A NEET mess: On the conduct of the medical entrance test

More efforts to prevent egregious violations are needed?

Updated - June 10, 2024 12:15 am IST

Published - June 10, 2024 12:10 am IST

In the little over a decade that NEET has been implemented in India, it has gathered as much notoriety as a static stone accumulates moss. In the latest round, the National Testing Agency, which conducts NEET, has been forced to appoint a four-member committee to go into the charges and allegations made about the conduct of the eligibility and entrance test for medicine for 2024. About 1,500 students from six centres complained that they were not given the full time for completing the exam, because of various reasons: distribution of the wrong question paper, torn OMR sheets, technical glitches, and delay in distribution of the OMR sheets. The court allowed granting grace marks to those who were affected. After publication of results, it was noted that some students scored 718/719 out of 720, impossible with the existing evaluation pattern. It was also charged that an unusually high number of students scored full marks. The NTA later clarified that the odd marks were a result of granting grace marks as mandated by the court, and that in general it was an easy paper, so many students had scored full marks. But that was not all; there were reports of the NEET UG question paper being leaked before the exam. Inaccuracies were reportedly found in the NTA NEET UG official answer keys, and there were charges of inconsistent evaluation of the UG papers. Political parties have called for a thorough, competent third-party probe into the charges, and groups of students have also demanded a retest. Every year, there are charges of poorly managed exam centres, and absurd high-handedness over what the candidates are allowed to wear. Cheating scams where candidates have sent in proxies to write the exam in their stead, have been exposed.

Arguably one of the biggest entrance examinations conducted annually, with nearly 23 lakh students taking the test, it is no surprise that NEET has had a chequered past. Experts argue that with an exam of this scale, it is impossible to be completely error-free. But, year after year, news of egregious violations during the exams hits headlines. The NTA must, with the assistance of States, ensure that technical glitches and cheating scams, including premature release of question papers, and using proxies, do not recur. If this can be done by exercising greater rigour, and with a longer, more meticulous preparation routine, then no efforts should be spared to do so. Additionally, it should pay attention to demands that all NEET admissions come under single window counselling only; and a re-evaluation of the zero-percentile benchmark for PG admissions, besides strict regulation of fees in private medical colleges.

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