BOPEE Mess: Time For Rethink

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The infamous BOPEE has been in the limelight for the last six months and there seem to be no end to apprehensions and uncertainties. The recently conducted high profile exam of academic excellence was another example of gross negligence and irresponsible conduct.

I am one of the aspirants who prepared and appeared for the recently conducted MD/MS degree and diploma courses conducted by BOPEE. I observed some serious and unacceptable errors in the examination which again creates loads of suspicion about the fair conduct of the exam.

To start with I will ignore some common problems like the printing errors in the answer sheets, incomplete question, question asked twice and inadequate facilities like lack of proper heating and poor lighting arrangement in the examination rooms. There were unfortunately more objectionable issues in this examination.

Marks distribution of Subjects:

The information brochure of all competitive exams of BOPEE is detailed and scientifically composed. It has detailed sections and contains all the information and necessary instructions to frame the eligibility criteria of a candidate from submission of forms to declaration of selection list.

Described on page numbers 25-26 of the Information brochure 2014 for admission to PG medical degree and diploma courses is the discipline or subject wise distribution of marks for the exam. Any subject or discipline for that matter has a specific marks distribution in terms of number of questions asked in the exam. It is just not a matter of surprise but of very serious concern that BOPPEE has failed to stick to the rules framed by them and has made a mess of marks distribution in this year question papers. Below is the number of questions for comparison between number of questions prescribed and asked in two papers. 

A single glance at the table above and one can easily make out that nothing can be worse as this distribution. It is highly frustrating to know on keen observation that it is not a variation of one or two odd questions but omitting entire subjects from one paper is not expected at all. SPM by distribution has to share the maximum marks (25) among all subjects in paper I as mention in the brochure. Under no circumstances one can explain omission of this subject from paper I. Additionally there is not a single question from BT medicine and forensic together amounting to (18) marks. Except ENT no other subject is in compliance with regards to distribution of marks as prescribed in the information brochure. The figures shown in the miscellaneous rows are the number of questions which are wrongly placed in that particular paper at the cost of weightage of other subjects. It is like serving tea when a person expects dinner and breakfast instead of lunch. With vastness in the syllabus and always short of time to prepare the aspirants always take a ‘risk approach’ ranging from more concentration on subjects with max. weightage to skipping of some selected topics with less marks to account for the shortage of time. 

While taking on the first paper in my examination center I heard a candidate asking whether it was paper I or paper II. The confusion was obvious on his part and he too like me must have realized later like me that three subjects are entirely missing from Paper-I amounting not only to one not two not 10 but as huge as 43 questions. On the day of examination a candidate is with a defined and calculated frame of mind and the irresponsible approach of authorities and policy makers accounts for under performance. The examining body has no legal right to make blunders like ignoring marks distribution in the papers already framed by them. Or else there is no need to frame such draft to mislead the candidates. This is not just applicable for exams like MD/MS entrance test but for all those all other exams conducted by esteemed BOPEE, CET for degree and diploma professional courses MDS, MBBS, BDS, BVSc, Agriculture, BE engineering, polytechnic diploma courses and academic B.Ed. and M.Ed. courses. A legal opinion is sought into the matter to decide judiciously whether the misappropriation of this magnitude makes any such exam invalid and is liable to be cancelled.

The credibility of paper setter and the subsequent chain of officials involved in this particular case is questioned and can be authoritatively challenged. There can be no logic or explanation to understand the modus operandi adopted by paper setters to account for such a gross violation of prescribed norms. There seem to be total absence of any expert proof reading mechanism which can eliminate such discrepancies and violations. Without doubt the aberrations of this kind have phenomenal impact on the performance of candidates in the examination and consequently on the preparation of merit list.

Ideally a question paper has to comply with the norms already prescribed for it. Once in a while a variation of few is acceptable to some extent but if there is a gross variation as badly exemplified as this year, it speaks many volumes beyond the matter of just ignorance.

TIME: 

Time is another technically important factor that deserves due attention and consideration. The time specified for this medical postgraduate examination for one paper is two hours (120 mins).  The examination comprises of two papers (paper I and Paper II) having 150 questions each. This means 120 mins time is allotted to solve 150 multiple choice questions which is precisely 48 secs for one question. It invariably takes more than one minute to read one question along with its four options. A candidate has to read understand and then mark the correct answer in a flash time span of 48 mins. Further the examinees are required to mark the correct choices made by them on an OMR (Optical Mark Reader) answer sheet. The filling of the circles in itself is not only hectic but time consuming also. There are strict instructions on the question booklet as to how the circles on the OMR should be filled. The filling of one circle on an average takes 5-10 secs and not less than 5-6 secs to fill it completely. If an average of 7 secs is calculated for 150 questions, the total time elapsed is 9 minutes or more so practically. It’s still not all for time limit. There is mandatory invigilator, exam superintendent and student signatures and thumb impression of the candidate on the OMR answer sheet. This is again done during the examination time which further shrinks the allotted time.

This insensible and inevitable time loss of approximately 15 minutes leaves an examinee to make for one question from reading to filling of OMR in just 42 secs. The BOPEE has been conduction this exam for years yet has never bothered to look into this critical matter.

It’s worth mentioning here that all the equivalent national postgraduate exams and other foreign medical exams for higher studies and licensure exams which are in the multiple choice format have excess time in minutes than the given number of questions.

The pointer is directed towards the BOPEE expertise bench and their associated policy makers of such prestigious exams who do not take pains to do extensive research on various aspects and dimensions in comparison to other exams conducted at national and international level in the same format.

BOPEE had once the reputation of decades for being a prestigious and transparent body in the state. Former tainted chairperson has already inflicted a damage of big magnitude to it name and yet there seems no signs of improvement. The board has earned a bad fame and there is chaos among the masses about its competence and credibility. The present chairman and other members have to do a great deal far more than just being satisfactory to earn the quantum of faith and trust and bring back the lost image and reputation back in place.

Students stay at home for months together, many leave their job, some others breach the contracts of the overseas employment and travel thousands of miles across the globe and burn the midnight oil to appear in neck breaking competitive exams. How far is this justified that errors which go un noticed ruin their hardwork and career for the reasons not even known to them.

My aim is not to criticize the board authorities but highlight some issues that are ignored so that hardwork does not go unpaid. In this technological age the exams are being conducted with great precision and transparency to avoid any misconduct. Many competitive examinations are conducted online to eliminate human errors and ensure transparent and speedy results. I feel our examination authorities have to do a lot of homework to raise the standards of competitive exams at par with the international standards. 

Author can be reached at: [email protected]

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