Explainer: What We Know About UGC's Common Entrance Test for Undergrad Admissions

The CUET will be a computerised test to be conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) and the application window for the same will reportedly open from the first week of April.

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New Delhi: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has announced that admission into undergraduate courses in all centrally-funded universities will henceforth be solely on the basis of a Common University Entrance Test (CUET) and Class 12 board examination marks will not be considered.

On Monday, March 21, UGC chairman M. Jagadesh Kumar said that the CUET will be held in the first week of July and that all 45 central universities will have to admit students on the basis of their scores on the test. Class 12 Board Exam marks will no longer be considered, however, the UGC noted that these marks could still be used as an ‘eligibility criterion,’ casting doubts on the actual value of these scores.

The CUET will be a computerised test to be conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) and the application window for the same will reportedly open from the first week of April. Following the exam, the NTA will prepare a merit list on the basis of which these universities will admit students.

Delhi University (DU), Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JU) and Banaras Hindu University (BHU) are some of the most well-known of the 45 central universities.

A common entrance exam for university admissions is reportedly meant to level the playing field for aspirants as different examination boards in the country may mark students differently. The Indian Express quoted an unnamed government official as saying, “Some Boards are more generous than others in marking and this gives their students an unfair advantage over others.”

Kumar told NDTV that he thought the introduction of the CUET will save students from the “stress of impossibly high cut-offs for admission”. Last year, eight DU colleges had set cut-offs at 100% marks for 11 courses.

Moreover, according to the UGC, the CUET is expected to reduce financial burden on parents and students, as candidates will only have to write one exam.

The academic community appears to be divided on the efficacy of such a test, with some expressing misgivings on the reduced roles of schools.

Test structure

The computerised CUET is a three-and-a-half hour test consisting of multiple-choice questions with negative marking for incorrect answers. According to Kumar, the syllabus of the test will mirror the Class 12 model syllabus of the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT).

The test will be divided into three essential parts. The first will test a candidate on their language skills in a language of their choice, which can be either Hindi, English, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telegu, Kannada, Malayalam, Urdu, Assamese, Bengali, Punjabi or Odia. 

Apart from this compulsory section, candidates can also choose to take another test in an additional language such as French, Spanish, German, Nepali, Persian, Italian, Arabic, Sindhi, Kashmiri, Konkani, Bodo, Dogri, Maithili, Manipuri, Santhali, Tibetan, Japanese, Russian and Chinese.

The second part of the test will ask domain-specific questions. Candidates can choose to take tests on at least one and at most six of the 27 available domains, which encompass the standard subjects from across the various ‘streams’ of high school education, such as chemistry or physics in the science stream; accounts or business studies in the commerce stream; and psychology or sociology in the humanities stream.

The third section will be a general aptitude test including questions on current affairs, general knowledge, reasoning, numerical ability and so on.

While one language test is compulsory, a candidate may choose to take the other tests based on the demands of each central university for the particular course they are applying for. Some courses may require certain domain-specific tests while some may only require the language and general ability tests.


The CUET will not affect the reservation policies of colleges, such as JMI and AMU, which reserve a section of seats for minority students. 

“The universities can enrol candidates for the general seats as well as for the reserved seats on the basis of CUET scores. It will not impact the existing admission and reservation policy that are in accordance with the ordinances of the varsity,” UGC chairman Kumar said.

However, all students will have to take the CEUT and will only be admitted on the basis of these scores.

AMU and JMI are yet to issue statements on the CUET and officials of both universities have noted that they are awaiting official communications from the UGC. JMI has constituted a committee of some officials to study how the CUET can be conducted for admission to the varsity.

Foreign students will be exempted from the CUET and will continue to be admitted in accordance with the existing practice the universities have on a supernumerary basis.

The universities will be allowed to conduct practical and interviews for courses like music, fine arts, theatre, along with CUET.

Importantly, there will be no central counselling offered for the CUET, as is done with the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) and the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE). Universities will have their own counselling.

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While the test is compulsory for the 45 central universities, state and private universities and institutes deemed to be universities can also use CUET scores for undergraduate and postgraduate admissions if they want, Kumar said.

“We hope that all the universities adopt the CUET for postgraduate programmes,” he added.

(With PTI inputs)