A batch of students who last wrote an unfinished ICSE (Class X) in March 2020 were back on campus for their ISC (Class XII) semester 1 exam on Monday.
Many schools in the city said they had a full attendance on the first day of the exam which started with English literature.
In Bengal, there are about 30,000 ISC candidates in approximately 250 schools.
The Telegraph spoke to students, teachers and heads of schools who narrated how different their first in-person board exam during the pandemic was.
Students had to mark the correct answer from a set of options on a question paper-cum-answer booklet that had to be submitted after the exam.
The Covid safety protocol did not allow them to loiter about and there was “no room for the after-exam discussion”.
“On my way out I asked a friend what the answer to a question was and he was not sure if remembered. But teachers did not allow us to wait and so we could not discuss the paper the way we would usually did after exams,” said Aditya Malhotra, a student of St James’ School.
In one particular school, the principal was at the gate during dispersal.
“We were expected to take the transport and not spend time discussing the paper,” said Rittika Sen, a student of the school. Rittika said that they had to wait before they could leave because the exam halls were being vacated one after the other.
Unlike before, the duty of the teachers was not limited to the exam centre.
“The duty of our teachers was to send the students out of exam halls and see that they maintain safe distance. We could not allow them to form groups,” said John Stephen, acting principal of La Martiniere for Boys.
A purported answer key circulated on social media in the evening and students were checking with that to see whether they had marked the correct options.
There was no confirmation on the authenticity of the answer keys.
A teacher said that would it be difficult for students to remember the options they had chosen for all 80 questions.
Students across several schools said that they finished the paper much earlier and some of them even had put their heads down on the desk.
“Either one knows the answer or does not and there is nothing to write but only read and mark,” said one student.
“I finished 80 questions in the first 30 minutes and then I revised and put my head down on the desk after that. After sometime I revised the paper again,” said Shivali Dalmia, a student of La Martiniere for Girls.
“It was a new pattern for us and we had to choose the most appropriate answer,” she said.
Teachers said examinees finishing off early or putting their heads down on the desk was an unusual scene during an ISC literature exam. “Usually in an English literature paper students would write till the last moment,” said Joeeta Basu, an invigilator.
The “evaluation” in school after the exam did not require an English teacher, several heads of schools said.
An answer key was uploaded by the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) after the exam and the examiners had to match the answers there with a student’s choice. There was no scope for subjective evaluation.
The examiners came from other schools along with the supervising examiner.
The CISCE had earlier said the supervising examiner will evaluate answer scripts at the centre and would be accompanied by a team of examiners if the number of candidates in a centre exceeded 35.