NEET-UG expert debunks NTA's clarification on exam irregularities, grace marks issue, high cut-offs

Kapil Gupta, an educator and CEO of NEETPrep coaching institute based in New Delhi, elaborates on some of the common questions surrounding the medical entrance examination
As many as 2,100 aspirants scored 700+ out of 720 this year
As many as 2,100 aspirants scored 700+ out of 720 this year(Image: EdexLive Desk)

Even a student who has got the perfect score, 720 out of 720, and All India Rank (AIR-1), in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test - Undergraduate (NEET-UG) 2024, might not be able to get into the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Delhi — a dream institute of every medical aspirant and the number one medical college in the country.

Why? It is because of an unprecedented number of students, 67 to be precise, scoring full marks in the competitive examination, which is considered to be one of the hardest exams in the country.

These unusual statistics have led to several speculations and allegations against the National Testing Agency (NTA), the exam conducting body. Distressed students, parents and the medical community have written to the authorities, taken to social media with hashtags like #NEETFraud and #CorruptNTA.

We spoke to Kapil Gupta, an educator and CEO of NEETPrep coaching institute based in New Delhi about some of the common questions surrounding the medical entrance examination.

Inflation in cut-off: Is the exam serving its purpose?

Last year, only two medical aspirants scored 720 out of 720 in the NEET-UG examination with AIR-1. Now, this number has leapt to 67 students — raising eyebrows.

“If the NTA conducts an exam where so many students can score so well, what is the point of having an exam at all? They should just start giving admissions to government medical colleges based on students’ Board exam scores. As per my analysis, the paper was not so easy that 67 students should be able to get a perfect score. There is definitely something dubious here,” opined Kapil Gupta.

If one looks at the number of students scoring 700 out of 720 (over 97 per cent), the number has increased to 2,100 this year with just 304 students in 2023 and 60 students in 2022.

While NTA explained in its press release dated June 6, saying that, “...the increase in candidates naturally led to an increase in high scorers due to a larger pool of candidates”, this astronomical increase in cut-off and high scorers has led to distrust among the medical community about the quality of NEET examination.

“The paper quality has been degrading from 2019, when the NTA first started conducting the exam. In 2018, the cut-off was 540, it jumped to 583 in 2019 and now it is 655. It is not serving the purpose of a competitive exam which is ideally conducted for over 24 lakh students and just 60,000 seats. How do you select these students without any interview or screening process?” Gupta highlighted.

More irregularities

Another controversy that came up after the results were released for the NEET-UG 2024 exam was that two students had scored 718 and 719. This did not add up as the marking scheme for NEET-UG states four marks for each correct answer and minus one mark for each incorrect response.

This led to NTA releasing a clarification, saying that it had given grace marks to the students who approached the court in a few parts of the country, alleging ‘loss of time’ owing to issues at their exam centre and asking for compensation.

As per NTA’s release, as many as 1,563 students were given grace marks this time.

Kapil explained how this number plays into the actual results. “The number is quite crazy. If you analyse, in India, there are about 60,000 government medical seats that the students are fighting for, they are affordable. Out of these 60,000, All India Counselling happens for only about 9,000 seats, the rest happens through state counselling. Out of these seats, only 3,600 are under the open category. Now imagine you have 1,563 aspirants in this number, it fundamentally alters the results,” he said.

Distrust in NTA

Unexplained irregularities, lack of transparency, and allegations of paper leaks — these are some of the many reasons leading to increasing distrust towards the NTA among aspirants.

To recall, after the examination was conducted this year on May 5, instances of paper leaks came forward, especially from Bihar where 13 people were arrested in this connection. However, the NTA denied these claims and has not issued any clarification on the allegations yet.

Speaking to EdexLive, Kapil Gupta said, “In over 30 days, NTA has not established anything regarding the paper leak and still, decided to go ahead with the results. People do not believe what NTA is saying. They believe that it is hiding something and not being transparent and there is extreme anger among the public against this behaviour. NTA’s response is absolutely shoddy.”

It even came up that out of the 67 students who have achieved AIR-1 this time, six are from the same state and same roll number sequence — possibly the same exam centre. While this creates more suspicion regarding paper leaks and the use of unfair means during the exam, NTA has not addressed the issue.

“They have put out two releases clarifying the situation but they have still not addressed this obvious question of why there are six students from the same centre. The probability of that happening is very low,” said Gupta.

“We have some very incompetent people on NTA who are absolutely tone-deaf. If our future is in the hands of people like this, then it is very bad news. They do not know how to communicate, how to set the question paper, or how to address grievances,” he alleged.

Re-exam: Is it possible?

Most people are now demanding a re-conduct of the examination. Experts also believe that, looking at the gravity of concerns raised by the students, there might not be another option.

“I don't think that there is any other option left anymore. Either there should be more communication from NTA or higher government officials, any evidence which can convince the students to back down. Otherwise, re-exam is the only option,” the NEETPrep CEO said

Gupta even suggested a second exam — on lines of Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) Advanced, which is conducted for admission into top engineering institutes — as another screening step.

“I really believe that at some point, if this is how it is going to be, the government should come out with another exam for only the top 5 to 10 per cent of students — almost on the lines of JEE Advanced, so that the distribution of these ranks could be improved,” he added.

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