Many medical aspirants are clamouring for a retest of the NEET-UG 2024, which has been plagued by charges of irregularities, paper leaks and a steep rise in the number of students in the merit list, with the Centre’s decision to cancel grace marks for 1,563 students doing little to assuage their concerns.

Student bodies and the youth wings of many political parties have been holding protests countrywide to flag their concerns over alleged irregularities in the prestigious exam that saw 67 students score a perfect 720, unprecedented in the National Testing Agency’s (NTA) history.

With reports of paper leak and other discrepancies continuing to pour in, many students say they have lost faith in the conduct of the exam.

While many demand a thorough inquiry into allegations of a paper leak, a considerable number think the re-test option given to 1,563 students is a mere “eyewash”.

“The inflation in marks is too much to be offset by a selective re-test of 1,563 students. I think the re-evaluation of marks of each student will be a good thing, otherwise a universal re-test, but then the government must give us one to two months to prepare,” said Aheli Ghosh Hazra, a National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) aspirant from West Bengal, told PTI.

On the conduct of NEET this year, she said, “You cannot fix a sick tree by just taking a sick leaf out of it. The whole tree must be uprooted. We have no clue to what extent the rigging took place.”

Another aspirant from Madhya Pradesh said things look “fairly unjust” from his point of view. “They just want to get it over with. They also want to hide the paper leak scam,” Animesh, a NEET aspirant from Madhya Pradesh, said.

“Things are not very clear… I think the matter should be probed by a third party, which is not biased towards the NTA,” he added. Animesh demanded a retest for all candidates.

“Only those with scores above 650 would have an issue with a retest. There must be a retest, but they must give some more time to students. Everyone is out of momentum. Everyone is bogged down by media reports. Logistically, it won’t be feasible for the NTA, too, to conduct a retest in a short time,” he said.

Tejas Gaur of Delhi, who cleared the NEET exam, said he would retake the exam, if it is conducted again. “I do not think the scam is limited to 1,563 students. The number is too low to have caused such an inflation in marks,” Tejas, who got 4,627th rank, said.

The NEET-UG examination is conducted by the NTA for admissions to MBBS, BDS, AYUSH and other related courses in government and private institutions across the country.

The examination was held on May 5 across 4,750 centres and around 24 lakh candidates appeared for it. Its results were expected to be declared on June 14 but were announced on June 4, apparently because the evaluation of the answer sheets was completed earlier.

In the wake of the controversy, the Education Ministry has set up a four-member expert panel headed by a former UPSC chairman to review the grace marks.

A retest of 1,563 students who received grace marks will be held on June 23. The results of the retest are scheduled to be announced on June 30.

Kapil Gupta, the founder NEETPrep.com, said students who scored well run the risk of scoring less in the retest as they have post-exam inertia, and considering the controversy, even two months would be less for them to prepare again properly.

“Matters have come to a head and reached the Supreme Court…The second challenge is no less. We have decided to get students to get ‘hot’ and exam ready. Post exam, most have gone cold and might be rusty. As a result, almost certainly, most will see a drop in their marks, even if they are given two months to get ready,” Gupta told PTI.

The IIT-Delhi alumnus, who claims to have 2 lakh students onboard for NEET preparations, and had four perfect scorers in the latest exam, asked students to get into practice mode right away.

“We have provided one month access to NEET aspirants on our platform and have provided them guidance on how to shrug off post-exam inertia. Easier said than done. Students who scored well in NEET 2024 run the biggest risk now if re-NEET happens,” he said.

Major General Ramesh Raina (retd), who served as the Managing Director of the Army Welfare Education Society – overseeing all army schools – for four years from 2019 to 2023, said, “The recent case of the alleged leak in the NEET examination is very unfortunate… I empathise with the children and the parents,”

He said the NTA’s “unblemished past” has been marred by “unscrupulous elements” who have leveraged loopholes in the system.

“The magnitude of such leakage needs to be assessed. While the case is sub-judice, it is hoped and prayed that the faith in the testing agency is restored through corrective measures, including holding the concerned officials accountable,” Gen Raina said.

The Supreme Court on Thursday sought responses from the Centre, the NTA and others on petitions, including those seeking scrapping of the NEET-UG 2024 exam and a court-monitored probe into alleged irregularities in the medical entrance test.

The apex court also stayed further proceedings on some pleas concerning the NEET-UG 2024 exam, which are pending before different high courts across the country.

However, during the hearing, the bench made it clear that it was not staying the counselling process.

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