Exclusive: CBSE Cheats Students by Tampering Class 12 Marks, Again

The CBSE has unfairly and unequally tampered marks of students who appeared for the Class 12 examinations in 2019.

6 min read

Video editor: Deepthi Ramdas

On 24 April 2017, Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar had announced that 32 school education boards, including the CBSE, had taken a decision to stop the practice of unfairly increasing students’ marks in order to show higher-scoring results.

Yet, just like in 2018, a data-driven investigation by The Quint shows how the CBSE has once again betrayed that promise made to all the other boards and indeed students across the country, by unfairly and unequally tampering marks of students who appeared for the CBSE Class 12 examinations in 2019.

By continuing with a practice that HRD Minister Javadekar had himself termed “an illogical menace” that needs to be stopped, the CBSE has cheated not just its own students but also those who appeared for exams conducted by other boards that were part of the 2017 consensus to stop unfair moderation. More than 12 lakh students appeared for the CBSE Class 12 exams in 2019.

Over the course of this article, we provide detailed evidence of the CBSE tampering students’ marks yet again, and explain why it doesn’t allow a level playing field to be created for undergraduate college admissions.


Proof of CBSE’s Unfairness: The Spike at 95/100

An incredible number of people scoring the particular mark 95 in individual subjects had exposed the CBSE’s dirty secret of “marks moderation”. Here’s how the mystery figure 95 has exposed the CBSE’s unscrupulous marking procedure in 2019 as well.

Take a look at the following graph of the Class 12 Mathematics results of CBSE 2019. The graph shows the results of a sample size of 29,421 students whose marks have been analysed.


Spot the sudden surge at the 95 mark? A closer look at the graph will show you that around 4,000 students out of the 29,000+ students scored exactly 95 out of 100 in their Maths exam.

The number 95 is awarded to more students than ANY other number from 0 to 100. Over 13% of the students in the sample have scored exactly 95.

Does this strike you as odd? Why is 95 awarded many more times than all other marks? Dheeraj Sanghi, professor at IIT-Kanpur, explains:

“The moderation of marks is done in a way so that many students score 95. In reality they have scored 94, 93, 92, 91, etc. But all of them have been bunched with 95. This is unfair because different students have been given different increases in marks.”
Dheeraj Sanghi

But why the obsession with 95? In a discussion following the exposé on CNN-News18 by this reporter in June 2016, former exam controller for the CBSE, Pavnesh Kumar, unwittingly admitted the board’s flawed system while attempting to defend it.

Kumar said, “Those in the know can tell you that this is because the limit for a moderated score has been fixed by the board as 95. Those who have 80, if you give them 15 moderation marks, they will get 95. Anybody with 85, give them 10 moderation marks, they go to 95. But a moderated score cannot go beyond 95.”

Kumar’s defence stressed on the need to stop moderation at some mark. Because if an 80 was increased by 15 to 95, a 90 couldn’t be increased similarly to 105. Strangely, Kumar still refused to admit that increasing different students’ marks by different amounts was an unequal and unfair practice.

The former exam controller of the CBSE argued, “It is unfair to say that those scoring 95 without moderation are losing out, because their scores are not being reduced. Only the marks of those below 95 are being raised."

But is it fair to put students scoring 95 at par with students scoring less? Especially when college admissions hinge on as little a difference as half a percent.


Why This Is Extremely Unfair to Students

Consider students A and B. Let us assume they have exams in two subjects which will determine their college admissions.

  • In subject 1, student A scores 95 and B gets 85. But B’s 85 is moderated to 95 while A’s mark stays at 95.
  • In subject 2, A scores 95 and B scores 96.
A now has 95 and 95. B now has 95 and 96. Thanks to “moderation”, A loses a college seat to B. Without moderation A was 9 marks ahead of B. That, multiplied over several subjects and lakhs of students, is the extent of the unfairness of CBSE’s moderation policies.

CBSE Tampering Marks Encourages Other Boards to Do the Same

In an interview in May 2017, Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar said, “For the last several years, boards have been inflating marks. This spiking of marks is unacceptable – it is an illogical menace.”

And this is what HRD Secretary Anil Swarup had tweeted after the meeting of different boards in April 2017.

The CBSE’s direct defiance of the above assurance by the central government to lakhs of students across India, has serious implications. In 2017, the different education boards had come to a consensus to stop spiking marks because of how unfair the process was for students. Also, if boards continued to tamper their marks more and more in an effort to show better results than their competitors, it would only result in the marking system getting progressively worse and more unfair.

Now, with the CBSE having completely disregarded the consensus to not moderate marks, for the second year running, the other boards will also be encouraged to do the same. This is likely to make the marking system of board exams across the country extremely unfair, and thereby create further inequalities in the process for college admissions.

CBSE’s Long History of Tampering Marks

In the graphs below, observe the 95 spike in the year-wise cumulative results of the CBSE Class 12 exams, from 2010 to 2017.

As The Quint has reported in previous years, the CBSE’s own official by-laws do not even mention any scope for such arbitrary spiking as part of its moderation policy.

The CBSE has  unfairly and unequally tampered marks of students who appeared for the Class 12 examinations in 2019.
CBSE’s moderation policy from the board’s bye-laws.
(Photo Courtesy: CBSE)
None of the criteria mentioned in the CBSE’s bye-laws allows the board to unfairly and unequally tamper the marks of students in order to show higher-scoring results and a better performance by the board.

Questions the Government Must Answer

The CBSE has  unfairly and unequally tampered marks of students who appeared for the Class 12 examinations in 2019.
Why did the HRD Ministry allow CBSE to continue with a practice that even Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar publicly called “an illogical menace”?
(Photo: IANS)

In 2018, CBSE defied the Union HRD Ministry’s public assurance by tampering marks again and was called out for doing so in our subsequent report. Now, that the board has continued to display impunity and cheat its students and all other boards yet another year, here are some questions that the Union HRD Ministry must answer.

  • Why was no action taken against the CBSE for defying the 2017 consensus and the central government’s assurance to lakhs of students across the country?
  • Why did the HRD Ministry allow CBSE to continue with a practice that even Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar publicly called “an illogical menace”?
  • Since the government is not acting against the CBSE for backtracking on its decision of “stopping moderation entirely”, is it not encouraging all other boards to also implement unfair marking practices?
  • By allowing such an unfair practice to continue, isn’t the government responsible for the lack of a level playing field between students of different boards when it comes to undergraduate college admissions in institutions such as Delhi University?

The Quint has sought a detailed response from the CBSE and the Union HRD Ministry. This article will be updated if and when we get a response.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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