The exit-entry exams dilemma

The lack of alignment between Class 12 boards and the various entrance exams needs to be fixed, to allow a smooth transition from school to higher education

July 10, 2021 02:42 pm | Updated 02:42 pm IST

A large percentage of Class 12 students tend to prepare for two types of high-stakes exams.

A large percentage of Class 12 students tend to prepare for two types of high-stakes exams.

With both Class 10 and Class 12 board exams being cancelled, there is grave concern about students’ future plans. The Class 12 board exams have a huge impact on the choice of colleges for undergraduate courses. Apart from merit-based admissions, more than 50% students appear for common entrance exams such as NEET, CLAT and IIT-JEE. Class 12 marks simply become an eligibility criterion here, and admissions are strictly based on entrance exam scores.

Varied skillsets

In such a context, a large percentage of Class 12 students tend to prepare for two types of high-stakes assessments: the school exit exams and college entrance exams. Currently, there is an outcome-based assessment for school exit exams to certify students at the end of 14 years of schooling. The question paper has a combination of MCQ and open-ended questions, and students must exhibit both knowledge and understanding of the topic. The exam has been criticised for its vast portions, tendency to promote rote learning and predictable paper pattern.

In comparison, the skillsets to be demonstrated and the nature of preparation required for entrance examinations tend to vary dramatically. The question papers mostly include many MCQs that require students to be quick in selecting the right answer. The construct for assessment is derived from the objectives of future academic stream that a student is aspiring for.

For example, while the focus of the CLAT is to assess reading comprehension along with critical thinking and analytical skills, IIT-JEE assesses problem-solving abilities based on quantitative problems. Though the scope of the question paper remains within the prescribed syllabus, the complexity of the questions is higher than that of the board exam. This leads to enormous pressure among students, as both require a different kind of preparation.

External help

Since the entrance exams act as a gateway to students’ dream stream, coaching centres step in, offering help to decipher, drill in and practice these papers. Ideally, the preparation for their school exit exams should make students competent enough to crack the specialised entrance exams with minimal additional prep. However, this is not the case, primarily due to a lack of alignment between what is tested and how it is tested in both exams.

The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020) also recognises the need to design high-quality common as well as subject-specific entrance exams in such a way that it does not require students to go through any additional coaching. School education should be such that students are not just prepared to perform in one exam designed in a specific way. They should be equipped to critically apply their subject knowledge, as required, irrespective of the exam format. In fact, the higher secondary education curriculum should be well-rounded enough to provide scope for smooth transitioning of students from school to higher education without the need for ‘additional coaching’ of any kind.

The writers are faculty at Azim Premji University

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