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PRC: No retake of nursing exams

PRC: No retake of nursing exams
Adjusted grades add 499 to list of passers

By Michael Lim Ubac, Christine Avendaño
Last updated 01:03am (Mla time) 08/31/2006

Published on Page A1 of the August 31, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE PROFESSIONAL Regulation Commission has come up with a formula that it believes will put to rest the cheating controversy surrounding the June nursing board exams -- maintaining that “passers” will not retake the exams, and nullifying 90 of the 100 questions under Test V.

The formula would even increase the number of passers by 499, PRC Chair Leonor Tripon Rosero yesterday told the House committees on civil service and good government.

Rosero said the formula was a “fair and impartial way” of putting closure to the controversy.

“Oh yes, it’s fair to all. So we released the (recomputed) results of the board exam. That’s already fair to everyone even to those who failed,” Rosero told reporters shortly after the hearing.

In another controversial move, the PRC gave a 2-percent bonus to those who got 73 percent, raising their scores to 75 percent. The bonus is aimed at providing those who might be hurt by the downgrading of Test V (psychiatric nursing) with a “cushion.”

To pass the nursing board exams, examinees should correctly answer at least 75 percent of 500 test questions equally distributed among five subject matters.

Test V was one of the two tests whose questions were leaked by two review centers to their students days before the nursing board exams were administered on June 11-12. The other was Test III (medical-surgical nursing).

The leakage led the Court of Appeals to order the PRC to put on hold the oath-taking of those who passed the tainted exams. Hundreds were able to take their oath before the CA issued the restraining order to the PRC. But a group of nurses and students wants the court to nullify the oath-taking.

Because of the controversy, a number of hospitals are reluctant to hire the June passers.


The new PRC formula did not mollify those calling for a retake of the nursing board exams to restore public confidence in new nursing graduates.

Dante Ang, who heads an inter-agency task force looking into the leakage, said the recomputation violated Republic Act No. 9173, or the Nursing Act of 2002.

He said even Test III was recomputed.

“The law says that your passing average should be 75 percent, provided you don’t get a grade below 60 percent in any subject. When the Board of Nursing recomputed Test III corresponding to the questions from one percent to 1.25 percent, the effect of that would be to get the 60 percent minimum passing average for Test III,” Ang said at the hearing.

Thus, examinees only have to answer 48 correct questions.

“By revising, or by recomputing Test III, and by assigning 1.25 percent to every questions left, in effect, you’re passing average was reduced from 60 to 48 questions. This is not acceptable if you follow the original intention and the spirit of the law ... and therefore putting in doubt the competence of the examinees,” he said.

Here’s how the PRC formula works:

The PRC nullifies 90 of the 100 questions under Test V and incorporates the scores of examinees in the remaining 10 questions into the final score, which is computed by combining the average of Tests I-IV and Tests I-V.

The result: The number of passers went up from 17,322 to 17,821, or from 41.24 to 42.42 percent passing rate. A total of 42,006 nursing graduates took the exams on June 11 to 12 in 11 test centers across the country.

Bar exams precedent

PRC Commissioner Avelina de la Rea explained to the joint committee that reducing the weight of Test V “actually resulted in 78 percent of questions being graded.”

De la Rea said the PRC move was not without precedent.

In 2002, she said the Supreme Court invalidated one subject, commercial law, in the bar exams because of a leakage, and distributed the weight to the other seven subjects.

“So, one of the eight subjects was removed. What we did is not an unusual response from testing institutions that cannot find all the actual beneficiaries of the leakage. We can find some of the beneficiaries but not all,” De la Rea said.

Some of the examinees might have been “hurt” because Test V was downgraded, but it “would only be true for those who have only high grades in Test V,” she said.

De la Rea said those who passed Tests I-IV, even with a low grade, would not really be disadvantaged.

Advantage of leakage removed

She said the PRC did the recomputation “blindly” because the names in the examination papers had not been determined until after all the subjects had been corrected and graded.

“We don’t know who they are. But we know that people like the witness this morning (George Cordero, owner of a review center), (since) the advantage of the leakage was removed, did not pass,” she said.

The chair of the civil service committee, Pampanga Rep. Francis Nepomuceno, said the joint committee could not yet comment on the PRC decision because it was still on its preliminary hearing.

Nepomuceno said the Court of Appeals could eventually settle the controversy. “We want to finish this investigation as soon as possible but there’s a pending injunction from the court,” he said.

Malacañang favors the retake of the nursing board exams but only for those passers found to have benefited from the leakage.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said it was the position of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that those who passed should not retake (the exams), except those who took advantage of the leakage.

NBI probe

Ermita said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) was set to submit to him today the results of its investigation, which included those to be criminally charged and the identification of the testing places where the leakage happened.

Asked who will make the final decision to give a retake of the exams, the executive secretary said the Palace “will give it to the PRC.”

Responding to the challenge of Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla for the PRC board to resign en masse, Rosero said: “We will wait until the investigation is finished. Until found guilty and unqualified, we won’t resign.”

Remulla said resignation was the best option to give way to an “impartial and fair investigation” by the NBI and Congress which are separately conducting a probe.

“No one is invincible. This will haunt them forever,” he said.


In Baguio City, the examinees, who exposed the cheating, said many of them were on the brink of giving up the fight after the PRC rejected the proposal for the examinees to retake the exams.

On Aug. 24, the whistle-blowers and the nursing school deans sympathetic to their cause issued a manifesto saying they were supporting a reexamination.

“Painful as it may be, retaking the spoiled portions [of the examinations, Tests III and V] is the less unjust course to adopt. This gives the examinees the opportunity to shake off the stigma caused by the leakage, assures them that employers will not turn them away because of the conviction that they are incompetent, and regains the integrity of the nursing profession,” the manifesto read.


But Lilian Yangot, one of the complainants, said they were frustrated about the way things were going.

Yangot was the complainant who first obtained a copy of the 18-page test leakage that was circulated by clients of a review center during the examinations in Baguio.

She said the group decided to stay away from the retake debate because they all felt that taking another examination would be tiresome.

“Mahirap mag-retake (It’s hard to take a new examination). Had they told us we could retake the test earlier, we would have bitten the bullet,” she said.

“But if they ask us to do so today, we would beg off for a December test instead so we can prepare all over again. Now that PRC is again saying no to a retake, we will just go with the flow unless the government shows that it means to convict the people who leaked the test.”

The complainants had asked the PRC to hold the test results and to suspend members of the Board of Nursing. The PRC did not heed their request.

“We want to move on, but by releasing the test results, the PRC managed to shift the debate from the culprits who should be convicted to a debate between people who passed and failed,” said Yangot.

“This is unfair because we are all victims,” she added. With a report from Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon


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