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Why has NTA failed to deliver


Why has NTA failed to deliver

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  • The National Testing Agency (NTA) has come across allegations of cheating, paper leaks and other irregularities impacting flagship examinations such as the NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) for undergraduate medical college admissions and the UGC-NET for Ph.D and assistant professor appointments.

What is the NTA?

  • The NTA was set up in 2017 as a specialist, self-sustaining and autonomous organisation under the aegis of the Union Education Ministry.
  • Its director general and governing body are appointed by the Union government.
  • However, it is registered as a society and is a separate legal entity, which raises questions about the government’s legal liability for the NTA’s actions.
  • Its main mandate is to conduct efficient, transparent and international standard tests to assess the competency of candidates for admission, and recruitment purposes.
  • Soon after it was established, the NTA took over the conduct of major all-India examinations, such as the JEE for engineering college admissions, NEET-UG, and UGC-NET (both of which had previously been conducted by the Central Board for Secondary Education or CBSE), as well as the entrance tests for Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University.
  • The National Education Policy of 2020 envisaged a broader role, recommending that the NTA conduct an entrance or aptitude test for all universities across the country. In all, the NTA now has charge for more than 20 examinations.

Problems in NTA

Origins and Objectives of the NTA

  • Original Purpose: The NTA was established with the primary objective of transitioning all major entrance examinations in India to computer-based tests. This move aimed to enhance efficiency, reduce malpractices such as question paper leaks, and introduce fairness in assessment processes.
  • Successes: Initially, the NTA successfully conducted several examinations in computer-based mode, claiming benefits such as better security, elimination of human error in subjective assessments, and faster result processing.

Challenges and Reversals

  • UGC-NET Case: Despite being transitioned to computer-adaptive mode, the UGC-NET exam recently reverted to pen-and-paper format due to concerns about leaks during the printing process. This decision was followed by the cancellation of the examination citing cyber threats.
  • NEET-UG Contradiction: In contrast, NEET-UG remains a pen-and-paper exam despite NTA's design for computer-based testing. The Health Ministry's resistance, citing rural student readiness and legal rulings, highlights challenges in implementing uniform testing modes across diverse demographics.

Operational Limitations of the NTA

  • Understaffing and Outsourcing: The NTA operates with a minimal permanent staff of about 25 members, outsourcing critical functions to third-party technical partners. This reliance poses challenges in maintaining accountability and robustness in examination procedures.
  • Infrastructure Issues: Handling large-scale pen-and-paper exams like NEET-UG requires extensive logistical support, including secure question paper setting, encryption, printing, and distribution to numerous centers nationwide. Weak links in this chain increase vulnerability to malpractices.

Proposed Reforms and Solutions

  • High-Level Panel Recommendations: A panel led by former ISRO chief K. Radhakrishnan has been tasked to recommend reforms. Key areas include enhancing data security protocols, bolstering NTA's operational capabilities, and improving examination processes.
  • Diverse Stakeholder Proposals:
    • Return to Pen-and-Paper: Some stakeholders advocate for reinforcing the NTA's infrastructure to effectively manage pen-and-paper exams akin to the previous CBSE system. This approach emphasizes equity, particularly for rural and technologically underserved students.
    • Decentralization Debate: Opposing views suggest decentralizing examination responsibilities, allowing state governments and universities to conduct their entrance tests. This model seeks to cater better to regional educational needs and reduce dependence on a centralized agency.
    • Systemic Assessment Reform: Advocates for systemic changes propose moving away from single-entrance examinations. They recommend integrating periodic assessments during school education, leveraging online testing and AI-based proctoring overseen by the NTA.

Way ahead:

Strengthening Security Protocols

  • Implement stringent security measures throughout the entire examination process, from question paper creation to distribution and post-exam handling.
  • Introduce advanced encryption techniques and secure storage solutions to safeguard question papers against unauthorized access and leaks.

Technology Integration

  • Emphasize the use of technology in examination management, including AI-based monitoring systems during paper setting, printing, and distribution phases.
  • Explore blockchain technology for tamper-proof storage of question papers and audit trails to trace any potential breaches.

Enhanced Oversight and Accountability

  • Establish a dedicated oversight committee or task force comprising experts from cybersecurity, law enforcement, and education sectors to monitor examination conduct.
  • Ensure clear accountability frameworks for all stakeholders involved in the examination process, including third-party contractors.

Capacity Building and Training

  • Conduct regular training programs for NTA staff, technical partners, and examination center personnel on security protocols and best practices.

Public Awareness and Transparency

  • Increase transparency by regularly communicating security measures and updates to the public, including stakeholders such as students, parents, and educational institutions.
  • Encourage whistleblowing mechanisms and provide incentives for reporting potential breaches, fostering a collaborative approach to preventing paper leaks.

Need for Holistic Reform:

  • Addressing systemic issues such as exam pressure, coaching industry dominance, and malpractice incentives requires holistic reform. This may involve a blend of technology-driven assessments and localized testing solutions tailored to regional needs.


  • The NTA's journey reflects evolving challenges in modernizing India's examination system while striving for fairness and integrity. The path ahead involves balancing technological advancements with inclusive educational access, backed by robust governance and stakeholder consensus.




Q) Discuss the role of the National Testing Agency (NTA) in ensuring the integrity and fairness of competitive examinations in India, with a focus on its strategies to prevent and address incidents of paper leaks. How can NTA further strengthen its mechanisms to maintain public trust and confidence in the examination process? Discuss with suitable examples and suggestions. ( 250 words)