My mom taught me a very simple rule when I was small. If you don't like the vegetables on your plate, finish them first or you will not be able to enjoy the rest of your lunch too. I was among the very fortunate ones last year to have a smooth CAT experience. But I was not too sure this year would be the same. I chose the first day first slot this year so that I could get done with this could-be unpleasant experience and focus on other exams where I stand a better chance.
I tried downloading directions to the test site on Monday and Tuesday, but couldn't due to some technical problem. After trying to download it a couple of times I called Candidate Care on Tuesday evening. I was getting worried as I had no clue how to reach the venue. People at Candidate Care gave me directions to the centre and were quite helpful. The IVR tested my patience though.
On Wednesday morning, I had a good breakfast and left for the venue at 7:00 am sharp after making sure that I had my voucher, admit card and my passport with me. I also carried a bottle of water.
The venue fortunately was easy to find. There were CAT 2010 hoardings showing directions to the centre all over the place. Prometric does take care of these small things very well. I wasn't expecting too many people at the centre for the first slot, but seems many students like to finish tasteless vegetables first :-) So there were a lot of students at the centre when I reached. The building looked dilapidated and nobody would imagine that it housed a CAT centre.
The traumatic wait started very soon. There was one line on the ground floor where a person checked our admit cards against the list that he had. Then there was another one from where candidates were allowed to go upstairs to the labs in groups of five. A round of frisking followed and we had to deposit our bags and purses. There was no token system like last year and I was actually worried about the safety of my belongings. There was a third line for the biometric profiling. This year the wait was bearable simply because I was mentally prepared for it. But it was physically quite tiring. My fingerprinting took a lot of time. I must have had to place my finger at least 10-12 times thanks to my nerves, which were making sure my hands were trembling. The Prometric staff was very patient and kept saying, "Please relax" all this while. When that was finally done, I was allowed inside the lab.
The lab was claustrophobic. It was too crowded. My seat was at the end of a row towards the wall and a whole row of candidates had to stand up and come out for letting me in. The proctors soon came and entered their admin usernames and passwords to start the test. Some tests launched immediately...mine didn't! Some people around me started their tests. I was looking around nervously for help. The thought of my test getting cancelled was terrible. I hate the wait before any exam and I didn't want to go through it again on another day. There were others like me too. The staff was polite and helpful and told us everything would be all right. The test did start around 10:45 am. I launched the tutorial just to get familiar with the mouse and finished it within 3 minutes. I was waiting for the test to start when my screen went blank! I was shocked. Did I press something and terminate the test? I frantically called a Proctor. The place was such that the Proctor had to hit and push and shove a couple of chairs to reach me. Wonder why the place was so cluttered. They could have done with a couple of PCs less in every row. The proctor looked at my blank screen and gave a blanker look. He called in his senior who forced a smile and went away without saying anything. I was completely confused. Another 5 minutes went by and then suddenly my monitor came to life ...The pop up said "Test Initializing. Test Initializing" and the test actually started.
It was quite smooth after this. First I attempted the questions in each section that I was very sure about. I then did a second round through all the sections and picked some more. Finally I went to the review screen and reviewed the incomplete ones and attempted some more. I attempted around 40 with a very high accuracy. I think my attempts are low but am banking on accuracy. In any case, with things like scaling coming into picture, it is very difficult to say how much I will score. I can just focus on the other exams that are coming up and keep my fingers crossed till 12th January.
To summarize, the experience was not great, but not bad either. I was not happy with the centre, but the staff was good. Questions took time to load; there was a delay between the moment I pressed the next or previous button and the moment that the question actually loaded. This would have cost me around 1.5 minutes in all, which, I believe, is not too much.
My suggestions for candidates who would be taking the test on subsequent days:
- First and foremost, be well fed and well rested on the day of the exam. The exam is as physically taxing as it is mentally.
- Sit down wherever you can outside the centre. Standing in long queues for two hours is very tiring.
- Remember to carry water and some light snacks (fruits, dry fruits, chocolates) to keep yourself and your mind in an optimum condition to take the test.
- Be mentally prepared for a long wait.
- Carry minimum luggage with you and avoid carrying any valuables like mobile phones, ipods, watches etc. There are reports that at some centres students were made to deposit their belongings with roadside shops. Also, leaving belongings outside the lab keeps a part of your mind thinking about them all through the test.
Wish you all the best!