Exclusive: Data Doesn’t Lie, CBSE Caught Cheating Yet Again

The claim that there has been no unfair moderation of marks by CBSE this year is one big lie. The data proves it.

5 min read
(Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)

In a report published on 29 May, a senior CBSE official was quoted as telling The Times of India, “As ordered by the Delhi HC and advised by the legal counsel, we continued with the moderation policy. However, there has been no spiking of marks.”

The claim that there has been no spiking of marks by the CBSE this year is one big lie.

CBSE Class XII results of 2017, accessed and analysed by data scientists, conclusively demonstrate that the board has unfairly and unequally spiked the marks of its students yet another year, following a decade-long tradition of tampering with students’ marks to appear high-scoring.

The CBSE results of over 24,000 students who appeared for the Class XII exams this year were analysed. Take a look at the following graphs – you’ll notice that the skyscrapers at the 95 mark, which had helped expose the CBSE’s flawed marking system, are back in this year’s results.

The graphs for Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology -


Why is the spike at 95 a problem? Because it proves that the CBSE’s methods of moderation remain flawed.

Dheeraj Sanghi, professor at IIT-Kanpur, explains:

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.

The graphs for Business Studies, Accountancy and Economics -

The graphs for Geography and Political Science -

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

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.

A data-driven investigation by this reporter, aired on 6 June 2016, exposed CBSE’s lies about having a fair system of moderating marks. Conclusive data analysis of CBSE results over the past decade showed that the board was inflating students’ marks unequally – that is, marks of different students were being raised by different amounts.

On 24 April 2017, CBSE and 31 other school boards agreed to do away with this practice of bumping up or spiking students’ marks to show higher scoring results.

However, hearing a petition that argued that states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have decided to implement the policy change only from 2018, the Delhi High Court had ordered CBSE to go ahead with ‘moderation’ of marks of students this year.

In a television debate in June 2016, former exam controller for the CBSE, Pavnesh Kumar, had unwittingly admitted the board’s flawed system 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.

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. Javadekar was speaking a day after the setback in court for the CBSE.


Fair to Blame HC Order?

Can the CBSE blame the Delhi High Court order for its unfair moderation of marks this year? Not everyone thinks so.

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.”

An extract of CBSE’s moderation policy from the board’s bye-laws. (Photo Courtesy: CBSE)
An extract of CBSE’s moderation policy from the board’s bye-laws. (Photo Courtesy: CBSE)
The equalisation of marks for different question papers has a logic but spiking is absolutely unacceptable.
Prakash Javadekar

The Union HRD Minister made it amply clear on national television that the CBSE must differentiate between fair ‘moderation’ practices and unfair, unequal increases in students’ marks.

Despite his statements and the CBSE’s own assurances however, the board has clearly tampered with the marks of its Class XII students for yet another year. Marks of different students have been increased by different amounts yet again.

Professor Geeta Kingdon, President of City Montessori School Lucknow, says it isn’t fair to blame the court order for CBSE continuing its flawed method of spiking marks.

Despite the board’s stated efforts to put an end to its skewed methods of moderation, more than ten lakh students this year have been cheated of a fair marking system by the CBSE.

Will 2018 change a decade-long tradition of unfairness? One can only hope.

(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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