Published: 31st January 2020
Too many bosses in govt departments lead to paper leaks: COMEDK chief on exam season
As this year's COMEDK exams are approaching, class XII Science students are gearing up to attempt them. We speak to S Kumar, Executive Secretary, COMEDK, about what students can do to prepare better
If a Science student aspires to pursue an undergraduate Engineering degree after school, it should no longer shock you as this is the modern world. Today, there are several entrance exams they can attempt. The Consortium of Medical, Engineering and Dental Colleges of Karnataka (COMEDK) exam is one such entrance exam. Started in 2003, this exam is attempted by thousands of students across India today. But there are still many doubts among aspiring students regarding the level of difficulty in the COMEDK exams and how they should be gauging the quality of engineering colleges. Answering these queries, S Kumar, Executive Secretary, COMEDK, says, "At least 70 per cent of the question paper can be solved by an average student. And when it comes to quality, the students need not worry. The Consortium of Medical, Engineering and Dental Colleges of Karnataka assures the quality of these colleges through a method that is similar to the QS World University Ranking." Experts from the interview:
S Kumar, Executive Secretary, COMEDK
1. What led you to start an entrance exam like COMEDK?
In 2003, eleven Supreme Court judges came together and bestowed rights upon private colleges to manage their own affairs. In 2004, there were two other orders that stated that colleges offering similar courses or educational programmes must sit together and design an exam that can determine the merit of students. Thus, the Consortium of Medical, Engineering and Dental Colleges of Karnataka (COMEDK) was formed, which is transparent and non-exploitative when it comes to meritorious students.
2. What is the exam format like?
We have strictly adhered to the guidelines set by the Supreme Court who has insisted that every state must follow the CBSE syllabus in class XI and class XII. Hence, our question paper will be based on this curriculum. 43 per cent of the questions will be from class XI curriculum and 57 per cent will be from class XII. There is distribution in the difficulty level as well — easy, moderate and difficult. My mind goes back to the first test that we conducted when I thought that it should be a high standard entrance exam. The highest marks that a student scored in Math was 28 out of 50. Even IITians and scholars from IISc said that it was difficult to solve. Thereafter, we changed it according to class XII students' problem-solving abilities. Normally, 25 per cent of the questions should be easy and everyone must be able to answer them. 45 per cent of questions should be easy enough to be solved by an average student and it is the last slot of difficult questions that helps us decide the rank-holders.
3. How do you assure students that the colleges listed by COMEDK are quality ones?
COMEDK offers a provision called IGQS which stands for India Guage QS. We all know about the USA's standard of measuring the quality of colleges - QS World University Ranking. The QS I·GAUGE is very similar to this. We check the quality of COMEDK-listed Engineering colleges on the basis of seven parameters. We check their alumni records, rankings, industrial tie-ups and so on. Each of these parameters are graded as bronze, silver, gold, diamond and platinum. This will help colleges focus on necessary areas and improve themselves.
4. Are there enough takers for COMEDK?
Yes. Last year, around 80,000 students applied for the exams and 70,000 attempted it. For the last 14 years, we have always conducted our exams on the second Sunday in the month of May. But sometimes, when other states have entrance exams on the same day, then students fail to attend it. We recorded 81 per cent attendance during last year's exam.
5. What suggestions do you have for students who are gearing up for the COMEDK exams?
Since all these students are fresh out of class XII, many of them, especially those from rural areas, might not be familiar with computers. Therefore, we have mock exams for students who want to attempt the COMEDK or Uni-GAUGE exams. There are four mock exams. If students register early enough, they can attempt all four mock exams. I would suggest that students register for the mock exams to help them prepare better.
6. What if students from Jammu and Kashmir want to attempt the COMEDK exams?
Until last year, we used to conduct these exams in different centres of J&K. This year, due to the unavailability of the internet, they will have to travel to other cities and centres to write the exams. There are around 400 centres in 200 cities across India.
7. Have you introduced anything new in the COMEDK exams?
Around 190 engineering colleges are members of the consortium, so, we have combined the COMEDK exams with the Uni-GAUGE exams. It is a pan-India entrance exam for Engineering universities. We started to work on this around five years ago with the hope to bring all universities under one single exam, like the GRE in the US, and people who pass it can get admission in any university. However, we leave the choice to the students, if they want to be considered only for COMEDK colleges or universities across India that consider the Uni-GAUGE exams. COMEDK will conduct centralised counselling for students so that they can enrol in a college, but Uni-GAUGE will produce a list of universities and the students can approach them themselves and will be accepted only on the basis of their marks.
8. Did you face any challenges with regards to reaching out to students?
Initially, it took us some time to take colleges into confidence with regards to conducting the COMEDK exams. We even took signatures from them to ensure that they will honour the merit determination of the students and enrol them for courses in their college. Subsequently, when the results turned out to be good, the institutions chose to take COMEDK seriously. Thanks to the policies and stringent laws that we have in place, we have not had a single question paper leak. COMEDK is a completely academic body comprising of academicians from different streams, retired IAS officers, police officers and so on. Hence, whenever we print our question papers, we ensure that they are printed in an RBI press and we don't use the same press on more than two occasions.
9. Why do you think there are paper leaks during exams conducted by the state government?
The government has too many bosses who sit in different departments, out of which a few people might succumb to temptation or threat and end up compromising the exams process. But when we formed COMEDK, we took an undertaking that none of the colleges will interfere with the exam process and the question papers will be printed by COMEDK alone. When we began, there were 16 medical, 28 dental and 150 engineering colleges in the consortium who agreed to this and the same is being followed even today.
10. You have been in the education sector for 39 years and you must've observed changes in the level of competition among students. Can you share your observations?
The competition among students starts from the school-level today and it has grown intense. Similarly, the pressure on students from family, friends and others to attain good ranks or marks has also increased. We don't give our children time to make informed decisions. There is no aptitude testing factor before the child is pushed into higher education. When we were studying, the chances and options were limited. Now, there are a wide variety of courses. Parents force children to pursue what they want and not what the child wants. In such cases, children tend to get into substance abuse. These are the unfortunate examples that I have seen today.