With the newly commissioned NTA (National Testing Agency) at the helm of managing premier engineering and medical entrance examinations besides others, several changes in the scenario are in the offering. In a press release dated July 7, 2018, the autonomous body announced its initiatives that are in the pipeline to bring about a qualitative difference in the examination was conducted till now. The most prominent and laudable of the initiatives is the plan to set up a network of approximately 3000 practice centers in rural areas to make local JEE Main and NEET aspirants well acquainted with the online examination system.
Educational establishments with computer labs will be identified for the setting up of these new Practice Centers. Candidates can access these centers free of cost to practice computer-based tests in the lines of JEE Main and NEET (UG) free of cost. The Agency plans to keep these Practice centers operational on Saturdays and Sundays starting from the 3rd week of August 2018. NTA will also launch a mobile app which will help candidates identify the nearest center in the locality and register themselves to book Practice Sessions.
National Testing Agency –#NTA has started its work. It will conduct NEET(UG), JEE(Main), UGC-NET, CMAT & GPAT examinations. Millions of students to benefit.@narendramodi #Transformingeducation #48MonthsOfTransformingIndia
— Prakash Javadekar (@PrakashJavdekar) July 7, 2018
Given that 2019 onwards exams like JEE Main and NEET (UG) are switching completely to the online mode, this endeavor of the Agency will be very beneficial for candidates, specifically those who are from a rural background and have no or minimal access to computers. The Practice Centers are an attempt to provide an adequate chance to such aspirants to acclimatize with an online examination mode. The candidates who book practice sessions will be allotted one-hour slots each to write a real computer-based examination at the centers.
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NTA has not planned any changes in the examination fees, question pattern, number or difficulty level of questions except for the complete switch to the online mode of exam. It is worthwhile to mention here that 2019 onwards both JEE Main and NEET (UG) will be held twice a year to ease the performance pressure on candidates. NTA has also clarified that.
JEE Main is slated to be held in January and April while NEET (UG) has been scheduled for February and May in 2020. The first phase of JEE Main is scheduled from January 05 to January 09 while the second stage is slated from April 05 to April 11 2020.
The complete switchover to online examination is to avoid logistics issues like the paper leak or shortage of question papers. Also, the switch to online mode will make evaluation easier and error-free. However, as per statistics, the number of test–takers opting for the online mode when both online and offline examinations were in practice, shows a grim picture as to how uncomfortable the candidates are to attempt the computer-based test. In 2018, of 11.5 lakh candidates that registered for JEE Main, only 2.25 lakh opted for the CBT while in 2017, of 12 lakh applicants only 1.8 lakh opted for the online test. In both years, the rest of the applicants chose to take the customary paper-based test. Under the circumstances, NTA’s decision to set up the practice centers for pre-examination practice test session will certainly be of huge help to future aspirants of JEE Main and NEET (UG).
The centers that would be utilized as Practice Centers by NTA may or may not be designated as exam centers for the conduction of the entrances. There has been no disclosure from the Agency’s side in this context.