The National Testing Agency’s (NTA) decision to “normalise” Common University Entrance Exam (CUET) scores on Friday came in for criticism from a section of students, who called the process “unfair” and said it may impact their chances of getting a seat in top colleges and universities.
University Grants Commission (UGC) chief M Jagadesh Kumar on Friday said universities across the country will prepare merit lists for undergraduate (UG) admissions using normalised scores and not the percentiles.
Normalisation is a process for revising the score of one student in a way that it becomes comparable with the score of another. This becomes necessary when an examination in the same subject is held in multiple sessions, each with a different paper.
Aryaa Singh, a candidate from Uttar Pradesh who opted for Banaras Hindu University (BHU) as his top preference to study law, said the central testing agency downgraded her score as part of the normalisation process.
“When I calculated my marks on the basis of the answer key, it was 505 out of 700, but the normalised score reflects 421 marks only. I don’t know if this will help me get into the college of my choice,” he said.
“Why do we deserve this? If they made the papers themselves with different difficulty levels for different phases, then it’s on them! They should’ve kept the difficulty level the same,” Singh said.
Several other students raised similar concerns on social media.
“The normalisation policy cut my score by nearly 20% and all my hard work has gone down the drain,” said Aman (who goes by a single name), another undergraduate aspirant from Uttar Pradesh.
“My brother got a deduction of 37 marks in his domain papers. How is this fair? How can normalisation lead to an increase/decrease of 40 marks? This is extremely unfair with these kids,” Ritika, a Twitter user, said in a post.
Students also raised concerns over universities using “normalised scores” instead of raw scores for the admission process.
“I got 99% in physics with 141 marks and my friend from humanities got 97% with 170 marks in one of the core subjects. We both are aiming for BA at Delhi University. The university is only going to consider the ‘normalised marks’ instead of percentage for preparing its merit list. What is the sense of NTA’s normalisation process?” asked Varsha (FULL NAME), from Himachal Pradesh.
Explaining the rationale behind using normalised marks, the NTA in a statement said, “The CUET-UG was conducted over a period of six weeks with tests in a given subject held on different days. So the question that arises is how are we going to compare the performance of different students on a common scale, since they have written the test in the same subject but on different days. We need to ensure that admissions are based on a score that accurately compares students’ performances.”
Kumar said, “Normalisation using equi-percentile method causes neither benefits nor harms students’ marks. Since they are writing in different sessions and the difficulty levels are different, even if they got the same marks in two different sessions, when the difficulty levels are taken into account, the normalised marks will be different.”
“Students need not worry about these differences as the CUET normalisation formula was decided by a panel of experts from the Indian Statistical Institute, the Indian Institute of Technology — Delhi, and Delhi University. Universities can use these marks to prepare the rank lists for admissions,” he said.
Meanwhile, some students were marked absent in subjects despite appearing for the test.
“I appeared for all my papers in the first phase. They still marked me absent in one of the subjects. I requested NTA for help but my appeals were ignored,” Harsh, an aspirant from Bihar said.
Officials at NTA assured that they will look into such cases. “Students facing such problems can reach out to us. Their grievances will be resolved,” said a senior NTA official, requesting anonymity.