Oh Boy!! A Saturday morning cannot be more eventful and worrying then waking up to a news (or rather a tweet) which says,
CAT servers crash in Chennai, Bangalore, Bhopal and Lucknow (via @ndtv)
Websites crash all the time and so do one of the best made software’s.But, when a software fails at its very first live execution, it is a little worrisome to say the least. More so, when the test system is used for selecting the best brains of India for admission to one of the most reputed MBA colleges in the whole world.
IIM’s all around this year decided to move to an online test taking system moving away from the usual paper-pen style.The move was to reach to a much wider audience and further streamline the logistics. A good online system makes it easier for the test takers as well as the governing body to ensure a hassle free and speedy results. So, when IIM’s decided to take the route of online tests like the GRE and GMAT, the general perception was that things are moving in the right direction.
The Online test solution provider Prometric was the chosen one for conducting the CAT tests online. From the looks of it, they are experienced players in the domain with a healthy lists of online tests they offer. But, then with CAT exams , did PROMETRIC just forget to load test the system for server optimization.
Why the server crash came as a surprise is the fact that the number of concurrent users was very much known to the IIM’s and the Prometric people. Now, there are cases of websites and software’s that crash with a surprising spike in the traffic with loads of users using the system at the same time. But, the number of users for this system was decided, wasn’t it? Around 250,000 students will be taking the CAT this year and given a 10 day window for the exams, the server load on one particular day should not be too huge.
IIM’s saw a decrease in applications this time around and the application deadline has to be extended to allow more students to register. But with this server crash today and cancellation of exam, my heart goes out to the test takers who would have been preparing for this day with hard work and dedication. Even though the tests will be re-conducted, the tempo and the mindset takes a hit.
Further details are not out as yet. With the servers failing on the very first day of the CAT exam, it will be a daunting task for the IIM’s and prometric to launch a damage control strategy and ensure the smooth functioning of the test system for the rest of the exam window.
The stakes are super high with an examination like CAT. Hence, any change in the procedure calls for a thorough test run and a contingency plan in place. It is surprising that in this case, there is no evidence of even one of them being in place as of now.
In fact, according to Satish Deodhar – IIM faculty and convener of CAT exams,
“This is not an internet-based but computer-based test, so there is no question of any server crash. Prometric has ensured the strictest security measures for the exams.”
What are your thoughts on this ?
The IIM’s and Prometric should have put more stringent quality checks before taking the system live. Moreover, couldn’t there have been backup servers to ensure that the tests could be conducted should something happen to the existing servers