“The newly formed National Testing Agency (NTA) will be holding entrance examinations not in ‘online’ mode, but, only in ‘computer-based’ mode,” said Union Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar in Lok Sabha on July 30 in response to a supplementary question during Question Hour. The computer-based mode will allow students to answer questions offline on an already-downloaded file at designated examination centres and all that the students need to operate is the computer mouse.
Javadekar further stated that the government is also mulling over introducing a system that will enable students to appear for the test using paper answer sheets in the transitional first year.
It was in November last year that the Union Cabinet approved the formation of NTA to conduct entrance examinations for higher educational institutions. NTA is the sole authorized specialist body to conduct competitive examinations like JEE Main, NEET, CMAT, UGC NET and GPAT. NTA will serve more than 40 lakh students who appear for various national-level examinations every year.
Javadekar said that the NTA had opted for the computer-based format in view of the poor internet connectivity in some areas. Students will be given a mock test to prepare for this new format. They will also be able to download practice sessions. Each exam will remain open for four to five days and candidates can opt for a convenient slot within the announced period.
The NTA aims to be “transparent, leak-proof, student-friendly, open and scientific”. Earlier, national-level entrance examinations like NEET (for medicine) and JEE Main (for engineering) were conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), while tests like Common Management Admission Test (CMAT) and Graduate Pharmacy Aptitude Test (GPAT) were conducted by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). Former CBSE chairperson and secretary Vineet Joshi is the director-general of NTA.
AIADMK MP and Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M. Thambidurai opposed this centralized arrangement of conducting medical and engineering entrance exams arguing that it would only serve children of the elite. He demanded that state governments be allowed to hold these exams. MPs of various opposition parties thumped the tables in support.
According to the schedule released by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, NEET will be held in February and May 2019, and JEE-Main will be held in January and April 2019. The first exam that NTA has been tasked with conducting is the UGC NET (University Grants Commission’s National Eligibility Test) in December this year.
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