The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test began on Sunday amid strict precautions in view of the COVID-19 pandemic at over 3,800 centres across the country, with students queuing up as per their designated time slots and adhering to social distancing norms, reports said.
The medical entrance exam began at 2 pm, but entry to centres began at 11 am. Students were allotted different time slots for entry to ensure staggered movement and social distancing.
Over 15 lakh candidates registered for NEET, which was earlier postponed twice due to the pandemic.
Union minister Ramesh Pokhriyal on Twitter assured candidates that arrangements for their safety were in place.
“I wish luck to candidates appearing for NEET today. I am confident that students will appear for the exam with confidence and follow all guidelines. All states have made required arrangements to ensure hygiene and safety of students as per guidelines,” he tweeted.
Pokhriyal also tweeted a few hours after the conclusion of the exam, saying that around 85.90 percent of the students who had registered, had attended it on Sunday.
“NTA informed me that around 85-90% students appeared in NEET exam today. I sincerely thank all Chief Ministers and @DG_NTA for proper arrangements made to facilitate student participation. NEET participation reflects the tenacity and grit of young #AtmaNirbharBharat,” he said.
Biology, physics, chemistry sections get mixed response
The physics, biology, and chemistry sections garnered a mixed reaction from students across the country, according to reports. Students also said that a large portion of the questions were set from the NCERT textbooks.
Reports also quoted students as saying that adhering to COVID-19 precaution protocols were “tiring”.
The requirement of reporting to the exam centre early for staggered entry, along with the lack of full-fledged public transport, caused difficulties for students appearing for the exam on Sunday.
NDTV quoted a student, Nibedita Saha from Malda, as saying “All of us were feeling tired even before the exams started. Kolkata Metro services resumed, but the frequency was horrible. I couldn’t afford to wait for half an hour at the station. I reached the centre in time, but had to wait for an hour to get done with the corona screening.”
Meanwhile, many students said they had to wake up very early and travel long distances to get to their centre.
Regarding the exam, a majority of students said that the physics and biology sections were “difficult and tricky”, NDTV reported.
Hindustan Times quoted Shanya Rawle, a student from Madhya Pradesh as saying, “I found the question of physics section a bit lengthy and tough. I couldn’t be able to give my 100 percent as I came to Indore after travelling 100 kilometres in the morning and got tired.”
On the other hand, The Times of India quoted students as saying that the paper was easy compared to 2019. The report added that the biology section focused more on botany than zoology, while the physics section required students to perform “lengthy calculations”.
The report quoted a student, Javed Hussain, as saying that he “attempted biology first and about 15 questions were of a high difficulty level, and the rest were medium difficulty.”
“A majority of questions were from botany. Physics was most difficult. The chemistry section had questions based on organic and inorganic topics,” the report further quoted Hussain as saying.
The Hindustan Times report also quoted an examinee in Ranchi, Vishal Kumar, as saying, “Questions were neither tough nor easy. Mos were from NCERT. Many questions of previous year were repeated.”
Meanwhile, Careers 360 reported that students “are expecting that the NEET 2020 cut-off might rise because they have found the question paper to be easy”.
‘Online exam would have been better’
Mohammad Ovais, who came from Moradabad to his exam centre in Dilshad Garden, said his entry slot was at 11 am.
“I left from Moradabad at 5 am. It is not that risky if everybody follows all precautions, the problem arises when people take it casually. There was no crowding at the centres as everybody had designated slots,” he said.
Vanhika Chaurasia, a resident of Rohini said, “Online exam would have been a better option than a pen and paper test but we have no option. More delay in exams would have caused loss of a year”.
For Yuvraj Kumar, the bigger concern was travelling by public transport. “Thankfully metro services resumed before the exam because I was concerned about that and other modes of public transport are not as safe. We were given separate masks at the centre and we had to dispose the one we were wearing before,” he said.
Ajmal Ismail, appeared for the exam at a Mayur Vihar centre said, “More than the coronavirus it was the anxiety whether exams are happening or will still be postponed, that caused me more stress. I have done my preparation well and taken all precautions.”
Till 5 pm on Saturday, more than 15 lakh of the 15.97 lakh registered candidates downloaded their admit cards.
Various state governments had announced free transportation and accommodation, including West Bengal which ran special metro trains for candidates.
The exam has been postponed twice due to the pandemic and the government decided to go ahead with the exams, despite opposition from students and some political parties, to mitigate any further academic loss.
The National Testing Agency (NTA) has set in place strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) in view of the pandemic, including measures like reducing the number of candidates per room from 24 to 12.
The NTA has 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.
Unlike the engineering entrance exam, JEE, the NEET UG is a pen and paper exam and held once a year. Accordingly, the NTA changed centres for a few candidates this week in compliance with social distancing norms and COVID restrictions.
However, the city of the exam centre hasn’t been changed for any candidate, PTI reported. The centres which had more than 900 candidates were divided into two centres.
While all 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 NEET UG was originally scheduled for 3 May, but was pushed to 26 July and then scheduled for 13 September.
With in—puts from agencies