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Ease the exam load

By emerging the two most important entrance exams, stress on students will be greatly reduced.   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Earlier this year, Tamil Nadu government passed a resolution reserving 7.5% seats in undergraduate medical admissions for government-school students who qualified NEET. However, it is possible that this may be challenged in court. In the past, reservations in engineering admissions for children of Tamil scholars, staff of Anna University and from rural schools and the Tamil Nadu government quota were all abolished gradually by the courts.

NEET has come to stay. Similarly, JEE (Main) will be perpetual. The latter originally came into being through a resolution on October 18, 2001, of the Government of India, under the National Policy on Education 1986 and instituted in 2002. Until 2004, it consisted of the four papers: Physical Sciences, Mathematics, Biology and Aptitude to Architecture. Initially, apart from B.E./B.Tech., it also covered B.Pharm and B.Arch/B.Plan. However, in 2005, the Biology paper was dropped and Physical Sciences and Mathematics were merged into one paper. The exam also did not cover B.Pharm from then on.

Subject rationalisation

Because of the national character of the exam, ‘a minimum common’ syllabus was prescribed for each paper, presumed to be covered in all states in classes XI and XII. This is often misunderstood as CBSE syllabus, thus creating fear among students of State Boards. In 2002, the CBSE announced JEE (Main) in the place of the All India Engineering Entrance Examinations. In September 2013, the IIT Council approved the Joint Admission Board’s decision to continue with the two-phase JEE pattern (‘Main’ and ‘Advanced’) for IITs from 2014. JEE (Main), which is mandatory for admission in NITs and NIITs and necessary but not sufficient for IITs, is just the AIEEE in a new form. For both this exam and the NEET, the syllabus is clearly set out.

Why can’t Tamil Nadu schools adopt the same syllabus for Physics, Chemistry, Math and Biology, as is prescribed for NEET and JEE (Main), for classes XI and XII? For Physics and Chemistry, there may be a need to judiciously combine the two syllabi prescribed. This process has several advantages. The syllabi prescribed for NEET and JEE (Main) are comprehensive and adequate for higher studies. The students will not face any difficulty since they are capable and self driven. Their preparation for the board exams will also be adequate for the NEET or JEE (Main). Also, there will be no need for the government to arrange coaching classes for NEET. This will result in more focus and greater confidence among students. After the board exams, a short orientation for NEET or JEE (Main) may only be required.

Merging the two

Along with the above suggestion is another: to combine the NEET and JEE (Main) exams into one. From 2019, the National Testing Agency (NTA) has been conducting JEE (Main) twice a year (it will be held four times only in 2021). Those who miss the first exam can take the second without waiting for a year. For those who take both, the better marks will be counted. Percentile rank lists, and not raw rank lists, will be merged to prepare a single list. NEET too deserves to be held twice a year for the same reason. But this may mean that some students may have to take four entrance exams a year, besides the board exams, which may be too stressful.

I have been suggesting that in the place of an exclusive NEET and JEE (Main), exams on their subjects — Biology, Maths, and Physical Sciences — could be held over a single day. Candidates for NEET can choose to answer Biology and Physical Sciences; those for JEE (Main) Maths and Physical Sciences; and those who try for both will write all the three. The admitting authorities can also accordingly consider only the relevant subjects. This will reduce the strain on the students. The exam can also be held twice in a year in the same way.

The writer is a former Professor and Head, Entrance Exams and Admission, Anna University, Chennai.

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Printable version | Mar 3, 2021 8:24:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/ease-the-exam-load/article33424793.ece

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