Students confused over MDCAT exam regulation

Published June 25, 2021
In this file photo, candidates appear in the entry test for MBBS/BDS session 2020 conducted by National University of Medical Sciences in Rawalpindi. — APP
In this file photo, candidates appear in the entry test for MBBS/BDS session 2020 conducted by National University of Medical Sciences in Rawalpindi. — APP

ISLAMABAD: The examination regulation for the Medical and Dental College Admission Test (MDCAT) has puzzled many students as they have lost the right of rechecking or questioning the authenticity of questions.

Moreover, as students have been allowed to appear in the exam prior to announcement of results, it is expected that over 500,000 students will take the exam and will have to pay over Rs3 billion.

According to the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) Conduct of Examinations Regulations 2021, available with Dawn, any person, being a Pakistani or an overseas Pakistani or foreign national and being 16 years of age or more, shall be eligible to register for and attempt the MDCAT exam. There shall be no restriction on a person having obtained a Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSSC) qualification or equivalent 12th grade qualification prior to attempting the MDCAT exam.

The document states that the board when formulating the syllabus of the MDCAT exam shall not be bound to any textbook or HSSC board syllabus and the questions in each exam paper will be randomly selected from the examination question bank.

Each person attempting the MDCAT exam shall be provided a unique examination paper randomly selected by the computer programme and no person shall have the right to object to the questions contained in the examination or the correct answers.

Each person shall be provided a unique paper, no person will have right to object to questions or correct answers

It states that each person’s exam centre, date and time shall be scheduled thereafter, on a first-come-first-serve basis from the date of their registration. Passing marks shall not be less than 65pc and the result as communicated and issued shall be final and will be neither available for rechecking or any other objection from the person having taken the exam.

Moreover, a person’s MDCAT result shall be valid for a period of two years from the date of the exam. If a person re-takes the MDCAT exam during this period, the person may use the highest attained result to apply to medical or dental college.

It states that any person who fails or refuses to comply with, or contravenes any of the provisions of these regulations or any direction by the authority under these regulations, shall be punishable with a fine which may extend to Rs1 million in addition to any other penalty that may be determined by the authority.

A faculty member of a medical college, requesting not to be named, said earlier 150,000 students used to appear in the MDCAT.

“However, now students can appear in the exam without waiting for their results, therefore it is expected that over 500,000 candidates will take the exam. On the other hand, the exam fee has been fixed at Rs6,000 per student, contrary to Rs1,500 by universities in the past, therefore, over Rs3 billion will be collected. The document does not speak about refunding the fee to candidates who would become ineligible for test due to either failing in intermediate or obtaining fewer marks than eligibility,” he said.

The faculty member said the PMC published an advertisement in which proposals were sought from interested parties, in seven days, for providing services to hold a computer-based MCQ exam for approximately 175,000 students.

However, according to Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules at least 15 days time should be given for national level and 30 days for international-level biddings.

He said it was violation of PPRA rules as 30 days time should have been given to parties.

A student, requesting not to be named, said it was unfortunate that the questions could be out of syllabus and students would not be able to challenge questions.

“Earlier questions were prepared from the textbooks. Moreover it is not clear that who will prepare the question bank and which company has been hired for it. It is further unfortunate that we cannot challenge the questions. Moreover, as registration will be done on first-come first-serve basis, therefore, candidates who will apply first will get one month extra time as exams will be held for one month and candidates will be able to set the date of their choice for the exam which will be held from August 30 to Sept 30,” he added.

When contacted, an official of the PMC said it was decided to allow candidates to appear in MDCAT without announcement of results, because intermediate exams had been delayed due to Covid-19.

He said as Rs6,000 was the exam fee, every student would have to pay it and it would not be refunded to those who become ineligible for the test.

“Students have been informed that the out-of-course questions could be included because questions regarding logical reasoning would be included in question papers. Option of rechecking has been suspended because of computerised checking which will eliminate the chances of human error. Results will be issued in half an hour and will be valid for two years so that students would not reappear in the exam every year,” he said.

Testing company hired after date of bids submission

SOAR Testing and Evaluation Platform Limited, which has won the bidding of the MDCAT tests, has been registered well after the due date of filing bids.

The PMC set the deadline for companies to apply by May 10 but the company that has been selected was set up on May 21.

According to the website of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), the company is located in I-10/3 Islamabad and its incorporation date is May 21, 2021.

On the other hand, the company has requested the PMC to release over Rs115 million as an advance payment which will be adjusted from the company’s share.

However, an official of PMC said it was a well-known company and had made a joint venture with the PMC.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2021

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