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Defying DU cut-offs: Five new criteria to find the perfect student

It’s that time of year again when a vast majority of the 18-year-olds in India are thoroughly misled by the country’s boards of education. In some parts of the world, Class XII results and its equivalents like A Levels may be considered an indication of intelligence. In India, Class XII results can signal a number of things: the examiner’s mood, the competence of the one who set the paper, an examinee’s writing speed or their capacity to memorise, for instance. What the results will not reflect are aptitude and intelligence.

If you've scored less than 90 percent, the Indian education system would have you believe you’re an idiot and have no future, which is not true. Even if you are an idiot, low marks don't mean you have no future. (Look at Indian politics and Bollywood, for heaven's sake.) If you belong to the lot that has scored 98.75 percent and above, then you’re encouraged to think you are Einstein reincarnated and pretty much invincible. This is definitely not true. Even if you have a brain as sparkly as the shiniest disco ball, the chances of 99 percent or 100 percent being an actual reflection of your understanding and potential are low. Especially if you've got the percentage to qualify for the country’s top colleges, chances are real life is going to bring with it some brutal shocks. There’s no syllabus here and absolutely no one scores 100 percent; not even George Clooney (as most elderly women in your family will point out, he’s single and must therefore be sad. More critically, he will forever be the one Batman whose suit had nipples. Insert snicker here).

Not only students, even parents feel harangued by soaring cut-offs. AFP.

Not only students, even parents feel harangued by soaring cut-offs. AFP.

But life is a later concern. The first hurdle after Class XII is college. There are those privileged cowards who will cop out and study abroad. For the true sons and daughters of the soil, however, summer is Admission Season. Yesterday Delhi University announced its website was open to online applications. By the end of the month, the first cut-off percentage will be revealed. Principals of prominent Delhi University colleges have already warned that the cut-offs are likely to be higher than last year.

Here’s the good news. It can’t get worse than 2011, when SRCC decided that the minimum required to qualify for the first shortlist for BCom (Hons) was 100 percent. Hindu College was a smidgeon less demanding: it would settle for students with 99%. Possibly inspired by the importance of charity in Christianity, St. Stephen’s College’s cut-off was 97.50 percent.

The colleges say they are responding to the trend of giving students high marks in the board exams. As the principal of Hindu College, Pradyumna Kumar explained more than 40,000 students have reportedly scored above 90 percent in the board exams this year. Such measures become essential because if they lower the cut-offs, there would be too many applications. “To take care of the problem of over-admission, colleges take precautionary steps and keep cut-offs high in the first list,” said Kumar to Indian Express.

Since the exam boards are doling out 90-plus percentages with the kind of generosity that makes Missionaries of Charity seem like a hedge fund and the applicant to seat ratio is disproportionate, I think it’s time to take college admissions to the next level. With percentages increasingly becoming meaningless, it’s time to adopt evaluating systems that will not only screen students more effectively, but will also be better indicators of whether an 18-year-old has what it takes to make it big.

The Hunger Games test

It’s survival of the fittest in the real world, and what better way to prove that you’re equal to the task than to take a leaf out of a bestseller whose movie adaptation was one of the biggest blockbusters of 2012. Delhi University applicants can be set loose in Kamla Nehru Ridge and be required to find their way to Kamla Nagar, alive and unharmed. No smartphones allowed. The test will include infighting, being misled by people in positions of authority, manipulation and forging of friendships – all of which are aspects of the existing admission process anyway.

The Student of the Year test

Inspired by Karan Johar’s film, the competition would begin with a test of how badly one can drive a Ferrari and move on to more intensive tests similar to those in Student of the Year. Since percentages are passé, participating students will be required to go through a treasure hunt, a dance contest and a triathlon. Being able to do all this while pouting and wearing impractical clothes will win the participant more points.

The Russian Roulette test

Inspired by the film 13 Tzameti,this test is an efficient way of reducing applicants down to a manageable number quickly. Russian roulette involves spinning the cylinder of a gun and firing – if you’re lucky, the bullet will stay in the gun. A big advantage with this test is that it requires no extra infrastructure and can be conducted while applicants are in a queue. Highly recommended for Delhi University since most local applicants carry or have access to guns. Just ensure they’re not loaded with real bullets, since abetting suicide is still a punishable offence in India.

The Man Versus Food test

It takes more than physical strength to make it through college. You need an iron-clad digestive system. Inspired by the television show, this test has the student eat canteen meals in copious quantities, in the kitchen, while watching the bawarchi cook the food. If the student doesn't gag at the sight of the kitchen in action and/or the taste of the food, they’re obviously made of stern stuff.

The Game of Thrones test

Although this one could be a little time consuming, like The Russian Roulette Test, it is designed to reduce the number of applicants with drastic elegance. Organise applicants into seven kingdoms, give them a printout of the synopses of the episodes from the HBO television series that will act like a legend and then leave applicants alone to slash the number of aspirants to a mere handful. Aside from some violent mayhem, the test will inculcate independent thinking, make participants realise the importance of strategy, teach them not to judge someone by their height and pass on the essential truth that writers are a cruel, heartless @$#*^s.

The Three Idiots Make the Three Mistakes of Their Life test

Divide students into batches and invite bestselling author Chetan Bhagat to select three idiots he thinks are particularly idiotic from each batch. Get these students to confess to Bhagat the three worst mistakes they’ve made. From these candidates' confessions, Bhagat will draw up a list of chosen idiots who, depending upon the discretion of the college, may be offered either a seat or a shaadi.com membership.

Additional benefits of adopting one or all of these tests in place of meaningless cut-off lists is that the universities and colleges can make money by selling the telecast rights to television channels. This would also open up the possibilities for those who don’t win college admission but do win viewers’ votes getting a platform to begin their Bollywood or political career. It’s a win-win scenario for everyone and a darn sight more logical than the existing system.

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