After the announcement of National Eligibility cum Entrance Test Undergraduate (NEET-UG) exam date, one of the biggest challenges for the National Testing Agency (NTA) is to administer the pen-and-paper exam for around 15 lakh candidates while following the social distancing norms owing to the coronavirus outbreak. The exam will be conducted on July 26.
Following government directions, the NTA is now planning to seat two candidates two metres apart, which, in other words, means it will need roughly 6,000 test centres, as opposed to the originally planned 3,000, to accommodate 15 lakh NEET aspirants. Till last year, two candidates were usually seated at a distance of one metre. As NEET is an offline, pen-and-mode exam, it will be conducted at the same time all the test centres, unlike JEE Main or JEE Advanced, which are computer-based exams and can be conducted in multiple shifts.
The NTA may also increase the number of shifts and add around 200 exam centres for JEE Main to maintain social distancing. The JEE Advanced will be conducted at around 600 test centres and there might not be an increase in the number of exam centres as only around 2 lakh students qualify for JEE Advanced.
The number of test centres for NEET this year, a senior NTA officer told this newspaper, will be a record of sorts. “I doubt if a competitive exam has ever been held across so many centres in a single day,” the officer said on the condition of anonymity, adding “it will take us a month to identify an additional 3,000 test centres for NEET”
What makes conducting NEET amid the COVID-19 outbreak more challenging than other entrance exams is that it is a pen-and-paper test. “(A pen-and-paper test) means that I have only one question paper and I have to conduct it in a single shift in one day all over the country. Hence, I need to double the number of test centres to accomplish all of this and follow social distancing norms,” the NTA officer said.
Kendriya Vidyalayas, CBSE-affiliated schools, engineering colleges and state government colleges are usually chosen as exam centres for NEET, but the agency might require more time to identify 3000 new exam centres.