Nearly 16 lakh students wrote the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) on Sunday, attempting to secure admission to undergraduate medical and dental programmes across the country.
The examination was held at more than 3,800 centres in 202 cities in India and abroad, with COVID-19 safety protocols in place to prevent infection. At several centres, separate rooms were provided for students who tested positive.
The National Testing Agency conducted the examination in a single offline session, using pen-and-paper mode, with papers available in 13 languages.
In Tamil Nadu, more than 1.10 lakh students had registered themselves for the test, which was conducted at 224 centres.
Sources in the School Education Department said nearly 7,000 students took the test in Tamil. The COVID-19 protocol was followed strictly. At most centres, parents were not allowed near the entrance and candidates underwent temperature checks, besides the mandatory security checks. They had to compulsorily wear masks for the full duration of the test. Candidates began assembling as early as 10 a.m. for the test which began at 2 p.m.
Coimbatore recorded 95.35% attendance at the eight test centres, which included one in Tiruppur district. The seven centres in Tiruppur district recorded 97.06% attendance. In Salem, NEET was held at 28 centres and arrangements were made for about 15,067 students to take it. In Tiruchi, the test was held at 21 centres. Of the 9,105 candidates, only 8,753 took the three-hour test. The district reported 96.1% attendance. According to an official, around 18,000 candidates had registered themselves in Chennai and around 800 were absent.
As in the past, many candidates found the physics component tough, chemistry moderate and biology easy. Most first-time test-takers found physics challenging.
S. Swetha, a CBSE student and first-time test-taker, said, “The questions were indirect and we spent a lot of time on that part alone. Biology and chemistry were easier and preparing with the NCERT textbooks helped,” she said.
Several State board students said they used the NCERT textbooks, besides their own textbooks and coaching classes. S. Sathvika prepared on her own and depended on the NCERT books, which helped especially in biology.
A group of girls from the Government Higher Secondary School at Red Hills came with their parents to a centre at Kelly’s. The girls, who took the test in Tamil, went to the centre around 11 a.m., said Sujatha Kumaravel, a parent. Last year, the school trained 60 students, but none got admission, said Elangovan, whose daughter Kanimozhi said she found biology easy. The school began online classes in July.
K. Bhavani, a parent, said the school advised the students to buy the required books, which they did from Tiruvallur. The students started preparing in earnest only in the last few weeks owing to the uncertainty about NEET scores being used for admission in the State, The Hindu reported.
With schools and coaching centres being shut for a large part of the 2020-21 academic year, the bulk of the preparations took place online. It was hard for S. Ashima to adapt herself to online coaching and handle the added stress of uncertainty over the conduct of the board examinations. M. Pavithra, a government school student, said she had attended free online coaching through her school all through the pandemic. “Students who studied well and were interested in taking up the exam were selected and they could attend these coaching classes online,” she said.
For the first time, NEET had an extra 20 questions, in addition to the 180, so that students had some choice unlike in the previous years. The total marks would be out of 720. The concession was on account of the pandemic and the reduced syllabus.
Balaji Sampath, founder, Aha Guru, who coaches students for NEET, said that at some centres, students were not allowed to work out sums beside the questions. It would help if students were provided rough papers.