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Which test do I take?

Delay in government policy over entrance tests has put students in a fix over what to prepare for. Kiran Wadhwa writes.

education Updated: Mar 22, 2012 01:20 IST
Kiran Wadhwa

Divya Kalati scans the papers every day and the moment she sees the word NEET, the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test for medical courses, she cuts it out and files it. Despite a thick file filled with such cuttings, Kalati, a Class 11 student at Mithibai College, is clueless about what exam she will have to take next year to make it to medical college.

Students and parents across the country are confused as entrance exams to professional courses such as medicine and engineering are being revamped to standardise them into a single national test that is more aptitude-based. Another aim was to eliminate the coaching class culture, which ensures students are tutored just to crack the entrance test.

While the entrance test for medical courses has been named NEET, the one to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), National Institutes of Technology (NITs), Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) and other institutes funded by the Central government has been named ISEET (Indian Science Engineering Eligibility Test). (SEE BOX)

Both tests are supposed to start next year, but there is still no clarity on them. The national-level tests are being introduced to reduce the burden of multiple entrance tests on students. For instance, a student who wants to study engineering has to take a minimum of three entrance tests: the Joint Entrance Exam (IIT-JEE), the All-India Engineering Entrance Exam (AIEEE) and the state level exam, for Maharashtra it is the Common Entrance Test (MH-CET).

"I agree the burden will be reduced, but as of now, I am not even sure what to study. I enrolled in a coaching class a year early, just because of the confusion over the state CET or NEET," said 17-year-old Kalati.

Officials in charge of these examinations said things will become clear soon. "We are hoping to start NEET for undergraduate courses in 2013, but things will be clearer in a month. Parents and students should not panic," said Dr Rajiv Yeravdekar, a member of the board of governors of the Medical Council of India (MCI). The MCI is in charge of NEET. "NEET post-graduate will start this year, but the finer details of UG (under-graduate) are still being worked out. We have met the state governments and taken their feedback. We had hoped to start NEET UG this year, but could not do so," added Yeravdekar who is also the dean of Symbiosis Institute of Health Sciences of the Symbiosis International University in Pune.

While the IIT Council has submitted a recommendation report for ISEET, which includes 40% weightage for Class 12 marks and a SAT-style aptitude test, there is no official intimation from the HRD ministry yet. "We have submitted a report with several recommendations, but are in no position to say anything, simply because there is no official approval as yet," said an IIT director who did not want to be named.

Parents, whose children are in Class 11 and are scheduled to appear for the entrance tests, are worried.

While most parents have adopted a wait-and-watch policy, some, like Aparna Randive took matters in their own hands. Randive was part of a group of 110 parents from Vile Parle who moved the Bombay high court against NEET 2012 in December last year. On January 16, they won the battle and state students were exempted from NEET this year.

The group also met Ghulam Nabi Azad, Union minister for health and family welfare, and chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. Chavan then wrote to the Centre requesting that Maharashtra be exempted from NEET 2012.

Coaching classes, meanwhile, are busy preparing for the proposed changes. At IITian's Pace, an IIT-JEE coaching class, teachers have changed their approach and created a bank of SAT-type questions. The centre has also started a coaching section for the HSC exams because of the 40% weightage to Class 12 marks. All this extra training, of course, comes with a fee hike. "We have started a separate training for the HSC. We also have integrated junior colleges where students are simultaneously trained for Class 12 and entrance tests," said Praveen Tyagi, founder, IITian's Pace. The HSC coaching fee is Rs 1 lakh in addition to the Rs3.5lakh fee for the IIT training.