LEAKED FUTURES: “The way exam was conducted this year is fishy,” says UGC-NET aspirant suspecting foul play by NTA

As a series of potential exam paper leaks and mishaps rock the country, aspirants of the NEET-UG, NEET-PG and UGC-NET share their anxieties about their futures
Leaked Futures: "Something wrong with UGC-NET from start this year," says aspirant
Four arrests have been made by CBI in the caseBanner: EdexLive with Canva

The Ministry of Education’s announcement that the University Grants Commission-National Entrance Test, 2024 (June session) would be cancelled caused worry and confusion among candidates for the exam. 

According to The New Indian Express, 11,21,225 aspirants registered for UGC-NET 2024, and about 81 per cent of them (over 9 lakh aspirants) appeared for the exam at the 1,205 centres across 317 cities on June 18. To these aspirants, the announcement from the ministry – a mere 24 hours later, at that – feels like a rug was pulled from below their feet. 

The UGC-NET is a standardised exam whose scores are used to select candidates for the Junior Research Fellowship and  Assistant Professor positions. This year, the UGC announced that the scores will also be used as an eligibility criterion for PhD admissions. However, the exam currently stands rescheduled due to indications of a possible compromise in the examination. 

The Central Bureau of Investigation took over the matter, and arrested four persons in Bihar in connection to the breach yesterday, June 24.  

Be it NEET-UG or UGC-NET, such unfortunate developments reflect the failure of the NTA to contain discrepancies and prevent security lapses. 

While critics, the opposition, and the general public have raised concerns about these developments, EdexLive has taken the initiative to connect with affected aspirants and students to gather their testimonials regarding the recent disruptions. 

Beyond the criminal aspects that hampered the exam, aspirants who appeared for the exam seemed jaded and disillusioned by it. Many even expressed doubts about the ability of the National Testing Agency to conduct the exam at all. 

One such aspirant is Manish Chandra from Hyderabad. 

Manish, a photographer and filmmaker, wanted to clear the UGC-NET to get appointed as a lecturer. “To me, teaching is like storytelling,” he says. While he has already cleared the Telangana State Eligibility Test, he wanted to also obtain the UGC-NET qualification, as it offers a better edge in recruitment. 

Having completed his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Hyderabad in 2022, Manish worked a corporate job for a year – and eventually quit, as he was not enjoying the job. 

He realised that he could be suited to teaching – and more importantly, teaching could suit his temperament. “With working hours from 8 AM to 3 PM, I could have the entire evening free. This would allow me to focus on activities that I actually enjoy, and have a good work-life balance,” he explains.

“Enjoyed writing the exam”

Since then, he attempted the UGC-NET in both the June and December sessions of 2023, but could not clear either of them. In fact, he missed the qualifying score by 2 marks in the June session. 

When he learned that UGC-NET was going to be OMR-based this year, he felt a renewed sense of excitement about the exam. In fact, he was looking forward to it. 

“I was never a fan of the CBT format, as I find it more time-consuming. Subjects like Math, especially, are more challenging as I have to copy the question onto the rough sheets from the screen,” he explains. 

Because of this excitement, Manish even overlooked many inconveniences he faced during the exam at the examination centre, which happened to be the University of Hyderabad. 

“I registered for the afternoon session and was made to wait outside the campus till 1 pm. The weather forecast predicted rain that day, but it was unbearably sunny. As we were let in, the candidates who appeared for the morning session were moving out, and it was so crowded,” he said. 

He further describes the examination hall as not having effective fans or water for the students. “I passed through classrooms in HCU that had air conditioning, but our exam hall didn’t. But I took these in my stride, and focused on the exam,” he said. 

True enough, he found the examination to be less challenging than his last two attempts. In fact, he describes the experience as “being fun“. “I used the whole question paper booklet for rough work, and was able to focus on answering the questions,” he says. 

Despite not preparing too hard this time, Manish was able to breeze through the exam due to his familiarity with the questions from his previous two attempts, as well as his SET preparation. 

After the exam finished, he was confident that he would clear it this time and went home without thinking too much about it. He would also tell his friends, some of whom also appeared for the exam, that he actually enjoyed the exam and that he would clear it.

Disappointment strikes – and so does doubt

However, this sense of enjoyment would soon dissipate with the announcement of the exam’s cancellation. 

“When I saw the news, I was shocked. I immediately texted my friends who appeared for the exam, who were all in the same state of mind,” Manish says. 

As they got talking, he continued, one person pointed to the fact that the exam invigilators did not collect their admit cards. 

“It was mentioned in the exam rules that the candidates must also submit their admit cards along with their OMR sheet. Not doing so would not only disqualify the candidate but is also considered a criminal offence,” he elaborates.

This, coupled with the sudden cancellation of the exam, led him to believe that the NTA knew that the exam was compromised from the start – and it went on to conduct it despite this knowledge. 

“It took over a month for the NTA to realise that there were discrepancies in NEET-UG. How could it realise that UGC-NET had been compromised within one working day? It takes time for a case to be registered and noticed by the NTA, be reviewed, and the decision to scrap the exam be taken,” he explains, and questions how the NTA could have known that the exam’s integrity was compromised within 24 hours of the exam’s conclusion. 

He also doesn’t buy the CBI’s arrests in Bihar over the matter. “I mean, the NEET-UG paper leak culprit was also from Bihar apparently. It all seems convenient that those detained in this case were also from the state,” he alleges. 

What next?

Despite not being able to clear UGC-NET like he was hoping to, Manish still wants to try to find a job as a lecturer using his SET qualification. 

“I can still attend walk-in interviews at colleges; they have vacancies pretty often,” he says. However, he adds that this breach in the exam has left him feeling pretty disappointed

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