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

The release of the NEET 2024 results has plunged many students into a state of distress and uncertainty.

BySumit Jha

Published Jun 11, 2024 | 2:09 PM Updated Jun 11, 2024 | 2:09 PM


Suhail opted for a drop year to prepare for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) to chase his MBBS dream. Today, the Bengaluru student rues his decision.

“I believed that NEET benefited students who couldn’t afford private colleges. I thought if they studied well, they could get into medical colleges on merit. But this year, I’ve lost hope,” he said.

Suhail was among those who took the NEET and left disenchanted and shattered.

“I wasted time by taking a drop year. Last year, I had great opportunities at top engineering colleges in Chennai,” the student said.

“However, I chose to pursue MBBS and took a drop year, which now seems like a wrong decision due to the paper leak and corruption involving money to pass students. All my hard work has been wasted,” he told South First.

Related: Amid student suicides and suicide threats, allegations of a nationwide scam

NEET-ly depressed

Suhail has been staying strong despite the setback. A few others were not as strong as him.

“Three students have already committed suicide in the past 24 hours because of #NEET,” another student, who described himself as a “19-year-old dumb guy aspiring to be a doctor”,  posted on X.

“I might be on the same path. Getting 653 with a rank of 27k is criminal. Last year, the rank for this score was 7k. This is a scam. PLEASE HELP US @abhiandniyu @dhruvrahtee @poetnitish. Here is my result for proof.”

The NEET 2024 results announced on 4 June have plunged many students into a state of despair and uncertainty. It has made several students lose hope in the system and even contemplate killing themselves.

Social media is abuzz with students and even parents sharing the result’s impact on their mental health.

Related: Education Ministry sets up panel to review grace marks

NEET controversy

The NEET-UG 2024 results sparked widespread surprise and controversy.

An unprecedented 67 candidates achieved the All India Rank (AIR) 1, scoring full marks (720). This led to allegations on social media that the NEET paper might have been leaked in advance.

Scorecards showing marks of 718 or 719 also surfaced, raising further questions.

The controversy stemmed from NEET’s marking scheme, which awarded four marks for each correct answer and deducted one mark for each incorrect one.

Thus, after the full score of 720, the next possible score should be 716 if one question was left unanswered and 715 if one question was answered incorrectly. This discrepancy in scores fuelled suspicion.

Related: IMA junior doctors demand CBI probe, threaten to go on strike

Doubts over eight 720s

Adding to the speculation, the merit list released by the National Testing Agency (NTA) revealed that eight students, who took the exam in the same centre, scored 720 marks, further intensifying discussions about potential irregularities.

The higher cut-off scores made the chances of students scoring less than 660 marks slimmer in securing admission to government medical colleges.

The cut-off score was a sharp increase from the previous year when students with 600 marks secured seats in government colleges.

These concerns, in light of the rumours of the paper leak, have raised serious questions about the credibility of NEET 2024. The aftermath of these results has been particularly challenging due to several factors, including the alleged irregularities, paper leaks, and the overall competitiveness of the examination.

Related: Kerala Opposition leader, Telangana former minister KTR seek probe

Panel to review grace marks

The Education Ministry has set up a four-member panel to review the grace marks awarded to more than 1,500 candidates.

“A high-powered committee has been set up to review the results of over 1,500 candidates,” NTA Director General Subodh Kumar Singh said at a press conference in Delhi on 8 June.

“The four-member panel headed by a former UPSC chairman will submit its recommendations within a week and the results of these candidates might be revised,” he further said.

“The awarding of grace marks has not impacted the qualifying criteria of the exam and the review of results of the affected candidates will not impact the admission process,” he added.

The NTA, however, denied any irregularities and said the changes made in the NCERT textbooks and grace marks for losing time at the examination centres were some of the reasons behind the students scoring higher marks.

Asked about whether the exam would be re-conducted for certain students, the NTA DG said, it would be decided depending upon the committee’s recommendations.

“The idea is to ensure that students who lost time or other students are not at any disadvantage,” he said. Singh denied charges of paper leak and irregularities in the exam and reiterated that the integrity of the crucial test had not been compromised.

Related: NTA announces results for medical entrance exam NEET-UG

No helpline

Students, however, were facing a dilemma: Will there be a re-exam or a transparent re-evaluation of results? Will there be an online exam? What will happen to the students who have prepared for years?

“This situation has created a lot of fear among students. Last year, scoring around 450 marks gave students confidence that they would get into government medical school. But now, even those students are afraid,” Suhail said.

“The delayed counselling process is making things worse, prolonging the fear and uncertainty. By the time counselling concludes, engineering admissions will be also closed, forcing students to make rushed decisions about their careers,” he added.

Amid clarifications and assurances about setting up a panel, the NTA has not provided any helpline for students. The lack of support has left students in a state of confusion and distress.

Related: Government must take serious steps to correct ‘irregularities’: Priyanka Gandhi

So, who heads the probe panel?

“The NTA has not released any helpline numbers, leaving students extremely stressed. Thousands of emails and direct messages on social media platforms have been sent, with students in tears and sobbing often calling us, to the students’ associations across the country,” United Doctors Front Association president Dr Lakshya Mittal told South First.

He added that there was no direct communication channel with the NTA to address grievances.

“We are planning a mass protest in Delhi. There should be at least a helpline for these students to address their concerns,” he added.

Dr Mittal also pointed out that although the NTA recently held a press conference and announced the formation of a high-power committee for the re-evaluation of grace marks for 1,563 candidates, the agency appointed its chairperson as the head of the inquiry committee.

“A proper inquiry should be conducted by the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Health, and the NTA personnel should be kept away from the committee. The NTA has downplayed the paper leak issue, denying it during the press conference, which seemed merely procedural,” Dr Mittal said.

Related: I will be your voice in Parliament: Rahul to students

Life is not just NEET

Meanwhile, Suhail has been asking other students not to waste their time. “I advise others not to take a drop year for NEET. If you’re going to attempt it, do it without taking a break. Don’t waste your time. There are other opportunities available,” he said.

Suhail seemed to have put the “waste of time” behind. “If I don’t get into MBBS, I’ll pursue engineering or something else. Success isn’t limited to just one field,” he said, before turning philosophical.

“I understand that there are lakhs of students who feel like having left alone. I want to tell them that life is like a game and that there are many paths to success. Whether you become an engineer, a writer, or an artist, you can achieve great things. It’s not just about NEET; it’s about having confidence in yourself and pursuing what you love,” Suhail added.

Related: ‘Eradicate this malady’: Stalin asks states to condemn NEET

NEET and mental health

The NEET examination in India has been linked to significant mental health issues among students, particularly those from marginalised communities.

The exam’s high stakes and competitive nature could lead to extreme stress, anxiety, and depression, sometimes culminating in suicidal tendencies.

A study found that 40 percent of urban students and 60 percent of rural students experienced anxiety, while 45.3 percent of urban students and 56 percent of rural students experienced depression.

These findings were consistent with other studies in Tamil Nadu, highlighting the widespread nature of these mental health issues.

The NEET exam has also been criticised for perpetuating systemic discrimination against marginalised students, including those from rural and poor backgrounds, government schools, and those educated in local language-medium and state board schools.

This alleged discrimination could lead to increased mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies, as students feel immense pressure to perform well in the exam to secure medical seats.

“The high stakes and competitive nature of NEET can lead to significant stress and anxiety among students,” Hyderabad-based psychologist Deepthi Nagesh said.

Related: Aspirants question alleged paper leak, scoring process and more

Students at risk

“The pressure to perform well in the exam can cause feelings of failure and despair, which can sometimes result in suicidal tendencies,” she said.

Nagesh added that while the pressures were normal for all students, they were exacerbated for students from marginalised backgrounds.

“Their dream to achieve success is through these competitive examinations, as they don’t have the resources to get into private institutions. Apart from their studies, their zeal to be successful is another stressor causing these students anxiety in these situations,” Nagesh said.

She emphasised the need for clarity and support. “At this moment, students need clarity, but it’s not in their hands. So, the support of family and friends is crucial. Families should be there with the students, supporting and listening, rather than just saying everything will be okay,” the psychologist said.

“These students need assurance from their parents again and again that they will be okay, no matter what happens.”

Nagesh further opined that too much social media could be counter-effective. “There is a social media buzz around this issue, and students want to stay informed about what is happening,” she said.

“However, getting too immersed in the buzz can also cause distress, as they may not see results as quickly as they hope, leading to further anxiety. So, while it’s good to stay informed, overdependence on social media can also be detrimental,” Nagesh added.

(Edited by Majnu Babu).