National Testing Agency – In Sync with the Times
The new body for conducting nation-wide entrances promises some fundamental changes. If it delivers, the tests can become smoother, more efficient and more accurate
What is the toughest thing about entrance exams in India? The obvious answers would be the volume of topics to be covered, the tricky questions, the limited time and other issues pertaining mostly to academics. A rather less discussed issue is the paper and pen method, wherein you need to darken the circle around an option, to mark your answer. This is not only time-consuming and boring, it also seems unnecessary and purposeless. (Especially in a digital era.)
Those who have appeared for NEET or JEE or NET must have faced this issue. In fact, there are several such issues that come to mind when we discuss these exams. Many times, the results take very long; sometimes even the forms of the next exam are out but the results of the previous one are not. Then there are technical issues like the answer key not uploaded in quick time, there is not enough time to challenge it and the constant fear that the answers you marked might not be read by the machine.
The simplest solution to all these questions is the resourceful use of technology. Like CAT or GRE, the exams can be conducted online and the results can be produced in quick time. Considering the volume of students, they can be spread out in a span of several days. Considering the lack of infrastructure, various local institutes can be brought on-board. All these considerations are now part of the agenda of the National Testing Agency (NTA), constituted by the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry of India.
What is NTA?
NTA is a premier and autonomous body established by the HRD ministry to conduct important, nation-wide entrance and eligibility exams. These include:
The test is conducted for pan-India admissions to MBBS and BDS courses. NTA will be conducting its first NEET on May 5, 2019. This test, however, will be in the conducted in the pen and paper format, only once a year.
Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) Main
The test is conducted for admissions to B.E., B.Tech., B. Arch. and B. Planning Courses in the IITs, the NITs and the SFTIs. NTA will be conducting these tests from 2019. JEE-Advanced will not be conducted by the NTA.
UGC National Eligibility Test (NET)
The eligibility test is conducted for the positions of Assistant Professor (in all various subjects) and for awarding the Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) in these subjects. NTA has started conducting this test from July 2018. Another NET will be conducted in December 2018.
Central Management Aptitude Test (CMAT)
The entrance exam is for admissions to post-graduate management programmes into institutes approved by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). NTA will be conducting this test from January 2019.
Graduate Pharmacy Aptitude Test (GPAT)
GPAT is conducted for admissions to M.Pharm. programmes across India in AICTE-approved institutions. NTA will be conducting these exams from 2019.
All these exams were previously conducted by either the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) or AICTE. NTA has taken up the initiative to conduct these in an “efficient, transparent” way and with “international standards”. Two of NTA’s important policies are to digitise the tests and to give more than one chance to students within a year.
What will be new?
NTA will definitely reduce the burden on CBSE which also conducts the Board Exams of Standard 10 and 12. More importantly, it will bring in certain fundamental changes in the way the exams are conducted:
JEE-Main will now be conducted twice a year. The former will be conducted in January and May and the latter will be conducted in February and May. The same candidate can appear both the times. The highest of the two scores will be considered for the admissions.
NEET, NET, CMAT and GPAT will be conducted once a year.
The exams will mostly be conducted online. Computer labs of various local institutes will be used to conduct the exams. The format, as before, will be the one of Multiple Choice Questions.
The exams will be conducted over the course of several days. The candidate will be able to select a date of his/her choice and appear for the exam on the assigned date. This will reduce the burden on computer labs and institutes where the tests will be conducted.
NTA thus intends to remove the pen and paper format out of the equation. It also seems to be a much more convenient and sorted approach.
What are the advantages?
It is obvious that the point at which we began the article – the redundancy of the pen and paper format, will be addressed in this new format. Other important factors like digitisation, and collaboration with local institutes also come into the picture. All this, cumulatively, indicates towards several significant advantages:
First and foremost, the assessment becomes simpler, more transparent and most importantly, faster! The results can be expected much quicker with the digital format and the assessment is bound to have lesser errors and discrepancies.
Budding medical and engineering students get two opportunities with 2 NEETs and JEEs in a year. This helps them deal with the exam in a better manner. One can better one’s score with an additional chance.
The greatest surprise is the availability of practice modules. NTA website will have these modules and students can use them to get an idea of both – the format and the scope of their respective exams.
And finally, we have a central body where all the concerns regarding the important entrance exams will be addressed. The process becomes much smoother, focused and centralised with an organisation dedicated to conducting these exams.
So while preparations for entrance exams is still a challenge, it is a meaningful one. If NTA delivers what it promises to, you can focus just on the academic aspects and let the organisation take care of the logistics.
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