So NEET is back in Supreme Court, this time a candidate asking for normalization between NEET I and NEET II. Here is a news item:
NEET I and II combined results challenged in Supreme Court
First of all, why is it that no one challenged JEE. They too have multiple papers, and by no means the papers are of equal difficulty levels. The JEE Mains has not been challenged, because someone who gave a slightly tougher exam but still still got shortlisted for Advanced JEE, does not care. And someone who didn't get shortlisted for the Advanced JEE, knows that even if s/he was shortlisted, the chances of getting through to IITs was remote. And frankly, people don't quite care for admission to NITs as much as they care for admission to IITs and for admission to MBBS programs.
I recall a meeting in CBSE regarding JEE. Before the meeting started, out of curiosity, I asked the officer handling JEE Mains whether the averages of the paper version and the computer version were same. Without blinking an eyelid, he said, yes they are identical. I kept quiet.
At the end of the meeting, the CBSE Chairperson was wondering why so few candidates give online JEE, even though there is significant benefit in giving online JEE. The paper exam is just after your board exams are over, while the online exam gives you additional time to revise everything. And the conversation went something like this:
Me: Do you recall the question I asked before the meeting about the averages of the two papers.
CBSE Chairperson: Yes.
Me: I can guarantee that the officer was lying. He has never seen the two averages.
CBSE: How can you be so sure.
Me: He has a laptop in front of him. Ask him to check the information now, and let us know the exact numbers.
JEE Officer: Sorry, Sir. I don't know the averages.
CBSE: (Now very curious), But how could you guess?
Me: Averages of lakhs of students can be close but not identical. If he had seen the numbers and they were indeed very close, he would have said that they are within 1% of each other, or something like that.
CBSE: But what does this have to do with students not taking up online exam.
Me: The perception is that the online exam is much tougher. Your processes are very opaque and you don't give out any statistics. So you do nothing to tell people that either the exam is not much tougher, or yes, it is tougher, but then we normalize.
At this point, the officer who handled JEE Mains exam informed us that the way they handle the differences between the two exam is that they ask the group who prepares the question papers to ensure that the two papers are of equal difficulty levels, and we get a certificate signed by them that it is indeed so.
This was, frankly, very shocking. Think about it. There are persons out there who are willing to vouch in writing that the two question papers are of exact same difficulty level without any data, and just on the basis of their experience. I don't know who are these persons with no understanding of testing, but I can only say that these people don't deserve to be anywhere close to that question paper. And for CBSE to involve such persons in preparing the most important question paper for over 10 lakh students shows how CBSE lacks competence about testing. And if, doing this was expedient in the beginning, wouldn't you at least look at data later on. And if the data miraculously pointed to similar distribution of marks, make that information public so that the public perception about your processes become more positive. But once the exam is over, everything about it is best forgotten.
I am extremely happy that someone is challenging the lack of normalization in NEET. I only hope that there is no miracle here and NEET I and NEET II indeed have different distributions of marks. Otherwise, we will be strengthening the argument that it is possible for a man to look at two question papers and guarantee same distribution of marks.