The CBSE released a circular on the 2021-22 board exam question paper pattern for Class 10 and Class 12 on the 22nd of April 2021.

The circular mainly deals with the assessment and evaluation practices of the board for the session 2021- 2022. A shift to competency-based education has been recommended which has been talked about from 2019. In 2019 itself CBSE had asked schools to start teaching students to move away from rote memorization techniques and move to competency-based learning.

What is Competency-Based learning?

Competency-Based Learning means more focus on developing creative and critical thinking capacities of students and testing higher-order skill. So far in the board exams when you think about such types of questions, they have been introduced to you in the form of HOTs questions. For example, in CBSE Class 10 Maths Board Exam you see that hots questions mainly come from guides like RD Sharma, and these are questions that are harder to solve, has more calculation or has more steps. The problem now is that HOTs questions have become very common in all the exam papers. We have reached a place where students are not applying their learning to a new type of questions. This is what the CBSE wants to change.

What is the New Question Paper Pattern for Class 10 Exam 2021-22?

Already last year we were introduced to few changes. In the CBSE Board Exam for instance, which was supposed to be conducted in June 2021, out of 80 marks, 20% marks which means 16 marks was basically objective questions that were in the form of very short answer one mark questions. These had to be answered in very simple words or in a single sentence. Now some of you may have the misconception that objective questions mean only MCQ. No that is not the meaning of an objective question. The objective question basically means questions that can be answered in short. It could be MCQ questions, fill in blanks, or true or false questions also. In 2021, case-based questions had been introduced for the first time. These were questions that involved a long passage and then following the longer passage you had some questions asked. This formed another 20% (16 marks) of the paper. The remaining 60% which is the remaining 48 were the usual questions based on the textbook and previous sample papers.

Now, what is the change for the 2022 exam?

Competency-based questions would be 30% of the paper. This means that 24 marks in the paper would be competency-based and this could include MCQs, Case-based questions and it could include source-based questions. MCQs mean multiple choice questions where you need to select one correct answer from the given options. Case-based questions mean you have a case study that is followed by certain questions. Now, these case studies are something that is relatively new and only introduced last year. Source-based questions mean a paragraph could be picked up from somewhere in your textbook and questions asked on that. It could be also from outside the textbook, maybe some newspaper articles.

Objective questions will be 20%; this remains the same as the last year. Now objective marks mean 16 marks which are basically going to be all the questions talked about earlier, so it could be short answer questions, fill in the blanks true or false type of questions. So totally over here you are already done with 40 marks on the paper. Half of the paper is going to be a new type of questions. This way the CBSE is trying to do away with your reliance on old papers and previous guidebooks and shift to learning the concepts properly and be able to apply them in unfamiliar contexts. The remaining 50% of the paper, that means the remaining 40 marks would be whatever you are used to currently.

Influence of PISA Exam on Competency-Based Questions in Class 10 CBSE Board Exam

Many schools have been giving practice with PISA based question. What exactly is PISA? PISA stands for the Program for International Student Assessment, conducted by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an international body. This exam is conducted every three years for 15-year-old students all over the world and the tests are mainly designed to understand how you can apply your conceptual learning in school with respect to Mathematical, Scientific, and English literacy to the real world.

India is participating in this test in the coming year. The exam was supposed to be conducted now in 2021 but because of our current situation with COVID, it has been postponed to 2022. Since the PISA test has been formed India has only participated once and that was in 2009. India was expected to do well but in 74 countries India ranked 73rd out of 74 countries. This was not because our students did not know the concepts; it was because the questions looked different from what we were so used to studying.

India’s dismal performance led to lots of debate. There was more talk about how competency-based learning is more important for students in India so that is why the PISA exam is important in the context of a competency-based assessment. India has decided to participate again after a long break. In fact, in 2019, Kendriya Vidyalayas proposed that we should split the paper into four parts: 25% of questions direct from textbook, 25% of questions should be understanding based – these are questions from the textbook but with changed values. The remaining 50% were proposed to be learning outcome-based and application-based.

Increase in Competency-Based Questions every year


A document that was released by the Ministry of Education in 2020 highlighted all the reforms made from 2014 to 2020. There is a section with talks about the need for reforms in board examination. Here it was proposed to introduce changes in question paper design to test the understanding of students rather than content. This was to be done by modifying the design of

question papers by adding 10% of questions oriented towards higher-order and this will increase by 10% every successive year till 2025 reaching up to 60% competency-based question in any given question paper.

This means that competency-based questions are only going to increase in every upcoming year until 60% of your question paper is going to be outside textbook questions. This is a very important change that is happening in our question paper design and it is a welcome change. It is going to be beneficial for you in the long run. Let us also look at how India is partnering with the British Council to help the Indian teachers develop these kinds of questions.

Partnering with British Council

The British Council has developed some guidelines for how question papers can be. In terms of the coming year’s exam, all guidelines may not be implemented because it would be a sudden change, but the guidelines will give you a good idea of what can be expected in the years to come. If you look at guidelines for the Maths exam you can see your that there is to be an increased emphasis on mathematical communication by expecting students to provide full strategy working out in response to all questions including short answer questions. There is a proposal to make use of structured question for Maths as opposed to single standalone question and this should be with the integration of interconnected questions to assess application novel problem-solving. This means you may have a question related to surface areas and volumes where you need to use trigonometry, probability, or quadratic equations. Also focusing on student’s problem-solving ability by providing a greater number of diagrams rather than having candidates construct their own is recommended. Actual real-life applications type questions where you have questions picked out from things that happen is also something which question paper setters need to be a little alert about when they are preparing the questions. There is also a recommendation for reducing the number of optional questions. We currently are having optional questions but there is a recommendation that at least for Maths optional question should be done away with because only then the paper assessment could be considered reliable. So, they will be more effort required on the part of people who are developing the question papers and developing resource material for the same.


Thus, you can see that there is going to be a very big influence of international assessments like PISA and even the exams conducted for schools like the GCSE and IGCSE exam is going to influence exam pattern. Question types from these boards can be expected in your coming CBSE Board Exams.