CBSE Class 10, 12 first-term Board exams: Important rules students should remember while answering on OMR sheets

For the first term exams, CBSE has decided to conduct the exams that follow the MCQ (multiple choice questions) format, conducted over the duration of 90 minutes.

Financial Express Online reached out to school principals and teachers to ask them about their queries regarding the new CBSE guidelines, especially the OMR sheets and the process that students need to follow. (Representational image)

CBSE Class 10, 12 first-term Board exams: The CBSE Class 12 and Class 10 exams for major subjects are set to begin next week. For this year, the Central Board of Secondary Education or CBSE has issued special guidelines, so that students in these two critical classes do not have to face the same uncertainty that the two previous batches have had to face due to the coronavirus pandemic. In July itself, CBSE had shared with affiliated schools a special scheme for the assessment of Board exams in 2021-22, for both Class 10 and 12. The biggest change was that instead of the Board conducting exams only at the end of the academic year in March, it would now conduct exams after both the first and the second terms, and the syllabus would be rationalised.

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This means that instead of having to study the entire syllabus of the year for the exams in March, students would now have to study a part of the syllabus for the first term exams and the remaining part for the second term exams. The question papers for both the terms would be set by the CBSE.

For the first term exams, CBSE has decided to conduct the exams that follow the MCQ (multiple choice questions) format, conducted over the duration of 90 minutes. For this, the responses need to be filled by students in OMR sheets. OMR sheets are sheets which are used in many entrance examinations, in which circles need to be filled or darkened to mark the correct choices.

Since this is the first time for most students to use the OMR sheets, CBSE also asked schools to conduct practice sessions so that students could familiarise themselves with the process of answering. During this process, some doubts were still likely to arise.

Financial Express Online reached out to school principals and teachers to ask them about their queries regarding the new CBSE guidelines, especially the OMR sheets and the process that students need to follow.

CBSE Class 10, 12 first term exams: Doubts and queries regarding OMR sheets

Richa Saxena, PGT Chemistry at Ghaziabad’s Seth Anandram Jaipuria School, said, “As the CBSE decided to conduct the Board Examinations semester-wise this year, students and teachers have all geared up to plan and prepare accordingly. The CBSE recently released guidelines regarding filling the OMRs, and it is evident that the board has taken the students’ benefit into consideration. By providing the option of writing the final answers in the box provided, the CBSE has taken a lot of pressure off the students, as it is beneficial for post-revision mind changes. A circle provided to mark the unattempted questions ensures prevention of any mishandling. However, it also increases chances of a time-crunch, especially in the questions requiring heavy calculations, reasoning and thinking process. Though CBSE has mentioned in the guidelines that the answer written in the box will be final, what if the marked answers and the answers in the box do not match or if the student does not mark the circles at all?”

Anju Soni, Vice Principal, Shiv Nadar School Noida, said, “As an educational institution, we really appreciate the fact that CBSE is consistently evolving as a board, while keeping the needs and requirements of learners and students at the centre of it all. Having said that, I believe that giving students a little more time for preparation would have been more appreciated. As far as the challenges are concerned, one of the important points is that with students having to mark both the circle and the box, it could lead to discrepancy.”

“We see the CBSE’s introduction of Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) sheet for Class 10 and 12 exams as a welcoming move pushing rote learning out of the system. OMR sheets will ask students objective style questions, which many educators and industry experts advocate for as they focus on assessing understanding of the concept than merely acquired learning of it. Besides, it will also acquaint students with the competitive exams beforehand. Most of such exams are conducted through OMR sheets to evaluate candidates’ level of reasoning, logical thinking and general knowledge. However, the new shift might not be a smooth ride for some students and educators. They would have to adjust to the new guidelines amidst the looming uncertainties of the Covid-19 pandemic. It means a lot can be misinterpreted in the newly-implemented system of virtual learning. It would require a lot of rigorous preparation from both sides to bring these guidelines into practice without letting anything go wrong. But from a long-term perspective, it is a progressive move and is likely to gear up the future generation for the fiercely competitive world ahead,” said Anirudh Khaitan, Treasurer, FICCI Arise & Vice Chairman, Khaitan Public School.

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“The move by CBSE is a much appreciated one, as they have tried to take all measures to ensure that students do not lose out on merit because of the pandemic. They have given thorough guidelines. However, there is some doubt around what kind of paper needs to be used for printing of OMR sheets and what needs to be done in case a student spoils the OMR sheet,” Mathura K, Principal of Orchids – The International School, Jalahalli, told FE Online.

OMR sheets and CBSE exams: Things to keep in mind for students and schools

FE Online went through CBSE circulars and checked with CBSE to get the responses to these questions. CBSE circular dated 06.11.2021 has made it clear that the response written by students in the box will be treated as final in case of a discrepancy. In fact, filling the box is mandatory for students. Students are required to use only black or blue ball point pens to fill out their OMR sheets, and under no circumstances will students be allowed to use pencils.

CBSE has instructed students to darken the circle of the correct answer (a, b, c or d) for any question. However, the board has also made provision for the student to revise their choice of option.

In case a student has already darkened the circle option, but they later think that the response they chose was incorrect and wish to choose another option as the correct one, they can do so by writing the answer they deem to be final and correct in the box. This is the reason that CBSE has provided a box. However, it must be noted here that the box needs to be filled out by the student in any case, as leaving the box empty would lead to the question being deemed as unattempted regardless of whether the circle has been darkened or not. On the contrary, if the box has been filled but no circle has been darkened, the question will be taken as attempted and the student will be marked on the basis of the option they fill in the box.

As far as writing the response in the box is concerned, it is not clear whether this needs to be done in capital letters or small letters. However, as per CBSE circular, “After 4 circles are over, a box is given in the same row. Candidates have to write the correct option in this box i.e. a or b or c or d as the answer is.” From this statement, and from the fact that the circles on the OMR sheet also have options written in lowercase, it seems that the responses need to be written in the box in lowercase and not in uppercase.

CBSE has also provided a fifth circle after the box which is to be darkened if a student wishes to leave a question unattempted. The purpose of giving this circle is that while answering in OMR sheets, students can often mix up question numbers if no option is marked for a given question.

It is advised that students first mark the circle options, and fill their answers in the box at the same time only if they are absolutely certain about their response. On the other hand, for any question where they may have doubts, it is advised that they revisit the question later and, once certain of their choice, darken the circle and fill the box. If they are facing a time crunch, then they can choose to fill the box and leave the circle blank, since the box needs to be filled for a question to be marked.

Similarly, a question will be deemed as unattempted even when the “unattempted” circle is left blank, so if there is a time crunch, students can leave this circle blank as well. However, it is always advisable that students check and ensure that their answers are being indicated against the correct question number and that they are not mistakenly marking their response against a question number that they intend to leave unattempted.

As far as the spoiling of OMR sheets is concerned, CBSE has told FE Online that sheets are being provided as per the students who are supposed to appear at an examination centre, so providing students with a new OMR sheet is not possible. Hence, students must take utmost care that the sheet is not ruined.

Meanwhile, schools are supposed to use good-quality A4 photocopy paper for printing of OMR sheets.

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