MBA aspirants file RTIs, may move court
...many are upset with their low scores in the CAT

Kalpana Pathak, Chitra Unnithan & Vinay Umarji / Mumbai / Ahmedabad
March 05, 2010

Even as many students got calls from the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other business schools for personal interviews and group discussions, many others are upset with their low scores in the Common Admission Test (CAT) and are raising a "transparency" issue with the institutes, besides mulling legal action.

The IIMs were just recovering from the uproar over technical glitches during the CAT. Now, at least five students have filed applications under the Right to Information (RTI) law. More are said to be in the offing. Students that Business Standard spoke to did not wish to be named, but said they are also in discussion with lawyers. More, some IIM professors are said to be lending support to the entire initiative, as they were themselves not happy at the manner the first computer-based CAT had been conducted.

The issue largely revolves around the lack of transparency in the marking scheme and lack of access to details on the test papers. A few faculty members of a test-preparing institute, who also took the CAT exam, said their score was as high as the 90th percentile, though they did not attempt most questions. "We have a team of people who take the exam from our institute. We divide the sections among us and attempt only that. So, many of us just attended one section, but have ended with scores as high as the 86 to 90 percentile. We are sure this has happened to students across the board," said a faculty member from one such institute.

"IIM professors have told us to go ahead and file a complaint, as none is coming forward with an explanation on the procedure they used to score us. Besides, Prometric (the agency conducting the test) has also not been helpful in removing our doubts," said a student, who said he had scored highly in the US-administered Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) but not in CAT, "despite it being an easy paper".

After IIM-Ahmedabad said it had replaced its admission procedure from a point-based system to one with more weightage to class X and XII marks, students have been upset about not having been informed earlier. A CAT candidate said, "It is unfair of IIM-A to change the admission procedure after the results, although they may have the right to do this. The entire CAT 2009 had been a shock for us and this only makes matters worse for us."

"Many are not happy with the results, as some of them have scored as high as 99.2 per cent in XAT (test for admission to XLRI and XIMB) and only around 96 per cent in CAT and are getting calls from top business schools but not the IIMs. Also, it is unfair for the IIMs to change their admission process at this time," said Gautam Puri, vice-chairman, Career Launcher.

"We don't try to search for different permutations and combinations by excluding a particular criterion like Class X or XII scores while screening candidates, as we do not want to come across as biased. Instead, we feed all the pre-requisites of selection criteria into a system and send call letters to all those who fit the eligibility criteria. As for replacing the point-based system of gauging academic performance with a straight 70 per cent score in Class X and XII exams, the move was to simplify the whole process and not discriminate any student," explained Diptesh Ghosh, chairpersons-admissions of IIM-A, in response to the allegations.

Students, meanwhile, have also written a letter (signed by over 100 students) to the IIMs and faculty members on the issue. "Prior to the CAT examination, IIM authorities had categorically stated that the difficulty levels across papers in a slot were consistently maintained by generating a large number of questions of equal difficulty to establish equivalence; but now have introduced a vague term in the scorecard, 'Psychometric equivalences' to adjust for the difficulty levels. There seems to be a contradiction. We students are confused to see such a marking scheme introduced without prior notification before the exam and till now, no explanation has been given from the IIMs or Prometric," states the letter, among other things.

"It is the right of the candidate to know about the changes in marking scheme, if any, prior to the examination. None of the IIMs or Prometric informed us regarding differential marking. IIMs were following only equal marking all this while. In the absence of the appropriate information regarding the changes in the examination and evaluation pattern, many serious candidates are now in a state of shock and disbelief. At the same time, many low-scoring candidates have expressed their surprise on the high scores," said a student from Delhi.

"If the IIMs and Prometric are sure of their methodology and calculations, please make the detailed scores of each candidate public. Let there be no doubt in the minds of the students, by making each parameter of CAT 2009 transparent," asserted another student.


published on on March 6, 2010


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