Reality Check India

HRD and IIT council invent a horrendous new exam

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on June 27, 2012

A new exam system has been approved for admission into the 16 prestigious IITs starting from next year, the 2013 batch. This breaks an elongated  deadlock between the IIT Council and the HRD Minister Mr Kapil Sibal (Congress).

Despite Union Minister Kapil Sibal not attending the the meeting of the IIT Council held today, the directors of the IITs have reportedly  decided on a compromise formula under which only the top 20 percent of students from each educational board will be allowed to give the preliminary IIT entrance exam.

Source : Firstpost  ( Update: ET has a better story )

Unfortunately, the news reports are not very good in explaining how this works. Let me give it a shot.

  • The overarching rule is this : Only students who rank in the top 20% of their respective boards are eligible to even enter the IIT.
  • There will be two exams after the board exams, called the ‘main‘ and ‘advanced‘.
  • All students can write the ‘main’ exam. Presumably used for NIT.
  • Only the top 50,000 ranks of the main exam (or as per some reports 1,50,000) can write the ‘advanced’ exam.
  • The merit list is prepared based on the advanced exam only. After the merit list is prepared those students did not rank in the top 20% of their respective boards are kicked out (even if the student got a ‘advanced’ rank of 1)

This is the most bizarre selection machine ever to be designed in my opinion. It will fail to solve any of the problems which necessitated such tinkering in the first place. Not satisfied with being merely useless,  it will introduce massive social problems as you will see in the rest of this post.

Boards and percentiles

Today there are about 40-50 different boards in India. I dont know of any board that states a percentile score. Note that a percentile is nothing but a rank. This necessitates a massive change in state board infrastructure and some states like Tamilnadu are sure to oppose giving a rank to each student.  It is supremely ironic that the HRD Ministry which trumpets the grading system on the logic that a student scoring 91 is the same as student scoring 99 – is eager to introduce a percentile system ( to 8 decimal places no less) to even be eligible to take a shot. This is beyond cruel if you factor in rampant grade inflation.

Also keep in mind there is no underlying sanctity behind the canonical cutoff percentile of 80%.  Tomorrow someone could change it to 90%, 95% and one would have no grounds to either support or oppose the move.

Not an open exam anymore

Most if not all selection processes in India stipulate a nominal minimum qualification mark followed by open exams (which can be multi paper). I use “open exam” in the sense that any Indian student who meets minimum qualifications gets to take a shot.  This new proposal turns the concept of open exams on its head. This exam unfairly and in my view unconstitutionally excludes students not on grounds of minimum qualification but on performance of others. For even trying to access a publicly funded resource.

Blow to the needy

Like all schemes designed by anointed intellectuals in India, this one robs the very people it pretends to help.  It is so embarrassingly easy to prove this. You can substitute the word “Rural” for your favourite victim group.

  • Rural can throw up more in the top 20% in boards
  • Rural will fail to rank well in  IIT Advanced without coaching
  • So Urban who access coaching and pull into top 20% (not that hard) can absolutely dominate the rankings because if any rural student who by chance makes it will rank lower.
  • Since the advanced exam is the sole criteria it is a massive win for Urban.

The fallacy of the advanced exam

I was initially confused about this. Why would a student who knew that he was not in the top 20% even bother to write the advanced exam ?  I talked to a parent who told me that it is a matter of exam dates. Many boards do not announce the results until after the entrance exam season. With this new harebrained scheme, students will have to write the exams and pay exam fees knowing they can be made retroactively ineligible. Even if they top the advanced exam, the scores in which are ironically the sole basis for the merit list.  To borrow a phrase from a media personality. Wah !!

The quota problem

Last but not least, I  am amazed that such concentrated brain power in one room could ignore the impact of percentile system on reservation.

If you select the top 20% ranks,  will you not disqualify a massive chunk of SC/ST/OBC from the colleges ?  If you raise this pertinent point, the smart ass answer would be a swift  “Fine, lets prepare different percentile lists for each community”.   It appears we make laws by thinking on our feet as and when anomalies crop up.  Suddenly each student has to be issued two percentile marks – his overall percentile and his community percentile.  How many boards will want to do this ?  If you end up doing this, you still need to adjust for the relative percentages of quota due to the fact that reserved candidates can also take open seats. The whole system needs a supercomputer (CDAC project?) to work.

Even if you ended up issuing a community wise percentile, the effect on meritorious open category will be nothing short of tragic. A student of community X might be studying in IIT with 75% in board exam but a student of community Y will be debarred from even appearing despite scoring 95%. Once again note that it is not a matter of getting a lesser course, but one of outright disqualification to even try.  More fuel for communal heartburn, more demands for reclassification and sub quotas, caste and religious divides and blockades.

This is what the government is doing to the country as the media sleeps.

Wah !!


18 Responses

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  1. Akash Mukherjee said, on June 27, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    Sounds disastrous. Goodbye Super 30.

    BTW, are you yourself from an IIT?

  2. Alan said, on June 27, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    What was the reason for the overhaul?

    • realitycheck said, on June 28, 2012 at 12:52 am

      1. Stress on students
      2. Coaching centres
      3. Whatever else Sibal says

  3. Chitta Ranjan said, on June 28, 2012 at 2:26 am

    good point of view…

  4. KUMAR IYER said, on June 28, 2012 at 4:03 am

    Zero Sibal at it again. What a blow it would be for a student who gets in a merit in the advanced exam only to find himself not getting a seat as he has failed to make in the top 20 % in the board. Scatter brained sibal will go down in Indian History worse than Macaulay.

  5. Srividya Krishnan said, on June 28, 2012 at 4:23 am

    This is just making the already complicated process all the more complicated. Its going to be a very tough task for all the 12th graders who aim to get into IIT. Tremendous increase in pressure is what this is for students. To add on to all this..Another means of making money.. separate forms..separate registrations!

  6. Anurag Tolety said, on June 28, 2012 at 4:38 am

    Well thought out article. The 20% rule scares me. It means a guy who gets 79.99 percentile and AIR 1 would get disqualified! There are going to so many people who will get left out because of minuscule fractions. Another thing I don’t understand is what they are gonna do about students who repeat Main/Advanced? Would their old percentile remain as is even if the board scores go up the following year? They would probably say it would be readjusted, which means the boards have to prepare another sheet for percentile conversion! The other sad thing is, this format forces students to spend more time on their boards, where all you learn is to remember things rather than learning to analyze. How would that create better engineers?

  7. Amit Singh said, on June 28, 2012 at 5:38 am

    When I was preparing for JEE (2000) then too there were students who cleared JEE but failed in their boards because of excessive concentration in coaching classes. And I don’t agree to the logic of someone changing the percentile once printed in their marksheets. But agree that state boards can not be forced to give percentile or rank. While reading newspaper, I couldn’t think of Rank thing that Sibal is agreeing to something he was against. Support your argument on continued Rural people disadvantages and also the community factor. Well said.

  8. Someone Cool said, on June 28, 2012 at 5:54 am

    I see no reason why like Medicine all exams can’t be centralised into one exam. IIT autonomy is a bullshit excuse.

    The reason 12th exams need to have a weightage in admissions is that the school process has to have sanctity. When I was in 12th (in Kota believe it or not, because my father was coincidentally posted there), several of my classmates were absent from school for much of the year and the school had a don’t ask, don’t tell policy. “He is studying for IIT.”

    Infact, one guy just barely passed 12th while he made it to one of the IITs (too bad! huh!). He used to be in coaching classes for 6-8 hours a day.

    Why block a seat in school? go to Open School or something.

    IIT entrance had become an elimination exercise where college level questions were being thrown at school kids.

    It was/is not an aptitude test, which is probably what needs to be measured to produce technologists et al. Instead you have a bunch of bright people who aspire to nothing more than a high paying job (after going to IIM of course).

    I am willing to bet 100 bucks that a student from a B-rung engineering school learns and does much more than an average IIT passout.

    Why block a seat in a so called Institute of Technology?

    • ganapathy said, on June 28, 2012 at 8:00 am

      apt words.its an undergraduate engineering college. its not an ISRO run college(incidentally ISRO runs one where those selected become scientists on completion of the course)where one is selected for studies followed by crucial job essential for the nation.there is no hype even in those institutions but the hype around IITs is sickening.
      why should one have a tough entrance for an undergraduate course. the irony of IITs is that its easy to join a postgraduate course/doctorate in IITs.people have to remember that its a government college

  9. Manivannan Aru (@mvaru) said, on June 28, 2012 at 6:02 am

    As the percentile score is used only for eligibility the boards has to declare only the percentage of marks which qualify for 80 percentile and above. Say CBSE can say 85% will be above 80 percentile. No individual raking is required.
    since only 1.5 lac students from main exam qualify for advanced the amount of students who doesn’t get required percentile in the board will be negligible. The evaluation of IIT exams doesn’t require skills as it is only choices like A to D or 0 – 9. Merit list can be prepared in matter of days. Even if it is conducted in June the admissions can be done in time.

  10. Neeraj N said, on June 28, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Not all change is bad. Think of the students who simply cannot afford expensive coaching. Do you know which is the biggest industry in Kota today? Why? This new systems attacks the coaching industry and not the aspirants. Plus it also gives some importance to school grades. So far, students of 11-12 are advised to forget their school scores and concentrate their energies in coaching institutes. Just think why is there a group called Super 30 – it is there because their parents cannot afford any coaching fee.

  11. Omkar Mazumdar (@splashyellow) said, on June 28, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Today many IITians have cracked JEE in their second attempts. They were brilliant, but for some reason of fate they did not do well in their 1st attempt. Tomorrow, what happens to those students who do not make it to the top 20%ile in state boards due to some unfortunate event? Will he/she be allowed to sit for the state board again next year, just to qualify for IIT?

    What a ridiculous idea to put a cut-off in an exam which cannot be repeated!!

    This can only be politics to suppress the quality of IIT students, while opening the doors for private Foreign Institutes to set up shops here.

    Well Mr. Middle Class father, get ready to pay up more to get your bright children admitted into an ordinary foreign university shop here in India!

  12. plainspeak said, on June 28, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Sibal at it again.

    1. Some people have said what about people who score say 79%ile in Boards and that they would be ruled out for life. The point is: I think they can always reject the board results and take exam again but I realize this would be very painful. Even if there was this rigid rule that you cannot take the exam second time, it would still be ok *if* the criterion was a good one. Board exam results are surely not. Which brings me to the next point.

    2. It is ridiculous to have Board exams as a filtering criterion. It is important to remember that people who are good in technical subjects might not be as good in language and debating skills(which is not required for engg) and rote learning(which Board exams incentivize), and they will be penalized heavily for it. It is important to remember that Srinivasa Ramanujan failed in his non-mathematical subjects. By having board marks as criterion, you are forcing geniuses to take away focus from truly *understanding* the concepts of the subjects they are interested in. Evil !. I remember the lifestyle of studying PCM in my +2 and trying to *understand* all concepts and not worrying much about Biology+Languages. Most Science students enjoy this lifestyle. Now, by introducing criterion of board marks, you are taking away this joy.

    3. And adding this criterion, students have to prepare for three different exams and you will further traumatize students which goes against the very purpose of the reforms.

    The bottom line is this. I still don’t understand why Sibal wants to introduce these *reforms* when no study(this point was pointed out by IIT faculty association in their video) has been taken to show that these reforms actually reduce the stress on students and that they would help poor students and that they would reduce effect of coaching classes and improve talent coming in. Except that Sibal *says* so.

    But, I think one could wait for the IIT 2013 results


    (I didn’t get into IIT though. Passed screening but couldn’t clear Mains. But I had not prepared for IITs, was just preparing for State entrance, but cleared AIEEE to get into NIT, Surathkal. I respect the people who have got into IIT, well until now at least)

  13. […] Read this article: HRD and IIT council invent a horrendous new exam « Reality Check … […]

  14. Kumar Utsav said, on June 29, 2012 at 9:56 am

    If this is the plan they have come up with… then its a complete disaster.
    earlier plan of giving a fixed weightage to board marks was much better.. everything else is almost the same from the earlier plan, just this board thing has changed,making it worse.

  15. […] a year back, I had posted this “HRD and IIT invent a horrendous new admissions formula” . I think it is now  time to take the cake out of the […]

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