Will Taking JEE, NEET Favour Luck Over Merit?

EDUCATION / Careers:

How will the HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar’s unforeseen announcement affect NEET and JEE aspirants? Will luck matter more than merit under the new system? An unanticipated turn of events has revealed that students can appear for National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) and Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Main twice a year. And that has given rise to contradictory opinions.

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Students are overjoyed at the prospect of getting two shots at this most crucial exam. However, as part of the structural reorganization, further changes have been made. These state-supervised examinations will no longer be conducted by Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) that was so far at the helm of the tests. Instead, power has been transferred to the newly formed National Testing Agency (NTA) which will organize the tests from now onwards. It is a golden opportunity for students who can appear twice for the same seat. The highest out of the two scores shall be considered for the purpose of admission. There has also been a handover of the responsibility of conducting UGC-NET. It will now be conducted by NTA instead of CBSE, which was in charge of it till now.

Another major statement about the exams is that they will henceforth be conducted online and that will be the only medium of the examinations. The online system seems like a boon to several aspirants who believe that it will help them save precious time. In case of OMR sheets, correct answer had to be chosen at one go; there was no opportunity to change an already selected answer. However, now students will have the much needed opportunity to change their responses. The twice a year system is going to be an excellent opportunity for weaker students especially. They can look at the first attempt as a pre-examination that will help them prepare for the final.

Despite these positives, a cloud of anxiety has appeared on the brows of aspirants and their parents because of some other structural transformations. NTA will conduct examinations in batches of four, which means that there will be eight sets of question papers for the same seat. This will inevitably result in inequity and unfairness because it is not possible for all the papers to be equivalent in difficulty level. Students fear that the new changes will result in the tests becoming based on luck instead of merit. Alongside, they complain that there have been no changes in the format of the question papers, which remain objective. Objective questions are apt for the tests, but it is feared that this will lead to discrimination towards students under the new system.

NEET will be conducted twice a year first in February and next in May. It will be conducted online in eight different sittings –the first phase will be from February 03, 2019 to February 17, 2019 and the second phase will be from May 12, 2019 to May 26, 2019. Students have the freedom to be a participant in any of the two phases or both the phases. Irrespective of the number of times you appear for the test, the final result for admission will be single and the admission process will take place only once. The highest score among the two attempts will be considered as the final outcome. The result will be published on percentile, based on normalisation process. The HRD minister has stated that the syllabus and question pattern of exam will undergo no changes. Similarly, JEE MAIN will be conducted twice in a year - first in January and next in April. However, JEE Advanced will be conducted only once through IIT, not through NTA.

It is true that in spite of the feared discrimination, the new system allows students to have multiple attempts. It ensures that the result does not get affected by adverse conditions on the day of exam due to the availability of second opportunity. It will relieve students of the pressure and anxiety in the period of April- May, which is anyway a stressful period because of various board exams. Also, it will ensure that students do not lose out on an entire year in case they fail to qualify in the exam. It will avoid year loss of repeaters. They will no longer have to wait a year to improve their marks. The chances to score better and bag a seat in a better institution have become doubled. To allay fears, the HRD ministry has assured that the exams will be secure and at par with international standards. There will be no leakage; it will be student-friendly and scientific.

However, this means that some students have to appear for two entrances for engineering (JEE Main) and two entrances for Medical (NEET), which adds up to four tests in a year. This might to immense pressure building up on students, along with the regular board exams. It might just happen that the stressful period becomes extended over a longer time than was usual earlier. Also, rural students might be at a disadvantage because of the online tests. The government has assured that students who do not have personal computers or laptops may practice at authorized centres from coming August. The HRD ministry assures that the online system will prevent any form of tampering, and ensure that merit receives its value.