With nearly 16 lakh registered candidates, the competitive National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) took place on Sunday afternoon amid social distancing rules and crowding outside centres. The common entrance test for MBBS and dental courses was conducted by the National Testing Agency in 3,843 exam centres across the country.
According to NTA officials, NEET recorded roughly 85-90% attendance Sunday.Sources said attendance is expected to be marginally lower than last year’s 92.9%. On Sunday, Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal tweeted, “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.”
While the candidates had been given staggered entry timings to maintain social distancing at entry, most arrived at their centres by 11.30 am for the exam which began at 2 pm.
At Ahlcon Public School in Mayur Vihar, long lines and several clusters of candidates and their parents were seen by 11 am. Many candidates expressed relief that they were going to write the examination after two postponements.
“At the beginning, because there was a lot of uncertainty about the exam, it was very difficult to focus and study. Once the final dates were released, it got better and I could prepare with good focus,” said Sonit Kumar, who had travelled to the exam centre from Najafgarh.
Among the safety precautions in exam centres were: limiting the number of candidates per room to 12, making candidates remove their masks at the entrance and giving fresh 3-ply masks and barcode readers to check their admit cards.
However, Shivam Kumar, a candidate who also wrote his examination at Mayur Vihar, said there was anxiety and uncertainty till the last minute.
“Just last night, I saw a condition on my admit card which made me very nervous. The admit card says that ‘the health and wellbeing of our community is our first priority; therefore, the centre reserves the right to deny entry to its premises. I felt that exams could have been postponed or alternatives could have been explored,” said.
Many candidates had travelled long distances to reach their exam centres – and some could avail the newly resumed Metro services. Gulab Singh, an ambulance driver at a government hospital in Haryana’s Bhiwani district, had left home with his daughter, who appeared for the exam, at 5 am to reach the centre before noon.
Several petitions had been filed challenging the conduct of NEET and JEE exams on their scheduled dates, including by ministers of six Opposition-ruled states who had sought a review of the Supreme Court’s August order allowing the exams to be conducted. But the apex court had dismissed them. On Wednesday, the court had declined to entertain a fresh batch of petitions against conducting NEET on September 13.