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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 26 New Delhi June 18, 2016

Normalisation of Marks in Competitive Examinations, Eligibility Tests of the UPSC

Present Problems and a Solution in the “Perfect List Rotating Method”

Saturday 18 June 2016

by Santhoshkumar R.


Our Public Service Commissions were established by the Constitution of India to select applicants for civil service jobs in the country, based on the merits of the applicants and reservation policies. The Public Service Commission advises the government on all matters connected to civil services referred to it under Article 320 (3) of the Indian Constitution, publishes notifications inviting applications for selection to various posts as per the requisitions of the appointing authorities, conducts written tests, practical tests, physical efficiency tests and interviews as per the requirements of the post and the number of vacancies. A rank-list based on the performance of the candidates is then prepared and the candidates selected are advised for appointment, strictly based on their merit and reservation criteria. Similarly, other agencies are conducting eligibility tests for the admission to Medical Science, Engineering and other professional courses. The mark normali-sation is one of the most difficult tasks in the cases, even in the examination conducted by Public Service Commissions or other examinations for professional courses. This article discusses the existing issues in relation to the mark normali-sation of various PSC examinations and suggests a suitable method to resolve them.

Present Problems and a New Method to overcome those 

In the present scenario, examinations are conducted by the Public Service Commissions in the country in connection with vacancies in different departments of the government. The selection procedure varies according to the post, such as an annual examination for the selected post, district-level and Statewide selections, etc. District-level examinations, mainly for clerical posts at various departments of the government, are conducted at different dates and a separate rank-list is prepared for different districts and an advice memo is issued prior to the appointment. In Statewide selections, exami-nations are conducted at different centres in the State on a particular date, based on a single question-paper. A uniform and single rank-list is prepared and advised, based on the rank-list. For the Statewide selection, the number of candidates is comparatively less. So the selection-procedure is not complicated. This method is applicable only in the case of examinations for posts with a small number of applicants. However, these days the number of candidates is huge, and Public Service Commi-ssions find it difficult to conduct the examination on a single day regarding a particular post.

Similarly, other examinations, like the National Eligibility Entrance Test, will be conducted at different days with different question-papers. In this situation, the exami-nation-conducting agencies have difficulties for the normalisation of marks.

To overcome this problem, Public Service Commissions or any other agencies conducting eligibility-test at present adopt a selection procedure more or less on the following lines: written examinations are conducted at different centres on different dates, using different question-papers; after the written examination, a single rank-list is prepared. For this purpose, mark normalisation or deletion or subtraction processes are at times followed. The standard of question-papers may vary on different days or at various stages of the examination. For example, it takes four days to complete the written examination for a particular post or an entrance level in a Statewide selection or nationwide selection. On the first, second and fourth days, the question-papers are easy when compared with those on the third day. In this situation, Public Service Commissions or the examination-conducting agencies may apply a normalisation procedure for evaluation. A certain number of correct questions and their answers are deleted from the question-papers in particular on the first, second and fourth days. The marks obtained on all four days may then be compiled to prepare a single and uniform rank-list. In effect, this kind of normali-sation procedure is not completely accurate, as the level of the question-paper is not the concern of the candidates. The candidates come prepared for the examination and they may or may not give correct answers to the questions provided.

Right now, Public Service Commissions or other agencies have no alternative to overcome this hurdle. Here is a new and comparatively simple method to solve it. This includes separate evaluation and separate rank-lists for various days of the examination, without normalisation or any deletion, addition or subtraction. Let us assume that ten lakh candidates apply for the Secretariat services in a State or National Eligibility Entrance Test for admissions for medical courses. It is very difficult to conduct the examination on a single day. So the examinations will be conducted on four days with different question-papers. A cut-off mark will then be decided according to the rules and regulations. A separate rank-list may be published for four different stages or the different days of the examination, without any deletion or addition of marks. As a result, there is no confusion in connection with the pattern of question-papers on different days of the examination. After the four rank-lists are published, the advice memo or selection will be sent as per the normal procedure of the Public Service Commissions or the agencies for professional courses.

Let us say a hundred vacancies or seats are reported at the time of the preparation of the rank-list. In this situation, equal chances are given to all four rank-lists. First, the hundred vacancies are divided by four. The first twenty-five vacancies will be filled from the first rank- list, the next twentyfive from the second rank- list, the following twentyfive from the third rank-list and the final twentyfive from the fourth rank-list. That means the reported vacancies or seats may be divided by the number of rank-lists and then the vacancies distributed to the entire rank-list for the particular post in Statewide or nationwide selection. This method may help to overcome the issues faced in the normalisation of marks by the Public Service Commissions or other agencies engaged in conducting other eligibility examinations for various posts or the admission for professional courses and may do away with the confusion of the candidates appearing for competitive examinations conducted by various agencies.

The author is an Assistant Professor, Mahatma Gandhi College, Thiruvananthapuram. He can be contacted at email: santhoshkumar30576@gmail.com