Solved and guess papers | Who is AU Khan?

'Solved' and 'guess' papers play havoc with education system
Karachi, Jan 26: Shamim Haider has never experienced a 'slow day' in his publishing business. Thanks to the never-ending season of examinations in the city, he is never short of customers - mostly private students - seeking solved papers for their upcoming examinations.

"My shop remains open sometimes as late as 9:00pm during the exam season. If the regular exam season is not on, I have private candidates visiting or those students preparing for their supplementary board exams held in different months for different classes," says Haider, the owner of the University Book Shop in Urdu Bazaar, Saddar.

He is a trusted man in the market for publishing the most reliable "solved: papers, known as "Universal Notes" as well as "Guess papers." These have been prepared by academics of various universities and students who have been position holders in their board examinations. Apart from this, Universal also compiles five-year papers every year that students of different classes can benefit fron.

But far from educating them, readymade 'notes' has instead made an average student even more mediocre. They are entirely dependent on solved papers which, interestingly, also help them obtain passing marks hence discouraging the student from working hard or gaining any knowledge. "They come to us because they rely on us," says Haider in his defence, adding "Teachers at government colleges aren't doing their job properly. Had they taken their classes seriously and attended regularly, we would not have felt the need to start such a business."

According to him, most students seeking help of solved papers are those who are working part time and are unable to balance their job along with studies as a regular candidate. Such private students do not have the time to attend classes at coaching centers or take tuitions either and solely depend on solved papers.

Since Urdu Bazaar is located in the city center, most students find it convenient to visit bookshops in market and purchase notes (at a nominal rate) a few months before taking their examination. "We also sell examination forms here so the students do not have to travel all the way to Karachi University or the board office in North Nazimabad," said Haider.

The trend is negatively affecting the standard of education whereby students are not encouraged to refer to their text books, but they are of the opinion that in the absence of text books, they are left with little choice than to purchase solved papers for preparation. "It is easy to criticise the trend, but we also need to question the government whose responsibility it is to ensure the relevant text books for each class are available in the market before the academic session starts," remarks Talha Javed, 19, an Intermediate student.

Haider concurs with his view and adds that most students resort to solved papers as their last option since text books arrive in the market long after the academic session starts. "I think five-year papers and solved papers are important so one can have an idea about the pattern of the examination paper and how to attempt each question, but students must not entirely rely on them," believes Asma Mujahid, a student of B-Com Part I. "Whatever is written in text books is important and needs to be learnt to understand the subject better, unless the aim of the student is to obtain passing marks only and attain a degree for the sake of it." But this, unfortunately, is the case.

Moreover, since the pattern of board examinations including Matriculation, Intermediate, Bachelors and Masters is mostly subjective, most students are willing to prepare notes and sell them to earn some money. "We pay around Rs4,000 to Rs15,000 to students preparing notes depending on the class and quality of their notes," reveals Haider.

A senior professor at Adamjee Government Science College, requesting anonymity, said that it is due to the lethargic attitude of examiners, who do not pay attention to changing the examination pattern, that solved papers and guess papers remain so popular among students. "Just like the examiner goes through the last five-year papers while preparing a question paper, so do the students. It is no longer a 'guessing' game. The questions are all predictable," he comments.

Until the Secondary, Higher Secondary and University board introduce more multiple choices in their respective examinations, the likes of Haider will remain high in demand. "Solved papers may help a student obtain passing marks, but will not help him in his professional career," remarks Mujahid.

Who is AU Khan?
Karachi: For anyone who has been part of the Matric system of education, the name of A.U. Khan is not unheard of. Even years after his death, A. U. Khan's guess papers sell like hot cakes in the market before examinations. Known to have predicted the right questions for most examinations, A. U. Khan had a huge following of students that counted on him days before the exam.

"A. U. Khan had a Masters in English Literature and was the principal of private school, but since he had been closely observing the pattern of examination, his predicted questions were always true," informed a salesman at Shakeel Brothers Booksellers and Publishers in Liaquatabad, who have been publishing A.U. Khan's guess papers for almost 40 years now.

Despite his death, Shakeel Brothers continue to make money through his name. They claim that had they not kept the business running, other publishers in the market would have cashed in his name. "It would have been hard to check this practice since piracy is rampant and the demand for guess papers is very high. At least we have reliable and learned professors who prepare these guess papers from us," says the salesman.

The actual minds behind A.U. Khan's guess papers are not known today but regardless, his popularity promises big bucks every year. The guess paper is sold between Rs15 to Rs25 for different classes.

But there are some that question the credibility of his guess papers. "Since the pattern of examination remains unchanged for decades, predicting questions for upcoming years is no longer a difficult task," comments Abu Bakr, a salesman at Urdu Bazaar and is not afraid to add: "We are just making money on his name."

Many are of the opinion that more objective questions should be included so only those students succeed in exams who have a better understanding of the subject. But until that happens, A.U. Khan's fans are here to stay. -AMK (The News)

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