Wednesday, June 5, 2024

NEET 2024 - 10 Questions to the National Testing Agency (NTA)

National Testing Agency (NTA) acts like a bureaucratic organisation - maintaining just one-way communication, not responding to queries and playing with the life and career of our youngsters - who are toiling hard to crack competitive examinations like NEET.  The whole OMR sheet grading process is quite complicated and there is no transparency in the process followed by NTA. 

My daughter Mitra Saravanan became a victim of the OMR grading process of NTA. Mitra's dreams of becoming a daughter got crushed because of the inefficiency and bureaucracy of NTA.I have listed 10 questions here, which have been bothering me for the last 1 week (since the scanned OMR sheets were released on 30th May 2024)

  1. Why are you not responding to the NEET OMR sheet challenges raised by people? Why is there no tracking/follow-ups or closure? There is no case ID/ticket number, and no update was sent to the people. (Note: I challenged 50 items in the OMR sheet, but still, we did not receive any response/action from NTA. I even sent a follow-up email, but no response for that)
  2. Why is the window for responding to the OMR Key / Answer Key and OMR grading challenge just 1.5 days?  The email notification (from NTA) regarding the availability of scanned OMR sheet reaches at 7 pm on the day of closing the window for submitting challenges. Also, several people complained that they did not even receive that email. How do you expect poor / uneducated parents to track these things within a short time period and act?
  3. Why is your documentation not talking about the "type of issues" seen in the OMR Grading sheet or the OMR scanning process (especially when several people complained about differences in the scores and missing answers in OMR sheets for the last 5 years)? If you acknowledge and agree that there may be issues in the OMR grading process, why are you not providing details about what kind of "potential issues" can happen in the OMR grading process?
  4. Why are you not making the OMR grading process transparent? Why are you NOT publishing videos / documents about "what happens behind the screens" (without compromising on the security aspects of the process)? 
  5. You are NOT sending any SMS notifications to the NEET candidates about the availability of the OMR scanned sheets or the scores. How would poor people/people with limited Internet access (Tier-3 cities/villages) know about the availability of this critical information?
  6. Why do you have a phone support number if everything the person says is "Please send an email, Sir, and report the issue" or "Please wait for 2 - 3 days, Sir" (in half-baked English)?
  7. Why are you publishing your email id, if you are NOT responding to any emails?  (Especially, when candidates are raise their concerns over email)?
  8. There is NO forum or escalation path to raise issues? Assuming that some 100 (out of several lakhs of people who appear for NEET) notice issues in OMR grading - what mechanisms are there for them to escalate the issue? You should publish the contact number / email of people who are responsible to take action immediately. 
  9. Several links in the NTA website (for ex., FAQ) do not work. Also, the candidates are taken to different types of menus/different types of options, once logged-in to the NEET portal every time. Why are you hiding / removing the past information fast? For example, we got a 2 days window for raising the challenges. The options to view the challenges raised and track the payment made for the challenge are removed very soon. Once the results are announced, the login option itself is not available. Only option available is to view the Score Card. 
  10. Every year, several people complain about these issues... and what actions have been taken by NTA?

a) OMR Sheet has incorrect or missing responses

(there are several complaints in Quora too... I'm not able to include the link here)

b) Final Scores are drastically different from what the students calculate from OMR sheet/official answer key

NTA should take corrective actions to address these issues, for the betterment of future NEET candidates/students.

NEET 2024 - Justice for Mitra and several other impacted students

Imagine dreaming about becoming a doctor.... attending NEET coaching classes on all Saturdays/Sundays for 4 years... Studying well and maintaining 100% attendance in school... getting 90% scores in +2 exams... scoring 100/100 in Biology (97 in Chemistry & 85 in Physics)... consistently getting high scores in NEET practice tests (mostly getting 580 - 640/720)... delivering her best in the NEET 2024 exams (which is one of the easiest in the recent times)... and finally getting 404 in the final NEET score card... due to NO FAULT OF HER OWN. That's the horrible experience that my daughter Mitra Saravanan went through recently.

NEET 2024 Scam
We hoped she would secure 640+, as per my daughter's self-assessment, right after the exams.  But we got the shocker of our lives on 30th May 2024, when the scanned NEET OMR sheets were released. The scanned NEET OMR sheet had 50 discrepancies and the answers in the NEET OMR sheet did not match what Mitra marked (except for the Name, Roll number, Thumbprint, and Signature). There were several missing responses in the scanned OMR sheet and answers that are different from what Mitra marked. (There is one more student who has also noticed the same problem in NEET 2024)

We reported the issue immediately to the National Testing Agency (NTA) via the online OMR challenging option. We also wrote an email to to communicate the issue. However, it looks like they've NOT looked at our challenge and we did not receive any response from NTA.  I called their phone support a few times and they've kept someone to tell everyone that "Please send an email" or "Please wait for 2 days". You cannot get anything more than these responses from the phone support person.

In the mean time, NTA went ahead and published the scores for all candidates, yesterday (4th June 2024). Now, we are clueless on what to do. There are NO formal grievance redressal mechanisms in NTA. 

My daughter's dream of becoming a doctor came crushing like a pack of cards - despite her hardwork and sacrifices. If she is not really capable of getting good scores - I would not have bothered much. But, if factors that are external to our control are at play (like the issue with the OMR sheet scanned copy), what can we do? Unfortunately, we are helpless and left without any options.

When I did online searches, I noticed that similar issues have been noticed in the past, without any resolution. People have noticed 3 different types of issues:

1. Missing responses from OMR scanned copy 

2. Different responses in the OMR scanned copy (when compared to the answers marked by the students)

3. Total scores in the score card much lower than the scores in the OMR scanned copy

Some references:

What are some problems that NTA should immediately look into and fix?

1. Establish transparency - Let us know how the OMR grading process/systems work. Record a short video capturing how the grading process works and make it available for people to understand. (Based on reading tenders in NTA website, it appears to be a complex process where the bubbles marked are read through an OMR reader and images like bar-code thumb-print etc., scanned via an image scanner. It is not clear how the OMR scanned image is created, with this information). If candidates are challenging, please make the "actual picture" of the OMR sheet available to them.

2. Create Grievance Redressal Mechanisms: Create a proper mechanism to track/resolve grievances reported by the candidates. Today, there is no such mechanism that exists. Remember that you are playing with the lives of several lakhs of candidates - who are going to drive the future of India.

3. Improve the website infrastructure -  Today, NTA expects everyone to track their website to get updates. The website is extremely flaky - the links result in "page not found" or "server unavailable" errors many times; the website keeps changing almost every day - options/information show up and keep vanishing, content is made available one day and they are removed the next day. It is highly confusing for even the educated parents to follow this. How would uneducated/poor parents manage all of this?

4. Implement mechanisms that enable poor/uneducated to participate - NTA expects a farmer and a mason to hit the refresh button multiple times a day... on their website... if these parents want to get an MBBS admission for their wards. NTA should be sending SMS notifications to everyone about OMR scanned sheet update, score card update etc., Today, NTA sends bulk emails that reached my Inbox 4 hours before the cut-off window for the OMR Sheet challenge. Several people did not even get those emails. Thankfully, I learned about the OMR scanned sheet update through some friends. How do you expect people who are outside of metros to keep track of this (especially the poor / uneducated parents?). Make it inclusive and accessible for them.

5. Bring some professionalism into the whole process - Right from frisking the students during NEET examination ... to publishing the score card, you are treating students/parents as "beggars" (as-if you are throwing some "alms" at them and doing a favor). You are trying to create unnecessary fear in the minds of students / parents. Make the whole process more friendly and professional. Think of the candidates as your "customers" and help improve the overall experience for them. 

Our hopes of getting our daughter admitted into an MBBS college have now become a punctured gas balloon buried deep into the mud. I know a blog post cannot turn around the situation and get my daughter admitted to an MBBS college. I'm writing this so that the world knows that there are problems like this in the NEET examination and grading process. I want to increase the visibility of this issue, with the hope that NTA/Govt will take care of these suggestions/recommendations, at least for future NEET batches. That's how you can provide justice for Mitra and several other impacted students in 2024 and before.

Let Mitra be the last student who is impacted by the ruthless bureaucracy and flawed processes of the National Testing Agency. 


OMR Challenge

Mitra's 12th mark sheet copy

Scores that Mitra obtained in the mock tests conducted by Aakash Insitute

NEET 2024 - 10 Questions to the National Testing Agency (NTA)

National Testing Agency (NTA) acts like a bureaucratic organisation - maintaining just one-way communication, not responding to queries and ...