Cracking NET-SET: Route to lecturership & research
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A teacher should be an all rounder! For the 25 vacant lectureship posts, we received about 700 applications. Only NET qualifiers with good communication skills were selected,” reveals Valson Thampu, Principal, St. Stephen’s College, Delhi. National Eligibility Test (NET)/ State Eligibility Test (SET) help college and university recruiters to separate the best from the lot. “If you can’t communicate your ideas then you are a rotten teacher! For any college, the worst thing to do is to catch the wrong fish,” he adds.

Gateway to colleges & research
Conducted in June and December, NET is the gateway to lectureship or for joining the research fellowship in colleges. Out of lakhs of students who appear every year, only thousands clear NET. “If you have no grip over your subject, then cracking NET is a distant dream,” shares Ankita Mukherjee, a PhD student from Jawaharlal Nehru University who aced NET in 2011. The rigorous test examines the aptitude and knowledge about your subject.

Barring science and engineering subjects, UGC-NET is conducted on a range of subjects like humanities, social science, computer science and applications. Alternatively, UGC-CSIR NET - a joint effort of UGC and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) supervises the tests for remaining engineering and science subjects, namely, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Mathematical Sciences and Earth Atmospheric Ocean & Planetary Sciences.
State-based test
In view of diversity in the universities across the country, UGC felt that an eligibility test at the national level will not be sufficient to represent the subjects. The regulation passed by UGC gave a nod to both State governments and Union Territories to conduct their own lectureship at the State level. Vacancies in Himachal Pradesh University prompted Mithelesh Priyadarshi (MA Mass Media student) to appear for SLET in 2009. “SET is a replica of NET. The paper pattern remains the same,” he recounts. When asked about the difference, he feels, “The All India level NET competition is fierce, which makes
it tougher.”

States conducting SET

  • Himachal Pradesh
  • Maharashtra & Goa
  • Assam, Arunachal Pradesh,Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram,Tripura & Sikkim
  • Gujarat & Rajasthan
  • Tamil Nadu & West Bengal


Tips to crack NET
  • Daily read one topic thoroughly.
  • To improve speed, solve multiple model papers. 
  • Analyse what type of questions are expected for a particular topic.
  • Practise writing answers for short and essay papers.

Getting a fellowship
If you have a hard core research in your mind, then you must go for Junior Research Fellowship (JRF). It is available only for those who apply for it explicitly in their NET application form.  The selected lot gets their tuition fee reimbursed and can pursue research in any of the distinguished universities/institutions. “In our Life Science Centre in JNU, a JRF student gets direct MPhil admission, exempted from any test. With contingency grant, students can either invest on lab materials or buy a lot of books!” shares Professor, K.R Nayar, Centre for Social Medicine & Community Health, JNU.

From 2010 onwards, the scholarship has been raised for researchers – from Rs. 12,000 to Rs. 16,000 a month for the first two years and from Rs. 14,000 to Rs. 18,000 for the remaining three years. What one writes in this rigorous 5-hour paper makes one grab the cake! Mrityunjay Prabhakar, a PhD student at Delhi School of Economics (DSE) who cleared JRF in the second attempt, says, “You must know what to read and how much to read and pen down views on paper.”

Ask him about his study plan, “I had to improve on my speed and quality of answers. So I started solving multiple model papers and while studying I noted down important points. It helped during my revision.” CSIR endows a special fellowship, Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (SPM) Fellowship for UGC-NET JRF awardees. They will be awarded Rs. 20,000 + HRA per month and a contingency of Rs. 70,000 per annum.

Using JRF stipend to study politics

Anil Kumar
NET-JRF qualifier,
PhD-Sociology, JNU

Coming from a poor village in Jharkhand, Anil Kumar, a PhD student at JNU, was beaming with confidence after he clinched both NET and JRF in the first attempt!

He plans to settle down and educate the needy students in his hometown. The JRF comes as a great relief in the way of financial support for his thesis on “Identity Politics: A study of Political Leaders of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar”.

“I plan to shell out my JRF stipend on visiting these two States to understand the socio-politico atmosphere. I have chalked out a list to buy materials required for my interviews with some political leaders,” he shares.
He recalls those days when he was struggling to study in a big city like Delhi. His hard work paid back in the form of the JRF supporting his educational cost.

“The stipend makes me feel self employed. As a student, it gives me an absolute tickle when I am not living on my parent’s money,” he says.


Research Aptitude Test
This paper primarily is mix and match series. The syllabus has ten components, which can be roughly divided into four major sections viz (a) Teaching Aptitude (b) Research Methodology (c) Maths and reasoning abilities (d) Policy and institutions. Since there would be questions across the ten sections, it makes sense to prepare uniformly. Get the definitions right, and know the difference between a normal distribution and skewed to the right distribution.

 “If you can’t communicate your ideas then you are a rotten teacher! For any college, the worst thing to do is to catch the wrong fish”  

Optional Paper II and III
Build competencies, section by section. Review the syllabus, and identify possible questions in all formats. There are lots of commonalities between the objective and subjective paper, especially between five-mark questions, both from Section 1 and Section 2. In a broader sense, especially Section 2 (5x15=75), most of the questions have to be answered within five or six lines.

They may also be presented as MCQs. So it is imperative that you are thorough with the sections you have mastered. While preparing it does make sense to write out Q-cards on important definitions, ideas, authors and principles. The cards come in handy, especially for last minute revisions.

Optional Paper III [Subjective paper (12-mark/40-mark questions)]. Unfortunately the 12-mark questions do not offer you any choice but the 40-mark questions, do. Here’s where your analysis of question papers would help. If you had looked at the question papers over the last five or six examinations, you could see a relationship between the 12-mark questions and 40-mark questions. Bear in mind that some sections of the syllabus are invariably more amenable to 12-mark questions.

If you can zero in on them, then prepare those sections thoroughly. If you have not touched a portion of the syllabus now, give it one read at least. You may remember enough to write out a passable answer. Even one mark is better than none. By now you would have also attempted to write some practice examinations, based on past years’ question papers. If not, do so immediately. By writing you clarify your thoughts and the practice would stand you in good stead during the examination.

Common paper pattern for all subjects

UGC has included at least 78 subjects in NET. All of them follow a three-paper format.

Test basics
  • Paper I: Research Methodology and Aptitude Test: 50 Multiple-choice questions, each carrying 2 marks. You  can answer any 50 out of the 60 questions presented.

             Total time allocated: 75 minutes

  • Paper II: Objective Test (in chosen subject): 50 multiple-choice questions, each carrying 2 marks in the subject opted by the candidate.

             Total time allocated: 75 minutes

  • Paper III: Subjective Test (in chosen subject): A total of 26 questions spread over five sections, all of which require written answers of varied lengths in the optional subject opted by the candidate.

            Total time allocated: 150 minutes.

  • Section I: 5 questions with 30-word answers based on a passage, each question carries 5 marks (25 marks).
  • Section II: Definitional-specific with fifteen 30-word questions, which test conceptual understanding, 5 marks each (75 marks).
  • Section III: Analytical or evaluative with five 200-word questions, 12 marks each (60 marks).
  • Section IV: Essay type, one 1000-word question (40 marks).

Success mantra

Nivedita Basu, English, Ad-hoc Lecturer at St. Stephens, New Delhi, shares her mantra, “Along with my class notes, I referred Trueman’s NET guide book and tried to study every possible aspect of a topic in the syllabus. A sense of relief comes as there is no negative marking. But ask about the challenge? “I prepared myself to not panic over hour- long paper. I had set an aim to cover all questions. To kick start the paper with easiest questions was a wonderful boost to my confidence.”

Dearth of quality teachers

The shortage of quality faculty in higher education especially IITs, IIMs and central universities have gone up to 30 percent. And the situation is even worse in technical and professional education across the country where the scarcity is close to 50 percent. Looking at the current scenario, UGC’s NET sets a benchmark to cull out the best from the lot. So prepare well and pursue your career as a great teacher. 



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