BITSAT 2023: ‘Agents’ offer to solve the paper so that the candidate scores over 300 – enough for BTech in CS. BITS has filed police complaints
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Team Careers360 | June 15, 2023 | 08:31 AM IST
For Rs 20 lakh on a post-dated cheque, Ranjan Pandey promises to get it done – a BTech in computer science seat at Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) Pilani, a premier private engineering college where a BTech seat is coveted. Ravi Singh claims he can do the same thing for Rs 18 lakh and Rahul Singh offers the bargain price of Rs 12 lakh.
All three ‘agents’, who first got in touch with a Careers360 reporter believing her to be an admission seeker, promise roughly the same thing – they’ll select the centre at the point of slot-booking, solve the BITSAT question paper for the candidate through some “backend” maneuvering, and secure for them a seat in one of the BITS campuses – Pilani, Hyderabad or Goa. Which campus and which programme may decide the final rate, they explained in separate conversations on phone and via WhatsApp calls which have been recorded. The names given here are the names they gave the reporter.
The ‘agents’ first offered admission in BITS’ management quota. This, by itself, is not unusual. During admission season, agents routinely call prospective students to draw them to second and third-tier institutions and to the “management quota”.
The problem is, BITS doesn’t have one. It admits through the highly-competitive BITSAT, written by over 2 lakh students annually. Careful conversations over weeks revealed the “agents” were in fact proposing to solve the paper itself for the reporter’s ‘daughter’ provided she followed a few instructions – didn’t show up for the first exam and picked specific test locations. One insisted on Delhi-NCR – and further, asked about editing it to NCR – and another, on Bengaluru.
Careers360 could not follow the leads all the way to the exact centres. But conversations with the three agents – or solvers’ gangs – over the past few weeks have shown that they claim to either own or have arrangements with exam centre owners; most ask for a location in Delhi-NCR; and they claim to solve papers promising specific scores. However, Careers360 was unable to independently verify any of their claims.
“BITSAT has been conducted for the last 18 years successfully in more than 60 cities in India and abroad. BITSAT ensures fairness, transparency, and integrity throughout the examination process. Our computer-based testing infrastructure is designed to provide a secure and controlled environment. All computer systems used for the exam are thoroughly checked for any potential vulnerabilities. Further, to ensure the identity verification of candidates, a two-factor authentication process is implemented before the exam begins. This adds an additional layer of security, minimizing the risk of impersonation or unauthorized access. Our technical team performs regular checks on the computer systems used for the exam, ensuring their integrity and functionality,” BITS Pilani said in a rejoinder sent later.
“We have lodged complaints with the police about this and are keeping a strict vigil on the entire examination process. I request everyone to be extra cautious to not trust such claims and report to the institute the mobile numbers from where such calls originate,’ said BITS group vice-chancellor, V Ramgopal Rao.
The BITS Pilani campus and other campuses admit students via the BITS Aptitude Test, or BITSAT. The BITSAT 2023 is being held twice in 2023. The first session was from May 21 to 26 and the second, from June 18 to 22. Candidates can write both and the best score of the two will be considered for the merit list. The cut-off generally ranges from 240-270 out of 360 for most BTech programmes. For the highly-sought-after computer science, admissions stop at 300 or an even higher score.
The reporter had shared her number as part of her role of tracking admissions across institutions during the season. From May 28 onwards – once the results of the national-level Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Main were out – agents started calling promising management quota seats in several top-ranking private institutions.
The promise on the BITSAT exam at first seemed like a prank as there’s no management quota, but when multiple ‘agents’ rang with similar offers, it was picked up for a follow-up. The reporter pretended to be a parent to a daughter who had registered to write BITSAT Phase 1 in Hyderabad.
She was first instructed to make her ‘daughter’ sit out the first exam. For the solvers’ gang to help her, this hypothetical candidate had to be at a centre the gang had links with. It is likely they didn’t have such a centre in Hyderabad and therefore, couldn’t ‘help’ in Phase 1.
Missing the first exam was to ensure the candidate doesn’t have a low score in it. Too wide a gap between the results of the two phases would be a red flag. “It will be suspicious if the child got 100 or less [in Phase 1] and scored above 300 in the second exam,” Ranjan Pandey said. He advised the candidate to apply in the second phase and inform him; he would then fix the centre and was confident about fetching a score of 300 by “doing things from the backend”.
Careers360 saw at least eight ‘agents’ promising BITs seats following roughly the same process. The rates varied. One offered to do it for Rs 20 lakh. The others for less. Except for the first one, all asked for a minimum payment of Rs 5-6 lakh in cash once the exam was over and if the child scored over 300 – in BITSAT, the score is visible immediately. The rest would be paid upon admission.
For the second exam, the instruction from three ‘agents’ was to pick Delhi NCR as the test location; and from one agent, it was to pick Bengaluru.
Careers360 submitted an application with these two locations as preferred test centres.
On centre allocation, BITS Pilani’s response said: “Centre allocation is done by a software based on preferences given by the Candidates. Our dedicated team closely monitors the center allocation of each session of the BITSAT examination and continuously analyses the test environment to detect any unusual or suspicious activities. Any attempts of manipulation during the exam are promptly identified and dealt with accordingly.”
The application for BITSAT 2023 Phase 2 was submitted on June 7. The ‘candidate’ had scored 80% in PCM in Class 12 and sought Delhi or Bengaluru as test centres. From June 9 to 12, BITSAT opened the registration window to allow editing of the application form. One agent, Ranjan Pandey, rued that the application wasn’t edited in time for a centre in NCR, implying the districts of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan that are part of the “National Capital Region” but not within Delhi.
One agent told the reporter that the cost for a BTech Computer Science seat at BITS Pilani was Rs 20 lakh. She or her representative was to bring Class 10 and Class 12 certificates and a post-dated cheque – “PDC cheque” – to the agent in Delhi and he would set up the rest. He said that he would charge only if the child got a score of 300 and above.
Delhi was the location about which agents were most confident.
The ability to manipulate the BITSAT result depends entirely on slot-booking, the ‘agents’ explained. Once the candidate picks the right location, the agents insist on doing the slot-booking themselves. This would allow them to pick the centres of their choice.
Once at the centre, all the candidate had to do was just login and sit for the three hours of the exam while the agent’s men – Pandey called them “mere aadmi” – helped from the “backend”. Payment was in two parts for all – the first lot after the exam was over and the scores were known, and the rest, once admission was completed.
Ranjan Pandey claimed that there was no risk involved and that he did this “in bulk” in the first session. Careers360 could not verify this claim. Upon being asked if there’s any risk of a police investigation and arrests, he said: “Why will the police catch anyone? It’s my own centre, my person will monitor. It’s not like the child will finish in 5 minutes. She will have to sit for the entire 3 hours of duration. I know nothing will happen. I did it in bulk in the first session and now am doing it again in the second session. Whoever is there, in and out, are my people. It’s not like you have to pay me now. You have to pay after the entire admission process is done.” Careers360 was not able to verify these claims or any others made by the solvers.
“It is virtually impossible to manipulate the BITSAT exam as claimed by these agents. Our robust security measures and emphasis on candidate awareness all contribute to maintaining the highest standards of conduct during the BITSAT exam. Hence bulk cheating at certain centers, as claimed by a few agents, is not possible by tampering with delivery mechanisms. Also, BITS Pilani has been deploying flying squads and sending dedicated observers and supervisors to physically monitor the conduct of BITSAT at each center for the entire duration of the exam. Hence, the claim by certain agents in the article about mass manipulations at certain centers is baseless and false,” said BITS Pilani in response to the claims of agents that they have helped students “in bulk”.
Update: This story has been updated to include detailed responses sent by BITS Pilani later. Their full rejoinder has been published separately as well.
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