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Stress-free tests set to roll

New Delhi, Feb. 15: Reforms that promise to take the tension out of exams get off the ground in two weeks, ending months of anticipation from students and guardians.

Over 11 lakh students will be the first to enjoy the benefits a fortnight from now when they sit for their Class X and XII Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) exams.

Rather than test their speed, the new system offers examinees time to think.

Students now get time to “cool off” before they start writing. In other words, candidates get an extra 15 minutes before each paper so that they can read the questions carefully and plan their answers.

The question papers have been reworked so that examinees can finish in two-and-a-half hours and have the last half-hour free to revise their answers.

For Class X candidates, the question papers that have been reworked are mathematics, science and social science; for Class XII examinees, the subjects are physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, business studies, economics and accountancy.

This could be the start of a series of reforms, including marks being replaced with grades and the pass\fail system being scrapped, probably from 2008.

Under the current system, half the students fail every year in each of the board exams. The number of failures is highest in mathematics and English.

The CBSE has also started from this year a system of schools internally evaluating their candidates in social science. The internal assessment accounts for 20 marks and the board exam, 80 marks.

Physically challenged students have an extra hour, and the option of using a computer or a typewriter.

To help candidates beat the stress before and during the exams, the CBSE will continue its helpline, which it started from February 1, till March 31.

The students can contact as many as 40 principals, trained counsellors affiliated with government and private schools, and psychologists in 18 Indian cities and in Dubai and Kuwait.

Boys seem to be more stressed out, CBSE chairman Ashok Ganguly said. “Boys are contacting the helpline more than girls.”

More Class X students are calling compared with Class XII candidates, he added. “For Class X students, it is the first exposure”.

Mothers, too, have been dialling the helplines. “Many mothers are worried about the behaviour of their children. They think something is wrong with them,” Ganguly said.

The three-tier counselling system includes an interactive voice response system, question-answer columns in national newspapers and online counselling through the board’s website.

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