Reality Check India

Crazy normalization formula invented by experts baffles students

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on July 9, 2013

About 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 oven.

An unfashionable protest

An unfashionable protest

Skewed normalization formula confuses students

After nearly a month of collating normalization of class XII marks and student’s score in JEE (Main) the final ranking for admission to prestigious National Institutes of Technology (NITs) is finally out. Expectedly, the skewed formula has created confusion among students.

Source TOI

I also received tweets and an email from an anguished student on Twitter with some standing on the matter.  He has been running after the mainstream media to cover this story, but it was like talking to a wall.  There are several lawsuits being filed as I write this post.

First, I am going to explain in simple text how this scheme works both at the JEE-Main level and at the JEE-Advanced level.  Once you understand this scheme you can appreciate the massive confusion it has caused at both levels.

JEE – Main Normalization Formula 60% JEE + 40% Board

The Congress led UPA-II Government, notably the former HRD Minister Mr Kapil Sibal disrupted the earlier clean exam by announcing a new system where somehow your Board performance would count for 40%. Lakhs of students appeared for the JEE exams early in 2013 not knowing exactly how this system would work.  After the JEE-Main exam results were announced,   a committee called the “JEE Interface Board” invented a formula that worked in the following way.

Final score used for rank list  = JEE-Main score x 60%  + “Magic Board Score” x 40%

The “Magic Board Score” is calculated as follows.

  • Considering only candidates from your Board – what was the JEE-Main score obtained at your board percentile ?
  • Considering all candidates – what was the JEE-Main score obtained at your board percentile.
  • The Magic Board score is the average of the above two.

As an example :

Say you scored 200 Marks in JEE-Main (98 percentile) and 80% in TN Board (75 percentile). You board mark is whatever the 75 percentile student scored in JEE-Main.

The basic idea is curve anchoring – but the whole concept is seriously flawed.

  • The curves of the board exam are ignored while arbitrarily mapping board percentiles obtained on one set of exams to the JEE-Main curve.
  • The curves depicting the performance of students from Board X on a standardized test (JEE-Main) can be dramatically different as it ignores ratios and participation. In simple terms, students from Board X may not participate in JEE-Main to the same extent as those from Board Y.

The result is this – for boards with active participation – a small slippage in the board exam massively drops the 40% component, sometimes pushing them down thousands of ranks.  So what was sold as a 40% component assumes total importance. Of course, where there are losers there are winners. A poor JEE-Main score but with a good board percentile will inflate your effective JEE-Main score. A good thread on Quora has some samples.

The formula defeats the very purpose of having a standardized exam like the JEE in the first place.  Direct evidence of the students performance in the JEE-Main is immorally overridden by extraneous factors. If a student got 247 Marks fair and square on a particular exam, you cant walk up to him and say “No no no – you have actually only scored 150”.    You can construct elaborate arguments in support of this, but those will not find the popular acceptance they need.  A better solution would have been some kind of automatic admission to the top 1% of each board and not mess with direct evidence.

I hope the court strikes down this arbitrary formula. A fair question is : What would be an acceptable formula given the diktat from the likes of Sibal and Tharoor ? I do not know the answer to this, except that the executive and college administrators must have fought back political sabotage of this kind tooth and nail. Now guess who is going to be hauled up.

JEE – Advanced Retroactive disqualification formula

This is orders of magnitude worse than the gooey stuff that the JEE-Main situation has turned out to be.  Picture this:

You organize Heats in order to narrow down the pool for a 100M race to fit on one track.  But you come up with a clever masala twist.  You allow everyone to run the final stage and withhold the earlier heats result.  After the final event,  you go back and tell the winner that he’s out because he didn’t win one of the previous heats.

This is exactly the situation faced by hapless students from AP who had to return back to Hyderabad dejected after having cleared the JEE-Advanced. Some of them even had Demand Drafts ready to get admission into the IITs.

After the online counselling, candidates those who were allotted seats had to go to IIT-Madras, the southern vice-chairman of JEE Advanced examination office, for registration but dozens of candidates from Andhra Pradesh were sent home on Sunday, denying them seats saying that they did not figure in top percentile.

Speaking to Express, I Sandeep, who has got 3,695th rank and seat was allotted in IIT-H, said that he was denied seat as he got only 481 marks in Intermediate second year against the top 20 percentile mark from state 487/530. But they have already drawn a demand draft for Rs 60,000 and reached IIT-Madras along with their parents to take admission where he was denied admission saying that he did not figure in the list of top 20 percentile of Intermediate Board marks.

Source : NIE

Appalling arrogance from  an IIT-Delhi official.  Of course, he is ignorant. A minimum cutoff (eg a Pass in the Board exam) is quite different from a rank based cutoff.  In the former only your performance matters, in the latter your rank matters.  In any case, the earlier retroactive scheme sounds illegal too to me on principle.

However, IIT-Delhi’s H C Gupta, who is overseeing JEE (Advanced) this year, disagrees. He says, “Cutoff of top 20 percentile would not affect more than 20 students across sixteen IITs. Even with 60% class XII eligibility criteria till last year few students could not get admission despite clearing JEE.”

Source : TOI

This is a highly arbitrary system that flies against the “legitimate expectations” of those who participated in the JEE-Advanced.  If you want to pre-qualify, by all means do so, but not in a post-hoc fashion.  By paying EXAM FEE,  busting their bottoms preparing and appearing for the exams, the expectation of all candidates is that they are eligible and are participating in a system without prejudice.  I cant think of a valid legal defence of this scheme that would stand in any society where the rule of law holds.


A fake socialist state built on adhocism, no political accountability,  and a relentless assault on individual rights is going to produce these spectacular anomalies. In the short term, we hope the judicial process provides relief to these innocent kids.