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Editorial Articles


volume - 4, 27 April - 03 May 2019

How to Prepare for UGC NET

Rruchi Shrimalli

If you are interested in pursuing a career in academics and have a Master's degree with at least 55% marks, you are eligible to write the UGC NET (National Eligibility Test) exam. You need to crack this exam to teach as a lecturer in a college or university or to win a Junior Research Fellowship (JRF).

These days, the National Testing Agency (NTA) conducts the UGC NET exam on behalf of the University Grants Commission (UGC).

The good news is that now one can also use your UGC NET scores to get lucrative jobs in PSUs (public sector undertakings). These include plum posts in the fields of management, finance, human resources, corporate communications and research & development (R&D).

This year, the NTA will conduct the NET exam from June 20 to 28, 2019.

Eligibility Criteria for UGC NET Exam

The General Category students need 55% marks in their Master's degree while students of the reserved categories will need 50% marks to be eligible for the exam. PhD degree holders, who did their Master's before September 19, 1992, are allowed a relaxation of 5% marks in the qualifying criteria.

Do note that students from Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category are also eligible for 10% reservation in this exam.

Students aiming for the JRF scholarships should not be more than 28 years of age on January 1 of the year of examination. It means that if you are appearing for the UGC NET 2019 exam, you should not be more than 28 years of age on January 1, 2019.

Reserved category students are allowed relaxation of five years in the qualifying age for the exam. Candidates with research experience in the relevant field (related to their subject in post graduation) may be allowed a relaxation of five years on producing a certificate from the relevant authority. LLM degree holders are allowed a relaxation of three years in the maximum age limit for the exam.

There is no age limit specified for students who want to become Assistant Professors through the exam.

UGC NET Exam Pattern

The NTA UGC NET is exam is conducted in the CBT mode, which means it is a computer-based test.

The duration of the exam is for three hours. Earlier, the exam used to have a 30-minute break between Paper I and Paper II but in June 2019, the paper will be conducted in a single session.

  • The Paper I tests the candidates' General Awareness and contains 50 questions worth 100 marks. You will get one hour to solve this paper.
  • The Paper II contains questions related to the subject chosen by the candidates. It contains 100 questions worth 200 marks. You will get two hours to solve Paper II.

You can move freely between the different sections of the exam - allowing you greater freedom to manage your time in your own way.

All the questions in Paper I and Paper II are objective-type and multiple-choice questions (MCQs). Overall, you will have to solve 150 questions in the exam which are worth 300 marks. It is mandatory to answer all the questions in the exam.

One can write the exam in either English or Hindi. You can opt for more than 84 subjects for the UGC NET exam but it is recommended to opt for the subject directly related to your postgraduate degree or closest to it.

There is no negative marking in the exam. Hence, if you do not know an answer, it is best to make an educated guess instead of skipping the question.

Smart Preparation Tips for the UGC NET Exam

  • The Paper I of the exam is designed to test your general awareness, comprehension, reasoning ability and divergent thinking ability. Many guides are available in the market to help you practice questions asked in this paper. For Paper II, you should revise the syllabus of your Bachelors and Masters course thoroughly.
  • The three basics always work in every exam - read through the syllabus carefully, make your own notes, and solve the previous years' papers. The process helps you remember things better and for a longer period.
  • In fact, we highly recommend you to solve the five previous years' UGC NET Paper 1 question papers before you start your preparation. It will help you see that you can solve almost half the paper without studying. This will boost your confidence and help you see how many questions in the exam are easy and how many of them are difficult. Once you become familiar with the paper pattern, it will become easier for you to crack similar questions in the future.
  • When you solve the previous years' papers, you might want to write down all the questions related to a topic in one place. This will give you an idea about what types of questions are asked on each topic. This will also help you make crisp and clear revision notes that are relevant for the UGC NET exam.
  • You must also note down the silly mistakes every time you solve a question paper. This will help you avoid them next time you solve a paper.
  • Ideally, it takes 3 to 6 months to prepare for the UGC NET exam (depending on how many hours you can devote to studies every day). So, do not procrastinate until the eleventh hour.
  • takes about 3-5 hours of regular studies to clear the UGC NET exam. You cannot skip the daily revisions if you really want to clear the exam.
  • Make a study plan. Start with the topics you can cover quickly and then, proceed to the more time-taking and difficult topics. As soon as you finish a topic, mark it as 'done' in your syllabus.
  • The quickest way to learn something is to teach someone. So, offer free or paid tuitions to some students in your subject. This will help you grasp its fundamentals better.
  • Try to pick up the tricks and formulae to arrive at an answer in the shortest possible time. Time-saving tips can make a lot of difference in your NET scores.
  • Approximately five questions are asked from each topic mentioned in the Paper I syllabus, which includes:
  • Teaching Aptitude
  • Research Aptitude
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Communication
  • Reasoning (including Math)
  • Logical Reasoning
  • Data Interpretation
  • Information & Communication Technology (ICT)
  • People & Environment
  • Higher Education System: Governance, Polity & Administration

Each of these topics carries 10 marks. So, focus on all of them equally.

The MCQs asked in this paper can be of matching type, true/false type or assertion-reasoning type.

  • Some of the easiest sections in Paper 1 are Communication, Information Technology, Reading Comprehension, and Teaching Aptitude. Reading Comprehension (RC) is something we have always done since school days while the Teaching Aptitude (TA) is quite generic. RC may need practice while a simple reading through TA chapters should be enough.
  • These days, most people are familiar with computers. If you have dabbled in computers since school, you shouldn't find the IT section difficult. Try to read up about the latest developments in the field from time to time.
  • As far as Communication is concerned, you might consider taking soft skill courses where you learn about how to take interviews, how to give presentations, and how to participate in group discussions.
  • Many students might have studied about how to do research while preparing dissertations or doing study projects. You also need to read about government policies and the latest summits about education, environment and other topics.
  • Mathematical Reasoning, Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation sections need regular practice.
  • Revise the mathematics concepts covered in Class 9 and Class 10. Sets, patterns and approximation techniques are quite important.
  • To improve Reading Comprehension, read about a topic and then try to summarize it in your own words.
  • Diagrams and flow charts are powerful visual aids to memorize things. You may also read about other types of mnemonics you can use to remember something (such as making a parody of a song or using acronyms to remember a series).

Where to find support for UGC NET preparation?

The National Testing Agency (NTA) announced that from May 2019, its test centres will be offering free coaching services to those who want to prepare for the UGC NET exam. The move has been planned to benefit students hailing from rural or semi-urban areas.

On the official site of NTA (https://www.nta.nic.in), you can also take a mock test for the UGC NET exam.

Many other online and offline coaching institutes also offer a variety of UGC NET coaching packages and study material.

These days, several apps are also available on Google or Apple app stores which can help you with your UGC NET preparation for free. Many of these include solved previous year question papers and sample practice questions for you.

How to prepare for the NET exam in the Last Month?

At this stage, there must be some topics that you already know well, some which you are not so confident about and some which are still untouched. Since you have only a handful of days now, ignore the ones you haven't touched yet and focus on those you already know.

Practice questions from the previous years' papers, mock tests, or from books and magazines (for competitive exams) available in the market.

Note that Paper 1 is not the qualifying exam anymore. Even if you don't score minimum qualifying marks in Paper 1, your Paper 2 will still get checked. Your total score will be the cumulative marks of Paper 1 and Paper 2. So, even if you don't do that well in Paper 1 but score stellar marks in Paper 2, you still have a chance to crack the exam.

Moreover, Paper 1 is quite easy and you can easily score around 60% in it without much preparation. Even if you are not good at Math or General Awareness or Current Affairs, you can still clear the UGC NET in the first attempt.

On the Day of the Exam

  • Remember to carry the admit card with your passport-sized photograph affixed on it. Carry an extra passport-sized photograph to affix on the attendance sheet at the examination venue. You also have to carry your identification document (such as your Aadhaar card, ration card, passport, or bank passbook) to the exam centre.
  • Do not carry anything else as there will be no arrangement for safekeeping your belongings at the test centre.
  • Check your keyboard and mouse before you start your test. Any technical difficulties later will only eat away your time unnecessarily.
  • Most questions are easy. Options make an MCQ difficult. Easy questions give you choices where the right answer is quite obvious while difficult questions are designed in such a way that all the options seem like a plausible answer. The good news is that about 50% questions in the UGC NET exam are easy, 30% are of the moderate difficulty level and only 20% questions are really difficult.
  • Do the questions you know first and bookmark the ones you would need more time to solve. Save some time to check all your answers before the exam ends.
  • If you don't know an answer, try the elimination method. In this method, you eliminate answers that are obviously wrong and then, bet on the one that you think fits best as an answer. This educated guesswork increases your chances of getting your answer right.                                                                                                                      

Cut off Marks and the Merit List

General Category students need to score 40% in the exam while the reserved category students need 35% marks to be considered for the merit list. The merit list is drawn using the aggregate marks of the two papers for the NET qualifiers. Top 6% of the candidates (in each subject and category) are considered eligible for JRF if they have not applied for the position of Assistant Professor.

If you study judiciously and regularly, it is not difficult to score 70-80% marks in the UGC NET exam. So, give it your best shot.

Rruchi Shrimalli is a career counsellor e-mail: rruchi shrimalli@gmail.com.

Views expressed are personal.

(Image Courtesy : Google)