Stretching MDCAT test duration violation of law: PMA

Published August 24, 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/File
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/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) has violated its act by stretching the Medical and Dental Colleges Admissions Test (MDCAT) over a period of 30 days.

As a result of this decision, not only can the same tests be given to candidates but there is also the possibility of easy questions being given to favourite students, president of Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) Punjab Dr Ghulam Shabir said while talking to Dawn.

He said section 18 of the Pakistan Medical Commission Act 2020, mandates a single MDCAT so it was a violation of rules to hold tests for one month continuously.

“I can surely say that the multiple choice questions (MCQs) pool cannot be so big that different questions would be given throughout the month. I have personal experience that students’ share MCQs after coming out of the hall and some people pay students to share five questions each after the test as a result of which they are able to get the entire question paper. After 10 days, the entire MCQ bank becomes public,” he said.

PMC official says, though test being conducted over course of a month, its content, difficulty level remains the same

Dr Shabir said that professional competence exams can be conducted in parts but it was against the principle of medical education to conduct entry tests in this manner.

“Content validity counts in tests but it is strange that students cannot even ask about the authenticity of questions. According to rules, there should be a single test the way it was conducted by the University of Health Sciences, University of Sindh and NTS. Moreover, the result should be shared right after the test. Uniformity of tests has been compromised,” he said.

While replying to a question, he alleged that easy and difficult tests can be programmed for favourite candidates.

“It is possible that a student who will sit on terminal 10 on Sept 12 would get an easy question paper. I suggest that there should be one questionnaire but its sequence should be changed so that students would not ask anything from each other during tests,” he said, adding PMC has awarded the contract, for a long period of 10 years, to conduct a computer-based MCQ MDCAT on “a controversially created special purpose vehicle single-man-company SOAR Testing and Evaluation Platform (SMC-Private) Limited, (TEPS)”.

A PMC official, while replying to questions, said: “Exams are inculcated from a preselected pool of questions which we refer to as a “question bank”.

“The process of examination setting is quite a meticulous analytical endeavour that requires the ratio of easy, medium and difficult questions to remain identical in the case of a standardised test that takes place over a period of time.

“Although the MDCAT is being conducted over the course of a month, the actual examination in terms of its content and difficulty level remains the same.

“Please also note that the law states one exam per child, it does not state that it needs to be taken on one single day.

“The MDCAT this year is a computer-based exam and from a logistics perspective this is simply not possible to hold on a single day given the number of applicants who sit the exam across Pakistan each year.

“Thus the examination is a standardised national test and follows global best practices whereby exams such as the SAT and GMAT are held on multiple days for prospective applicants,” he said.

“Furthermore, it should also be noted that this year, given the number of students appearing in the exam across Pakistan, in the best interest of public health and safety as outlined by the NCOC against the spread of COVID-19, it was decided that this approach was the most suitable. Last year, PMC held a separate MDCAT for COVID-19 positive applicants as per the judgement of the Sindh High Court.

“Receiving of payments from foreign applicants was part of the Joint Agreement between TEPS and PMC because they pay through foreign accounts and clearance take a while if transferred to a Pakistani account.

“The applicants can’t be registered without receipt of payments thus this step was taken for the benefit of the applicant. Every foreign applicant is accounted for when they are registered at PMC. The number of foreign applicants is around 500,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2021

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