New Delhi: In recent years, the difficulty of getting into a good college, particularly in Delhi University, has triggered an annual debate on whether it was getting too crowded at the top, with more and more Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) students scoring the kind of marks that were once unthinkable.

In the 2017 12th class board examinations, the results of which were declared on Sunday, some 10,100 students from across India scored 95% or above—more than double the 5,006 students who did so in 2013.

There has been a steady rise in the number of top performers in the CBSE board examinations since then, with the number touching 14,000 in 2016. Compared to that, this year’s result shows the top is less crowded.

“That’s the case; for the first time in several years, the number of top performers is a bit down – it’s both in the case of those scoring above 90% and 95%," said a human resource development (HRD) ministry official on condition of anonymity.

He wondered if the marks moderation policy CBSE adopted after a court order was responsible for the number of top performers declining this year.

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According to CBSE data, this year 63,200 have scored an average of more than 90% marks, down from almost 90,000 the previous year.

“The tide must ebb. If you look at school boards, invariably CBSE and a few state boards are liberal in their markings, leading to an unfair advantage to these students. It leads to tough competition at colleges – whether in Delhi or elsewhere," said Prasanna Pradhan, a school teacher in Odisha.

Pradhan said the pressure had increased so much that even the Odisha school board had adopted a CBSE-style examination two years back, with objective-type answers scoring over the subjective ones.

Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur professor Dhiraj Sanghi has written that CBSE has been “increasing marks" obtained by students for the last several years.

“Officially the claim was that ‘moderation’ was to ensure that students don’t suffer because of an ambiguous or poorly designed question, an unusually tough paper, etc., and also the marks distribution across the years should be comparable. In reality, there is no evidence that CBSE has ever produced that the increase in marks were related to any of these," he wrote in a blog post.

CBSE said in a statement that the board had followed the moderation policy it had been directed to do by the courts. Minister of human resource development Prakash Javadekar told news agency PTI on Sunday that the ministry would not intervene in the moderation muddle.

The HRD official cited above said the CBSE board exams had been gamed by the reference and sample paper preparing organizations, including publishers and coaching institutions.

“Unless, the predictability of the exam changes, the huge number of marks scored by a lot of students may not dwindle significantly further," he said, noting that some students had started scoring 100 out of 100 in many subjects, including in English.