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Are entrance exams the only criteria to admit a student? Discusses Vineet Gupta Founder of Ashoka University

Entrance exams have long been considered the gold standard for evaluating students’ aptitude and potential in the education system. However, in an era that values diversity, creativity and holistic development, it is essential to question whether entrance exams should be the sole criteria for admitting students into educational institutions.

Beyond Test Scores:

While entrance exams undoubtedly assess students’ academic prowess and problem-solving abilities, they often fail to capture their true potential. Vineet Gupta Ashoka University Founder emphasises, “Test scores alone do not define a student’s abilities; they merely reflect one aspect of their academic capabilities. Students possess various talents, including leadership skills, teamwork abilities and emotional intelligence, which cannot be accurately measured through traditional exams.”

A Holistic Evaluation Framework:

ISB and Ashoka University Founding Dean Pramath Raj Sinhaadvocates for a holistic evaluation framework that identifies students’ overall potential beyond academic achievements. He suggests a well-rounded, holistic assessment is required to assess students’ capabilities. “I think it depends on how institutions select students. If exams like the CAT (Common Admission Test) are one measure among many others used, then I don’t see a problem with that. Institutions, particularly in MBA programmes, cannot and should not test through exams alone. It is more about the philosophy and values of the students rather than the exams themselves. If institutions solely rely on the CAT exam for admissions, it can be problematic and unfair,” shares Sinha.

Institutions can gain a deeper understanding of a student’s character, resilience and passion by considering different factors, including creative pursuits, personality skills or entrepreneurial initiatives. This broader evaluation process can help uncover hidden talents and allow institutions to foster diverse and dynamic student communities. World-renowned institutions like Stanford University and Harvard University take a holistic approach to evaluating applicants. Along with academic achievements and standardised test scores such as SAT, they consider extracurricular involvement, leadership experiences, community service, personal essays, recommendation letters and personal interviews. These universities aim to identify students who excel academically and demonstrate intellectual curiosity and the potential to make real contributions.

Diversity and Inclusivity:

Entrance exams often inadvertently favour students from specific backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses or educational systems, creating a potential barrier for those who may possess unique skills and perspectives. Vineet Gupta Ashoka Founder aptly observes, “Diversity is the bedrock of innovation and progress. By relying solely on entrance exams, we risk overlooking the brilliance that lies in the margins.” Educational institutions must recognise the value of diversity and inclusivity by implementing admission criteria for a broader range of talents, backgrounds and experiences. This approach promotes an enriching learning environment and prepares students for a diverse global landscape.

For instance, the Gandhi Institute of Technology and Management’s entrance test for its merit-based scholarships include various levels of questions on the English language, reasoning, verbal ability and quantitative skills. Moving beyond traditional methods, the exams are gamified into challenges to test a student’s cognitive skills for their chosen course. Jagadeesh Medapati, the Head of Insights and Research at the Directorate of Admissions, GITAM, stated that after conducting tests with a group of students using both traditional and gamified entrance exams, they discovered that the gamified version identified more intelligent and talented students.

Assessing Soft Skills:

Soft skills, such as communication, critical thinking and adaptability, are crucial for success in the real world. However, entrance exams often neglect to evaluate these essential abilities. By incorporating assessments that gauge a student’s soft skills, one can ensure their readiness for the professional world. Conducting group discussions, debates, puzzles or simulations can provide insights into students’ interpersonal skills, problem-solving abilities and capacity to collaborate effectively. By emphasising the evaluation of these skills, institutions can prepare students for the challenges of tomorrow’s workforce. FOSTIIMA Business School utilises various elements to enhance the test experience, such as incorporating puzzles, images, contextual questions, and other creative elements that make the exam more enjoyable and interactive.

While entrance exams have long been a reliable benchmark for student admissions, their limitations are becoming increasingly evident in today’s evolving educational landscape. The National Education Policy (NEP) in India emphasizes the importance of holistic assessments and encourages universities to adopt multidimensional and comprehensive criteria for student admittance. Top universities across the world recognise the importance of considering multiple aspects of a student’s profile, and NEP aligns with this approach, encouraging Indian institutions to move beyond solely relying on entrance exams and adopting a more comprehensive evaluation pattern to compete in the global league.

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