Well, you wanted English exams in India

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Comprehension passage question: How do the old and young consumers differ in buying goods? What I want to write: Older Indian consumers, true to their traditions, only buy materials when their predecessor has been broken beyond repair. They buy materials for their utility, not for their novelty. Younger consumers buy goods as much for the ‘shopping frenzy’ as for the possible use of the goods in question themselves. Guess what response that answer will get? A zero. Here’s what I’ve been instructed to write in my English exam, over and over, and why I “practice” English at all: People of old age who buy things do not waste them. They only buy what they need and not for show. Youngsters, however, buy because they think that new things will make them happy and often do not need what they buy.

Ladies, and gentlemen, let me present the GREAT CIRCUS that is CBSE Board Examinations of India!

Let me tell you what kind of words are a big no-no to be used in your ENGLISH LANGUAGE EXAM, just for example: ecstatic, cosmopolitan, counterpart, flippant, extensive, painstaking, blunder …It pains me to write these examples! In fact, I’ve been told not to write the word ‘gratitude’. “Stick to ‘feeling thankful’, Ruchika”, the teacher said. Now I googled some of these words and I am definitely not happy to tell you that many of these appear on the “tough words” list for eleven year olds. And we’re eighteen, months away from college. At this point, I should put my Word Power Made Easy under my bed, forget what equestrienne or plebian mean and stop watching tv shows that are in English. God forbid I learn a new word. My problems with this whole set up is that it DEMANDS for me to be regressive and if I should improve, it would actually go against me. (Let’s not go into how much I freak out about being limited.) It eventually boils down to this: the English exam, the one exam that can be filled with expression and promise becomes a dull scrap of a words fitted to a dry, calculated equation.

Sure, I’ve tried holding my tongue for the duration of the examination, but that’s when things get confusing. The question paper freely uses the words “wanton” and “callous”…. and then they tell me I can’t use the word ‘GRATITUDE’??!! Do tell me, CBSE, who pushed you down symbolic stairs that you fell and banged your figurative head. For those who have absolutely no context, I’ll give you the reason we put up with this nonsense. You see, in the great show of being objective and just, CBSE takes our answer sheets, bundles them up and then flies them off to some hush hush school, the senior teachers of which then mark our papers and hand us a few numbers that eventually become our marks to define everything. Teachers in my school openly say the CBSE result can NOT be predicted. Why? Because it simply is not about what you write, at least not after a point. Because if my paper flies out to a school in rural India in a region that didn’t even want to speak English in the first place and may or may not have protested the use of the “British coloniser’s tongue, you traitors to all that is Indian”, what we slang-call “government school” in short, my marks will depend on how much the person reading my answers understands of English. Or how much they like my handwriting. Or how many papers they have to mark that day. Or how their coffee is. And who’s going to challenge them? Who will ensure each answer sheet gets its due consideration. Well, as you can imagine, when Indian students prepare for board exams, especially those in the Arts and Humanities, their instructions for battle are something as follows: 1. Write 3 paragraphs for 5 markers. Nobody cares about the first or the last paragraph, it just has to be there. 2. Longer questions must occupy 2 sides of the answer sheet, shorter must not go beyond half a page. Eff the word limit. 3. If they ask about the disarmament treaties between the USA and the USSR, you start your answer at the bloody Cuban Missile Crisis and then describe the Cold War. 4. Put all math solutions in a BOX, failing which, the examiner might not find it, getting you a zero. 5. Draw a line after each answer. Secure 10% marks. 6. Unless absolutely impossible, draw! Tables, charts, star shaped bullet points, just draw. Finally: everybody knows I make loads of mistakes, I do, but the best part about my exam throes is when I find shamelessly too many grammatical mistakes in my English language question paper. I bring them back to my mother, concerned, am I getting cocky, to have her confirm there’s an error, and that I wasn’t out eating hay on the day they reinvented grammar.


Value Is Based In These Questions

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Tenth standard in India once had a uniform system of examination. The government board, CBSE, would hold the annuals together for all schools in a city, for all students of tenth grade.

The system started changing. The annual exam became in house. The schools now receive many sets of question papers and choose one and that is tested. Then the papers are checked in the school but the final result is compiled by the board. Basically, the board sends some questions, and then copies out the result on official looking paper.

That’s where I am these days. Awaiting my annuals.

And enter the new twist. The exams now have some new fad called Value Based Questions.

So.. what’s this, board?

Answer: We thought your life was going too much by your terms.

Of course you did. Now, in the exam paper of every subject, EVERY (you’ll know what that means jussst now..) there are a few questions, three or four, that try to “sensitize students”, “invoke empathy for the society” and “instil moral values” in them. The board realised long back that they could make us do anything if they put it up for marks. They know how to buy.

Here go the examples now.. one for each subject whose paper I’ll be taking. Let’s take the ‘less crazy’ to ‘absolute bewilderment’ order…

Least Crazy Subject for VBQ: In the Social Studies (These include History, Political Science, Geography and Economics all together)

The Vietnamese war sprung from discomfort among the Vietnamese people under the colonisers, in all spheres of life. (1) What spheres were these? (2) What  virtues and qualities did the Vietnamese show?

Notice how the first part of the question relates to he chapter but the second is moral buttering on the examiner, “patriotism, love for the country, and social responsibility”. 😛

Number Two: In English Literature

“Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.”

(1) Why was the albatross hung around the mariner’s neck? (2) What quality does this show of the mariner?

Technically the second question, which is the VBQ, it would have been normal if we could give a study of the mariner’s emotions, but the answers, according to the answer key are “Guilt, Dire repentence.” No views. Definite fixed answer required.

Now We Are Talking: In the Sciences (Physics, Biology, Chemistry)

‘Sania and Shreya’ are best friends and study in grade 4, recently, Sania has been
facing difficulty in reading the black-board text from the last desk. Shreya is little
uncomfortable and wonders why sania avoids sitting on the last desk. On observation
she found that sania often carries junk food in her lunch. Shreya has started sharing
her lunch – full of green vegetables and fruits with her. Sania is now better and has
also started taking a ‘balanced diet’.
(i) Name the eye defect Sania is suffering from?
(ii) What value is shown by Shreya and Sania?

Answer for Ques Two- ACCORDING TO ANSWER KEY, SO WE HAVE TO WRITE THIS ONLY!- Love for her friend.

Let’s just move on.

Now, Now: Mathematics!!!

Ramesh, a juice seller has set up his juice shop. He has three types of glasses of inner
diameter 5 cm to serve the customers. The height of the glasses is 10 cm.(use π =3.14)
– A glass with a plane bottom.
Type A
– A glass with hemispherical raised bottom. So that the bottom is curved in, and less juice will fill.
Type B
– A glass with conical raised bottom of height 1.5 cm. So that the least amount of juice is filled in.
Type C
He decided to serve the customer in “A” type of glasses.
1. Find the volume of glass of type A.
2. Which mathematical concept is used in above problem?
3. By choosing a glass of type A, which value is depicted by juice seller Ramesh?

Answer to Ques 3- HONESTY! I would say, Lack of creativity dude! You had all those shapes and you used the normals??? Cmon!


There is no scope for imagination in the board.


But all this isn’t very new. Recently, we were given a booklet, with 700 questions about who’s this and who’s that in the life of a historical/religious saint of India. Apparently the board is a huge fan. Great!

But we don’t get any free books… so what’s this? Lo and jolly behold! It’s a TEST 😛

That called a long period of whining, collectively from students and baffled teachers, but only some joined me in organised whining, like asking “Where is the secularism?!”

(That leader is kinda religious, and well, you know them all… even if they aren’t religious they’re all constantly talking about God. I mean, half of their policies that they lead social reform/political stance/ any thing what so ever on is based on God! Most people believe, I get it, but just because I don’t, I shouldn’t be made to feel like an outcast, an alien! The Constitution of the country says I shouldn’t!)

The board and I have hardly ever agreed on what’s a GOOD addition to the curriculum and what’s harm under a layer of sweet-talking…

But they are the ones who are heard, of course. No one even knows I’m speaking.. unless they know where to find this blog.

Anyway, I’m not joining the education board, not now not ever, so my opinions and cares go as far as my grades 🙂 Selfish much. Saves my life much.

Anyway, let me go now and baffle my in-sensitized self over the immense value in these Value Based Questions and you carry on with sane life!

See ya! 🙂