July 16, 2024

As the eyes of the nation were focused on the 2024 Lok Sabha election results, the NEET 2024 results were also announced the same evening. This year, the NEET results have revealed several unusual and suspicious trends, suggesting potential misconduct by the National Testing Agency (NTA). In recent years, the NTA has consistently underperformed in administering competitive exams such as NEET and JEE, raising serious concerns about exam management and the impact on the futures of countless young candidates. This year, hundreds of thousands of aspiring medical students took the NEET 2024 exam and were met with the consequences of the NTA’s inadequate administration. The hard work, aspirations, and valuable time of our youth are at stake, as is the future of the nation’s medical profession.

This year, the NEET 2024 results have revealed several anomalies. Unlike last year, where only 2 candidates secured All India Rank (AIR) 1 with a perfect score of 720 out of 720 marks, this year, an astonishing 67 candidates have achieved the same rank and score. Even more suspiciously, eight of these top-ranking candidates were from the same exam center, further raising doubts about the integrity of the process. This is not the first instance where question marks are raised over the National Testing Agency (NTA). The NTA has repeatedly been criticized for its lack of transparency in the past, which casts further doubt on the credibility of these results.

Another issue that has come to light is the calculation of marks and the awarding of grace marks. The NEET exam marking scheme awards +4 marks for every correct answer, -1 for every incorrect answer, and 0 for unattempt questions. Under this scheme, a candidate can either secure a perfect score of 720/720 if all answers are correct, or a maximum of 716/720 if one question is unattempt and all others are correct. There is no possibility for scoring between 717/720 and 719/720 under this marking system. However, this year’s NEET results have shown many instances of candidates receiving scores within the range of 717/720 to 719/720.

The NTA has attributed the anomalous scores to the awarding of grace marks, stating that these candidates received insufficient time to complete their exams and were thus given additional marks. According to the NTA, 1,563 candidates were granted grace marks. However, this policy raises significant concerns about transparency and fairness.

A critical issue with this policy is the lack of clarity on how the grace marks were allocated. The criteria for determining how many marks correspond to the amount of lost time remain unclear. Moreover, many candidate results show an irrational and disproportionately high increase in scores after the grace marks were applied. In a highly competitive exam like NEET, where each mark can significantly alter outcomes, such arbitrary distribution of grace marks undermines the credibility of the results.

This resulted in sudden increase in cutoffs. A notable statistic reveals that last year, a candidate scoring 650 marks would have secured a rank around 5,000. This year, the same score places a candidate at approximately rank 30,000. Similarly, a score of 620 marks, which would have resulted in a rank around 10,000 in 2023, now corresponds to a rank close to 50,000 in 2024.

The lack of transparency and mismanagement are jeopardizing the hard work and future of the nation’s youth. In response to these concerns, the NTA has defended the Grievance Redressal Committee’s compensatory marks distribution, citing a mechanism established by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in its judgment dated June 13, 2018, in W.P. 551 of 2018. According to this ruling, grace marks are provided based on a candidate’s answering efficiency and the extent of time lost.

This justification has been unsatisfactory for many students, as the terms of the judgment do not align with the current scenarios of the NEET 2024 results. The limited number of exam centers considered by the NTA for awarding grace marks makes no match with the ground realities of massive unknown numbers of such exam centers. This raises a critical question that What about the students at those unaddressed exam centers? The lack of comprehensive consideration further undermines the fairness and credibility of the results.

The NTA is supposed to work for the students, yet such justifications, instead of addressing the real issues, reflect the agency’s questionable commitment to student welfare. The judgment also mandated addressing individual student issues through a dedicated email ID and providing regular updates on resolutions via the website. However, rather than adhering to these aspects of the judgment, the NTA has selectively and conveniently used the judgment to mislead students, further eroding trust in the system.

Amidst these developments, concerns about another potential scam are gaining traction, specifically involving Paper Leaks and allegations of Bribery of exam center authorities for cheating. Instances have already surfaced in states such as Bihar and Gujarat, where law enforcement authorities have apprehended individuals involved in these illegal activities.

The issue is now before the Supreme Court, with students’ hopes resting on its judgment. During the last hearing, the court acknowledged that the integrity of the exam had been compromised. A landmark judgment is crucial to prevent such incidents from recurring in India. These events have severely shaken student confidence in our testing agencies and eroded trust in the system.

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