Don't turn entrance tests to a farce

In India,  inefficiency and mediocrity unfortunately spare no institution howsoever prestigious it might be. The latest to fall prey is the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT-15) conducted for entrance into top law schools in the country.  These are organised for 16 participating institutions, with one among them taking turns to conduct it each year. The latest exam was held by the Lucknow-based Dr Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University.  The keys to the answers of some of the 200 questions on their website was greeted with howls of dismay from among the 46,000 applicants for 2000 seats on offer. Some answers were ambiguous, others were wrongly marked and in a few, there was more than one answer that could be right.

The CLAT is a top-ranking exam and the institutions involved produce the creme de la creme of the legal fraternity in India.  The competition is fierce, akin to the IIT-JEE to enter the Indian Institutes of Technology or the Common Admission Test to get into the various Indian Institutes of Management. Those who decide to crack the CLAT, therefore, need to dedicate themselves at least two years prior, sacrificing leisure and enjoyment to prepare for the test.  After all that to find that the questions were wrongly framed, or that the answers were below par and wrong is a sock in the jaw for the aspirants. If the mistakes were genuinely inadvertent, they could still be excused but doubts have been raised by a section of candidates on the questions chosen for the admission test. According to a section of the students, around 135 were lifted from guidebooks prompting allegations that it may have been done to favour certain coaching centres that used them.

The response of the CLAT panel, that looked into the complaints, has itself become a target of ridicule, and deservedly so.  The panel acknowledged errors only in two questions for the UG test and six at the PG level. A member of the panel was quoted as saying it was natural for answers to be ambiguous as that is the nature of law -- depending on how a case is argued an accused can be convicted or acquitted.  Further, the panel said there were limitations in coming up with original questions and that was the reason why a large number was lifted from existing question banks. Candidates countered these asking what was the purpose behind having an “expert” panel to set the questions.  Instead of trying to dismiss criticism, CLAT must review how exam question papers are set, and sort out all glitches so that such mistakes do not repeat.

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