FSc grading system and incompetent examiners: We have been wronged!

Marks were deducted because we gave 'inconvenient' answers and did not rote learn textbooks. Should we cheat instead?

Usman Amjad July 01, 2013
For students of the local education system, the negligence and incompetence of examiners is adversely affecting their passion and enthusiasm for learning. As an FSc student, I have directly been impacted by the lack of concern these examiners treat our grades with, assigning and cutting marks randomly, without justification. There are no checks and balances whatsoever.

Recently, my class fellows and I discovered that our FSc (part 1) biology papers were under-marked. We were puzzled, since our performance in these exams did not match the grades we were given. This was not something we could treat lightly - our professional careers were at stake.

The biology paper consisted of 22 short questions worth two marks each. My classmates and I attempted all the questions. We received only a single mark each on all the questions – without any explanation of what was missing from any of our answers. Most of the answers seemed to barely have been read. Our total came up to a 22 out of the maximum score of 44. The examiner did not specify corrections, or missing content, finding it more convenient to allow a uniform score for every answer we wrote.

In a similar incident, my friend, a studious and hard working student scored very poorly on his FSc part 1 exams, despite a prior track record of high grades. The reason? He made his own notes, and phrased the concepts in his textbooks in his own words. The examiner on the other hand required specific, word to word vocabulary from the textbook. Discouraged, my friend simply gave up on making an effort to do well in future examinations.

It is this unyielding, narrow attitude of examiners that coerces students to either cram or cheat. Rather than grasp the concepts taught in the curriculum, several students opt to copy answers from small chits or a micro photocopies that have the exact text from the course book, or rote learn entire paragraphs without understanding what they actually mean.

There is no such thing, unfortunately, as questioning the marking policy of the examination board. If a student feels that their score is unexpectedly low, they may apply for a re-check that amounts to little else apart from a recounting of the marks given. Students are lucky if they get an increase of a couple of marks from these rechecks.

Needless to say, the entire process is skewed against the interests of the very scholars this system aims to produce.

I strongly recommend that these examiners be supervised regularly and thoroughly to avoid unfair marking for students. At the very least, the system for examination rechecks needs to be evaluated. Feedback given to us must be tailored to give a clear idea of where we lose marks, and how we can avoid mistakes in future academic tests.

In my personal case, it may well be too late to change much. However, to avoid damaging career prospects for future FSc students, we must make a better marking system a priority right away. It is these graduates who will give back to the country if our educational system gives them a chance. From parents to students, everyone deserves a better explanation of how and why grades regularly fall short of expectations.

The stakes are high- do we want more students to feel wronged, and give up on their higher studies? Or do we want an educationally fulfilled Pakistan?

Read more by Usman here or follow him on Twitter @neuroguy24
Usman Amjad A medical doctor who is interested in behavioral neuroscience and studying mental disorders.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Hira Sayem | 10 years ago | Reply @Mustafa: You must have been lucky. As an O level student who scored well, I went through Hell during my Intermediate years. My entire class scored the same grade in our Advanced English and Easy Urdu exams- it seemed the examiner(s) didn't bother checking individual papers. The entire education system needs to be rehauled. We don't need teachers like an aged Physics professor I once had who made us rewrite the textbook as 'notes'.
iqtedar | 10 years ago | Reply The problem runs much deeper. It is not just about incompetent marking. This is all part of a system that is fundamentally rote-learning and non-understanding based. The prescribed textbooks and exam papers themselves are replete with errors in their English. Moreover, many examiners have themselves received an inadequate education and are incapable of such tasks as original thinking, rephrasing, recognising correct English, creative writing, etc. It seems that these textbooks prescribed by public boards are treated as if they are some holy texts that need to memorised and reproduced word-for-word with total disregard to their quality and correctness.
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