Students aspiring to study at the country’s top engineering colleges are likely to get multiple opportunities in a single year to crack the tough entrance exam.
The move will significantly shrink an aspirant’s waiting time for the next test in case of failure to clear the first attempt at the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Main — conducted for admission to NITs, IITs and other centrally funded institutions.
For instance, if back-to-back exams are conducted in December, February and April, a candidate will be allowed to write all of them, or she can opt for one or two. The best marks from any of the three tests will account for the student’s all-India ranking, which decides her eligibility for admission.
The National Testing Service (NTS), a new overarching agency that the government announced in its annual budget this February to conduct all entrance exams for higher education institutions, might hold the JEE Main fully online from the next academic session.
The format will allow the NTS to hold the engineering test at least thrice a year, sources said. That way a student would not have to spend a full year studying for the test again.
At present, a student has the option of writing the JEE Main online or offline, but the exam is conducted just once a year. But only 125,000 of the almost 1 million students opt to take the test online.
“To ensure greater transparency and avoid instances of paper leak, the ministry is planning to conduct examinations through NTS on an online mode,” said a senior official in the human resource development ministry.
Sources said the NTS is likely to conduct all entrance examinations — including JEE, CAT, and UGC-NET — online from 2018.
Education experts welcomed the move, underscoring that several global screening tests such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and TOEFL are conducted up to seven times a year.
“This will ensure that a candidate is able to give his/her best if there are specific testing windows,” said Soumitra Roy of Prometric India, a global agency that had conducted tests such as CAT for premier business schools.
“This must be done provided there is adequate physical and technical infrastructure in a country like India with different demographics.”
To ensure students from rural areas don’t face obstacles in taking the online exam, NTS will help prepare them with through round-the-clock call centre support.
“NTS will establish an online testing mechanism which will be able to conduct online tests for at least 1 million students at a time with suitable systems for proctoring, instant display of marks and preparation of the merit list,” an official said.
The online system will ensure better safety mechanisms, according to Bipin Batra, executive director of the National Board of Examinations (NBE), which conducts entrance tests such as NEET PG and NEET Super Specialty for medical students.