Interview: NEET aspirant talks about sitting for exam in a pandemic year
For Adya Shukla, who just gave her NEET exam on 13th September, the year started out looking promising because thanks to COVID she got extra months to prepare. But as the pandemic’s uncertainty built up, students go anxious and worried about making their study schedules. “Even till the 10th of September, i.e. 3 days until the exam, there were petitions going on about postponement, in not cancellation of the entrance examinations. She adds, “The question we faced was: do we study or do we not?”
Adya, a student who opted for a drop year from 2019 to 2020, recounts her experience of preparing for NEET, the experience at the exam centre and how did the pandemic affect everything in between.
The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (Undergraduate) (or NEET (UG)), formerly the All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT), is an entrance examination in India for students who wish to study undergraduate medical courses (MBBS) and dental courses (BDS) in government or private medical and dental colleges in India.
At the examination hall for NEET, the turnout of students at the examination centre, was smaller than usual recalls Adya. “We had quite a low number of aspirants who turned up for the entrance exam, because of which, the hall as quieter than usual.” As far as the girl is to boy ratio is concerned, she said that her centre had more number of girls who had turned up.
On the part of NTA, which is the agency that conducts entrance examinations, she said that it was average. “We had ample of questions and test papers to bank on as far as the preparation is concerned. The only problem was that those papers were provided quite later.”
Exams Were Postponed.
National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) is conducted every year in the month of May. But this year due to the pandemic, exam got delayed by four months, creating uncertainty and apprehension among the aspirants. The long lockdown period was a boon for many, as they got more time to devote to their preparations. But there were many students who couldn’t perform well owing to certain factors like difficulty in accessing the online material, problems at home, and effect of the pandemic on their mental health.
“We had got quite some time since April as the exam date was postponed till further notice,” says Adya. “So we as students were quite delighted by the whole in the beginning. But as there was no confirmation from the side of NTA (National Testing Agency) regarding the examination dates, a kind of anxiety started building up in us. We just wanted the exam to take place as soon as possible.”
Not Easy to Write In Gloves
On her experience of sitting for the exam in person with the pandemic ravaging across the world, Adya said, “It was a very unique experience as we had to write the exam wearing gloves and masks. NTA had given a lengthy sheet of guidelines to be followed when you go for the exam. Everyone was following the guidelines. The administration too was good.”
She added, “We as NEET aspirants had double tension this time. One, of the exam, of course and two, of contracting the disease. But I am glad that all of it is over now.”
CutOffs will rise?
“There are so many articles which say that unemployment has increased three-fold as compared to the earlier statistics in India. Owing to these times, all we can do is give our best to any examination for a more secure future.” Part of this expectation is because India’s growth rate has plummeted and jobs aren’t easy to come by.
First the exams pressure and uncertainty and now the fear of increased cutoffs, students have been facing mental health issues. We asked Adya about the recent suicides which are happening due parental and peer pressure. “Although the pandemic has quite a role in the increased number of suicides, we hear about these kinds of incidents every year. The news obviously is distressing; we need greater awareness on part of the family of students.”
Shikha Chandra is an intern with SheThePeople.TV