Scores of students across the country faced multiple problems while writing the National Law Aptitude Test (NLAT) conducted by National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore yesterday.
This test also had approval of three Supreme Court judges. Before giving the go ahead to an online exam that was to be taken from home, the Court did not even consider that not a single important exam has been conducted online from home, globally. The questions that should have been asked are -
Is the technology strong enough to curb the use of unfair means?
Will anyone be able to prove cheating by candidates?
Can NLSIU catch cheaters?
Students are the last ones to be heard before a decision of this scale is taken. No one cares about the mental anguish they go through when the decision backfires.
80 per cent of the positives of the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) have come to reality because of students and their petitions and protests. In fact, NLUs were forced to constitute a CLAT Secretariat after a student filed a PIL. Some Vice-Chancellors have also contributed extremely well in taking CLAT to this level.
And when the CLAT started performing at its best, NLSIU took a decision to hold its own exam, the timing of which couldn’t be worse. The reasons for taking this great decision of conducting NLAT are even more interesting. In order to prevent the risk of a zero year, NLSIU wanted to start this academic year by September 18. However, the Supreme Court’s decision on the exam will not come before September 16.
In my opinion, the method of conducting online exams from home is still being experimented, and cannot be trusted. It requires many years and many experiments to define a smooth system to ensure that there cannot be any cheating or tech glitches. If 35 centres were put in place for a few thousand students to write the NLAT, then why not for all?
There are two main advantages of a centre-based test (CBT) at an exam centre and these are the main concerns that arose for NLAT 2020. One, there would be no possibility of cheating, and two, the exams are given on pre-tested machines so as to avoid tech glitches.
Students would not have had a problem with writing one extra exam, had it been conducted in a correct manner, at the right time.
Here are some of the problems that students who wrote NLAT faced.
It all began with the simulated tests. These were conducted for testing the systems being used by students. The communications to the students started arriving at 11 am and the first slot was from 12. Half of the communications reached after the test was over. Massive chaos prevailed because of mismanagement. The helpline numbers were limited and the team responsible for conducting the exam seemed to be helpless. More than 20 per cent of students could not take the test.
On September 12, when NLAT was conducted, many kinds of problems started creeping up. The login and verification processes were taking lots of time. For some students, verification could not be completed even till the end.
The team in charge of manning the helpline was not able to help. The worst part is that there is no one to listen. The helpline number was rarely answered.
20 to 30 per cent students could not start the exam on time. These students faced delays ranging from 5 to 30 minutes.
7 per cent (approximately 2000) of the students were not able to start or finish the exam. This has been officially announced. These people may get a second chance.
Several times, many pop ups were coming as warnings without any reason. This disturbed the exam takers and they were not able to concentrate.
Students also faced the problem of their exams getting submitted automatically without any warning.
The AI was highly inefficient and human proctoring was not felt at all. Cheaters kept cheating but they were not warned by the AI. Instead, genuine students kept being disturbed. Even if some one was in a closed room without any sound, the AI kept disturbing with warnings.
Often, multiple clicks were required to submit an answer
My student who got AIR 1 in LSAT, was constantly disturbed with a pop-up that warned that his face is not getting detected.
The identity card verification software was pathetic.
Cheating was prevalent to a huge extent. Use of phones, calculators, screen extended to a TV, parents helping with GK answers, etc was seen.
Without a doubt, the NLSIU team is efficient, seeing their contribution to CLAT 2020. But any team will fail if such decisions are taken in such a hurry. Conducting an exam is not a joke.
I also have huge regard for the NLSIU Vice-Chancellor for his honesty, dedication towards work, and zeal to take NLSIU to another level. But he has put everyone in deep trouble by taking this horrible decision. The decision would have been fine if he had conducted a CBT exam on around September 20. There will be a huge loss to CLAT and NLSIU if this continues. My anguish is more towards the judges who approved the conduct of the exam.
I have written this in deep anguish and frustration but I do not want to take back any of these words or statements.