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JEE Main 2019: How does NTA secure the exam?

TCS-iON and NTA share inputs on how they have prepared to conduct the JEE Main exam - one of the biggest exam in engineering and the real test of the NTA. From question paper setting, anti-cheating mechanism to automated evaluation, all that goes in the background of JEE Mains and other exams

Written by Shyna Kalra | New Delhi |
Updated: January 23, 2019 11:18:20 am
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JEE Main 2019: ‘Here is tomorrow’s question paper,’ any such claims are false as it is impossible to leak the exam set by the CBT system, claims Venguswamy Ramaswamy, global head, TCS iON. One of the biggest and most anticipated competitive exams in India, Joint Entrance Exam Main starts from January 8 and will be conducted by the newly constituted National Testing Agency (NTA) for the first time in computer-based testing (CBT) format.

Among the latest developments, the NTA has issued a special advisory for the frisking staff asking them to be more sensitive. “We have asked the frisking staff to be more sensitive, especially towards the female candidates,” NTA DG, Vineet Joshi told

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Keeping in mind the UGC-NET controversies where two female students were not allowed to appear for the exam as they refused to remove their hijab, NTA has not issued any dress code. The dress code held importance considering this was the first time the exam was being conducted in the winters. Also, earlier there were reports that women were not allowed to wear ‘under-wired bras’ because of their metal content but Joshi clearly informed that no dress code is needed and the NTA has secured the centres well. Here is how the NTA and its partner will secure the JEE.

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Firstly, what is CBT? According to the TCS-iON, the digital assessment wing of TCS, who will be conducting the exam has informed “In the CBT or computer-based testing format, the exam is conducted on a computer but not online. The question paper in an encrypted format reaches every exam centre and is decrypted only when the first ever candidate clicks the question paper. Which ensures that no one except the student has seen the final questions.” The CBT exam can also be called LAN-based exam.

How is question paper encrypted?: “A CBT exam is set online with help of a computer. Once the final question paper is decided, the answer keys and question papers are saved separately and encrypted in such a sophisticated manner that it would take more than one year for powerful computers to decrypt it,” informed Venguswamy Ramaswamy, Global Head, TCS iON.

How is a question paper set? The question paper setters create their respective question papers following the guidelines are given by the NTA. Each one of them submits respective question paper along with the answer key to the agency. The answers also have supportive source/books substantiating the same which could be used later. “All the questions are tagged with difficulty-level, subject and question’s author tag. Now based on directives by person(s) the computer will pick chose the questions. This system can be done completely automatically and also a person or group of persons can oversee based on the number of questions from certain chapter and number of questions from certain difficulty or time level,” informed Ramaswamy.

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Talking to, the NTA director general (DG), Vineet Joshi had informed, “A number of question paper setters are involved and the questions are selected by a psychometric test.”

He added, “If a question which is meant to be difficult for an average student is considered easy by many, then there is something wrong with the question. The psychometric test will eliminate all these anomalies.”

Once a question paper is set, it is encrypted there and then and is decrypted only when an authorised user attempts the exam at an allowed time.

How is the exam conducted? During the exam, every student biometrics and pictures are collected. According to NTA, a student will be able to mark attendance only by submitting a passport size picture (most recent), putting left thumb imprint and giving a signature on the sheet. This personal data is collected to eliminate any sort of disguised entry. The live-feed of cameras installed in the exam hall is given to city centres who are further monitored by state observers. NTA also broadcasts live feed from each exam centre in its headquarter where vigilantes observe every moment. The HRD Minister, Prakash Javadekar had witnessed the live feed during the third day of the UGC-NET exam.

During the exam, informed Ramaswamy, the computers are programmed to read cheating patterns such as too fast answering, too slow answering, two students taking similar time for answers or similar answers etc. Over 20+ cheating patterns have been recognised and the algorithm keeps on learning more.

Each time a cheating pattern is observed, an alert is sent to the exam observers. Additionally, the NTA has installed two invigilators per 30 students in the exam hall along with CCTV cameras.

How are seats allotted?: The exam centres, computers etc all are allotted through a randomised formula. The NTA informed that candidates are not allowed to choose their shifts or timings however they can send their top five centre option based on which a randomised selection process grants them the seat.

During the exam, the computer understands the IP addresses of the students and not only are the questions in their exams jumbled but also the number or placement of the answers. If the answer to Q1 is B in Ram’s exam then Ali might get the same question at the nth position and the right option can be placed at D option if he gets the same question at all.

How is exam evaluated?: As the exam gets over, all the answer sheets get collected to a common place all of which is encrypted and secured under ‘highly sophisticated’ servers. The computer matched the answer keys with the corresponding questions and the result and answer key is created which can be announced accordingly.

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