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CLAT needs to be reformed and marketed, argues expert, as botched NLU Delhi entrance test grows

Rajneesh Singh, CLAT chaser
Rajneesh Singh, CLAT chaser
The NLU Delhi 2012 law entrance question paper of 6 May made fundamental errors, similar to previous Common Law Admission Tests (CLAT), argues CLAT guru Rajneesh Singh, noting that the CLAT administration and philosophy needs to be desperately overhauled.

The NLU Delhi entrance test had fundamental flaws that resulted in furious students and parents, he said. A total of 80 marks – 35 each in English and logical reasoning, with 10 in maths - were of a very easy level and would not assist in selecting the best students. The other questions, particularly in general knowledge (GK) that straddled biology and science were obscure and biased towards those who could rote learn, explains Singh.

He estimated that roughly 12,000 students tried out for the NLU Delhi exam, which would be an increase of more than 50 per cent on last year’s figures of 7,814 for less than 80 places.

The 2012 CLAT on 13 May might be taken by around 26,000 to 28,000 future lawyers, predicted Singh, although official figures were not yet released.

However, Singh heavily criticised the conduct of the CLAT to date. Those setting papers should focus on a specific list of parameters to be tested, he said, and CLAT marketing efforts should be bolstered to bring highly talented individuals to the legal profession. The conduct of the exam should also be systematised.

“I have been closely watching all important law school entrance tests since 2004. Each year from 2008 we saw some brilliant innovations. The credit goes to all the people involved particularly when no one in the team has had experience of conducting a big exam,” says Singh who runs online CLAT preparation guide Clathacker.

“CLAT 2008 and 2011 were quite similar, but the 2009 and 2010 papers which were similar to each other, were quite different to 2008 and 2011,” he adds. “These two types were at two extremes and I feel a balance between the two types is required.”

To attain such balance, Singh says there should be a fresh look taken at the strength of each part of the five-section exam, and marks should be reallocated to each section based on such reassessment.

At the outset, he holds that a candidate must be tested against 10 basic parameters to assess if he or she is potentially a “good lawyer”.

The ten commandments

Singh believes that logical aptitude, which is the ability to make reasonable arguments and assumptions based on available information, should lead the list of ten. This should be followed by analytical skill, to demonstrate being able to deal with large volumes of data, and proficiently reading, writing, speaking and comprehending the English language.

Additionally, the ability to conduct fast and accurate research, acute general awareness to deal with socio-economic and political problems, problem solving aptitude, creativity, interpersonal skills, the perseverance to do “intelligent hard work” over long periods, and finally good writing and communication skills should also be present.

Singh suggests a detailed question paper pattern and division of marks, which he avers is equipped to filter out all but the best candidates taking the exam.

Testing times

Singh says that percentages should be allotted to each of the 10 skills to be tested in order of importance.

The leading parameter – logical ability, assigned 15 per cent, can be tested through logical and legal reasoning type questions which will also be instrumental in testing research aptitude and problem solving ability, that are both assigned 9 per cent. Additionally, reading comprehension and general knowledge questions should also be used to test research aptitude, while a personal interview will gauge problem solving ability.

He assigns 4 per cent to interpersonal skills and team work, for which he creates the fresh testing prong of “group discussion”.


Parameters to be tested

Contribution out of 100

Can be tested by…


Logical Skill


Logical and Legal Reasoning


Fast Reading & Accurate Comprehending


Reading Comprehension, Vocabulary & Grammar


Analytical Skills


Analytical Reasoning and Mathematics


Writing / Communication


Essay, Short Notes,  Vocabulary & Grammar


Ability to do intelligent hard work for a long period & Perseverance


GK, Vocabulary


Research Aptitude


Logical  Reasoning, RC and GK




Logical & Legal Reasoning and Personal Interview


Creativity / Out of box thinking


Analytical Reasoning and Personal Interview


General Awareness


Current Affairs (Time zone announced)


Interpersonal Skills / Team Work


Group Discussion

Paper structure

The CLAT question paper typically consists of five sections which are English, mathematics, general awareness, reasoning skills and legal aptitude. Each of these sections carries varying marks each year, adding up to an aggregate of 200 marks.

However, Singh believes that the section on reasoning skills should lead with 60 questions carrying one mark each, followed by English with 50 one-mark questions. The general awareness section should amount to 45 marks from 60 questions, the legal aptitude section should be worth 30 marks from 15 questions, and finally the last 15 marks can be earned from 15 math questions.



No of Questions

Marking Pattern

Total Marks




1 mark for each question





1 mark for each question



General  Awareness


3/4 mark for each question



Reasoning Skills


1 mark for each question



Legal Aptitude


2 marks for each question







Further, he suggests the following drafting criteria and exact number of questions for each of the question types comprising a section.

For the section testing English, he says, small, meaningful passages written in simple language, analogies and paragraph jumbles are desirable.

Math should be limited to tricky and quickly-solvable questions on basic arithmetic involving percentages, averages, ratios, work and speed not requiring heavy calculations.

The general awareness (GK) section should include static GK as well as current affairs, some of which should test deep knowledge of, say, the top 20 events of the past year. Judgment writing based on an event can be asked.

The general awareness multi-choice questions should carry answer options that filter the genuinely knowledgeable candidates from the ones making wild guesses.

The sections on reasoning skills and legal aptitude should carry freshly generated problems, instead of ones borrowed from previous papers.

The reasoning section should not be based on a defined syllabus, and the questions shouldn’t be lengthy.

Success in the legal aptitude section should not be based on prior knowledge of law, says Singh, which can be ensured by basing some of the questions on new principles, while the others use known principles with slight changes that play a decisive role in answering.

Smoothening the edges

Singh suggests certain measures that he claims can ensure the efficient conduct of the exam each year. These include an independent conducting agency, a centralised counseling system, analysis of past CLAT performances and papers, a reasonable length of the question paper, variable marking, a fixed question paper pattern henceforth, negative marking, and reservation for poor students.

On the current decentralised counseling system, Singh remarks: “The present system is cumbersome and full of hassles. Even after the third lists, many NLUs have to bring out 3 to 4 lists again. There is too much information to chase and the medium is very scarce.”

He maintains that announcing rank-wise counseling slots after declaration of results will help wind up the process of filling all seats of the 14 NLUs within 4 to 5 days. The precondition of depositing an advance of Rs 1.25 lakh for confirming a selected candidate’s seat would easily filter out the candidates who are not interested.

Variable marking systems with decimated marks will help reduce the number of students sitting on a single score, while negative marking would come in handy to increase the stringency of an increasingly popular exam.

Singh might argue for measures to keep pace with the popularity of the exam, but in his estimate, there is scope to increase the popularity further, and he defends a case for active marketing of national law schools and the promotion of CLAT.

Not gimmicking

“Hiring an agency for the promotion of CLAT may sound dirty, wrong and not required, to many,” apprehends Singh, while summoning in defence the opinion of XLRI business school faculty Dr Mohan Lal Aggarwal, who argued in favour of better marketing of XLRI for a top global rank.

“Why were national law schools were formed? It was to improve the legal education in India and consequently improve the quality of human resource in the legal systems. How will this happen without an increase in the awareness level about law as a career which is such a fascinating career,” asks Singh.

“The growth in the number of CLAT applicants has majorly happened due to school seminars. Sachin Malhan is the person whose contribution has been amazing in this regard. Many NLU graduates who have passed in the last 5-6 years were inspired by Sachin in school seminars,” he adds.

Additionally Singh addresses concerns in respect of the funds required to undertake such rigorous promotion. In his view, promotion would pay for itself through the expectedly increased revenue of up to Rs 10 crore, which the sale of CLAT forms at the rate of Rs 2,000 per form to a possible aggregate of 50,000 test takers will bring.

Thirty per cent of the revenue amount will be sufficient to promote the CLAT, and law itself as a career.

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