Explained | How does the National Testing Agency function?

The National Testing Agency (NTA) is at the centre of controversy over alleged irregularities in competitive exams conducted by it.
Last Updated : 27 June 2024, 17:24 IST

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New Delhi: The National Testing Agency (NTA) is at the centre of controversy over alleged irregularities in competitive exams conducted by it. Amid the raging row over the recently conducted NEET-UG and UGC-NET, the agency saw a change of guards last week and a high-level panel is reviewing its functioning. Here is an explainer on the functioning of the seven-year-old body:

When was NTA set up?

The NTA was set up in 2017 as an autonomous and self-sustained testing organisation under the Education Ministry, then known as the HRD Ministry. It is a registered society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 and is under the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Before the NTA was formed, government bodies, such as the University Grants Commission (UGC), the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), and central universities, such as the Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), conducted their own exams.

When was NTA envisioned?

The roots of NTA can be traced back to the Programme of Action 1992 related to the National Education Policy 1986, which recommended the formation of a national-level exam agency.

In 2010, a committee comprising Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) directors recommended establishing the agency through legislation to ensure its autonomy and transparency. It was modelled after the ETS (Educational Testing Service) body of the US.

The announcement of NTA's establishment came in 2017, with the subsequent cabinet approval. Vineet Joshi was appointed as its first director general, who is currently the Manipur Chief Secretary. His successor Subodh Kumar Singh was removed last week from the post.

Which exams are conducted by NTA?

NTA conducts three top undergraduate admissions entrance exams -- JEE-Main for Engineering, NEET-UG for medicine and CUET-UG for admissions to several other undergraduate courses. Over 50 lakh candidates appear for these three exams every year.

Besides these, the testing agency conducts CUET-PG for postgraduate admissions, UGC-NET and CSIR UGC-NET.

UGC-NET is a test to determine the eligibility for the award of junior research fellowship, for appointment as Assistant Professor and admission to PhD in Indian universities and colleges.

CSIR UGC-NET is accepted for PhD admissions in Chemical Sciences, Earth, Atmospheric, Ocean and Planetary Sciences, Life Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, and Physical Sciences.

Common Management Admission Test (CMAT), Hotel Management Joint Entrance Examination, Graduate Pharmacy Aptitude Test and entrance tests for Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) and Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), are among other tests conducted by NTA.

Why NTA is centre of controversy right now?

The NTA came under fire this year after it awarded grace marks to 1,563 candidates in NEET for compensating for loss of time due to delay in starting of examination at seven centres. Pleas were filed in the Supreme Court alleging inflation of marks which led to a record 67 candidates sharing top rank. The grace marks were later withdrawn and a retest was conducted for these candidates.

While the medical entrance exam question paper was allegedly leaked, according to an investigation by the Bihar Police, UGC-NET was cancelled a day after it was conducted following inputs that the integrity of the exam was compromised. The Education Ministry confirmed that the exam paper was leaked on darknet. CSIR UGC-NET was also postponed as a pre-emptive measure.

Previously, NTA was under scanner after a series of glitches in first edition of CUET-UG.

How NTA shortlists centres?

The testing agency identifies test centres for a pen-and-paper public exam from a base list of centres it already has. This list consists of government schools that have been conducting exams on behalf of bodies, such as CBSE and NTA, without reporting any problems or malpractices in the past.

If the base list does not have enough schools, NTA can enlist AICTE-recognised institutes and colleges. Even if a school or higher education institution has successfully conducted exams for NTA in the past, the agency must seek their consent every year. This process takes place on NTA's dashboard, where the base list of all test centres is uploaded, and they must give their consent to hold an exam on NTA's behalf.

What is the agency's current focus?

The agency's current focus is to timely release the results of CUET-UG on which the academic calendar of university depends besides re-conducting UGC-NET and announcing a fresh date for CSIR-UGC NET.

After removal of Subodh Singh as DG, ITPO Chairman Pradeep Singh Kharola has been assigned additional charge of the post.

The Centre's high-level panel will make recommendations on reforms in the mechanism of the examination process, improvement in data security protocols and the structure and functioning of the NTA. The panel will submit its report within two months.

Published 27 June 2024, 17:24 IST

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