National Testing Agency (NTA)- Functioning and Challenges- Explained Pointwise

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The National Testing Agency (NTA) has been caught in the middle of the storm of the NEET controversy. With the recent cancellation of the UGC-NET examination, the reputation of National Testing Agency has further been tarnished. The complaints of paper leaks, deviations of procedure, irregularities in the examinations has further creaked the reputation of the agency.

National Testing Agency
Source- NTA
Table of Content
What is the National Testing Agency? What is its envisaged role?
What was the intention behind the establishment of National Testing Agency (NTA)?
What are the issues with functioning of NTA?
What should be the way Forward?

What is the National Testing Agency? What is its envisaged role?

National Testing Agency- National Testing Agency (NTA) was established as a Society registered under the Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860. It is an autonomous and self-sustained testing organization to conduct entrance examinations for admission/fellowship in higher educational institutions.

Aim- NTA aims to conduct efficient, transparent and international standardized tests in order to assess the competency of candidates for admission and recruitment purposes.

Composition- NTA is chaired by an eminent educationist appointed by the Ministry of HRD. The CEO of NTA is the Director General to be appointed by the Government. The Director General is assisted by 9 verticals headed by academicians/ experts. NTA consists of a Board of Governors comprising members from user institutions.

What was the intention behind the establishment of National Testing Agency (NTA)?

1. Relieved other agencies from the duty of examination conduction- Establishment of a specialized testing body like NTA has relieved other agencies such as CBSE, AICTE of their responsibilities of conducting Entrance examinations.

2. Incorporation of Online Mode of examination- Some of the examinations such as JEE Mains are conducted by NTA in the online mode at least twice a year. This gives enough opportunities to candidates and helps to bring out the best in them.

3. Infrastructure for simulated practice- NTA has also created online infrastructure such as a ‘mobile app’ and Test Practice Centres (TPCs) to help students practice and take mock tests on their own computers or smartphones. It has helped in democratization of education.

4. Adoption of global best practices- NTA was designed to adopt technology and best global practices to bring in high reliability, transparency, and standardized difficulty levels in the examinations. It has collaborated with international organizations like ETS (Educational Testing Services).

5. Implementation of Programme of Action (POA) 1992- Creation of National Testing Agency is to give effect to the Programme of Action (POA), 1992 which envisaged the concept of a common entrance exam on an all-India basis for admission to professional programs.

6. Research and Training- NTA was aimed at the establishment of a strong R&D culture as well as a pool of experts in different aspects of testing. It was also aimed to provide training and advisory services to the institutions in India.

What are the issues with functioning of NTA?

1. Controversies and Irregularities in the conduction of examination- The allegations of irregularities in the conduct of exams like NEET-UG, including suspected question paper leaks, distribution of wrong question papers, and technical glitches have posed serious questions on the integrity of the organisation.

2. High scores and Grace marks- The award of Grace marks to the candidates and unusual spike in the number of candidates securing full marks in the NEET exam (67 students securing full 720/720) has raised eyebrows on the procedure adopted by the National Testing agency.

3. Lack of Transparency and Accountability- There have been allegations regarding the lack of transparency and accountability on part of NTA to address the concerns of the students. NTA has often been criticized for being an opaque body, lacking transparency in its operations. For ex- Denial of demands for a CBI inquiry and a retest of the NEET exam on part of NTA.

4. Operational and Administrative Challenges- The centralised nature of the National Testing agency has created operational and administrative challenges for the agency. Many of the empanelled test centres by the NTA lack infrastructures like CCTVs for monitoring the examination process.

5. Reverting to pen-paper mode from the progressive online medium- The reversal to pen and paper mode from the online mode has increased the vulnerability of the examinations conducted by NTA to leaks. For ex- UGC-NET was an offline exam conducted by the CBSE till 2018, when it was taken over by the NTA and became an online exam. However, it was reverted to offline, pen-and-paper exam, which is potentially more vulnerable to paper leaks.

Read More- Exam Paper Leaks- Concerns and Way Forward- Explained Pointwise

What should be the way Forward?

1. Full operational transparency in NTA-  The institution of full transparency on part of NTA in the conduct and publishment of result , can help it regain trustworthiness in the eyes of candidates.

2. Accountability and punishment of the guilty- The government should take steps to rehaul the NTA’s systems and personnel. This will ensure that the technical glitches, cheating scams, paper leaks, and proxy candidates that have plagued the exams this year are not allowed to happen again.

3. Dismantling the centralised structure of National Testing Agency- The centralised structure of the NTA should be dismantled. This may well curb the Union government’s centralising tendencies leading to examinations of enormous scale that are harder to manage in a far-flung nation.

4. Taking help from the State government-  For all-India examinations, the States should join the Central Govt in recovering the integrity of the beleaguered examination system. The state governments should also be shared  some responsibilities for entrance examinations.

Read More- The Hindu
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