NEET 2024 goof up: Controversy surrounding rank inflation due to bonus marks for ‘faulty’ Physics question

The scrutiny follows the 4 June results of the NEET-UG 2024 medical entrance exam, where 67 students scored 720/720, achieving full marks and ranking first.

BySumit Jha

Published Jun 12, 2024 | 7:00 AM Updated Jun 12, 2024 | 7:22 AM

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On Tuesday, 11 June, the Supreme Court of India told the National Testing Agency (NTA), “Sanctity has been affected, so we need answers,” after taking note of the allegations of paper leaks and other malpractices.

This scrutiny follows the 4 June results of the NEET-UG 2024 medical entrance exam, where 67 students scored 720/720, achieving full marks and ranking first.

The controversy stemmed from two main issues. First, approximately 1,563 students received grace marks due to a delay in the examination at a centre in Sawai Madhopur District in Rajasthan.

Second, a five-mark bonus was awarded to students because of an error in a physics question.

Also Read: ‘NEET-ly’ shattered students flail to stay afloat, NTA offers no helpline

Rank anomalies in the exam

One issue is that the NTA mentioned giving grace marks to 1,563 out of 23 lakh students. On the exam day, the NTA declared that there was only one centre in Rajasthan that had trouble conducting the exam, while all other centres conducted the exam on time.

However, on the result day, people discovered that some students had scored 718 or 719 marks. The NTA responded the next day, stating that these scores resulted from giving grace marks to the 1,563 students for their loss of time.

“The method used to calculate these grace marks is questionable, as it seems to contradict a 2018 ruling that considers such a practice unfair. There are instances reported on social media where students received more than 150 grace marks, and in some cases, more than 200 marks,” said Keshav Karunakar, whose daughter scored 695 for the NEET UG 2024 exam, in a video message.

“The NTA has mentioned giving marks ranging from -20 to 720 but has not disclosed how many students received these marks,” said Karunakar.

Analysing the top ranks, there are 67 students who achieved the first rank, of whom six received grace marks for the time lapse. According to the NTA, 17 students scored 720 out of 720 without any grace marks, making them the original first-rank holders.

What about the remaining 50? “44 are on account of the revision in one answer key of Physics and six are due to compensatory marks for loss of time,” said NTA in its statement.

“If you consider the impact of the 44 students who received bonus marks, 72 percent of the rank inflation has occurred due to the NTA’s decision to award bonus marks for a physics question,” said Keshav Karunakar.

Here comes the revision in one answer key of Physics which led to huge differences in ranking this year.

Also Read: Sanctity has been affected; we need answers: Supreme Court on NEET-UG 2024 results

Physics question error

“Atoms of ‘each’ element are stable and emit their characteristic spectrum” – this was one of the questions asked in the NEET examination, where the students have to answer it in reasoning.

In the periodic table, some elements are stable while others are not, with radioactive elements being notably unstable. Students familiar with elementary physics would know that not all elements are stable.

“The NTA posed a question asking whether each element is stable, and students had to determine if this statement was true or false. Based on fundamental knowledge and past teachings, the correct answer is that this statement is false,” said Karunakar.

However, the answer key was released on 31 May, and students had 24 hours to challenge it. NTA received 13,373 challenges to the provisional answer key of one question in Physics.

“Due to the differences in the old and new editions of the NCERT textbook, the subject expert(s) held that two options be taken as correct in place of one option for this question,” said the NTA in a statement.

“However, some vested interests saw an opportunity to inflate ranks and orchestrated efforts to do so. On platforms like Quora and Telegram, we observed people instigating students to use older books to challenge the answer key,” said Karunakar.

Also Read: NEET results: Education Ministry sets up panel to review grace marks to over 1,500 candidates

NTA’s lack of clarity on book references

The NTA justified the bonus marks by claiming that old books used the term “each,” while newer books used “most.” They argued that since books are often passed down among siblings in India, they had to give marks to all students, regardless of whether the statement was true or false.

“The NTA did not clearly define what they considered a “new book.” The 2022 NCERT book, which students from the 2024-25 batch will use, clearly states on the atoms summary page (point number five) that “atoms of most elements are stable and emit characteristic spectra,” said Karunakar.

“This means the statement in the exam is false. I checked the 2019 NCERT book my daughter used. It also states that “atoms of most elements are stable and emit characteristic spectra.” It’s unclear why the NTA would refer to older books from 2018 or earlier,” he said.

Karunakar added that a student appearing for the 2024 exam should not be expected to refer to books from 2022, 2021, or even 2019.

“Referring to a 2018 book or older is unreasonable. If people start using books from decades ago, it undermines the fairness of the exam. The NTA’s rushed decision to accept challenges and release results within three days is questionable,” he said.

“For instance, last year, a student from Bangalore challenged two chemistry questions using proof from US journals, but the NTA didn’t accept it because they considered the NCERT books the ultimate authority. There should be a clear cut-off for which books are considered valid references,” Karunakar said.

Due to these issues, rank inflation has occurred. At rank one, there is a 72 percent inflation due to these bonus marks. If rank one is affected this way, the impact on ranks at 650 marks and 600 marks can be imagined. The rank inflation at lower marks is likely even more significant, which is not in the best interest of students.

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj)