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Conflicting Grading Policy Analysis: A look at CGPA in IIT Delhi

As students embark on their academic journey at the esteemed Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, one key metric becomes a defining milestone in their journey: their CGPA. It starts from the first year, with family and societal pressures along with incentives of department change, possibly pushing students to achieve high CGPAs. As time passes, the objectives include holding PORs, landing internships, or finally getting placed. While it is undeniable that the CGPA serves as a crucial benchmark for academic achievement, a singular emphasis on grades undermines the broader landscape of learning experiences within IITD, perpetuating disparities and hindering opportunities for holistic growth.


In the present scenario, where CGPA plays such a vital role in shaping not just your academic but also your extracurricular life at IIT Delhi and professional life after graduation, it is essential to ensure that the grading system is fair and also matches up to the standards of its counterparts such as other IITs. However, the grading policy at IITD is plagued with systemic issues, with significant discrepancies in average CGPAs across departments and overall lower CGPAs for the entire batch compared to fellow institutes.


The average CGPA across most branches remains notably low even in the fourth year. In many non-circuit branches, attaining a CGPA of 8 is commendable, with even fewer or no students achieving an 8.5 or higher. This disparity is further exacerbated by the variance in grading distributions among branches, with circuital disciplines often witnessing inflated grades compared to their non-circuital counterparts. Within non-circuital branches as well, there is usually significant disparity; for instance, branches like biotechnology, civil and mechanical engineering, witness the lowest average CGPAs, with professors giving 5/6/7s out of ten on average in courses. This subjectivity in awarding different grades on average by professors of other institutions and branches has problematic consequences. It is important to note that institutions providing higher education opportunities and various organizations set absolute CGPA requirements, which, due to this grading subjectivity, cannot compare the academic capabilities of two students from different branches or institutions.  


Average CGPA at the end of degree for the B.Tech Batch of 2019:

Department

Average CGPA

Biochemical Engineering & Biotechnology

7.12

Civil Engineering

7.36

Engineering Physics

7.9

Electrical Engineering

8.32


The imposition of an arbitrary CGPA threshold, such as the 8.5 CGPA criteria for research opportunities, government scholarships, and internships/placements, with averages being around 6.5 on a scale of 10 for most non-circuital branches, effectively sidelines deserving candidates, spreading dissatisfaction among students (8.5 CGPA is a requirement for getting the merit award, with multiple branches not having anyone fulfilling that criterion even though being in the top 7%). This discrepancy not only undermines the comparability of CGPA across disciplines but also poses a significant barrier for students aspiring to pursue further studies or secure internships.


Moreover, the competitive landscape extends beyond the confines of IIT's campus. The proliferation of tier 2-3 colleges boasting substantial exposure and opportunities underscores the diminishing currency of the IIT tag alone. Other top IITs also differ severely in grading, many having much higher average CGPAs (please refer to the table below). In such a scenario, where grades wield a disproportionate influence in shaping prospects, overemphasizing CGPA as a determinant of success becomes increasingly problematic.


CGPA of top department rankers at completion of fifth semester for the same branch :

(Branch not shared to maintain anonymity)

Department Rank

B.Tech at IITD

B.Tech at IITB

1

9.03

9.91

2

8.6

9.83

3

8.53

9.6

4

8.52

9.57

5

8.4

9.53


Yet, it is essential to acknowledge the significance of CGPA as a metric for academic performance and, thus, the need for reform CGPA should provide a standardized measure that evaluates students' mastery of course contents and ability to apply theoretical knowledge. Furthermore, CGPA is pivotal in screening candidates for higher education programs and internships, serving as a crucial filter in the competitive selection process. Thus, while CGPA may not encapsulate a student's learning journey, it remains a valuable tool for assessing academic proficiency.


Addressing the systemic challenges surrounding CGPA requires a multifaceted approach. Firstly, there is a pressing need to standardize grading distributions across disciplines, ensuring fairness and comparability in academic assessments. This entails collaborative efforts between departments and colleges to recalibrate grading practices and mitigate the disparities that undermine the credibility of CGPA, ensuring fairness and comparability in academic assessments.


Fostering a holistic development culture is essential in redefining success beyond numerical metrics. This involves recognizing and valuing experiential learning, research endeavors, and extracurricular pursuits that transcend the confines of CGPA-centric evaluations. By providing avenues for students to engage in interdisciplinary projects, collaborative research, and real-world applications of their knowledge, IITD can nurture a culture of innovation and holistic growth that transcends the limitations of numerical metrics.


Furthermore, addressing the antiquated course curriculum prevalent in many branches is paramount in enhancing the relevance of CGPA. Specific courses and components of the curriculum do not align with the evolving needs of the industry or contribute to students' learning curve. For example, given the lack of infrastructure in some undergraduate laboratories on campus, some laboratory courses in various departments are rendered irrelevant. These courses must be more successful in providing meaningful, practical experiences and improving learning amongst students, burdening students and undermining their interest in the field. 


In the pursuit of academic excellence, it's undeniable that IITD represents the pinnacle of rigor and intellectual challenge. However, it's disheartening to witness students, despite hailing from the best college in the country, facing setbacks and missed opportunities due to the stringent grading system and intense academic pressure. While the prestige of IITD is synonymous with its rigorous standards, if this rigor ultimately results in disillusionment and dissatisfaction among students, one must ponder: Is the maintenance of such rigor by the college genuinely worth it?


Written by Harshit Garg


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this opinion article solely belongs to the author and does not constitute the views of BSP.


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