Is one test for all admissions a good idea

One test for all admissions will also take a little bit pressure of the board exams off the students, but on the flipside it will add to the burden of an added exam.

India has always been admired for its prodigious brains with great aspirations for knowledge.
India has always been admired for its prodigious brains with great aspirations for knowledge.

By Tapan Kumar Nayak

Examinations today are an indicator of the performance of students in the fast-changing academic life. They signify a rite of passage for learners to the next level of education, to get preferred admission in the institution of their choice, and to meet the high expectations of self, parents and teachers.

The past convention has been that of different tests for different streams of higher education that a student may wish to choose. With the advent of 2016, many agencies including CBSE announced that all the medical entrance examinations, be it at the national level like AIPMT or state level like CPMT will be merged together into a single exam called a NEET.

Since the rise of the pandemic, alongside teaching, many examinations also shifted online. This helped to change the notion of traditional examination and created a need for single examination system. To this effect, one examination as an optimal option to many examinations plays a vital role in the academic life of learners and their choice for career development. Sometimes it is a boon for the studious learners; sometimes it is a bane for the weaker ones, and vice versa. The mode of examination, internet-based assessment, a virtual screen instead of an invigilator, through advanced online systems and technologies such as Zoom and Google Meet have also heralded the new forms of methods for evaluation of academic performance.

India has always been admired for its prodigious brains with great aspirations for knowledge. With competitive exams like NEET, IIT-JEE, CAT, and UPSE, students get a narrow headway towards realizing their dreams of pursuing higher education. Recent research shows that at least 40% of educational institutions will risk getting phased out in the next 10 years if they don’t figure out the method to assess, map, and predict students’ future performance correctly.

Earlier this year, a landmark initiative was made by the University Grants Commission (UGC) with the announcement of common entrance exam called Common University Entrance Test (CUET) for all undergraduate programmes for the academic year 2022-23 and onwards. The move was greeted with mixed reactions from educators, students, parents, academics and experts.

On the positive side, CUET looks to be conceptualized to provide equal opportunities to students across the country, irrespective of the board or background. It is seen as an initiative to grant equal opportunities to students from rural and remote areas where quality education hasn’t made inroads. CUET will also take down the financial stress on students. Aspirants of higher education now won’t have to bear the cost of taking multiple entrance exams. Additionally, one test would lead to reduced overall cost, such as the cost of the examiner and student, cost of paper and ink, and transportation cost of reaching the centre for both examiner and students.

The common entrance test also addresses the allegations of unfair practices being followed by certain school education boards to reward the students favourably with good marks so that they stand a better chance at higher education. With the common entrance test, students from all the boards get a level-playing field. One test for all admissions will also take a little bit pressure of the board exams off the students, but on the flipside it will add to the burden of an added exam.

The biggest downside of the common entrance examination is that it may render the students’ performance in board exams less relevant and shift the focus from education in senior secondary classes to preparation for the entrance exam. Another downside is that a common entrance test will spawn a new ecosystem of CUET coaching centres. Moreover, students also feel that they get fewer opportunities to perform if they do not do well in one main examination.

The upshot is that the debate regarding the advantages and disadvantages of the common entrance test for all admissions is still on. Opinions of all stakeholders, most importantly students, need to be heeded before making one entrance exam for all the new norm.

The author is dean academics, Jaipuria School of Business, Ghaziabad

Read also: Mercer | Mettl’s State of Online Examinations Report 2022 reveals 78% institutions prefer to adopt hybrid exam model

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