Friday, December 02, 2005

Correcting the Competitive Exam mess ?!?

Rashmi in a thought provoking post MBA-Entrance : Time for a rethink makes a case for rethink on the way MBA-Entrance is conducted in our country. Few will disagree with the need to rethink on the admission process. However I wish that well meaning individuals be careful about offering piecemeal soutions. I write this blog to add my few pennies worth to the issue.

Rashmi in her blog writes:
"The future of b school entrance is online, but getting the technical and infrastructural details right will take a couple of years. We would have to go the GRE/ GMAT way and not insist on a simultaneous exam for 150,000 students.

While the idea is in the right direction, my concern is far bigger than just getting the infrastructure right or the difference in difficulty levels.

A very large part of our country is still not computer savvy - making CAT an online exam would mean that they will be at an obvious disavantage. Now, people might wonder whether such people write CAT - my answer is YES and many are both ambitious and sincere and quite a few have started making it to the best of B-Schools. By making the exam online we are warding off certain sections of our society from aspiring to enter our hallowed portals of education.

Sceptics might scoff at this as a socialist idea - let them. An online exam is against certain sections of our society and hence is a poor idea.

Rashmi in her blog writes:
Allwin Agnel, a non-MBA and founder of has an interesting perspective on this. Right now, he says, we have 150,000 applicants because all they have to do is take a 2 hour multiple choice exam

Good that she wrote allwin agnel is a non-MBA but I wonder how could Rashmi - an IIM alumni accept those lines? A quick back of the paper analysis will tell us that more than that number of students prepare for this exam with various coaching classes in India for months if not years. Obviously they are investing money and year long efforts not becuase they think its just a 2 hour exam but because they find management degree from an IIM a sure method to upwardly mobile careers.

Rashmi in her blog writes:
...Make it harder - ask applicants to write 3 essays, get recommendation letters, demonstrate leadership capability through past work experience. The number will fall drastically, as only committed students will apply.......

I am sure even if we introduced all of these, the number of applicants will NOT drop till management remains one of the coveted careers. For all of the above methods, the coaching classes will modify their syllabus to assist on these issue.

But Rashmi goes on to provide an example of IIMA's PGP X program to prove this point -

Rashmi in her blog writes:
That could well be true. IIM A's newly launched PGP X program is a 1 year course for managers with 7-15 years experience. The admission procedure was very different - GMAT scores were accepted, candidates had to write essays and 'leadership potential' was an important selection criteria

As regards selectivity: around 1000 applications were received; admit offers were made to 71 candidates of which 67 accepted (a bit of a surprise - the institute was expecting 60 to join).

This is a case of simplistic analysis. The number of applicants in this case was less because of two reasons first, the program was new and second, they were looking for people with 7-15 year work experience. In fact for such a profile profile, 1000 applicants to a new programme is a huge number.

Whatever be the real reason - I feel reasonably confident that the numbers were less NOT because of a different exam format.

Lets ask another question - is the aim simply to reduce the number of students writing the test? If yes, this is like correcting one wrong with another. Let any number of people aspire for the best career available.

One major reason for this number to be so huge is an inherent insecurity in the minds of towards their careers as graduates do not get jobs easily. They are on a look out for lucrative career options. As job opportunities multiply (and it is happening) these numbers could actually start reducing.

May be the problem is not as big as it appears to be today and its a matter of time before it settles on its own.

P.S. Rashmi rightly suggests that individual institutes should not conduct their seperate exams and must refer to one of the top exams results.