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Not Fair

Some B school aspirants are unhappy with the way SNAP, IIFT and NMAT exams were conducted this year. As the number of test takers explodes, can institutes ensure a fair and transparent process? JAM investigates.
Rashmi Bansal

Pooja Sengupta, an Anna University engineering graduate, appeared for the SNAP (Symbiosis National Aptitude Test) on 18th December 2005, along with thousands of aspirants across India. But when her result arrived on 7th Jan 2006, she got a rude shock. “I scored 15 marks less than expected in the General Awareness section. Immediately, I sent off two emails to the SNAP office requesting them to re-evaluate my answer sheet.”

Pooja is not alone. More than a hundred other students who took the SNAP have doubts about whether their answer sheet was evaluated correctly. Megha Moolkim (SNAP id 515948) says, “I got 3/40 in GA which is impossible.” When aggrieved students called the Admissions Office they were told by Mr Shinde, Controller of Examinations, “There is no process for re evaluation.. the decision is final and binding.”

However, Pooja was not one to give up so easily and started an online petition (http://www.PetitionOnline.com/snap2005/petition.html) which reads:
The results declared on 7 Jan 2006 have been found to be inaccurate.However the SNAP Secretariat refuses to re-evaluate answer sheets.This is a sincere request to all those who feel their marks are inaccurate to please sign this petition and help serve justice to all the students who have worked so hard for the test and deserve their rightful marks.

125 affected students have signed the petition so far. Says Pooja, “Another section where I thought had gone well was quants where I just got 2.5 on 40.0. However, I’m not challenging that as neither do I know the Q & As for it nor do I remember what I marked…but being absolutely certain about the General Awareness section I’ve challenged the score.” One possible explanation is that the automated correction for the multiple choice exam could’ve been made using the wrong key.

RE-EVALUATING BSCHOOL ENTRANCE
Students seeking re-evaluation is common in college and university exams, but this appears to be the first time such a request is gaining momentum for a B school entrance exam. With these exams becoming extremely crucial to the future of a student – even more than a university exam – more questions are being raised than ever before.

Two months ago, students had expressed dissatisfaction with the manner in which the IIFT exam held on 27th November 2005 was conducted at several centres. At that time aggrieved students had also circulated an online petition (http://www. petitiononline.com /IIFT2005/petition.htm) asking the b school to hold a re-examination as they alleged:

1) The papers were not sealed and were distributed 5-7 minute before the test started.
2) At some centres there was precious time lost by the students owing to mismatching between Question paper and OMR sheets distributed by the invigilators
3) There were numerous printing errors on the paper leading to confusion in marking answers.

These irregularities were noticed at multiple centres – at St Xavier’s and National college in Mumbai, as well as at St Joseph’s Boy’s School, Bangalore, KV 02 (Delhi Cantt) and R D women’s college, Bhubaneshwar.

Says Rohit Awasthi, who initiated the petition, “Even a small headstart may give someone an unfair advantage. It’s a very competitive exam and a single answer can make the crucial difference when it comes to getting an interview call”.

ENSURING UNIFORM STANDARDS
What’s more, this is not the first time such irregularities have been noticed at the IIFT exam. There were similar reports in 2004. However, IIFT is not the only exam whose conduct has allegedly not been up to the mark. SNAP faced similar complaints – both in 2004 and 2005.

Says SJSOM student Kulveer Singh Chawla, “I remember at SNAP 2004 the papers at my centre were without seals with no proper instructions – the exam was mismanagement personified. This not only gives an unfair advantage to a few but also hits the morale of the student who has been slogging for a year(or more in some cases). It’s time that someone takes all this matter seriously and do something about it!”

The conduct of the NMAT exam by NMIMS on 11 December 2005 also threw up similar issues. Engineer Nikhil Kulkarni, noted the following problems at his centre – Institute of Management Education, Pune and noted on the pagalguy.com MBA forum: “A new entrance Sunday and a new fiasco”. He further observed:
1) There were 150 people seated in a room so close to each other that you could easily communicate with about 4 to 5 people without the invigilators knowing a thing. So although there were 4 sets of paper, the whole purpose of different order in questions was defeated. After the paper, I could make out that these neighbours had divided sections among themselves and later exchanged them. Is this fair for the sincere and the honest students?

2) The invigilators were clueless about everything.

3) Lots of mistakes in the paper, especially DI (Data Interpretation) section

4) The seating arrangement was pathetic. We were given chairs with flaps, the ones used in conference rooms, with less than 1/4th area of a normal table. At the end my neck, legs and many other body parts were moaning in pain.

Nikhil adds, “I know that this is not CAT. So there are bound to be some small problems. But from an institute which prides itself on being ranked 7th in India, I expected a lot more. Also from other people I have heard that there were some problems where papers were collected 5 minutes late or 5 minutes early”.

Students in Lucknow and Bangalore also had similar complaints while in Bombay the test seems to have gone off smoothly. These could be isolated experiences, but indicate issues that could easily escalate in year to come. NMIMS officials could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.

SOUR GRAPES OR GENUINE COMPLAINTS?
So far, b schools are turning a deaf ear to petitions, complaints and postings in public forums about their entrance exams. 140 students signed the IIFT petition and sent it to the IIFT Admissions office but received no response. Neither IIFT did not IIFT respond to an email and fax from JAM magazine.

No request for re-evaluation is being entertained by Symbiosis As per schedule, the list of students called for GD and interviews by SIBM was released on Jan 11. SNAP spokesperson told JAM in a telephonic interview, “A few students have called… It is not a new thing.

Students always have complaints and think they should have scored more.”

That may well be true but the fact is that as the number of test-takers and centres for B school exams swell – these issues will continue to crop up. While CAT had 1.55 lakh takers this year it’s estimated that tests such as SNAP, NMAT and IIFT attract anywhere between 20-40,000 applicants over at least a dozen centres. Ensuring the same standard of invigilation is n issue that b schools need to urgently address. After all, if an entrance exam’s fairness is tarnished it reflects badly on the b school’s brand image.

As Pooja admits, “It’s quite impractical to think that this would change anything for this year’s student but it’s the students who will appear next year who will be wary of applying to such exams.” Technology is the enabling factor which allows students in far flung locations to get together and air their grievances at pagalguy.com, via email and online petitions.

It would be in the best interest of b schools to listen and take corrective action, wherever necessary! And finally, the question that needs to be asked is: Why do we need to hold multiple B school entrance exams? Can’t all b schools came together under One Common Test, held 4 times a year like the GMAT?

That is the million-rupee questions Indian B schools urgently need to answer.

Facing issues related to B school entrance? Email rashmi@jammag.com with your experiences

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