Changes to the CAT (Common Admission Test) and Shortlisting Criteria – An Aspirant’s suggestions
(This is a guest post. The writer is an aspirant who has suggestions that could be discussed by the business school community)
Disclaimer : This article is not intended to criticize CAT or IIMs of their selection policies. It is a genuine attempt in suggesting a few changes that might make the selection process more efficient for the IIMs and more satisfactory for the student community.
After CAT has gone online, the number of people taking CAT has come down significantly. In the past two years, we have seen the numbers stabilizing to some extent. Refer to this article for more statistics on number of CAT takers. But with IIMs reducing the weightage on CAT by taking academic consistency in to consideration, by giving additional marks to gender and professional diversity, these numbers might come down as aspirants without the above diversity factors might find it increasingly difficult to make it to the IIMs. For example, a GEM (General Engineer Male) with 99.64%ile in CAT 2012 would not even a single call from BLACKIS if his percentage in graduation and 12th is in 70s even if he has done it from a prestigious institute like IITs (If he wrote his X and XII class exams from boards like A.P, even a percentage of 95+ would not be sufficient for satisfying the criteria of a few IIMs) In case, the IIMs think of changing the pattern of CAT 2013, they might take these factors into consideration and think of the following suggestions:
1. Have linear scoring methods :
This article might contradict my argument but adopting linear scoring methods while awarding marks for academic performance would be better in the context that a person with 81% would not have any significant advantage than a person with 79%. This would apply to b-schools like IIM-Ahmedabad. It is agreed that the IIMs need students who have been performing well throughout in their academics. But, there are two factors that they discount.
- A student with 79% is just 2% underperforming than a student with 81% and he needs to get 2% lesser opportunity in making it to that IIM.
- A student from commerce background might find it increasingly difficult to get an 80+ in his graduation because the total number of people who get that score would be far lesser than that of other streams. This could be applied for X and XII boards too where a student from AP board would have a definite advantage from a student from a Bihar board because the average percentages in AP is far higher than that in Bihar.
For example, the cutoff for General category student with Zero Work ex and a percentage of 80.1 is around 99.3 where as for the same student with a percentage of 79.9 is 99.98. And we had live cases discussed in one of the forums.
So, having linear scoring methods would make it fair for the border cases. This is because, a 2/3 or a 3/3 would not have a significant impact but when multiplied with a number like, it would make a huge difference. Click here to know the criteria adopted by various IIMs.
According to this method, the following would be the scoring pattern:
|Score in X/XII/graduation||Marks awarded (out of 3)|
And so on.
With the new scoring method, the following would be the change in the scores that a student gets out for various cases:
|S. no||Score of a person in 10th class (A)||Score of a person in 12th class (B)||Score of a person in graduation (C)||Total score out of 27 according to earlier method (A*B*C)||Total score according to the new scoring method|
If we observe Sno.5 and Sno.9 closely, the earlier method would have given 18 marks to both the candidates but the new method would give the student with 79% 7.2 marks more than the person with 71% which sounds more logical because in the earlier method, a person with 71% and 79% would be treated the same but a person with 79% and 80% would not be treated so. To show this difference clearly, Sno.1 and Sno.8 would be more helpful. With the earlier method, the difference between the scores of two persons would be 18 whereas with the new method, it would be more balanced as the difference would be just about 2.7 marks. After all, the difference between Sno.1’s marks and Sno.2’s marks is 2% in each of the three biggest exams of his/her life.
Also, normalization of scores across boards and Universities would make it uniform for all the students.
Another change that could take place is some IIMs like IIM-K taking CAT scores as a parameter instead of CAT percentile because a person with 100%ile and 98%ile would have a huge difference(about 80marks) in CAT scores where as the difference is just 2 if percentiles are taken into account.
Incorporating this change would not be an issue for the IIMs as they have the latest technology holders and one of the best test organisers – Prometric conducting CAT.
2. Include new sections in CAT:
Diversity in any institute is very much required as it helps in different ideas and different mind sets interacting. But that need not be done by awarding marks straight away to one division of people and awarding 0 to the other division. If we observe why Male Engineers occupy more than 80% of the class in most of the b-schools, it could be because of the exam pattern which would be favouring them. This is only an argument and it could be wrong too. But if this is the reason that is stopping non-engineers from entering IIMs, a more balanced paper would help their cause. Adding sections like General Awareness, Decision making and Critical reasoning would make the contest more balanced. These are the sections that no specific category would have any initial edge on. More importantly, skills in the above mentioned sections are very crucial for any manager to possess. So, a CAT paper with about 5-6 sections having a decent cutoff in each section would ensure that a person with good grip in all these 5-6 sections would make it to India’s most preferred b-schools.
3. Adopt a mixed selection method:
Again, if IIMs are looking for people from diverse back grounds, then there is a better method than awarding marks to the categories who have less representation in the class. They could adopt the method that one of the premier non-IIMs adopts. They could go with a mix of profile based and score based shortlisting method. This ensures that while people with diverse profiles are given an opportunity, people who perform excellently well in CAT are not left out. They could have a minimum cut off for profile based shortlists and an exclusively CAT score based shortlist for the second type. A good mix of such kind of shortlisting would improve the diversity of the class and also ensure that CAT gets the weightage it deserves.
4. Increasing the number of calls :
Currently, IIMA, B & C adopt a 1:3 ratio in shortlisting. This could be increased to 1:4 or 1:5 to ensure that they get to select in a greater pool of students. This would require extra interview days but then, they would get to choose from a more diverse set of students.
5. Make CAT a paper-pencil exam :
There have been many cases where the student pool is unhappy with the normalization method that is adopted by the IIMs. More importantly, as the students are not given an opportunity to know the algorithm used for converting the raw CAT scores into scaled and adjusted CAT scores, there is a danger in students losing trust in the exam. This could be answered by reverting it back to the traditional paper-pencil format. This way, technical glitches which were reported in the earlier online CAT exams could be avoided. Infrastructure cannot be cited as the reason because an exam called AIEEE which was taken by 1 million students could be organized successfully in the same country with the same paper-pencil format. Also, earlier when CAT was paper-pencil based, they could conduct it successfully for 2.85 lakh aspirants and now the number is just about 2 lakhs.
6. Conducting CAT throughout the year :
If standards is what stops the IIMs from making CAT a paper based exam, they could continue with the online method but with a change. They could conduct the exam throughout the year or atleast for 6-months in a year so that more students get to take it. Also, they could allow students to take it twice or thrice in that year so that fortunes of a candidate are not decided in 2 hours. Some of the other world’s popular exams like GRE and GMAT have this system and these exams have been receiving very good response in India. Again, conducting the exam should not be a problem Prometric is the organization that takes care of GRE.
On a closing note, I wish that more than anything, if the IIMs are able to select the right set of diverse profiles ensuring that the test takers are not unhappy with the selection criteria and exam pattern, it would benefit not only the IIMs and the students but also the country on the whole.
– Sravanth Vangara
(The writer is a resident of Hyderabad and an electrical engineering graduate from National Institute of Technology, Warangal – Class of 2012. Currently works as a Business Technology Analyst with Deloitte Consulting. Singing and blogging are his hobbies. He subscribes to a religion called Cricket and worship Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid as Gods. Apart from this, he does cricket analytics and is also a Mathematics enthusiast. He blogs here)
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