Common Entrance Test - Sans Common Sense



As a medical graduate at war with the Indian educational system for entrance into a post-graduate medical course, it was almost imperative that my first blog post would have something to do with the post-graduate medical entrance examinations. What I did not foresee however during the period I was planning to start a blog was  that I would be preoccupied with yet another so called ‘radical change’ in the examination system, or at least a proposal to do so.

Due to constant experimentation by the powers that be, I have always suffered from something like ‘The Guinea Pig’ Syndrome. Be it the introduction of Hamlet at the Plus Two level or the sweeping changes in the WBJEE question format in 2001, I have always been astonished as to why an ‘essential’ change has to be made in the system just as we approach the concerned examination, especially since after about two to three years’ time, the ‘essential’ parameters change drastically to compel the authorities to alter the system again, usually reverting to the old system in the majority of the cases.



After wasting two valuable years of preparation time due to unavoidable circumstances, I was just getting into the groove to make serious preparations for the upcoming examinations. Imagine my horror when I wake up one morning to find out that the examination system was to undergo a sea change....again! The newest proposal was that a Common Entrance Test (CET) would replace all the various post-graduate entrance examinations so that the students are spared the supposed mental trauma that is invariably associated with multiple tests. Also, as with all high-level recommendations, the Utopian vision that a single test would discourage corruption, nepotism, paper leaks and cash-for-seats activities was also being floated.

Each individual has his or her own opinion regarding the pros and cons of such a test but for me, a single test vividly resembles an ‘all eggs in one basket’ situation. In a country like India where a political rally is often enough to make candidates miss career-defining examinations, especially in the state where I come from, the mere thought that I could land up in an all-or-none situation is enough to send chills down my spine. Add to that the confusion that is certain to ensue because of the state reservations, caste quotas and incorporation of other such legalities in the counselling system and you do not have to be Nostradamus to foresee where this idea is headed. As far as the anti-corruption angle is considered, it was probably associated with the proposal for comic relief. After all, Indians are more often than not compelled to bribe officials to get even trivial jobs done – how can an important (and supposedly lucrative) examination escape the nationwide scourge!

The present status is that the plan has temporarily been shelved due to opposition from certain states, especially Tamil Nadu, due to complications associated with reservation of seats for rural or backward students. Maybe, two negatives do make a positive after all! If history is anything to go by, it will take quite some time to arrive at a consensus regarding changes in the examination system and by the time the consensus is reached, the priorities and requirements of the examination system will change once again making the earlier changes redundant!

As of now, and as always in the past, the only option left for the students is to forget worrying about the system and concentrate on the preparation hoping that the benevolent Gods smile on the day of the examination (whichever it is) while our human gods are busy enough making ‘essential’ changes in other aspects of our life. In any case, it is futile to try and comprehend our unsystematic system!

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