The results of the National Testing Agency’s National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET 2020), released in the night of 16 October, had the name of Odisha’s Soyeb Aftab as ‘the’ 100% scorer splashed all over the mainstream media. Another candidate, Akanksha Singh from Delhi who had secured 720 out of 720 too, was added to the headlines this morning. And then there is this piece of news that the NTA has a ‘tie-breaker’ policy. It dictates that the candidate older in age will be preferred to the younger one.
This year, more than 13.66 lakh students appeared for NEET, out of which 7,71,500 students cleared. In terms of states, Tripura has produced the highest number of qualifying candidates at 88,889, while Maharashtra stands second with 79,974 qualifying candidates hailing from there.
Akanksha, hailing from Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar, would be right to bear a grudge, which she doesn’t. In order to achieve a seat in a medical college of her choice, she would travel 70 km to her coaching institute at Gorakhpur. “I always wanted to become a doctor and study at the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). Since there was no big coaching institute in my town, I had to travel for four hours to reach my institute in Gorakhpur. After passing Class 10, I moved to Delhi for +2 and joined Aakash Institute,” she said. Aakash is a private tutorial company that is known for its coaching in biology.
After appearing for NEET, the 17-year-old was confident of scoring around 700. “I studied 10 to 12 hours every day and followed my institute’s study material. Apart from it, I checked online classes of EdTech platforms. To feel motivated, I watched public speaker Sandeep Maheshwari’s videos.” Akanksha followed books by Anurag Mishra, IE Irodov for physics, Campbell for biology and relied on NCERT books for the outlines of the chemistry syllabus for NEET.
Unlike many students who wanted the exam to be postponed, Akanksha believes the lockdown period gave her extra time to revise her notes, or else balancing the board exam along with entrance test preparation was a task.
The NEET exam was postponed twice this year due to the pandemic, before the Centre decided to go ahead with it on September 13 with strict measures put in place. The exam was conducted, despite some opposition, to mitigate any further academic loss to students. While conducting the exam, the NTA had also taken several measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, including reducing the number of candidates in an exam room from 24 to 12.
Akanksha’s aim is to pursue research on neurosurgery. “After completing MBBS, I plan to take up research and practice medicine later.” Akanksha was also moved by the role of health practitioners during this COVID-19 period. “The way doctors have performed risking their lives is an inspiration for thousands like me. It has made me realise the importance and responsibility of a health worker,” she said.
Rajendra Kumar Rao, the father of Akanksha, is a retired IAF officer, and her mother, Ruchi Singh, is a primary school teacher.