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CHANGING PATTERN OF EXAMS

-By Nagesh K Banchhor
(IIM, Kozhikode)
CEO, Pro C Education Pvt Ltd
(An MBA Coaching institute with branches at Pune,
Nagpur, Kanpur,,Raipur, Bhilai, Patna, Bilaspur)
Email : nagesh.b@proceducation.com Web : www.proceducation.com

While I am penning this article, we have witnessed CAT 2006 as well as IIFT 2006. Call it a coincidence or call it the trend, the patterns of both these newspapers were starkly different from that during the previous years. CAT came out with an even reduced question inventory to be handled by the students and flaunted the long term thumb rule of ‘four options per question’. IIFT, on the other hand, changed loyalty to multiple options type of questions, which made the paper very-very difficult altogether. These pattern changes were accompanied by changes in the nature of questions asked, brining the students to their knees – literally.

Why B-Schools are so hell bent on experimenting with the test pattern? Have they found some loopholes in their previous selection patterns, which they thought of plugging-in with the help of throwing surprises? Or, it is just a rat-race; every one is trying to act smarter than the other? Here we explore answers to some of these critical questions.

With boom in the job market and the signals received from various quarters about astounding growth in the Indian Economy, B schools are finding them to be in the seventh paradise. On one hand, rising manpower requirement from corporate world has reduced their burden to continuously hunt for companies to place their students. On the other hand, the increasing number of MBA aspirants has helped them in feeding their capacity with enough talents. This is the golden time for anyone who is into running of a B School (much similar to what was the situation 10 years back for Engineering Institutions), where one finds oneself in a very strong position to manipulate the equations in one’s favor.

There were 2 lakh participants in CAT 2006, a whopping 33% increase from previous year’s figures. In comparison, the seats in IIMs have changed to minimal, and there looms the chance of OBC quota coming into picture, which will further reduce the seats available to the open category students (which forms the majority of students appearing in CAT). This is only going to widen the demand-supply gap in the system with hardly any tangible increase coming in the number of seats available with top B Schools.

This has left the examiner pondering over about how to filter the talent which appears in numerous entrance examinations. And the best thing they found is experimenting with the pattern. With around 150 questions at their disposal in a typical examination, the examiner is left with lots of choices to play around with the pattern. In the recent past, CAT took the initiative in this direction (CAT being the most sought after exam, this was possible for them), but this year, other lesser sought after examinations seem to have taken the clue. The dramatic change in the pattern of IIFT was one such instance, and more are seen in the store. If you ask me plainly, my advice to the students will be – “be prepared for anything but usual".

Ironically, the changes in pattern have nothing to do with the quality of students selected to these B Schools. If we look from the industry’s point of view, there have not been any complaints about the analytical skills of the students coming out of B schools. There have been some reservations about the maturity level of the young managers, which can best be addressed by the curriculum designed by the B-School rather by tampering with MBA entrance examinations. Moreover, the changes introduced in the entrance examination off late have no perceptible impact on the level of maturity of the students who are going to join the B-Schools. This led me to conclude that the changes in patterns of various entrance examinations are no way related to what industry demands from these B-Schools.

If we look at the impact of these changes on the overall recruitment system, we are to come across some very disappointing facts. Some of them are discussed herein:

This might lead to deterioration in the quality of input which is coming into the B School. The real test of a candidate in such exams is not about ‘how much they know’, but about ‘how they overall plan their studies and then implement it under real examination situations’. With an inconsistent pattern, the students might develop a tendency not to plan and go for whatever comes. I do not believe we are going to have great managers coming out of this system if they believe that planning is worthless and life is all about randomly picked, arbitrarily thrown circumstances. I see the students with real quality will be a sufferer and mediocre ones will be a gainer under the situation.

What can we do to improve the situation? With their strong hold on the recruitment process (with literally no answerability to the public in general), it seems very little can be done but to be a part of the system and play the game according to rules set by the B-Schools. Or, we can stand up to this and raise our voices (as I am doing through this article). Please remember, even the Olympics and World Cups are played with pre-agreed basic rules-of-games and participants are expected to come prepared and win. Why, then, the B school recruitment should be such an unpredictable thing.

I hope this article falls not to deaf years, but to some serious, considerate minds, who, in turn, will take some remedial measures, otherwise, we are sure to witness a sudden change in scenario like what happened to Engineering Institutions, who could not formulate a standard policy for recruitment and ultimately deteriorated to the level where they need to allow anybody to take up their seats if they wish to go full-house during a particular academic season.

And if the current boom in the job market is going to sustain, we need a system of recruitment which is standardized and predictable in nature, permitting the talent the make up its mind if it would like to go through a particular testing pattern or not. And if ‘yes’ is the answer, it also knows what it has to do to become successful at it. Because life is not all that unpredictable.

COMMENTS BY URPERCENTILE SUBSCRIBERS ON THIS ARTICLE :

From: "nikhil rai"

I fully agree with the above article .Infact i feel i am one of the victims of such changed patterns.
All the hardwork seems to be a waste when we find that an element of luck is going to play a crucial role in getting a call from any of the iims as even one wrong answer could give a gap of 4+1 marks.
Moreover the pattern does'nt even test the real time managing skills of the candidate.
In such a case A large number of students would have to be called for the initial shortlist as a substantial amount of students would end up with the same marks owing to the english section's ambiguity and Quant's easy questions.
Regards
NIkhil

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From: Dileep

Thanks for posting this excellent article showcasing the emerging trend and the perceived outcome of such Bschool recruitment process.

Best regards
Dileep

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From: amrithaa s

Dear All,
With due respect to the sentiments of the author of this article, i do not quite agree with his stance.
The CAT paper is different from year to year in terms of things like the number of questions, number of choices per question, time duration, etc. I am not in a position to say anything about the other B-school entrance exams.

I would say MBA aspirants always come in to the examination hall knowing fully well, or rather expecting the pattern to be different in some way or the other from last year's pattern. I dont think anyone really gets a "surprise" with respect to what they see.
I dont think the intent behind this unpredictability in the exams is to foster an idea that preparation or planning is not required, but rather encouraging people to be prepared and plan for unexpected situations to crop up in the normal course of things. Life is unpredictable to this extent atleast to expect people to cope. I would say this much leeway in the pattern of a paper should be
allowed, especially when it is the exam for entrance to the most sought after B-schools in the country.

I am just expressing my personal opinion, and people are bound to disagree.
Would like to hear other trains of thought as well.

Thanks for reading,
Amrithaa

==============================

From: Vijay S

Hi,
Thanks for Mr. Nagesh for the article.
Also thanks to UrPerecntile for this great job by making this platform. I wish goodluck to all members.
All must say that people should not be upset or be taken by surprise when they see a different pattern. I would say, if they see
an exam with the expected pattern then the candidates should be surprised. In fact expected pattern and easy pattern increases
compettion as everyone will perform good.

If the exam is tough and of different pattern, one can expect less competition as those not ready for it will already be out of the
game.
Regards
Vijay.

==================================

From: Kshitij

Hi

Regarding the article written by Nagesh K Banchhor on the futility of changing the CAT and IIFT examination pattern, i would like to say that i dont agree with it . Traditionally, the CAT exams have been designed so as to favour the engineering student who has good mathematical aptitude and average English capabilities, where one could get the cut-off marks by attempting just the verbal/grammar questions. The CAT 2006 paper turned that on its head. Any student who was terrified of RCs was in for a rude shock. Purposefully, the Quants section was kept simple so that students with even average mathematical abilities would have found it possible to get cut-offs. This new pattern just shows that the IIMs are trying to correct their earlier conscious or unconscious bias towards engineers.
Secondly, the author seems to me to be using flawed logic when he says that "With an inconsistent pattern, the students might develop a tendency not to plan and go for whatever comes. "
if i knew that i could not expect the usual, i would slog doubly hard to plug all possible loopholes in my preparation. If i knew the exact pattern of the examination, the only preparation i would need was the previous 10 years' CAT papers. That is exactly what the IIMs don't want to test. They are not really concerned with the level of knowledge, as has been pointed out in the article. Rather, they want to see how well a student handles the pressure of an absolutely unfamiliar pattern of paper coupled with the time constraint factor.
The only way to do this is to keep testing the mettle of the student through unfamiliar patterns, or surprises. For, if its a surprise for me, its a surprise for every one else too, and the IIMs want to see who faces the surprise better.
Thanks
Kshitij

====================

From : David JayaPrakash J

Hi, ‘Expect the Unexpected’- that is what the CAT is all about. And people who aspire to crack the CAT prepare well. There is always an edge over other students who have not prepared however tough the questions are. So as Mr. Nagesh says the planning should be good enough so as to tackle the CAT under the most unpredictable circumstances.

Thanks and regards,
DAVID JAYAPRAKASH J

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