NEET And COVID-19: How NTA Conducted Medical Entrance Exam Last Year
NEET: Over 15 lakh students had registered to write the NEET examination last year, which was postponed twice from the initial May date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unlike the engineering entrance test—Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET-UG) is a pen and paper exam held once a year for those seeking admission to undergraduate medical and dental courses. Over 15 lakh students had registered to write the NEET examination last year, which was postponed twice from the initial May date due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The exam was originally scheduled for May 3, was postponed to July 26, and then to September 13.
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NTA had conducted a re-exam on October 14 for those who were unable to take NEET on September 13. The Supreme Court of India on October 12 upheld the NTA's decision to conduct the test of NEET 2020 again on October 14 for the students who could not appear in the eligibility test due to COVID-19 infection or because of residing in containment zones in September.
While the National Testing Agency (NTA) had set in place strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) in view of the pandemic. The NTA had also increased the number of centres from 2,546 in 2019 to 3,862 in 2020 to ensure crowd management and staggered entry and exit protocols. It had also reduced the number of candidates per room from 24 to 12.
NTA had also changed exam centres for a few candidates in the final week in view of social distancing norms and COVID restrictions. The centres which had more than 900 candidates were distributed into two centres. The city of the exam centre stayed the same, however.
NEET began at 2 pm, but entry to exam centres started at 11 am. Students were allotted different slots for staggered movement to ensure social distancing.
Adhering to the guidelines issued by the Centre, NTA has made hand sanitisers available at the entrance of the examination centre and inside the exam hall at all times. It had also replaced the process of checking the admit cards of candidates with barcode readers. The Agency had also made alternate seating arrangements.
While all the candidates were asked to go to the exam centres with masks and sanitisers, once they entered the centre, they were asked to use the three-ply masks provided by the examination authority.
The candidates were instructed to wear the same during the examination in order to avoid any form of unfair means at the time of examination.
NEET was held in 11 languages - English, Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Odia, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.
NEET: Travel Arrangements
Free accommodation and transportation were announced by various state governments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In many places, NTA had also arranged buses and private vehicles to transfer candidates who arrived at the centres assigned to them earlier instead of the changed one.
The governments of Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh had made travel arrangements for students to ensure that they reach safely and on time at the examination centre. The Metro Railway in Kolkata ran special services for NEET candidates on September 13 to help them reach their examination centres.
A group of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) alumni and students had also launched a portal to give transport facilities to exam centres for those in need.
Intervention Of Supreme Court
Students had demanded postponing the NEET exam amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Supreme Court had dismissed a plea seeking postponement of the exam, saying a ‘precious year’ of students cannot be wasted and life has to go on.
Several opposition leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Naveen Patnaik, DMK president MK Stalin and Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had also demanded that NEET be postponed.
Later, after the demand for postponement grew as the examination date neared, a petition was filed in the apex court to review its order of conducting JEE and NEET UG 2020 during the novel coronavirus crises. However, the plea was dismissed by the Supreme Court.