demo online, the students clicked wrong buttons which in turn led to the students facing problems. These are just teething problems. We will ensure that the students are accommodated in the slots that will be held over the next 10 days.
"If such a thing is not possible, then one day would be added to accommodate all the students who faced a problem. Hopefully, this problem will not be repeated again," Deodhar said.
Ulhas Vairagkar, director of TIME Institute, a preparatory school for IIM aspirants, told sources: "We got calls from students in six cities saying they were not able to give the test because the computer system crashed. The (affected) students have been told they can take another time slot."
Candidates complained of chaos.
Said Mohini P. in Bangalore: "It is very disappointing. I had come fully prepared and could not write the exam as I failed to log into the computer. No one came forward to help me."
Added an aspirant outside a Delhi centre: "There was complete mess. Nobody knew how we had to log in. Let alone the students, the administration did not know the password."
In Mumbai, some complained of lack of communication from the authorities.
"When I started my tutorial the screen went blank. We were not allowed to do anything after that. We were not allowed to move out, We were not allowed to leave. We were asked to sit there quietly. After two hours the authorities came and told us that our exam had been rescheduled," said one student in Mumbai.
US firm Prometric has developed the computer system for CAT. The company and the CAT committee said the test had been mostly successful.
Prometric managing director Soumitra Roy told sources: "Thousands of tests were successfully delivered throughout India. To accommodate the maximum number of candidates, Prometric and IIMs delayed the start of the morning session by about half hour. As a result of isolated technical issues, some candidates are being rescheduled and provided a new appointment."
Around 240,000 students have registered for the CAT this year, which is scheduled at 105 centres in 32 cities, all linked to a main server.
Besides New Delhi, complains of computer crashes came from Bangalore and Mumbai.
IIMs and Prometric had issued a disclaimer to all the students appearing for the exam to refrain from discussing the new format and questions till Dec 7 when the exam ends.
Last year, nearly 276,000 students across India took the test. Several experts told sources earlier that the fall in registrations this year was due to CAT going online.
CAT exam assesses quantitative, logical, verbal and data interpretation ability of management aspirants. IANS