The number of candidates applying for the Common Admission Test (CAT 2020) has witnessed a slide — nearly 2.30 lakh (2,27,835) in 2020 as against 2.44 lakh last year, according to the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Indore, the exam conducting institute. The number of applicants is the lowest since 2016.
Even as the drop in registration has come at a time when the economy is on a downward spiral and unemployment numbers are growing. CAT convener Harshal Lowalekar said that the drop was natural given the COVID scenario. “In fact, we expected the registrations to be much lower than 2.28 lakh this year based on the trend observed in the other national-level competitive exams,” said Harshal. Meanwhile, according to IIM-Indore director Himanshu Rai, “the drop in registration has little to do with COVID-19. The figure of CAT registration has usually been in the range of 2.3-2.4 lakh in the past years.”
Other IIMs directors also termed the drop in the registration figures as “marginal”. IIM-Sambalpur director Mahadeo Jaiswal said, “The drop is only by 14,000. The variations happened in other years as well. The exam will be conducted like any other entrance test maintaining the COVID-19 protocol.”
According to former CAT convener Sumanta Basu, however, the safety concerns due to COVID-19 could be a reason behind the drop in registration. “(This is) possibly because of the uncertainty associated with the exam and the safety of appearing in the exam. Even the engineering entrance examination has significant absentees this time,” Sumanta said.
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Some IIM aspirants consider the job scenario owing to COVID-19 as the reason for not applying for the B-school entrance. Anirban Sen, a Calcutta University graduate, had been preparing for the CAT for the past two years, however, job losses and retrenchments have made him change his plan. “What’s the point of doing MBA spending around Rs 25 lakh, if I do not get a job. Due to the recent retrenchment and uneasiness in the private sector, I have decided to focus on government jobs, especially banking exams,” said Sen.
According to senior regional head and CAT tutor, TIME Delhi, Amit Poddar, aspirants are sceptical of paying hefty fees of top B-schools at a time where there is no job guarantee. “The students who are paying around Rs 20 to 25 lakh for their MBA programme want a well-salaried job, but the present scenario is unstable.”
He added: “Also, the MBA programme delivers immersive learning experience contains interactive and peer learning, which helps students in their corporate roles, but that will be missed in online learning which will continue now till COVID-19 unrest gets over.”
Until 2012, IIM-Ahmedabad offered MBA course for around Rs 16 lakh. The course fee of the same programme is now around Rs 23 lakh, IIM-Calcutta’s is Rs 22.50 lakh and, at IIM-Bangalore it is Rs 23.20 lakh.
The last date for CAT registration was initially September 16, but was later extended to September 23. CAT is scheduled to be held on November 29 now. This year, there was a change in the exam pattern considering the COVID-19 scenario. The duration of CAT exam has been reduced from three to two hours. As per the sectional time duration of CAT, it has been reduced to 40 minutes from 60 minutes with each section – verbal ability and reading comprehension, data interpretation and logical reasoning, and quantitative ability – getting 40 minutes each.
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