Ishan Sardesai, a student of Vasant Valley School, Delhi who took the country’s first NEET-UG on May 5, 2013 narrates the chaos he went through while appearing for the common medical entrance examination.
The 18-year-old goes on to explain why despite all the confusion and hassle he’s been through, he’d still endorse its implementation in the national interest of students.
I first got the news about the NEET-UG when I was in class 11. My coaching class, Aakash Institute, shared the brochure explaining how the NEET-UG was going to be a unified examination for all courses in 2013-14.
Back then, we were happy to be the first batch to write the exam and witness the change. We were under the impression that the NEET-UG was the one and only exam that we will have to give and that all medical colleges would follow the NEET-UG scores for admission.
We thought this system was good because it would allow us to prepare well and focus better on one exam rather than appear for multiple exams at different colleges in different cities.
However, just before the board exam began, between January and February 2013, a lot of other medical colleges came up with announcements of their own entrance exams.
The Manipal University, CMC-Vellore, Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Wardha, and the Bhartiya Vidyapeeth, Pune are some I can distinctly remember.
What made things worse for us was that the deadlines were fast approaching and some of these exams also fell on the same day -- Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Wardha and the Bhartiya Vidyapeeth, Pune had their exams on April 23, 2013. This meant that I could only appear for one of the exams, which was a crucial choice I had to make.
Most colleges did not share the information on exam dates at the time of applying for it. The dates were announced much later -- after we’d deposited the money and sent in our applications.
Just to let you know, each application form would cost us at least Rs 3,000 and the brochure which had information on the exam syllabus and other details was charged separately.
This was the case with a lot of good colleges. So most of the times we had to prioritise, take a call on which exams to give and which ones could be missed, which was quite a task, especially since there was very little time to think and decide.
Another issue was to understand which colleges were covered under the NEET-UG, because every other day, we’d read that so-and-so college was opposing the NEET-UG and was planning to conduct its own examination.
While all this was going on, we were surprised to know that there was nothing on the NEET-UG website -- no updates, no information on colleges under its purview or counseling dates. We did not know whom to approach -- my parents who came from the media background could also do little to help me because the official announcement always came late and took us by surprise.
We had to visit the websites of each of these colleges to find out about the admission process and whether it had a separate entrance exam.
When we browsed the internet, we noticed that there were some sites that had the information on which colleges came under the purview of NEET-UG, but again, it could not be verified or validated because it came from bloggers or forums that could not be trusted.
Since we did not know which colleges came under the NEET-UG, the fear was always there -- what if we failed to clear the NEET-UG? What if a certain college was not covered under this common entrance exam? What are the other alternatives?
Most of us had to optimise our options and appear for as many exams to improve our chances of securing a seat.
Preparing for so many exams was also getting difficult. For example, a lot of my friends who came to know that Karnataka had opted out of the NEET-UG wanted to appear for the Consortium of Medical, Engineering and Dental Colleges of Karnataka (COMEDK).
Some of them could not appear for it because the exam required them to travel to Bangalore because it did not have a centre in Mumbai or in their city. Issues like these disturbed our plans.
First, we had to focus on our board examinations which ended in March 2013. In between preparations, we had to update ourselves, call up our sources, friends in other cities to check if they had any new information on the NEET-UG because so much news was floating around which added to our confusion.
The first NEET-UG exam conducted on May 5, by itself was smooth -- the syllabus was announced on time and the paper also followed the chapters from NCERT textbooks.
There was just one issue we faced at our RK Puram centre. Apparently, a day before the exam, the Medical Council of India had mentioned on their website that we would have to carry a post card photograph of ours to the centre.
Fifteen out of 30 candidates from my classroom did not have this information. So in the middle of the examination, the invigilator asked us to step out and get ourselves photographed against a white background. Although the process took only a few minutes, we were distracted and lost that much time in a competitive examination.
As for my personal experience, I’d appeared for the entrances at Manipal University, JIPMER, CMC-Vellore and Ludhiana and AIIMS, Delhi.
Among them, the only college that released the result was Manipal University.
Usually Manipal University allows you to take the exam twice. But this year, since the University delayed the result and we could not afford to take a chance, we had to reappear for the exam as a precautionary note.
Most colleges postponed the results because the case was pending in court. The CMC Vellore which was one of the first colleges to opt out of the NEET-UG also postponed the results to first week of July.
Only recently, I came to know that I had cleared the exams at ManipalUniversity and CMC Ludhiana.
Still we had no idea which colleges we could enroll into through the NEET or when the counseling would begin for the colleges under NEET-UG.
We were expecting this notification to be out by June, but we were disappointed. The counseling eventually started on July 10.
The issue that bothered us through the last one year was that there was no clarity of information. Even our coaching institute which usually has all the information found themselves at loss. Besides, because of the impending court case, everything was getting delayed, which added to the chaos.
What the MCI and the Supreme Court has failed to understand is the amount of preparation this whole process of medical admission in our country demands.
For three months after my board exam got over in March, I was either preparing or appearing for an entrance exam.
I think the last exam I gave was on June 2, 2013 and since the last one month we were anticipating the results to get some clarity on which college to join.
On the other hand, my friends who want to pursue law have to appear for just one exam -- the Common Law Admission Test.
I wish the NEET-UG was that exam for us. It would save us students so much time and effort.
In the interest of several students, I really hope they find a way to implement it, this time, with better co-ordination and clarity of information.
As told to Divya Nair
Image Courtesy: Ishan Sardesai