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The CBSE has notified the entrance examination to be conducted across 80 cities on May 7 for admission to medical and dental colleges across the country. This is the first time that the examination will cover all MBBS/BDS seats.
The common entrance exam, initially held in 2013, was touted as the answer to end multiple entrance exams and complaints of corruption in admissions to medical colleges.
The exam, however, has been run into trouble from the beginning. The Supreme Court declared NEET illegal on a bunch of petitions against the exam in 2013 but restored the exam in 2016. But facing opposition from the states, the Centre gave state-run institutions a one-time exemption from the test in 2016.
A centralised exam keeps the state government out of the admission process. Also, the state reservation rules will not apply. That means, for instance, that reserved category candidates in Tamil Nadu would not benefit from the state's 69% reservation rule. The Centre allows only 49.5% quotas.
Much of the opposition from students to NEET 2017 is linked to a new rule that stipulates that they will get only three attempts. CBSE has already invoked this provision to prevent many aspirants from applying online.
Students insist that this provision sprung on candidates was unfair and the aspirants should be allowed to appear for the exam till the maximum eligible age, 25 years. Those from reserved category get a five-year relaxation.
Apart from English and Hindi, the examination will be conducted in eight vernacular languages; Gujarati, Marathi, Telugu, Oriya, Bengali, Assamese, Tamil & Kannada.
This is also the first time that CBSE will issue question papers in vernacular languages. It was aimed at addressing criticism that a centralised exam would be unfair to students whose medium of instruction was a regional language. But it led to demands for inclusion of other languages including Urdu and Malayalam. Besides students can opt a question paper in a regional language only if he, or she, appears for the test in designated centres. For instance, a candidate opting for Bengali will have to take the exam in West Bengal.
CBSE expects over 10 lakh candidates to appear for the examination. Over 8 lakh students had registered for the exam last year when it was held in two stages. This year, there will be a single exam.
In its admission notice, the CBSE mandated that all candidates apply for the exam online. They will need to have an Aadhaar Number to fill up the online application. Only candidates of Jammu & Kashmir, Assam and Meghalaya have been exempted from the Aadhaar rule.