OCARE Education - About

Don't worry if your NEET paper was tough...!
Your rank doesn't depend on the difficulty level of paper

/

NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) is an eligibility-cum-ranking examination prescribed as the single entrance examination to various Post Graduate MDS Courses. It's a single window entrance examination for all Dental PG courses in India, conducted by National Board of Examinations (NBE).

NEET was held once earlier in the year 2013, and now we saw it again in Dec 2016, for MDS admissions for the year 2017. Right from the time of its announcement, many misconceptions started surfacing and they reached a peak after the exam got over. We saw a lot of confusion and misconceptions among the students regarding the difficulty level of questions and variation between different sessions wrt difficulty levels. A lot of students were seen complaining that their session was tough as it had more number of difficult questions and their friends got a relatively easy session as their questions were much simpler. So a lot of students were under the impression that they would score less and lose the rank, whereas their friends will be able to score more and get a good rank.

This misinterpretation was not limited to the student community alone. Even a newspaper carried a report saying that this year's NEET had a difficult paper, and hence many students would not be able to get a rank. The newspaper report was talking about NEET exam as if it's a pass-fail exam, where students would fail because of low marks. This news report put a lot of students under further stress.

So what's the truth? The truth is that entrance exams in general, leave alone NEET, are not pass-fail exams. There is no minimum limit that you need to cross to become eligible to get a rank. Your score can be very low, but your rank may be high if others have scored less than you, and on the other hand, you may not get a good rank, even with a high score if others have scored higher than you. So it's not your score but your rank that decides whether you will get an MDS seat or not

Now coming to NEET, as far as the variation in the difficulty level between different sessions is concerned, note that all variation will be very well accounted for and compensated through a concept and a system called 'Item Response Theory'.

Consider this table 1.

 

MCQ 1

MCQ 2

MCQ 3

MCQ 4

MCQ 5

SCORE

Student A

1

1

1

1

1

5/5 (100%)

Student B

0

1

1

1

1

4/5 (80%)

Student C

0

0

1

1

1

3/5 (60%)

Student D

0

0

0

1

1

2/5 (40%)

Student E

0

0

0

0

1

1/5 (20%)

 

The table shows that, Student A, who has got all the five MCQ correctly, has 100% proficiency. Student B has 80% proficiency, Student C has 60%, so on and so forth. What you should know is that here, the difficulty level of a question is not considered, and it's an important factor and should also be taken into

account. Once that is taken into account, the actual ability and performance can be assessed from one common level and that result would be more reliable.

The need for this arises because, in the above table, all students have different performances. Suppose a few students have the same score (as given in the table 2 below), they can't be considered to be having the same level of proficiency. The moment you take difficulty level of the question also into account, you will realize that although they had the same score, their proficiency was different.

 

See this table 2:

 

MCQ 1

MCQ 2

MCQ 3

MCQ 4

MCQ 5

SCORE

Student A

1

1

1

1

1

5/5 (100%)

Student B

0

1

1

1

1

4/5 (80%)

Student C

0

0

1

1

1

3/5 (60%)

Student D

0

0

0

1

1

2/5 (40%)

Student E

0

0

0

0

1

1/5 (20%)

Student F

1

1

0

0

0

2/5 (40%)

 

Here if you see Student F has the same score as that of Student D, but their proficiency is not the same. Student D has answered two easy questions correct (the ones answered correctly by most of the students) and Student F has got two difficult questions correct (the ones answered correctly by very few students.) Hence, although their scores may be same, Student F is more proficient than Student D.

So Item Response Theory will work on how easy or tough it is for an average student to get an MCQ correct.

Suppose there is a batch of 100 students and 80 students attempt an MCQ, out of which, 40 of them get it correct.

First, the Attempt % is calculated as = (80/100) X 100 = 80 %

Next, the Accuracy % is calculated as = (40/80) X 100 = 50 %

Lastly, the Difficulty level is calculated, which is the 'Probability of an average student getting it correct'

Difficulty Level = Attempt % X Accuracy % = 80% X 50 % = 40 %

Conclusion: There is a 40 % probability that an average student will get it correct.

Now you can read what is given on the website of National Board of Examinations regarding this:

  1. The question paper of NEET-PG comprises of 240 multiple choice questions (MCQ) each with four options and only one correct response. Multiple question papers are used for NEET-PG for different sessions and days.

  2. A standard psychometrically-sound approach is employed for the scoring process of NEET-PG. This approach has been applied to score all large scale Computer Based Examination utilizing multiple question papers.

  3. While all papers (forms) are carefully assembled to ensure that the content is comparable, the difficulty of each form may be perceived by different subjects undertaking the exam to slightly vary. Such minor differences in the overall difficulty level are accurately measured after all the different question papers (forms) have been administered and the results analyzed.
    A post-equating process is necessary to ensure validity and fairness. Equating is a psychometric process to adjust differences in difficulty so that performance from different exam papers (forms) are comparable on a common metric and therefore fair to candidates testing across multiple papers (forms).

  4. During post-equating, exam items are concurrently analyzed and the estimated item parameters (item difficulty and discrimination) are put onto a common metric. Item Response Theory (IRT), a psychometrically supported statistical model, is utilized in this process. The result is a score that takes into account the performance of the candidate along with the difficulty of the form administered.

  5. In order to ensure appropriate interpretation of performance, the scores must be placed on a common scale or metric. A linear transformation is used for this scaling process, which is a standard practice for such test administration.

Post equating takes into account any statistical differences in examination difficulty and ensures all candidates are evaluated on a common scale. The aforesaid steps ensure that all examination scores are valid, equitable and fair. Merit List shall be prepared on the basis of scores obtained by the candidates.

So regardless of whether your session was easy or difficult, in the end everything will be compensated for and brought down to the same level to assess the proficiency rather than just the scoring. Today all major test agencies - ACT, SAT, GRE, TOEFL - use Item Response Theory model to construct their tests. It has eliminated the weaknesses and loopholes of Classical Test Theory, and has emerged as a standardized and reliable statistical model.

This article simplifies the whole concept of NEET and tries to remove the misconceptions regarding the variation seen in the difficulty level of MCQs. So there is no need to compare different sessions and panic. It will be a futile exercise. The studying methods have not changed. They have remained the same. So better focus on learning the concepts rather than worrying about the whole exam set up.

One needs to keep learning newer concepts, giving tests and practicing time management throughout the year. It is this systematic approach that takes you closer to a good rank. If you need help in this regard, please go to www.rajeevchitguppi.com and send me your query and I will try my best to guide you in your preparation.