The Common University Entrance Test (CUET) for admission to undergraduate programmes is not likely to make the board exams irrelevant, according to University Grants Commission (UGC) Chairman M. Jagadesh Kumar.
The pass percentage and number of students scoring above 90% and 95% in CBSE class 12 declined this year, kickstarting a debate about whether the introduction of the CUET has taken the focus off board exams and will end up making them redundant in the longer run.
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"The basic eligibility criterion for entrance into universities remains unchanged which is that a candidate must have passed the class 12 examination from any recognised board or equivalent. In fact, marks in grade 12 for eligibility will vary across programs and universities," said Mr. Kumar.
"Moreover, the board examination is an 'achievement test' whereas CUET-UG is a 'selection test'. Hence, board exams at the class 12 level are not likely to become redundant," he said.
The second edition of CUET-UG is set to begin on May 21.
The UGC chief explained that the basic eligibility criteria are a key factor for admission to all universities and other examinations such as JEE (engineering) and NEET (medical) at the national level.
"The principles for university entrance exams require a common test. The National Testing Agency (NTA) is working to offer a high-quality Common Aptitude Test, as well as specialised common subject exams in the sciences, humanities, languages, arts and vocational subjects.
"These exams will test conceptual understanding and the ability to apply knowledge and shall aim to eliminate the need for taking coaching for these exams," he said.
"Students have been able to choose the subjects for taking the test and each university will be able to see each student’s individual subject portfolio and admit students into their programmes based on individual interests and talent," he added.
Asked about how CUET will provide an edge to students over the board exam marks for UG admissions, Mr. Kumar said, "In the past, students used to be under stress to secure more than 95% marks in class 12 board examination to get admission in the university of their choice.
"With the introduction of CUET, the stress on them for securing very high marks in the one and only board examination stands reduced. Marks given by different boards vary widely because of the typology of questions and the scoring pattern. These things will now be standardised under CUET," he said.
The UGC, in March last year, announced that undergraduate admissions will be conducted in all central universities through a common entrance test and not based on class 12 marks.
The debut edition of the CUET-UG was conducted in July last year and was marred by glitches, prompting the NTA to cancel the exam at multiple centres.
While several students were informed about the cancellation a night before the exam, many of them were turned away from centres.
The UGC Chairman had then said the exam at certain centres had been cancelled following reports of "sabotage".
Nearly 14 lakh applications have been received for the CUET-UG this year, registering a 41% increase from the debut edition last year.
CUET-UG remains the second-largest entrance exam in the country in terms of applicants. In the debut edition of CUET-UG, 12.5 lakh students registered themselves and 9.9 lakh of them submitted their applications.