Standard vs Basic: What’s the 2-Level Class X Math Exam All About?
Image used for representational purposes.
Image used for representational purposes.(Photo: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

Standard vs Basic: What’s the 2-Level Class X Math Exam All About?

The Class 10 CBSE board exams are just a few days away and a notable first for many candidates this year is a new ‘Basic’ mathematics paper that is poised to be easier than the ‘Standard’ one.

Early last year, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) had announced a two-level examination structure for the Mathematics subject, to be implemented for the first time in the upcoming Class 10 board exams.

So, here’s a look at how the new system would affect students who would be writing the exam in the next couple of days, what prompted the board to introduce this change in the first place, and some statistical tidbits on how students have weighed in on their preferences.

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(Photo: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

According to CBSE, while the syllabus for both the standard-level and basic-level mathematics papers will be the same, the former will assess “higher mathematical abilities”, which is more difficult and will focus on higher-order thinking skills as compared to the latter.

The Board’s stated objective for the two-level system is “to make the evaluation more students-centric and reduce the pressure on the student who doesn’t want to pursue Mathematics after Class 10.”


(Photo: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

So, the caveat that comes with opting for the easier ‘Basic’ paper is that the student cannot choose the subject in class 11 and 12, that is, the senior secondary level.

For that, the candidate will have to attempt the ‘Standard’ paper.

However, should the student who has attempted the ‘Basic’ exam change his/her mind later, the CBSE stipulates that he/she can appear for the ‘Standard’ level during the compartment exams that are held a couple of weeks after the board papers.


Nationally, the basic paper has found not many takers in its first year – with approximately 6 lakh out of 18 lakh candidates choosing the easier option, translating to around 33 percent.

However, the trend is in reverse if one is to look at just Delhi government schools – with more than 70 percent of the Class 10 students opting for ‘basic’ mathematics.

A point to be noted here is that while government schools in Delhi all come under the aegis of CBSE, the same is not the case in government schools of other states, which are usually tied to the state boards.

In fact, Mathematics has especially been a pain point in the performance of Delhi government schools, with nearly half of the total number of students who failed in 2019 (24,502 out of 47,231) failing just in Maths.


As far as private schools in the capital city are concerned, it seems that the trends are significantly different than the the ones seen in government schools.

Sadhana Bhalla, the principal of Mira Model School – a member of the National Progressive Schools' Conference that includes over 170 private schools – points out that in her school, as many as 94 percent of the students have opted for 'Standard Maths'. And it's not just her school – "the buzz is that in most (private) schools, most students are opting for the ‘Standard’ option," she tells The Quint.

“Largely, children have taken higher/advanced Maths. Because they do not want to close the option of taking up Commerce or Science. But (a few) children are staying with ‘Basic’ because they are very sure they want to go for Humanities and drop Maths. The ones who are opting for ‘Advanced’ is just to play it safe...”
Sadhana Bhalla to The Quint

But in a school like Springdales School, Pusa Road, its principal Ameeta Mulla Wattal says that the distribution of students who have opted for either of the two options was 50-50.

“Lots of students have opted for the basic one because lots of them now are looking for alternative careers (which they feel might not require Maths),” Wattal said.

Nevertheless, Bhalla also points to the lack of clarity that exists among the students and parents regarding the two-level structure and the flexibility around it. "Things will straighten out by next year, and then we'll be a little more mindful of why they are taking basic or standard," she adds.

While the Class 10 board examinations will commence from 15 February, both the 'Basic' and 'Standard' papers will be held on 12 March.

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