The marking scheme used in the Common University Entrance Test (CUET) has left several students anxious. One of the apprehensions expressed by the students is that the “normalisation” of marks doesn’t allow for a comparison between two different subjects, which puts the students who appeared for Maths and Physics, as well as Hindi, at a disadvantage.
Sejal Singh, a student who aspires to join Delhi University, said, “I am applying for B.Sc. (Honours) in Maths at Delhi University and I have 96 percentile in Maths converted into 115 marks. As I am from Science background, my second subject is Physics in which I have 99.8 percentile converted into 168 marks.” She added, “But another student from Commerce background who applied for the same course and appeared for Business Studies instead of Physics has a lower percentile of 91 turned into 174 marks. This means that my competitor has more marks than me even though I performed better in a tough paper.”
She claims that despite having scored 97.7 percentile, she has an overall score of 631 out of 800, while many Humanities students with lower percentile scored more than 700 marks. According to the eligibility criteria laid down by Delhi University for different courses, students need to submit their best score in three or four subjects depending on the programme they are applying for.
University Grants Commission (UGC) chief M. Jagadesh Kumar last week said universities across the country would prepare merit lists for undergraduate admissions using “normalised” scores issued by the National Testing Agency (NTA) instead of raw marks.
“Normalisation” is a way to compare the marks of one student with another when an examination in the same subject is held in multiple sessions, each with a different paper, to ensure equity. Essentially, what this method does is that for a given percentile value it calculates the average of the corresponding scores on different days. If in a given shift no student secured a specific percentile value, then linear interpolation is used to give a corresponding score for the missing mark.
However, many university aspirants say a normalised score doesn’t provide a fair comparison between two different subjects and therefore percentiles would have been a better parameter.
Archisha Nigam, who plans to pursue B.A. (Hons) in Political Science at Delhi University, says, “Science students have been put at a disadvantage as they have lower scores despite higher percentile and will be penalised when they change streams and face competition from students from Humanities or Commerce.”
A group of nearly 30 students have written to Delhi University Vice-Chancellor Yogesh Singh, Dean of Admissions Haneet Gandhi and Registrar Vikas Gupta on the issue.
Another student said that using his Hindi score while applying to colleges would put students like him at a loss, as the CUET-UG result shows that a greater number of students performed better in English.
“I wish to apply for Bachelors in Management Studies at DU and I want to use my Hindi score in my best of four because I had a higher percentile. But despite performing better in Hindi, I have a lower score. I have 98.67 percentile in Hindi and a score of 183 out of 200, whereas a similar percentile in English will get you a score of 195 out of 200, which means English was an easier paper,” says Gaurav Garg.
Sahil Singh, another student aiming to study at DU, says “students with 100 percentile should be treated on par across all subjects, but the current system doesn’t do that.”
The result declared by CUET shows that high-scoring subjects such as Maths and Physics had only .03% and .02% students securing 100 percentile, while 5.9% of students who appeared for Psychology had 100 percentile, 1.95% had the top score in Political Science, 1.6% in English. In Hindi, too, only 0.4% had the top percentile.
But DU’s Dean of Admissions Haneet Gandhi explains why percentiles can’t be used at the university for preparing a merit list.
“Admissions for a course at DU are not based on the performance of a student in one subject, but in a combination of three to four subjects. Percentiles are prepared on an ordinal scale, and can’t be added. You can’t do arithmetic operations on percentiles. Therefore, we need marks to do the addition. Further, some courses need proration where you give only 25% of weightage to a particular subject,” Ms. Gandhi said. But she agrees that the method “provides parity only within a subject. And there is a debate on how to equate different subjects.”
Before CUET, colleges would prepare their cut-off list based on the percentage of the best of four of those students who had applied for a specific course to their college as well as on the basis of their past experience. Students who changed their stream would face a penalty of 2.5%.