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Competitive Exams – do they really judge intelligence?

Accept it or not, exams are a nightmare to most of us. Being an Indian student, taking an exam and passing it with flying colors is a big deal. It’s all fun and games until you’re in school. The reality does not kick in by then. The safe, happy bubble bursts once you’re out of school. Movies and TV Series, in general, show colleges as one big party. No doubt, colleges can be the best few years of someone’s life. But, the media portrays some pretty unrealistic depictions of it. As an Indian student, is it that easy to get into the college of our dreams? The getaway to the top colleges is Competitive Exams. The level of competition is very high in a country of more than a billion people. UPSC, JEE, CAT, NEET, and CET are the most sought-after exams in the country.

The Bright Side

Engineering happens to be a very common disciple to choose from in India. India produces more than a million engineers every year. This is more than China and the USA combined. The entry to engineering colleges is through JEE and CET  – two of the most relentless competitive exams. Every year more than 2 lakh students attempt these exams and only a few of them get into the prestigious IITs and NITs.

These exams have a lot of positive sides. A sense to excel is instilled in the students which prepares them for the future. Healthy competition is established too. The ability to manage time and stay organized is instilled as well. They also test the analytical skills of the takers.

The bright side of competitive exams is that it gives the deserved candidates a chance to outshine. These exams act as a filter to keep only the qualified ones in the race. Exams like UPSC have a selection ratio of 0.2%. This means that if there are 1,00,000 applicants, only 12,000 will be selected for the next round. Out of these 12,000, only 2000 are called for the second interview round. In the end, only a few thousand are selected. A rigorous selection gives the brightest minds a chance to serve the country.

a way to success
The Dark Side

The rigorous selection does put a certain mental strain on students who are preparing for it. Imagine being one of the ten lakh students preparing for an exam that accepts less than one percent of students. This tremendously increases the pressure on students to outperform their peers.

A good example is Kota, Rajasthan. A coaching center hub that trains thousands of students for such competitive exams. Healthy competition can increase the confidence of a student, but not everyone takes it well. There have been many cases of students falling into depression and anxiety due to this. The fear of uncertainty can also drive the students to take dangerous steps. A certain amount of peer and family pressure can add to an aspirant’s anxiety.

 It is a well-known fact that Indians love Engineering, Medical, and Law as a career option. Though, the number of engineers produced in the country is excessive. The job opportunities are lesser than the number of engineers produced annually.

Next, consider, you’re a repeater in UPSC or NEET. You’re taking a year off for preparations to score well in your next exam. On one hand, you’ll be having ample time to prepare. But, there’s a chance of you feeling left out. The dreadful questions of your relatives might add to the stress. Hence, when we think of such exams rationally, we notice a pattern.

Do they test intelligence?

Indian Education system weighs perfection over skills. One has to be in the top 5% to get into a top university. The scenario is low-key changing. Interviews, Communication Skills, and extra-curricular activities are also being considered for admission apart from marks. There’s a chance one gets into their dream college because of an extra-curricular activity they excel in.

The exams are known to test the learning ability of a student. There are different types of intelligence a student can possess – Logical/Mathematical, Interpersonal, Musical, Linguistic Intelligence. A single exam cannot test all these qualities which, supposedly, make a person “intelligent”. Also, not all exams test a student’s Soft skills, which are equally important in today’s day and age.

Can we try to change the system?

Competitive exams are important, no doubt. Countries like India need a uniform education system and such exams are a way to test the students. But apart from these, other qualities should also be taken into consideration.

The first step could be a skill set identifying session at the school level. One person might be good at designing and another could be good at writing. This test should be taken every year until he/she sets with the right skill-sets.

We have been following a really old education pattern for quite some time now. The National Education Policy was introduced recently. It looks promising and is capable of bringing some positive changes to the system. Some of the key takeaways from it are :

  • For ages, Report Cards have been the only way to measure a student’s intelligence. But now, students can be evaluated in three ways: Self, Peer, and Teacher Assessment. This provides a newly structured learning process. Feedback, which is an important part of any test will be provided to the students.
  • There will not be any rigid separation between Arts, Commerce, and Science streams. This means, that, a student can choose to explore any stream according to his/her interest. This is to encourage cross-functional thinking among students.

NEP is set to make education very flexible, keeping the students in mind.

We, as a country, will only be successful if learners are not afraid to take exams. Exams should not be responsible for deteriorating someone’s mental and physical well-being. Although it is a long way to go for us to break this stigma, we’re only moving in the right direction!

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