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Malware derails Indian business school admission tests

Politician wade in as exams for 8,000 applicants postponed

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A malware infection has screwed up plans for Indian business schools to run admission tests online for the first time.

Many would-be students were told tests would have to be rescheduled after unspecified malware derailed plans to offer the CAT (Common Admission Test) online. An estimated 8,000 of 45,000 candidates due to take the online exams in the first three days of the testing round were affected.

IDG reports that 240,000 candidates were registered for the CAT 2009 round of exams and that these were due to take place between November 28 to December 7. Tests for affected students will be rescheduled, with candidates informed of revised appointments by either SMS or email.

A notice on the CAT website explains that all the stops are being pulled out to complete the tests before 7 December, within the existing testing window, while admitting that this may not be possible. The statement pins the blame for problems in running the tests as originally scheduled on malware in some testing labs.

Some testing labs have been experiencing technical difficulties mainly due to viruses and malware. Prometric is continually assessing these labs and should testing not be possible for any session at specific labs (note that there could be several labs within one test centre and this is referred to as 'Site Code' on your Admit Card), affected candidates will be contacted by SMS and email. Rescheduling of these candidates will then be done and new appointments communicated again via SMS and email.

US testing firm Prometric was hired to take the tests online for the first time this year, with plans to run online tests in labs across 32 Indian cities over 10 days. The online tests, with a format as explained below, replace the written exams of previous years.

The test consists of questions that evaluate a candidate’s quantitative, verbal, and logical & data interpretive abilities. Therefore, there are a total of three sections in the test. There will be about 60 to 70 questions in the test.

At the test venue, each candidate will be seated at a desk with a computer terminal and he/she will be provided with a scratch paper for calculations. After the test, [the] candidate must leave the scratch paper at the desk. Rough work cannot be done on any other paper/sheet, as nothing will be allowed inside the testing room.

The CAT tests cover admission to seven Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) - the top management training schools in the country - and affiliated institutions.

IDG reports that the malware outbreak prevented 47 labs from delivering exams on the first day of the tests. Disruption to the tests has created a political row. India's Minister for Human Resource Development, Kapil Sibal, criticised glitches that affected 8,000 of 45,000 candidates due to be examined in the first three days of the test. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party said problems with the tests shamed the country, which prides itself as an international centre for IT operations.

Vijay Mukhi, a Mumbai-based expert on cybersecurity, told IDG that the malware infection created the possibility of students who fail mounting legal challenges questioning the integrity of the tests. Of the 250,000 students who take the exam each year, only around 1,500 are admitted to one of the prestigious IIM business schools. ®

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