In a first, two candidates attained full marks in medical entrance exam National Eligibility cum Entrance Test, results of which were declared on Friday night, according to National Testing Agency officials.
Odisha's Soyeb Aftab and Delhi's Akansha Singh have scored 720 out of 720 marks but Aftab has been ranked first and Singh second as per the NTA's tie-breaking policy, the officials said.
Speaking on topping the exam, Soyeb Aftab said, "There is no doctor in my family, so I didn't expect this. I had hoped to make it to top 100 or top 50 but I never expected to score 720/720. The exam was being postponed, so there was a lot of pressure. But the goal was to stay calm and utilise time."
A total of 7,71,500 candidates have qualified the exam for which over 13.66 lakh candidates had appeared.
The highest number of qualifying candidates are from Tripura (88,889) followed by Maharashtra (79,974).
"The result has been declared. I congratulate all candidates who have cleared the exam and wish them good luck for future. I thank NTA for giving a new cohort of doctors this year. Exams were conducted during 'testing' times and the spirit of cooperative federalism was also visible. I also thank all the chief ministers for the same," Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' tweeted.
The NEET was conducted on September 13 amid strict precautions in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
From this year, the admissions to MBBS course in 13 All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry, will also be made through NEET
following the amendment in National Medical Commission Act, 2019, passed by Parliament last year.
The test was offered in 11 languages -- English, Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Odia, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu -- this year. Based on the initial report, more than 77 per cent aspirants
took the test in English, around 12 per cent in Hindi and 11 per cent in other languages.
The exam was earlier postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the government decided to go ahead with it, despite opposition by a section, to mitigate any further academic loss.
The National Testing Agency had set in place strict standard operating procedures in view of the pandemic, including measures like reducing the number of candidates per room from the earlier 24 to 12.
The NTA had also increased the number of centres from 2,546 in 2019 to 3,862 this year to ensure crowd management and staggered entry and exit protocols. Unlike the engineering entrance (JEE), NEET-UG, the medical admission test, is a pen and paper exam and held once a year.
Accordingly, the NTA had changed centres for a few candidates this week in compliance with social distancing norms and COVID restrictions. In many places, NTA also arranged buses and private vehicles to transfer candidates who arrived at the centres assigned to them earlier instead of the changed one.
While all the candidates were asked to go to the exam centres with masks and sanitisers, once they entered the centre, they were asked to use the three-ply masks provided by the examination authority.
The NEET-UG was originally scheduled for May 3, but was pushed to July 26 and then scheduled for September 13.
-- With inputs from ANI