Scary than a nightmare.

Exams, how this very first word has pinched you? I know it itches. Now you probably are not going to read ahead than this. No? Really? Okay then listen to what I have been through today. I student of BSc Electrical Engineering will remember this day as long as I breathe, when my first semester, first finals and first circuit analysis paper is taken.

                                       Okay, here examiner comes and hands over me  the paper. The very first sight of paper dawns on me that first three questions are not meant for us and that, one who has set the paper has done some mistake. These can’t be for us. No way!! I have not seen anything like these before. Or have I or others had?  I shrug. However questions which followed these look a bit familiar and I heave a sigh of relief. I have marked few questions. I pulled my socks.

                                            By now I have copied a very clear figure of circuit from the question paper to my answer sheet. Now what?  A question I was asking myself. No reply. Oh, it’s some messed form of the question. I simply can’t do it. I picked my scale and simply drawn an ending line below the figure.

                                               Now I have switched to the question about which I am sure I will solve  in no time. I have copied the question again and I have written few equations. Yeah!  What? Please not again. The question is subjected to tempering (crime which paper setters usually commit and they are shielded from the trial. I wish they would go under trial like players go for ball tempering). They teach us simple in class and ask very hard questions in paper. This is not fair. I am switching from one question to another but each question is tampered in a way for which I have no solution and neither it is in the book given to us. Is being an engineer means devising new equations and plots that too at the time of paper? I have flipped the question paper 5 to 6 times in a pursuit that maybe any question shows mercy, but none.

                                       With the help of ZAHID MASOOD’S (me) circuit laws, I am writing and I can feel the rush of blood in me. Oh, wow! I will solve all the questions. I am writing what I infer is correct. After tarnishing blank beauty of few pages of answer sheet, I feel slackened. Now I am kinda tired and laughing to myself over my funny equations which I have devised. Okay, enough is enough this untuned romance that too one day prior to valentines day with this ugly paper should stop now.

                                       The examiner is noticing me gazing out through the window of second floor of a building before which I am sitting. I rested my hands in my lap and now I am sitting quiet comfortable. He is coming. He asks “are you done?’ I am looking at my paper and in a quick short reply I say “Yes, with a paper and my brain juice too”. Thanks to the examiner for ending this truama.                            

                                                          As I walked out of  examination hall I was laughing and could not help myself. I don’t know why. A hard paper does that for you.  I noticed I was the first who has submitted the paper before the due time. I wondered is it only me who could not solve or others too. Anyways, the time is over and here come all of my class fellows. They are laughing too. One of them is shouting “somebody tell me the fee for summer supply papers. I will literally fail” another saying ‘Oh, God summers in Lahore, why me?” I am seeing a girl crying and yelling. Now I see a boy crying too. I see each class mate yelling. I am feeling happy to know it is not only me.  I see most of class fellows don’t know either to laugh or to cry.In 10 minutes, it was unveiled that in this paper each  of us is equal and none has done any better.You know in each university there are few Mr. Smith which are famous for the hot boiled papers they set and so were this paper set by Mr. Smith of our university. I am sure he has set such paper on purpose so maximum students repeat in summer.   

 This uniform situation of my class mates reminded me of the poetic lines of Dr. Aallama Iqbal

“Ek hi saf mein khare ho gaye mahmud-o-Ayaz,
No koi banda raha aur no koi banda Nawaz”

(This poetic line projects equality and draws back to an anecdote of a king and a slave, who were treated equal at that time.)


A plea.

After laboring through 14 years of studies  from kindergarten through grade twelve , the Pakistani teenager is confronted with the monster known as  entry tests  , success in which, is to be rewarded by admission to an  engineering or a medical  college . Parents and teachers make it a point to hammer in the importance of these tests . We are repeatedly told  about the tough competition we will have to face if we are to get into any one professional college.We are given examples of  siblings or  cousins or friends  who have made it to prestigious colleges and the story goes on. What we are not told is, that it is not the only option we are left with or that if we fail to get in, the world does not end there.
 As the time for the tests  draws  close, we are under intense stress about the results: shall we , or shall we not make it! The general belief is that good luck as well as hard work  are the basic requirements.

In the months preceding the  tests we reinforce concepts, stockpile shortcuts and key points for solving the MCQS, trying to train ourselves to work within the most stringent of time checks. Very much like the saying “ only the wearer knows where shoe pinches”, it is only we who slog through the preparation ,who are aware of all that it takes to go through the tension. Here it is important to know that there may be quite a  few   among us with a greater aptitude  for the  arts and literature  as compared to the science subjects. Sadly, burdened by filial duty and feeling honour bound to stand up to parental expectations, nobody at that age has the courage to  express his own preference. The fact is that  they have already spent the past year listening to the ambitions of parents who long to see their sons and daughters become  doctors or engineer like the children of their relatives . In the process, we are made scapegoats .


Lining up for the entrance test candidates are very conscience that compared to the large number of prospective entrants, there are very few seats available . As the bell rings to announce the start of the test, candidates respond according to their individual natures. There are some who will make a good start while others will panic. The result is that many  excellent students fail to apply the knowledge they have while others with lesser potential will perform very well. So there is no guarantee of who will get into what department when the result is announced .  There will be some who will be jubiliant while others will be   because they could not make it to the discipline they had aspired to. There will be quite a few who will be forced to accept the result like a bitter pill.


So what do we make of the situation? The bottom line is that the results of entrance tests to professional colleges are no yardstick by which to measure a student’s intelligence or efforts.

The purpose of writing this article is to draw the attention of ambitious parents and prospective professionals  to the fact that those among us  who did not make it,  are no less intelligent  then those who did. Parents need to understand that these tests are no criterion by which  to define anybody’s potential. Also that what works for one may not necessarily  work for other because every individual has his peculiar talent  and diversity is the name of the game in this world.


If I could speak for the children who do not make it to the professional colleges I would say something like this:  ” We are sorry for disappointing you  but please give us your blessings to work in the field we really are good at. If you allow us to study the subjects of our choice and give us the freedom, who knows  how many Guljees or Hanifs are lurking in the shadows?”