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In-Depth Jobs

Issue no 05, 29 April -05 May 2023

Unlock Your Potential: Ace the CUET with Confidence


Ashutosh Rai & Prateek Singh

Launched in 2022, the Common University Entrance Test (CUET) for undergraduate courses, administered by the National Testing Agency (NTA), has revolutionised the admission process for Central, State, Private, and Deemed Universities. Prior to this, students seeking admission to nonmedical and non-engineering undergraduate courses had to undergo a cumbersome process of filling out multiple forms and appearing for several entrance exams, each with a distinct curriculum and syllabus. However, the CUET has streamlined this process, offering a singular, nationwide examination for admission into a diverse array of undergraduate courses such as B.Sc., B.A., B.Tech, B.Pharma, B.Voc., and more. The National Testing Agency (NTA) was established by the Government of India with the noble objective of promoting teaching, learning, and assessment. As an independent, autonomous, and self-sustained premier testing organisation, NTA operates under the Societies Registration Act (1860). Its mandate is to conduct efficient, transparent, and internationally standardised tests that assess candidates' competencies for admission to premier higher education institutes. NTA's overarching mission is to improve the quality and equity of education by developing and administering research-based, valid, reliable, efficient, transparent, fair, and internationally recognised assessments. The CUET aspires to create a level playing field for candidates from all corners of the nation, particularly those hailing from rural and remote areas, by providing a common platform and equal opportunities. This initiative also facilitates robust connections between universities and students. Through a single, comprehensive examination, candidates can reach a broader audience and leverage this to gain admission into multiple Central Universities. Up until the year 2022, each university or college maintained its own admission criteria, with some placing the greatest emphasis on a candidate's marks from their Senior Secondary examinations, most notably Delhi University (DU). However, this system of admission into the country's top Central Universities was inherently inequitable and unethical. The multitude of State Boards in India operates under different marking criteria, rendering the process of admission unjust. For instance, a student from the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is more likely to perform well and achieve a higher percentage of marks than a student from a State Board. Although the Government had already taken steps to standardise the curriculum by mandating every State Board to follow NCERT books, the situation remained unfair in practice. However, the Central University cum Entrance Test has leveled the playing field, offering equal opportunities for students across the board. While the concept of CUET may sound appealing and utopic, the reality of its implementation proves to be a daunting task. In 2022, a staggering 1,490,293 candidates registered for the examination, with 968,201 candidates ultimately appearing for it across 249 cities in India and 10 cities abroad. This made it one of the largest online examinations conducted in India. Despite being conducted in multiple slots and over several days, the examination was plagued by numerous mismanagement issues, such as the admit card being released just one day prior to the examination and server crashes during the exam. However, these issues were addressed and rectified, with candidates being given the opportunity to reappear for the examination. The NTA anticipates a surge in candidates taking the CUET this year, and is taking measures to adequately prepare for this influx. As a result, it is hoped that the examination will be conducted with greater student-centricity and convenience, while maintaining its fairness and integrity.

CUET 2023 Slots: For the CUET 2023, the examination will be conducted in multiple slots on each examination day. Candidates will be assigned a specific slot, as indicated in their admit cards, and will be required to appear for the exam during that designated time. While the previous year's examination was conducted in two slots, the NTA has announced that this year's exam will be conducted in three slots. However, the specific timings for each slot have not yet been declared. In the previous year, the first slot was held from 9:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., while the second slot was held from 3:00 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.

Mode of Examination: CUET is an online based examination hence it is conducted in Computer Based Test (CBT) mode.

Question Pattern: CUET question paper comprises objective-type multiple choice questions (MCQs) in which a candidate is presented with the choice of four given alternatives out of which only one is correct.

Marking Scheme: 5 marks are awarded for each correct answer given by the candidate and 1 mark is deducted in case of a wrong answer. No marks are allotted in a case where the candidates do not attempt the question.

Medium of Examination: CUET is conducted in a range of languages, including English, Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Odia, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. In the event that a candidate opts for a language other than English, the exam questions will be available in both English and the language selected by the candidate. While English, Hindi, and Urdu will be available at all examination centers across the country, candidates opting for other languages may find that the exam center is only available in one or a few states where that language is regionally spoken.

Scheme of Examination: The CUET exam is divided into section I, section II and section III. The section I is further divided into section IA and section IB. Section I comprises questions that judge your language skills. Section 1A, which will be compulsory, will be conducted in 13 languages and candidates will be given the option to choose the language of their choice. The options are English, Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Odia, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. Section 1B will be optional and for students who want to opt for another language apart from the ones that are a part of Section 1A. Languages offered in Section 1B are French, Spanish, German, Nepali, Persian, Italian, Arabic, Sindhi, Kashmiri, Konkani, Bodo, Dogri, Maithili, Manipuri, Santhali, Sanskrit, Tibetan, Japanese, Russian, and Chinese. Section II consists of 27 domain specific subjects and section III comprises general test. One need not necessarily attempt all languages or subjects in this examination. What makes this test particularly ingenious is that the responsibility of subject selection has been delegated to both the university and the candidate. It is up to the candidate to decide which course they wish to pursue and the university has provided guidelines on the requisite subjects for admission. To illustrate, consider the example of University 'A' which stipulates that admission to its Bachelor of Arts program requires the candidate to appear for either a language or general test. The candidate's percentile score in these tests will determine their merit and eligibility for counseling. In contrast, University 'B' requires candidates to appear for three domain subjects as per their 12th-grade performance. Suppose a candidate desires to enroll in both University 'A' and University 'B', with 'A' being the primary preference and 'B' the secondary preference. In such a case, while filling out the application form, the candidate must select one language, one general test, and three domainspecific subjects. Consequently, the candidate appears for a single examination on a specific date, where they attempt a paper containing five subjects - the language test, general test, and the three domain subjects. By taking this exam, the candidate becomes eligible for admission into both the universities 'A' and 'B'. To illustrate this scenario, consider Banaras Hindu University (BHU) as University 'A' and the University of Delhi (DU) as University 'B', with the criterion for B.A. admission being similar to the example given above. Although the CUET Exam aims to streamline the admission process for various universities, it poses a significant challenge for students as they must determine which subjects to choose when filling out the application form. Each university has the liberty to demand different subjects or combinations for the same course, making the process even more complex. To address this challenge, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, under the Digital India Initiative, has established over 1.5 lakh Common Services Centres (CSC) throughout the country. These centres offer valuable support to candidates, providing guidance on form filling and other aspects of the CUET. We will delve further into the role of Common Services Centres (CSC) later in this article.

Number of Questions Per Section

·         Section IA and IB: 40 out of 50 questions are to be attempted Š

·         Section II: 40 out of 50 questions are to be attempted Š

·         Section III: 50 out of 60 questions are to be attempted.

Duration: For Accountancy, Economics, Physics, Computer Science/ Information Practices, Chemistry, Mathematics/Applied Mathematics and General test, duration of the test will be of 60 minutes. For all other subjects, the duration of the test will be of 45 minutes. The 27 domain specific subjects are: Accountancy/Book keeping, Biology/ Biological Studies/Biotechnology/Biochemistry, Business Studies, Chemistry, Computer Science/Information Practices, Economics/Business Economics, Engineering Graphics, Entrepreneurship, Environmental Studies, Geography/ Geology, History, Home Science, Knowledge Tradition and Practices in India, Legal Studies, Mathematics, Physical Education/NCC/Yoga, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, Teaching Aptitude, Agriculture, Mass Media/Mass Communication, Anthropology, Fine Arts/Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Sanskrit.

Examination Centres: CUET- UG 2023 is being offered in 411 cities including 24 cities outside India.

Common Services Centres (CSC)/ Facilitation Centres /Help Centres

Candidates facing challenges in submitting their online application due to various constraints can seek assistance from Common Services Centres. This scheme is an integral part of the National e-governance Plan (NeGP) launched by the Government of India and is managed at each village Panchayat level by a Village Level Entrepreneur (VLE). With over 1.5 lakh Common Services Centres (CSC) across the country, candidates from both urban and rural areas can receive the necessary support for online application submission and payment of fees via e-wallet. The list of Common Services Centres is available on the website: www.csc.gov.in.

Preparation Tips

General Test: The General Test component of CUET-UG comprises three major sections: Reasoning, Numerical Ability, and GK/GS with current affairs. The Reasoning component aims to evaluate the candidate's problem-solving skills through a range of verbal and nonverbal reasoning questions. The verbal section includes questions on topics such as the Dictionary, where candidates must solve questions related to which words can come first or last according to the English dictionary. Additionally, there are counting figure questions from series, mathematical inequalities, blood relations, questions related to clock and time, dice, direction sense, cube and cuboid reasoning type questions, ranking order or sequence-based questions, questions related to calendar, Venn Diagram, coding-decoding, sitting arrangement, alphabet test, and more. To excel in these question types, diligent practice is key. The difficulty level typically ranges from easy to moderate, so a strong grasp of concepts, clever problem-solving strategies, and the ability to recall shortcut formulas can greatly enhance a candidate's performance in the reasoning portion. The Numerical Ability section is designed to evaluate a candidate's mathematical and calculation skills. Its syllabus and topics cover basic math concepts typically taught in 8th grade. These include Number System, HCF and LCM, Surds and Indices, Train or boat and stream problems, Percentage, Average, Ratio and Proportion, Mixture and Allegation, Profit and Loss, Time and Distance, Pipe and Cistern based problems, Geometry, Basics of Trigonometry, Age related calculations, Time and Work based problems, Mensuration, Set and Set Theory, Simple and Compound Interest, Statistics, and Probability. Similar to the Reasoning and Numerical Ability sections, the questions in the General Knowledge (GK) and General Science (GS) portions, along with current affairs, are generally of an easy to moderate level. To perform well, it is essential for candidates to practice a sufficient number of questions related to each topic. It is highly recommended that candidates review previous year's questions, as this can provide valuable insight into the paper pattern, syllabus, and level of difficulty for the exam. The GK and GS portion, along with current affairs, comprises the third section of the General Test. Although fewer questions are typically asked in this section compared to Reasoning and Numerical Ability, it is still crucial for candidates to practice and prepare for it. The Static GK portion of this section includes questions related to Indian and World History, Indian and World Geography, Polity, and Economics. The General Science portion includes basic and introductory level questions on Physics, Chemistry, and Biology, up to the 8th-grade level. To perform well in this section, candidates are strongly encouraged to review the NCERT Science textbooks for class 8, which can serve as an excellent resource. Additionally, candidates should also brush up on their knowledge of Static GK by consulting the NCERT Social Science textbook for class 8, as well as the Civics and Economics textbooks for classes 9 and 10. While the Current Affairs portion carries less weight than the other sections, it is still an important component of the exam. To prepare for this section, candidates should review significant events and developments that occurred over the previous six months

Language Section: For candidates who choose any Language in section 1A or 1B, the syllabus for the Language Section is similar. It is essential to prepare thoroughly for this section, which includes questions on the basic grammar of the chosen language, Synonyms and Antonyms, One Word Substitutions, Figures of Speech, Spelling check exercises, Reading comprehension and passage-based questions, Jumbles and Para jumbles sentences, and Idioms and Proverbs. Passage-based questions are a common feature of the Language Section, in which candidates are given a passage to read, usually taken from a novel, newspaper, magazine, journal, or poem. Five to six questions are then posed to test the candidates' comprehension of the passage. These questions may ask the candidates to identify parts of speech, underline specific words, find synonyms or antonyms, or provide one-word substitutions. The purpose of these questions is to assess the candidate's aptitude and knowledge of the chosen language. To prepare for the Language Section, candidates should have a comprehensive understanding of the language's grammar, major authors and poets, and vocabulary. Diligent practice is necessary to perform well on these exams.

Domain Specific Subjects: To adequately prepare for domain-specific subjects, it is highly recommended to adhere to NCERT textbooks. Each sentence, table, data, and diagram contained within these texts is of great importance. Aspiring CUET candidates must keep in mind that only the syllabus outlined in the 12thgrade curriculum is relevant to domain subjects. While certain subjects such as Agriculture may not have an NCERT textbook available, many candidates find themselves uncertain about the appropriate syllabus to follow. In such cases, visiting the official CBSE website at CBSE.nic.in can provide access to the entire syllabus for 12th-grade board exams, which aspiring candidates should follow accordingly. For competitive examinations, NCERT textbooks are often regarded as the ultimate reference material, and therefore, candidates are advised to study their NCERT textbooks multiple times. While there are numerous books available in the market for exam preparation, none can quite compare to the exceptional quality of NCERT textbooks. These texts are renowned for their clarity, conciseness, and most importantly, their comprehensive coverage of all topics relevant to the exam. To ensure success, candidates should immerse themselves in the NCERT textbook and read it multiple times. It is essential to learn all concepts thoroughly and practice questions from each chapter at the end of each reading session. A pro tip for candidates is to solve the NCERT exemplar problems in addition to studying the textbook before appearing for the examination. Neglecting the exemplar can prove detrimental, as many previous year questions have been sourced from this book. Candidates who fail to read it may miss out on valuable marks and perpetuate the false belief that questions are often asked outside of the syllabus.

Last Minute Tips Even if you have dedicated yourself fully to your studies throughout the year, failing to utilise the last month of preparation can hinder you from achieving your desired results. The final stretch of time seems to pass in the blink of an eye, and it is crucial to remain focused throughout the entire journey. To wrap up and enhance prior learnings, it is essential to follow proper tactics and strategies. Hard work and focus are necessary, but it is equally important to take proper rest and maintain a healthy diet schedule. Avoiding junk food is especially vital, as falling ill during this critical phase could prove disastrous. Remember, you become what you think. Visualise yourself achieving a top rank and gaining admission to your dream course at one of the country's top universities. Consider the joy that this achievement would bring to your parents or loved ones and the pride they would feel. Such positive visualisation can help motivate and inspire you to achieve your goals. Envision the transformation that awaits you if you excel in this exam. Review all the critical topics and strive to become a master of your concepts. Commit important dates and data to memory. The outcome of this exam has the potential to shape the course of your entire life, so give it your all and exude confidence in your preparation. Remember, confidence is a powerful accessory, so wear it with pride. Your results will reflect the hard work, effort, and sacrifices you have made. When you hold your results, you will realise that it was all worth it. Keep pushing forward, dear students. The day you secure admission to your dream college and step onto the campus, you will shine with pride. A bright future awaits you, so give it your all in the CUET examination. All the very best!

(The authors are co-founders of a popular online coaching app. They can be reached at ashutosh@basicsiksha.com and prateeksinghtalks@gmail.com respectively).

Views expressed are personal.