KEAM rank list: How mark normalisation landed Kerala board students in lower ranks

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Kozhikode: Complaints are rife that students of the Kerala Board of Higher Secondary Education ended up in relatively lower spots in the recently published KEAM rank list, despite scoring good marks in this entrance exam for admissions to undergraduate engineering, architecture and pharmacy courses.

Candidates blame the normalisation of the marks scored for each subject for the two-year Plus-Two course for their poor standing.

For instance Thenjipalam native S Sonal scored 940 marks out of a total of 960 for the entrance exam. Sonal had scored A-plus grades in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics for Plus-Two. However, he could only get 68th spot in the rank list. This is the highest rank of a student who has studied the Kerala state syllabus.

What is normalisation of marks
By normalisation an attempt is made to bring parity to the marks of students from different education boards country-wide. The normalisation of marks is done using a unique formula that has been based on the quality of education and the marking scheme of each board.

After the normalisation, the final marks of a student who scored 360 out of 360 may get reduced to 256 out of 300.

Meanwhile, a CBSE student who had scored 293 out of 300 would get 285 after the normalisation. Due to this, the candidates who had followed the state syllabus may drop to more than 100 spots in the rank list than they actually deserve.

How KEAM rankings are made
The final KEAM engineering rank list is prepared by adding the aggregate score of Class 12 with the entrance test score in the 50:50 ratio. The marks scored by the candidate for Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics are considered for the rank list. The actual or the total marks scored by the candidate in all the subjects aren’t considered.

Fears of central syllabus students unproven
The central syllabus students had recently approached the Kerala High Court against considering the Plus-Two scores while preparing the KEAM engineering rank list. They argued that the students who studied Kerala syllabus would get higher ranks as they had scored relatively higher in the Plus-Two. However, that has not been the case when the final KEAM rank list got published a few days ago.

It is widely believed that a student of the Kerala syllabus wouldn’t have featured in the first 50 ranks even if he/she had scored 960 out of 960. Among the first 5,000 students in the rank list 2,602 candidates had studied the CBSE syllabus while 242 students had followed ISC syllabus.

This is how it works
Equaliszation of marks in each subject is done to consider all the students who had followed various boards and syllabus, equally. The normalised marks of a student in a subject is calculated by taking the average of marks scored by all the students in that subject, standard deviation and the global standards formed by considering the total marks scored by students of various boards between 2009–2021.

(Standard deviation is a statistic that measures how spread out numbers are.)

This year, the average score of Physics in Kerala Higher Secondary was 78.94. Meanwhile, the standard deviation was 17.13. The global standard was 69.22 and the global standard deviation was 15.31.

For instance, imagine that a student scored 110 marks out of 120 in Physics for higher secondary. The total score would be converted into 100 first. So, the marks scored by the student would then be 91.66. After calculating the global standard and global standard deviation as well as this year’s aggregate and the standard deviation, the marks scored by that student in Physics would go down to 80.58. In this method, if the average marks scored by higher secondary students go up, the marks of each student, after normalisation, seem to have gone down. This would make the students who had followed the syllabus of other boards score better in the rank list.

So, the revisions that were meant for the advantage of students of the Kerala higher secondary board has actually backfired, as it has done more harm than good for the students.

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