The promulgation of Conduct of Examinations Regulations (CER) 2021 by the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) earlier this month has left the students in quandary.
Under the CER 2021, students appearing for the entry tests for MBBS and BDS have been deprived of their right to recheck the answer sheets and inquire about the legitimacy of the question papers.
As result-awaiting students have been allowed to appear in the entry tests, it is expected that the number of aspiring MBBS and BDS students taking the entry tests will be more than 500,000, earning the PMC over Rs. 3 billion through challan fee only.
Section 4 (1) of CER 2021 states that:
Any person, being a Pakistani or an overseas Pakistani or foreign national and being 16 years of age or more, shall be eligible to register for and attempt the MDCAT exam.
Section 4(2) mentions that:
There shall be no restriction on a person having obtained a Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSSC) qualification or equivalent 12th grade qualification prior to attempting the MDCAT exam.
Moreover, CER 2021 requires the National Medical and Dental Academic Board (NMDAB) not to limit the syllabus of the MDCAT exam to any textbook or HSSC board syllabus and to randomly select the questions for the MDCAT exam from the examination question bank of the board.
Each student will be provided a unique MDCAT question paper that will be randomly selected by software and none of the students will have the right to object the question paper. The result of the MDCAT entry test will be considered final and will not be available for rechecking.
CER 2021 has fixed the minimum passing marks for the MDCAT exam at 65%. The MDCAT result will be valid for two years from the date of the exam. In case, a student reappears in the MDCAT exam during this period, the student will be able to use the result with the highest marks to apply to medical and dental colleges.
Any student who fails or refuses to comply with, or contravenes any of the provisions of CER 2021, will be punished with a fine of Rs. 1 million in addition to any other penalty imposed by the PMC.
Testing Company Scandal
Last month, PMC had published an advertisement that sought bids from testing companies interested in holding a computer-based MCQ exam for approximately 175,000 students. PMC published the advertisement on 3 May and set 10 May as the deadline for submission of bids.
PMC violated the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules which grant a 15-day period for national level biddings and a 30-day period for international level biddings.
Nonetheless, SOAR Testing and Evaluation Platform Limited won the bid for holding a computer-based MDCAT entry test.
However, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s (SECP) record shows that SOAR Testing and Evaluation Platform Limited was set up on 21 May this year, more than a week and a half after the due date of submitting bids.
Notwithstanding its illegal selection, SOAR Testing and Evaluation Platform Limited has asked PMC to disburse more than Rs. 115 million as an advance payment for organizing the computer-based MDCAT entry test.
On the other hand, a high-ranking PMC official, while brushing the questionable nature of the selection of the testing company under the carpet, said that SOAR Testing and Evaluation Platform Limited is a well-known company that is located in Islamabad for years.