What is the cut off for an exam? Headache for students and job seekers


Any exam you appear for, this is a common question that may asked by most of the students during their preparation time. Sometimes cut offs are applicable for an exam as a whole and sometime it is even tougher. Each section in the exam may have a cut off score. These questions have now created a mental barrier for most of the students in clearing the exam.

Cut off is something new

When we look back to the early time, the cutoff marks as a concept never existed. It is interesting to see why it was not there. The world was not so competitive and the number of applicants for each exam was not sohigh. The number of people going for the higher education was less at those days and supply always exceeded demand. There was no need of doing elimination by cut offs.

Even if there were cutoffs, it was only for the post graduate or Doctoral level. But today this is not the situation, cutoff is everywhere. We can see the cutoff in every competitive exam, no matter it is for a job or for a course.

The institutes and academic bodies are now of the view that it is essential for the to put cutoffs to get the good quality students or candidates. Some of the reasons are discussed below.

Imbalance in Supply and Demand

Few seats and more aspiring students, this is seen as the biggest problem in the current education set up in India.  This trend has its own positives and negatives. Quality is at stake when the supply is just increased to meet the demand. More over the growth in the industry sector is also calling for more and more students with right education and qualification. Hence supply is going on increasing. Number of colleges and seats have increased by leap and bound over the last few years.

At the same time, demand is also increasing, to all of our surprise at a rate much higher than that of the supply. This is because of the better economic conditions in our country. People have more income and they spend a lot more on education now compared to a decade back. So the demand is more. The satiation becomes complex especially in professional courses like medicine, engineering, management and so on as demand is soaring to new heights each year. It is impossible to match this increasing demand with the supply. Current generation will always go for studies even if they don’t have the necessary mental capability. Nobody is willing to do any physical job or crafts.

This disequilibrium in supply and demand is one major factor why exam authorities of colleges are insisting on this cut off, this will help to filter the applicants for interview and selection.

Search for the Best

The other factor which is often quoted as on why we need cut off scores in exams is from the side of suppliers, that is educational institutions and employers. Though the inflow of prospective students and employers is quite high, getting the best is still a challenge.

Hence in the examination or hiring process, filtering the applicants is a key step and cut off is now seen as a tool to achieve the same. If you see highly competitive exams like CAT or GRE, they have very high cut offscores which will ensure that only the top or cream of those applicants will be able to clear off the exam.

The logic is simple, as you increase the cut off, you increase the degree of filtering. Even in an exam like CAT, which is done for admission to IIM’s, the cut off score varies for each section too. There is a minimum cut off needed, so that means even if you score very high in one section, if somebody doesn’t have a minimum cut off in another section, his total ranking will go down and sometime he or she will be out of the rank list also.

How do they fix cut offs?

Fixing the cut off or par score for each exam is always a subject of dispute. According to the experts and educational scholars, the cut off score is determined by many factors. Difficulty level associated with the exam, maximum percentile scored, number of applicants in different score ranges and so on. This means there is a probability that cut off scores can vary for each year.

Determining the cut off score is a relative thing, hence disputes are always bound to happen. There is sometimes a debate on the added pressure in the minds of students and job seekers when they sit down to write the exam. But as the saying goes, this world is for people who can survive and sustain the pressure and keep their cool head in uncertainties. If you can just focus on performing well, do your ground work correct and put in effort, cut off in no way is going to harm you. On the other side, it can create wonders for you.

Cut off is going to stay for now

Till the point of time, we have a method by which only the best will apply for a course or come for a job, there is no other method that to set high cut off benchmarks in an exam to choose the best. If demand goes less than the supply then also there is a possibility of dispensing off the cut off scheme. But none of the scenes look unlikely to happen soon in India. Cut off marks are going to stay on as a filtering tool for short listing students and employees.

So if we create an analogy, cut off is like an entry barrier which prevents people to compete in new markets. You need to be really good in what you are trying to do to clear this barrier and succeed in any exam. So cut off your fear for cut off and just keep your focus on winning the race.



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