Quint Accesses CBSE ’17 Results: Unfair ‘Moderation’ Still Rampant
An analysis of CBSE 2017 results proves that the board continued with unfair marking methods this year. (Photo: Rhythum Seth/The Quint)

# Quint Accesses CBSE ’17 Results: Unfair ‘Moderation’ Still Rampant

On 30 May 2017, The Quint reported that CBSE had unfairly and unequally spiked the marks of its Class XII students this year, following a decade-long tradition of tampering with students’ marks to appear high-scoring. The analysis was based on the results of a sample size of 24,980 students who appeared for the CBSE Class XII board exam this year.

But now, for the first time, the entire data dump of the CBSE 2017 results of more than 10 lakh students is at your fingertips. The information, mined by data scientist Debarghya Das, an engineer based in New York, exposes the extent to which CBSE tampered with the 2017 results.

The combined analysis of the results of all students who appeared for the CBSE Class XII exams this year also vindicates The Quint’s report on 30 May - Exclusive: Data Doesn’t Lie, CBSE Caught Cheating Yet Again.

The following graph shows the number of times each mark from 0 to 100 was awarded by the CBSE in this year’s Class XII board exams. For example, the full score of 100 was awarded a total of 8,230 times, all subjects combined.

But the one number that has clearly been awarded more than any other, is 95.

At 1,97,580 times, 95 is far higher on the graph than the second-most awarded mark of 33 – the pass mark. The exact figure of 33 was awarded 1,26,679 times. While all other numbers appear in clusters, the 33-mark and 95-mark are clear spikes on the graph.

33 being the pass mark sees a spike because those who come close to the pass mark but miss out by a few marks are raised to 33. But what about 95?

The inordinate number of times the 95-mark was awarded to students helped expose the CBSE’s flawed method of moderating marks.

The moderation of marks is done in a way 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, Professor, IIT-Kanpur
From 2009 to 2017, the number of 95s awarded has far outstripped any other number from 80 to 100. Take a look at the year-by-year data of the 90 to 100 range to see the extent of the unfairness in marking.

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 how unfair CBSE’s moderation policies are.

The subject-wise breakdown of CBSE 2017 marks shows spikes at 95 across Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics.

Business Studies, Accountancy and Economics display clear 95 spikes as well.

In a television debate in June 2016, former exam controller for the CBSE, Pavnesh Kumar, had unwittingly admitted the flaw while attempting to defend it.

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.
Pavnesh Kumar

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 refused to admit that increasing different students’ marks by different amounts was an unequal and unfair practice.

Yet, just days before the CBSE results were declared this year, Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar slammed the board’s unfair marking system, referring to CBSE’s policy of spiking up marks as “an illogical menace” that needed to be stopped.

On 24 April 2017, CBSE had announced that it would entirely stop the practice of moderation of marks this year onwards. And though the Delhi High Court ordered the CBSE to continue moderation of marks this year, the question that remains is whether the court really gave the board the licence to spike up marks in such an unequal manner.

Dheeraj Sanghi, professor at IIT-Kanpur, writes in a blog:

The boards could not publicly admit that they were falsifying the marks all these years, and this practice of falsification will now stop. So they used a euphemism and said that they will stop moderation. Note that Delhi HC has not said that falsification of marks must continue this year. It has only said that moderation must continue this year.

Sanghi makes a distinction between the ‘moderation’ of marks as per the CBSE’s official policies, and their unofficial practice of unequally bumping up marks.

Ironically enough, the same distinction was made by Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar in an interview to CNN-News18 a day after the setback in the Delhi High Court:

Firstly, there are grace marks to pass people who are near the pass mark. Secondly, there is moderation because boards have three or four sets of question papers so to bring in equality according to the difficulty level, you moderate the marks. But suddenly, for the last decade or so, in a rat race of sorts, inflation of marks was happening. This is called spiking. It should go.

The CBSE’s own official by-laws do not mention scope for such arbitrary spiking as part of its moderation policy.

Debarghya Das, the data scientist behind this year’s exposé, cautions:

We continue to see high spikes in CBSE at 95, with no real transparency from the board as to whom, which subjects, and by how much these moderation marks are applied. The system really requires some transparency on the part of the CBSE to keep them accountable to their grading methods. Otherwise, this blatant unfairness will only continue.

## Mission 2018

A shoddy implementation of the “no moderation” policy agreed upon by 32 different school boards on 24 April clearly fell through this year.

Just within the CBSE, lakhs of students received unequal increases in their marks, increases that vary from one student to another. This unfairly skews the college admissions process that is currently underway.

2017 has failed students across the country, by repeating the ills of years past. Will 2018 be any different? For the sake of parity in the marking system, students should certainly hope so.

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