Nearly a million starry-eyed young
Indians last week waited keenly for announcements on the start of
the process of admission to the hallowed portals of leading
A flurry of activity kicked in among
final year college students aspiring for a place in the management
programmes for the 2011 batch at the nine Indian Institutes of
Management (IIMs), the Faculty of Management Studies (FMS) in the
North, the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS)
in the West and the Xavier's Labour Relations Institute (XLRI) in
The results of these four MBA entrance exams will allow
candidates' entry into these 12 well-known institutes. They are
also accepted by over 200 other MBA institutions as the yardstick
for admission to their programmes, many of them equally reputed
and having rigorous academic standards.
In recent years there has been an exponential growth in the number
of test-takers to IIMs and other management institutes. This has
put immense pressure on the testing system as well as faculty at
management institutes, resulting in the search for computer-based
test similar to GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test).
GMAT's standardised tests use psychometric principles to design,
calibrate and score questions using advanced statistical models to
accurately determine a candidate's aptitude. That is perhaps why
it is taken as a benchmark, as its test scores are used by over
1,800 graduate programmes worldwide and have helped establish the
MBA degree as a hallmark of excellence in management education.
In India, the equivalent could be the new computer-based
assessment model being tried out. On paper, computer-based
assessment offers many advantages. A more efficient system, it
saves time for the students, provides them with the flexibility of
choosing and or rescheduling the test date, ensures security and
nullifies chances of leaked question papers. Each candidate gets a
unique but equivalent question paper. At the same time it also
frees up the faculty from unnecessary administrative headaches and
gives them more time to concentrate on academics.
The year 2009 was a watershed year in terms of introduction of
computer-based testing by the IIMs and NMIMS. XLRI, the 60-year
old management school, pioneered the conduct of the computer-based
test, XAT, for pre-admission selection in 2001-02 but reverted to
a paper and pencil method of testing as the infrastructure was
just not ready then. Delhi University's Faculty of Management
Studies, that has been offering post-graduate management
programmes for over five decades, too follows this traditional
method of testing.
The experience of many among the quarter million students who
appeared for the first computer-based admission test by US-testing
company Prometric, ranged from less than satisfactory to
traumatic, while NMIMS Admission Ttes (NMAT) takers reported a
trouble-free computer-based admission test in early 2010 in terms
of student experience despite adherence to strict academic rigour.
The entrance exams for XLRI and FMS too passed off smoothly.
In response to the issues faced by test takers, the vibrant
management education institutions and testing industry have taken
several steps. IIMs have extended the test window to 20 days (from
10 days last year) as a risk mitigation strategy, NMIMS' NMAT is
using the 90-day window to move towards "on-demand" testing,
following other leading global admission tests, enabling the
candidates to take the test when they are best prepared.
NMAT 2011 incorporates many candidate- friendly international
features. For example, each candidate can opt for three attempts
and highest score out of these attempts will be used for
evaluation purposes akin to how top MBA programmes like Harvard
and Wharton use the best score in GMAT. Self-scheduling option
will allow candidates to choose the date and time of test in real
time mode from the comfort of their homes.
NMIMS has taken a conscious decision to do away with negative
marking. Most leading global tests like GMAT, LSAT and GRE do not
do negative marking and instead rely on latest techniques in
psychometrics based on a candidate's response to questions,
including taking informed guesses without the fear of losing marks
to measure a candidate's aptitude based on behaviour. The
candidates must thank NMIMS' testing partner Pearson VUE for
taking away the unwarranted stress posed by negative marking in
the pre-admission tests.
An educational process, as in any other process, is strongly
linked to quality of input into the process. A well-designed
admission test serves the critical purpose of accurately
determining a candidate's aptitude best suited for their
Now is the time for the test-takers to focus on rigorous
preparation so that they make it to the top 200 management
schools. Only then will India be able to select MBA aspirants who
are bright, passionate and committed to making a career.
Institutes that have an experienced faculty and strong
industry-linked curriculum and students who have triumphed a tough
but fair, equitable and trusted admission process will give the
Indian economy a strong fillip with a managerial cadre that
a strategic communications and public relations counsel, was brand
custodian at NIIT group until 2006.
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