# NEET qualifying marks this year are lowest ever

The cutoff score to qualify for getting admission to a medical college has dropped to its lowest levels ever at 16% (117 out of 720) for open category and 13% (93 out of 720) for the reserved categories. This corresponds to the 50th and 40th percentile cutoff for the open and reserved categories, respectively.

The cutoff scores have generally hovered around the 130s to 140s for general category and about 105 to 120 for the reserved categories in most years since the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) was introduced in 2016, 2018-19 being an exception (see graphic).

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To put the numbers in perspective, a student who knows the answers to just 20 out of 180 questions can reasonably expect to score 120, while someone who is confident of a mere 13 answers out of 180 can expect to get 93 marks.

This is possible because of the marking scheme that awards four marks for each correct answer and deducts one for any wrong answer. Students are asked 200 questions, 50 each in Physics, Chemistry, Botany and Zoology. They need to answer just 180 of these 200 questions correctly to get 100%, that is, 720 marks.

Now consider someone who is sure of 20 answers and makes random choices in the remaining 160. The 20 correct answers fetch her or him 80 marks. With every question having four options, there is a 25% chance of getting the right answer if one just answers the rest randomly. Thus, the probability is that such a candidate would get 40 of those 160 questions right, which gives her or him another 160 marks. But the 120 wrong answers would mean a deduction of 120 leaving the candidate with a total of 120 (80 plus 160 minus 120). A similar calculation would show that 13 questions answered correctly and the rest chosen at random should yield about 94 marks.

Of course, these are averages, which means some candidates might be more lucky with guesses and some less so leading to correspondingly higher or lower marks, but the calculations do show how low such cutoffs are. Thus, students with even very low percentage of marks are eligible to get admission to MBBS.

In case you thought just being eligible would not allow those with poor scores to get admission, year after year thousands who scored just about the cutoff scores have got admission to MBBS while many with much higher scores lost out as they could not afford the astronomical fees in private medical colleges, which account for almost half the MBBS seats.

Taking 50th percentile as the qualifying cut off means about 50% of those who write the exam would qualify. Despite doctors making dire predictions about young people losing interest in joining the medical profession due to poor working conditions, students seeking a medical degree seem to be increasing, with higher numbers appearing for the entrance test each year. This year, out of a record 17.6 lakh students taking the entrance exam, 9.9 lakh have qualified. According to the National Medical Commission’s website, there are over 610 medical colleges with over 92,000 MBBS seats.