Nov 30, 2015

Anna University draws inspiration from Duckworth-Lewis method to conduct exams #MightAsWellHappen

In a sweeping statement of administrative innovation and cross-functional knowledge sharing, the reputed Anna University has proposed a new method of conducting exams for engineering students in Tamil Nadu. Incessant rains and heavy floods have forced the university to delay the exams this semester repeatedly. While students have almost forgotten which semester they were in, the university pulls out this masterpiece. Apparently, the examination controller said in an interview, the university has drawn inspiration from the famous Duckworth-Lewis method used in cricket to declare a result to matches interrupted by rain. This method requires that  a minimum percentage of the game to be complete before the rain interruption to come into place. Based on the situation of the game, the method works out a complicated projection formula and predicts who is the winner of the match.

Similarly, the university examination control board has worked out a complex formula to project the semester scores of students based on the past performances of the student and the concerned subject. When asked to explain the method, the controller said that in times of rain interruption such as this when conducting exams is not possible, they can project the scores of students without even writing the exam. Two parameters are taken into account for the projection. The student should have completed a minimum of 2 semesters. The scores of the student in the earlier semesters is one parameter. The historic data obtained from the students in each particular paper is the second variable. Based on these two parameters, the method will be able to predict how much a student would score in the current semester. 

For example, consider a EEE student X who has written 3 semesters earlier and his CGPAs in them are 7.6, 8.1 and 6.8 respectively. Let us allow the system to project his score in the DSP paper in the fourth semester.Historically, DSP is a terror paper where most students with good performances till then have even flunked. Based on that, our student Mr. X with a decent enough CGPA so far has chances of merely scraping through the DSP paper. His score in the paper, according to the new method shall be 41/100. When asked to elaborate further on the formula used for projection, the controller merely shrugged saying 'it's too complicated'. 

Surprisingly, some of the students interviewed said that this system is not complicated at all and they can understand this better than how at times their marks come in the conventional exam routine. One student, who has had consistently good scores in exams, said that when she was so sure that she will get above 90 once, she ended up getting only 88 and she could not tolerate the unpredictability of the system. Instead she said that this new method appears to be more rational in projecting scores. Male students, however, were not able to give a conclusive answer to this issue of predictability because most of them did not remember their scores in the past exams. They were only able to remember whether they passed or failed in that paper and commented that they treat any mark in excess of 40 as bonus. 

In general though, the students welcomed this new move by the university with wide cheers and have even raised a request to extend this method of evaluation even when there are no rains. A section of the students pointed out gaps in the method and advised the board to include plans for re-evaluation and moderation in the scoring algorithm. Another section of the students were concerned about the system's way of considering past scores of papers which they cleared in multiple attempts. Another section of the first year students are arguing that it is unfair to put a condition of minimum 2 semesters to apply this system and have suggested to consider their +2 marks instead. Notably, these are areas to ponder for the university before launching this method but according to initial reactions, they appear to be on good track. 

When asked if the new system is given a name already, the controller said that this new system is slated to be named as the Veerarajan-Ramanan method of engineering exams. This name is chosen to honour two pillars behind this idea - Veerarajan, the author of engineering mathematics books and the one name that is unanimously associated to anything complicated in engineering exams and Ramanan - the sensational rain man who made this new system necessary in the first place. 

This move shall go down as one of the most innovative changes made to the education system in India and the other universities world over are also breaking their heads over the implications of the Veerarajan-Ramanan method already. Independent observers have also welcomed this move by the university but have issued a word of caution to students who are fans of the South African cricket team about this new method. 

Let it rain!

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