LAHORE: As many as 65,670 candidates appeared in the Punjab Medical and Dental Colleges’ Admission Test (MDCAT) held amid tight security on Sunday.

Conducted by the University of Health Sciences (UHS) simultaneously in 13 cities of the province, the test was to start at 10am but candidates were asked to reach their centres an hour earlier. However, candidates started reaching their designated centres as early as 6 o’clock in the morning due to rain forecast.

There was a chill in the air but most parents continued strolling near the main entrance to the centres after sending their children inside. Grandparents preferred to sit in the waiting areas nearby, reciting the Holy Quran and praying for the success of their children. Younger siblings of the candidates this year could not enjoy swings and rides at Bagh-i-Jinnah, Samanabad Doongi Ground and Model Town Park because of wet and slippery conditions there.

Proper arrangements were in place for the disabled students in all the centres which were sealed at 9.15am.

The test went off peacefully at 28 centres set up in Lahore, Sargodha, Sahiwal, Gujrat, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Bahawalpur, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rahim Yar Khan, Rawalpindi, Sialkot and Hassanabdal. But a number of candidates had reservations about the difficulty level of Physics and English portions of the question paper prepared by the UHS this time which was of four codes with question shuffled in each code.

In Lahore, a total of 12,068 girls and 6,350 boys appeared in the test at the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education examination halls on Lawrence Road, the Punjab University examination halls and the Government Comprehensive Girls High School on Wahdat Road, the Divisional Public School, Model Town, the Government Postgraduate College for Women, Samanabad, the University of Engineering and Technology on GT Road and the Lahore College for Women University on Jail Road.

In Rawalpindi, 7,874 candidates appeared in the test. The number of candidates in Multan was 10,148, Faisalabad 6614, Gujranwala 3,623, Bahawalpur 3,356, Sargodha 2,803, Sahiwa 3,747, Gujrat 1,767, Dera Ghazi Khan 2,673, Rahim Yar Khan 1,758, Hassanabdal 824 and 2,065 in Sialkot.

The UHS uploaded the answer key to the question paper on its website www.uhs.edu.pk in the evening, enabling candidates to calculate their scores themselves.

UHS Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Javed Akram and Lahore Deputy Commissioner retired captain Anwarul Haq visited various centres to monitor arrangements.

Prof Akram told newsmen at the Punjab University centre on Wahdat Road that the conduct of the MDCAT was important as it would ensure merit and justice. He said the MDCAT official result would be announced within a week or so and there would be separate merit lists for public and private medical and dental education institutions.

The process to admit candidates to the public medical and dental colleges would be completed within a week or so after announcement of official results. Candidates desirous of getting admission to private institutions would be asked to give 14 preferences, he said.

A mechanism has been developed to redress complaints of the candidates regarding any out-of-course question in the MDCAT. “Any candidate can challenge any question, his or her result within the next two weeks and get a response through email or by phone. We are aware of the hardship and agony these candidates and their parents have faced to ensure justice and fair play, and transparency of the MDCAT was crucial,” he said and added that new standard operating procedures were developed and fresh multi-tiered security measures were taken for each and every step of preparation, printing, packaging and transportation of the MDCAT paper.

The VC said medical and dental colleges had always challenged the brightest and best-prepared minds. “The MDCAT results are extremely important. They carry 50 per cent weightage in merit as per the formula of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council. They are proof that the candidate can handle the academic rigors of medical or dental college,” said Prof Akram.

Answering a question, Prof Akram said the MDCAT question paper this year was of average difficulty level.

However, a number of candidates told Dawn outside Lawrence Road, Model Town, Samanabad and Wahdat Road centres that the English and physics portions of the paper was rather tricky.

“The numericals in the physics portion were quite lengthy and none of us could get a correct answer after attempting it twice or thrice,” said Hira who took the test at Lawrence Road centre.

An A Level student outside Model Town centre was a bit furious: “Are we supposed to get our knowledge in English literature tested through this test? My father teaches English at a premier private educational institution and even he had difficulty in explaining alternative meaning of words like hector and hellish.”

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2018

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