Despite the introduction of the Common University Entrance Test (CUET), board exams remain a significant factor in students’ academic journey, reassures UGC Chairman.
The recent introduction of the Common University Entrance Test-Undergraduate (CUET-UG) has stirred up a debate about the future relevance of board exams. However, according to the University Grants Commission (UGC) Chairman M Jagadesh Kumar, the CUET-UG is not intended to replace the traditional board exams, but rather to complement them. This comes in response to the declining pass percentage and the number of students scoring above 90 per cent and 95 per cent in the CBSE class 12 exams, raising concerns about the potential redundancy of board exams in the wake of CUET-UG’s inception.
The Interplay of CUET-UG and Board Exams: Complementary Not Contradictory
The UGC Chairman clarified that the fundamental eligibility criteria for university admissions have remained unaltered. He stressed, “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”.
Expounding on the distinct roles of board exams and CUET-UG, Kumar explained that while the former serves as an ‘achievement test’, the latter acts as a ‘selection test’. Hence, the two examinations are fundamentally different in their objectives, and the introduction of CUET-UG is unlikely to render the board exams redundant.
CUET-UG: A New Era in University Admissions
The UGC announced in March last year that undergraduate admissions in all central universities would be conducted through a common entrance test, CUET-UG, and not based on class 12 marks. The CUET-UG has been designed to test the conceptual understanding and the ability to apply knowledge of the students.
Kumar elaborated on the benefits of the new testing system: “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”. This new system is expected to alleviate the stress associated with securing exceptionally high marks in the board exams, thereby providing an equitable opportunity for students across different boards where the typology of questions and the scoring pattern vary widely.
The Journey of CUET-UG So Far
The inaugural edition of CUET-UG was conducted in July of the previous year and was unfortunately marred by a few technical glitches. These complications led the National Testing Agency (NTA) to cancel the exam at several centres.
Despite these initial hiccups, the CUET-UG has seen a surge in popularity, registering a significant 41 per cent increase in applications from its debut edition, with nearly 14 lakh applications received this year. This has made the CUET-UG the second-largest entrance exam in the country in terms of applicants.
The Road Ahead for CUET-UG
The second edition of the CUET-UG is scheduled to commence on May 21. As per Kumar, the UGC is gearing up to make this edition a success. He said, “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.”
The UGC Chairman’s emphasis on the enduring importance of board exams, coupled with the promising prospects of CUET-UG, sends a clear message that the Indian education system is striving to strike a balance between traditional modes of assessment and innovative methods of evaluation. Whether this balance will result in a more inclusive and fair admissions process remains to be seen.