JNU’s entrance exam was riddled with irregularities. What went wrong?

From website glitches to error-strewn answer keys, the exercise was plagued with problems.

ByAnoushka Sharma
JNU’s entrance exam was riddled with irregularities. What went wrong?
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The National Testing Agency conducted Jawaharlal Nehru University’s entrance exams for MA, MPhil, and PhD courses from October 5 to 8. From incorrect answer keys to changes in format, many aspirants complained their tests were riddled with discrepancies.

“The exam went well and I was expecting my score to be 74 out of 100, but when the answer key was released I was shocked to see all the wrong answers,” an MPhil aspirant for West Asian Studies said on the condition of anonymity. “I am a general category student. Going by the trend, 74 -78 marks are required to clear the cutoff. If I go with this answer key, I cannot even think of securing a seat in JNU.”

Many aspirants claimed that up to sixty of the hundred answers in some keys were incorrect.

Responding to the complaints, NTA, an autonomous agency established by the central government, said on October 20 that the candidates could challenge the marking of every answer by giving supporting evidence. The candidates were given only a 48-hour window, however, and told to pay a processing fee of Rs 1,000 to challenge each answer. The fee would be refunded if the challenge was accepted, the NTA announced.

The candidates pointed out that challenging 50 wrong answers would require paying Rs 50,000, a sum they couldn’t afford.

“I can’t afford to spend Rs 50,000 on challenging wrong answers. I wrote to NTA, but received no response. I also contacted a professor in JNU’s Arabic Studies department who assured me they would talk to the agency. I haven’t heard back from him either,” Abul Kalam, who took the exam for a master’s in Arabic, said.

There were other problems with the exams. Many candidates could not download the answer key in time from the website. Some also complained of a change in the format of the question paper.

“It was a disappointing paper. There were no questions based on comprehension and logical reasoning, only factual questions,” complained Mehnaz Hussain, who appeared for the MA English exam. “For someone who has been preparing for JNU with deep interest in literature and analysis, this was not the right exam.”

Mehnaz said she found several discrepancies in the answer key, although she did not challenge them. “Around 60-62 answers are wrong in the answer key for the English exam.”

Same was the case with the answer key for the master’s in international relations exam, which she also sat for.

Afzal Husain, a research scholar at the Centre of Arabic and African Studies, JNU, said last year’s exams were plagued with similar problems but they were rectified in time. “NTA should follow a defined pattern and syllabus of JNUEE,” he said. “We observed that NTA combined JNUEE exam with UGC-NET. Questions were asked based on UGC NET syllabus and pattern.”

A delegation from the JNU Students Union met Vineet Joshi, director of the National Testing Agency, and submitted a detailed report on the errors in the answer keys. The union demanded that the agency upload the rectified answer keys immediately and not charge candidates a processing fee for challenging them.

“The director assured us that the correct answer keys will be uploaded in a few days,” said Saket Moon, the union’s vice president.

Moon added that “in MPhil and PhD entrance exams for subjects like political science and sociology, research methodology questions weren’t asked at all even though it is recommended that 50 percent questions should be about that.”

In the MA geography exam, he continued, “50 percent questions were asked from a single topic unlike in the previous years”. “We hope to put forth a mechanism to take this struggle forward,” Moon said.

Pointing out that neither the NTA nor the JNU administration had informed the students about discrepancies in the answer keys, Moon said, “NTA has promised that they will not declare the result until the correct answer key is out. However, I feel the two institutions involved do not want to accept that they have committed a huge mistake.”

However, it didn’t end here. On November 3, NTA declared the results for MPhil and PhD courses. Instead of issuing grades, students’ individual portals only reflected whether they have “passed” of “failed”. A similar process was followed last year which drew flak from students for its lack of transparency.

Newslaundry contacted the director of the NTA, Mr. Vineet Joshi for comment, but they weren’t available. This story will be updated if a response is received.

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