Entrance Exams for Universities: Yes/No?

Posted on August 25, 2009
Filed Under >Owais Mughal, Education
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Owais Mughal

There was a time when passing intermediate/HSC (High School Certificate) with good grades could get you into a public university. Not any more. The standard of testing at HSC level is presumed to have fallen so low that not even public universities are accepting candidates on sole basis of passing HSC exams. The requirement of a separate entrance test in addition to passing HSC exams has now become a de-facto requirement by public universities in Pakistan.

In most universities, HSC grades still get some weightage when calculating the total acceptance criteria but a good grade in HSC alone is not sufficient.

My question is what is the purpose of spending so much time, money and effort on conducting HSC exams? Now a student has to do hardwork in HSC exams and once those exams are over, they have to prepare again for entrance exams to several universities they intend to apply. Don’t you think it is an added and unnecessary burden on students to pass all these extra entrance exams?

A counter argument can be made that if a student prepares for HSC exams in letter and spirit i.e. by understanding the concepts and not by ‘rattafication’ (memorizing) then he/she can pass any entrance exam. That is true and I agree with that argument. But then my counter argument would be to improve on testing method at HSC level. Make all HSC exams MCQ type where ‘rattafication’ will not help. Today the criteria of passing HSC exams is memorizing long descriptive answers, which do no help a candidate in any entrance exam.

The situation has now reached a point where there is a perception that those universities which do not conduct entrance test are below standard. Therefore 2nd or 3rd-tier public universities and colleges are also in the business of conducting their own Entrance exams because they don’t want to appear as having lower acceptance criteria.

For the past few years I’ve also noticed a trend of commercialization and politization of Entrance exams. Whole new institutions of private coaching have sprung up across Pakistan which guarantee you success in all kinds of entrance exams. I’ve also noticed the trend where student wings of notorious political parties conduct practise/mock exams for candidates to public universities. One reason that prompted me to write this post was that today I even saw a statement from a political leader where he has demanded to standardize the university entrance exams all over Pakistan. Good demand, but my point is why don’t we reform the insitution of HSC boards and exams instead of creating more and more roadblocks for students.

Below I want to summarize few arguments for and against Entrance Test to the public universities.

Arguments For Entry Exams to Universities:

1. HSC exams and their marking criteria are not consistent across the country. HSC results differ by huge margin from board to board and region to region.

2. HSC exams are prone to corruption and cheating.

3. HSC exams test a person’s memory and not concepts. e.g. descriptive questions on which marking is also qualitative (read as “depends on the mood of an examiner”) and not quantitative.

4. Centralized exams are a worldwide norm e.g. SAT, GRE, GMAT etc scores have weightage when admission is sought to Universities in the Western Hemisphere.

5. If a student goes through HSC curriculum by learning concepts then he/she should be able to pass all entry exams with minimum effort.

Arguments Against Entry Exams to Universities:

1. It renders the whole institution of Intermediate (HSC) boards country-wide useless and meaningless. I would even go as far as saying that it is like wasting 2 years of students.

2. Monetary burden on students who pay examination fees at HSC boards and then for individual entry exams at universities. Conducting entrance exams has almost become means for extra income for the universities.

3. Psychological burden on students. At first the students have to do two years of hard study at HSC level only to know before hand that it alone won’t be enough to get them into a university.

I concede that my arguments against entrance Exams are lesser in number than those which are for entrance exams. But I believe my ‘against’ arguments have more weight. If I were a student going thorugh two years of rigorous HSC Studies, I want that exercise to be worthy enough to atleast get me to next level of education.

I would be willing to prepare for a different (reformed) type of HSC testing where my concepts are tested and not my memory. I will be happily going through this 2 year of hardwork, if I know it is worth something.

The photo above shows a self assessment test being conducted by a student wing of a political party in Hyderabad. This is for preparing students for the entrance test to Sindh University, Jamshoro.

To conclude this post I want to say that in my opinion HSC boards and their exams should be reformed so that their results are worthy of admissions to public universities. Entry exams conducted by public universities on their own should be abolished.

What do you think?

Photo Credits: Associated Press of Pakistan

39 responses to “Entrance Exams for Universities: Yes/No?”

  1. zeeshan says:

    according to my point of view entry test is a good task to check the potential of the students but the entry test is not taken in the proper way there is double standard in the test. my sotry is that i did diploma of associate engineer in electrical technology i got 85% marks in board exams in punjab.i got hieghest marks in the lahore but did,nt get passed the entry test for 2 times it,s a difficult game for bcz the entry test is prepeared mostly from the syllabus of FSC. and consist all questions related to RATTALIZATION not based on conceptual study.
    on the other hand there is very short NO of seats for diploma holders in GOVT or also in PRVT universities. so can any body tell me what,s my fault why i never get admited by the GOVT universities. even i tooo tttoo much strugle to get 85% marks in my intermediate exams.

  2. venkat says:

    i think the system should be changed

  3. Wahin says:

    ahhhh i think the entry test should b centralized thatz in the benifit of everione in the country speciallly wen u hav got the diffrent boards all over the country for example i hav done HSC from FBISE (Fedral Board) i workd hard did all i can but still jst got to keep my self in 1st div now if i go n tawk to some one from KHI or LHR board they hav got markz in 880+ n still they hav no knowledge. now if i go for a university on my HSC basis i by no chance gona get into ani coz of my low markz in HSC but wen the entry test comes in it gives me a chance to prove my worth still in mani university the Final aggregate position on merit list is made on 60 to 70% markz of HSC n rest of it on entry test either i hav to become a bookworm or leave my studies…

    i think the system should be changed u got to base ur entrance n admm on entry test ya you can includ 15 to 20% of HSC markz but not 60 or 70 % n i agree on the thing that HSC examz should b made MCQz….

  4. JQ says:

    The most important means to achieve excellence for a university is the quality of its intake. I say this as a medical student, and I find that even though the entrance exam does bring the most hardworking to the fore, it seems to negate the real brilliant students in a way that doesn’t even allow them a chance of entry. The rare ones that do get in somehow, are those who struggle throughout the 5 years(for medical school) to adapt with an outdated system.

    The system shall remain outdated until and unless it is revolutionised, not by changing the approach alone, but by changing the whole intake pattern.

    – No to entrance exams per se.
    – Yes to standardized aptitude exams based on concepts more than mere memorization skills, and an interview to determine creativity.

  5. M Usman says:

    Its a very wast and better step for pakistani youth to take entrance test. I agree and i think, fate is what we have to follow, consciously or unconsciously, so Entrance test are going to give us chance…. That what we call fate…

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