The Horror Of Errors

by Tejas Nair

“Are you that dumb to not follow what we’ve been telling since the first day of exams?” the voice sounded effeminate.
I looked up to my right to see the person I had a bad memory of. Two students, sitting in front & rear seats from me, & elder to me by both physique & semester grade, thanked God they could waste time staring at what would ensue, so to get out of the hall after completing the ballpark number of minutes inside. It is mandatory for a student to at least spend an hour inside the exam hall before he/she can hand over his/her paper & get out.

“Sir?” I was already mad at Question No. 1 for it was not only compulsory but also included sub-questions I had unluckily skipped last day. The face of the person proved to be another source of exasperation. He was the head of a department.

“You are supposed to write with black ink.”

“Uhh, I did not knew that. Uh…” My English got worse every time I conversed with a person I dislike. He had me write an apology the previous month when I was late for one of the preliminary exams. My lie, that I was late for the first time, didn’t work; I blamed the traffic.

“It is written all over the notice boards that YOU HAVE TO USE BLACK INK. How hard is that for you to follow?” he stepped back a little “Everyone’s using black pen… see!”

I never bothered to look what others were doing and this time it looked I’d have to pay for it. It was Monday, December the 2nd and I was attempting to crack Radio Frequency Circuit Design (RFCD).

“Sorry, Sir… I didn’t know…” I moved my hands to the cluttered desk and removed a black pen, which thank heavens I had carried for the purpose of underlining main points in an answer. Now I would do that with a blue pen. Earlier, I had already been admonished by the supervisor for not circling the goddamn holes (for seat number, question paper code, subject code) in the bar-coded first page of the answer sheet with a black pen. The instruction panel overleaf had clearly mentioned to use a pencil.

The man with an effeminate voice didn’t care to make much hype of it and walked away probably thinking right that it was an exam hall. A hall conducting final, board exam. (I wanted to call him back to ask if I had to draw even the diagrams with black pen, but you see… this idea emanated hours later when I was going back home. Happens all the time.)

But the scope of this post has very less to do with a black pen; instead it has everything to do with the people or the organization behind that diktat. Newspapers the whole month mentioned how Mumbai University was getting dumber & dumber every day, thanks to all those erroneous question papers students have had to fret over since November through December 2013.

Question No. 6 -> b.) Explain the function of BJT in detail.

I was happy to see those lovely words that day and currently happier & shamelessly more proud than you to know the full form of that acronym. The exam had started at 3 PM, the worst time to schedule an exam & if you were to take a poll, a 100% students would just comply. At about 3:50 PM, the guy with an effeminate voice had turned away from me. Ten minutes later, the two guys I was talking about, walked out of the room. An hour later I attempted to complete the question I was so in love with.

I had carefully written 3 pages about how BJT is found in every day electronics and had I known the real reason behind the black pen diktat, I would go on to write how BJT is found in the computers & scanners that would be required to scan & analyze the answer sheets. The black pen was supposed to increase the clarity of scanned sheets. The university has come up with an idea of scanning all the answer sheets and sending out the digital copies to paper checkers & moderators. Although this is meant only for final year students, the lower year students could do with a practise, don’t they? And I secretly & unknowingly conspired that night how black ink manufacturers were in ties with Mumbai University for blue ink manufacturers opposed the recent incredulous Supreme Court verdict on gay sex. Ah!

At exactly 5:25 PM, a lady with lots of rouge on her cheeks & vanity on her chest walked in.
“EXTC students! There are few corrections…” she paused & continued, “Question No. 3 -> a.), the first formula… For the constant conductance circle as (Γr + g/(g+1))^2 + (Γi)^2 IS EQUAL TO (1/(1+g))^2. There is “an equal to” sign.”

I corrected it even though I didn’t know a thing about the question. She corrected two more questions for minor spelling mistakes and then she said something for which I wanted to run out of the room and jump off the window by the corridor and dive with my head down into a plank full of upright nails made of diamond. The gaffe in that question was epic.

“It is “Explain the functionALITY of BJT in detail”… not function. It’s a minor typo there…” she looked at the bearded supervisor and chuckled. Minor? Minor typo? Lady, that is not what you call a typo… it is bloody mistake of the millennium. “Functionality” & “Function” are two very different things and now my answer would literally buy me a zero. And the icing on the top is that I knew “the functionality of BJT.” First, the question paper is riddled with errors and then you correct it half hour into end time. What sort of horseplay is that? I sat there puzzled, unable to think, cursing everyone I blamed this effect for. I don’t know how two of my exes found their way there.

But, it was 5:30 PM and I had three more questions to go. Eventually, I completed the paper with a handwriting which would make the moderator hire an assassin for a lookout.

This happened almost everyday and worse, the final year students suffered the greatest. It is shameful & naive of the Mumbai University to not check the question papers before sending out to colleges. I really don’t know the inside story on how they get prepared or anything about it. But this induces horror to the hapless students while they are attempting something which would decide the fate of their career. Not my case, but so much preparation goes into these exams and the varsity can’t spend a minute to check the papers? Or correctly send out guidelines? Or if you are so in continuum that when you err, you cannot send out the corrections a little earlier? This is so shameful of Mumbai University. I hear the repeaters have had the worst time. They are already finding it tough to crack subjects, and with these errors, I can not even imagine their plight.

It is a very serious topic that the university must take steps to contain & eradicate forever. We pay lakhs of rupees every year, why not create a question paper department? Why not make it temporary (i.e. only during exams season) & solve the problems of thousands?

No. What makes this episode reach crescendo is that the college teachers expect the students to correct the errors by themselves and assume the right question. How doltish is that?

On December 12th, a missing decimal point in a 10 mark question of Principles of Control Systems made my whole answer look like it was written by the panel of justices who gave out the verdict on Section 357 of the IPC… err, looks like I have got so much attached to the Mumbai University habit that I am writing erroneously. It is the section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which would lead to incarceration of few of my close friends for doing the same thing I so casually indulge with my imaginary girlfriend. A single period speaks two episodes of pure Barbarism, huh?

PS: BJT stands for Bipolar Junction Transistor.