A day before Karan Gurnani, a third-year BCom student, was to sit for his final university exam, he got a "rude shock".
His college informed him that Mumbai University had announced that while taking the exams, students would have to restrict their answers to a 40-page booklet and would not be issued supplementary answer books. "I was already jittery and this information shook my self-confidence. I usually take at least one supplementary book. So, I had to spend time crunching my answers instead of revising them. It was like living your worst nightmare," said Gurnani, 20, a student of SIES College, Sion.
For years, the lore on campus has been that writing more number of pages in an exam answer booklet would translate into more marks. Nipping this in the bud, the varsity in March issued a circular stating that supplements would not be provided to students. Instead, it increased the number of pages in the main answer booklet; a 40-page booklet replaced the 32-page booklet used in a 100-mark paper and a 32-page booklet replaced the 24-page booklet used in a 60-mark paper.
"Students take supplements and do not make complete use of it and a lot of paper goes waste. Also, with increased number of pages there should be no need for supplements. From the next session, we are increasing the number of pages in the answer booklet to 42 pages," said Vilas Shinde, controller of examinations.
But a week into the examinations and after several complaints from students, the University issued another circular to centres stating that they should provide supplements to those who really need them.
Students have mixed reactions to the move. "I had to restrict myself in many ways while writing my answers, especially during my broadcast journalism exam where we are required to write scripts," said Namrata D'souza, 21, a third-year mass media student from St. Xavier's College, Fort.
"In spite of writing concise answers, I fell short of pages by the time I reached my last answer and had to use up the margins to finish the answer. This messed up my paper presentation," said Anirrudh Tagat, 21, a third-year Arts students at Ramnarian Ruia College, Matunga.
There are some who welcome the change. "I think it is a good move as it requires students to produce precise answers rather than lengthy answers," said Priyanka Ketkar, 21, a third-year mass media student at Ramnarian Ruia College.
Sachin Patel, a visually impaired student, said he had no problems sticking to the new page limit. "My answers fit perfectly within the given space. I just asked my writer to minimise her handwriting," said Patel, 21, a third-year management studies student at KJ Somaiya College, Vidyavihar.
Teachers' too are divided on the move. "A majority of the students use only a few pages of the supplements and leave the rest blank. Many students also have the habit of drawing margins on both sides of the sheet and they even begin answering a sub-question on a new page," said Avin Shah, an accounts professor at SIES College of Arts, Science and Commerce.
"I think not giving supplements to students affects them psychologically and curtails their freedom of expression," said a literature professor requesting anonymity.