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Cancellation of the 2021 Indian Board Exams & the impact on university admissions

Insights from industry experts Dr. Amrita Vohra, Ms. Kalyani Patnaik, Mr. Aamir Masood, Dr. Giridhar Kini, Prof. Amit Jain, Mr. Sahil Aggarwal, and Ms. Bhakti Shah


Neha Sharma
July 2, 2021
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8 min read

Indian board exams and university admissions

The cancellation of the Class 12 board exams by the CBSE and CISCE boards in India has been followed by a period of confusion and worry for students and parents. To try and sort out fact from fiction, the Cialfo team organized a discussion around the topic, “College admissions 2021 - Breaking through the noise” on 22nd June 2021.

Here is a compilation of the most common concerns and frequently asked questions.

What is the latest update for Class 12 students whose exams were canceled?

The CBSE Board has released detailed guidelines for the computation of the results, which indicate that the Class 12 results this year would be a combination of the following:

  • Marks obtained in internal assessments in Class 12 (40% weightage)
  • Marks obtained in Class 11 (30% weightage)
  • Marks obtained in the best 3 out of 5 subjects in Class 10 (30% weightage)

Each school must have a 5-member Result Committee to work out students’ internal marks and also ensure proper moderation. Marksheets are to be uploaded to the CBSE’S portal by the 15th of July, and reports will be generated by the Board. The results shall be declared by the 31st of July. There will be no merit list this year. 

If any students wish to attempt an improvement of grades, exams are being planned sometime between 15th Aug and 15th Sep, subject to the prevailing health and safety conditions. 

Guidelines from the CISCE board for Class 12 exam results are awaited.

How is this impacting students who wish to study Engineering or Medical streams after school?

The national entrance exams for undergraduate engineering and medical courses i.e. JEE and NEET exams have been postponed and are expected to now take place in August. This should give the students time to prepare and also get their Board mark sheets in order. 

Are private universities changing their admissions policies this year?

Rishihood University doesn’t need to, as the university has never considered a student candidate’s Board marks while reviewing their application. The university relies on the student’s interview and Statement of Purpose while deciding on their candidature.

Amity University has a “direct entry” scheme where students with 80% or higher marks in Class 12 can directly get admission into their preferred undergraduate course. This scheme is still applicable. However, for some specific courses such as Law, Architecture, etc. there are some additional requirements too. In general, Prof. Jain assured us that some level of relaxation on account of the pandemic will, indeed, be offered during admissions - for instance, by offering extended deadlines for submission of mark sheets.

Other universities such as Krea, Manipal, etc. have also been giving out conditional offers till the students can provide their mark sheets.

What are the main concerns of students?

As Aamir Masood shared, students are worried about getting their mark sheets in time to make the cut-off dates for admission formalities at their chosen universities. This is particularly so where students are planning to study abroad. 

In addition, students who might have taken things a little easier in Class 11 and not scored very well in their internal exams would now stand to lose, since Class 11 marks will also affect their Board result. 

Aamir also shared that some students are facing a challenge in securing financial aid for studying abroad this year due to the overall financial crisis. In addition, wherever foreign universities have not yet announced a move to physical classes, Indian students are unsure whether to start with virtual classes or just join an Indian university.

This last development might be beneficial for Indian universities, especially those like Amity that have tie-ups with international universities for multi-locational undergraduate courses. 

How are foreign universities helping students deal with this situation?

According to Kalyani Patnaik, a number of whose students have been accepted into foreign universities this year, the universities are all being as considerate of delays as possible. Extensions are being offered wherever feasible.

What happens if a student with a conditional offer does not get sufficient marks in the Board results to make the cut?

Since Krea and Rishihood universities don’t operate solely on the basis of Board marks, this would not apply to their candidates. As far as Amity University is concerned, Prof. Jain assured us that the university would try to be as flexible as possible in dealing with every such case. In the case of Manipal University, Dr. Kini remarked that since certain courses have minimum requirements mandated by the regulator, not meeting the marks criteria in such courses would lead to the offer being withdrawn. However, students would be given time till the day classes commence to arrange the necessary mark sheets.  

Is the Gap Year a growing trend in India?

Sahil Aggarwal informed us about a new Gap Year program that was launched at Rishihood University last year and has had 25 takers so far. In his opinion, a gap year is good for students as it gives them an opportunity to explore their preferences and possible career paths. 

Dr. Vohra added the perspective that all universities want their students to get good career exposure via internships and more, so a gap year works well. Students today are confronted with too many choices, and this is a good way to sort through them. 

On the other hand, Prof. Jain believed that a gap year was not really relevant in India, especially when students have so many avenues available for learning and exposure. 

How can tech-enabled platforms support students and schools at a time like this?

Aamir Masood explained how platforms like Cialfo have been making a difference at this difficult time. Counselors have been able to stay connected with students and continue communicating as usual, because of the features of the Cialfo platform. It has helped them be efficient and organized, track the progress of their students, and plan their progression, all from the safety of their own homes.

He also added that the students have really liked the virtual tours of universities, which help them explore their shortlisted colleges before applying to them. In addition, with Cialfo Events, students have been able to attend a variety of virtual university fairs from a single platform. Now with the addition of Direct Apply, their college application process has become that much easier. All in all, he termed it “a win-win for schools, universities, and students.” 

How do you see the way forward? Will the current education system undergo a change now?

All three representatives from schools believe that the Indian education system is changing slowly but surely, irrespective of the Board. The New Education Policy of 2020 has already shown us the way, and the traditional over-reliance on marks and high-stakes exams should gradually give way to a more holistic assessment of students. The universities are also confident of being able to evolve as required, to meet the needs of their students. 

Cialfo’s take

The Board and its affiliated schools are working together to ensure that the Class 12 results can be announced as per revised timelines. Universities, including those based abroad, are all cognizant of the situation. Allowances are being made, timelines are being extended, and conditional offers are being handed out in the interim.

The last year has been one full of changes and challenges, and the way education is perceived across the world will never be the same again. The technological and attitudinal changes in our approach to education and university admission will outlast the pandemic.  All eyes are now on the Boards for the next announcements; we wish the students the very best of luck as they await their results.


A big thank you to the experts on our webinar panel: Dr. Amrita Vohra (Director, GEMS Education Group), Ms. Kalyani Patnaik (Principal, Hiranandani Foundation School), and Mr. Aamir Masood (Head of Counselling, Shiv Nadar Schools) representing viewpoints of schools from all boards. Universities were represented by Dr. Giridhar Kini (Director of Admissions, Manipal Academy of Higher Education), Prof. Amit Jain (Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Amity University), and Mr. Sahil Aggarwal (Co-founder and CEO, Rishihood University). The discussion was moderated by Ms. Bhakti Shah, Director - Outreach, Krea University.

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