JEE Main: Offline vs Online mode, which is better?

Though hardly a choice anymore for JEE Main aspirants, the controversy whether the premier entrance test for engineering is better off conducted as an offline test or online one keeps raging from time to time. JEE Main, historically has been popular as an offline test since its inception, though the online test option was also available for candidates. However, as per statistics, the offline examination was far more popular than the online mode when both the online and offline examinations were in practice. In 2018, of 11.5 lakh candidates that registered for JEE Main, only 2.25 lakh opted for the CBT while in 2017, of 12 lakh applicants only 1.8 lakh opted for the online test. In both years, the rest of the applicants chose to take the customary paper-based offline test. 2019 onwards, the scenario changes completely, with the JEE Main to be conducted as only a computer-based online test.

With this massive shift in the delivery mode of the popular exam, there remains no more scope to argue whether the online test is a better option than the offline mode of exam. However, to pacify the candidates somehow before they attempt the most important exam that takes them over the threshold towards their dream career, we try to shed some light on the pros and cons of the online mode of testing.

Online Mode Offline Mode
Difficulty Level
There is no reason to believe that the level of questions would be any different from those that were posed in the offline examination. In fact, even when both online and offline examination was in practice, both the papers were set at par in terms of difficulty level.
Ease of choosing referable Time and Date for the exam
One major advantage of online mode of examination is that candidates can choose their preferred test slot as well as date from a range of dates and time slots. No such advantage was available for offline test takers as the date and time for the said examination were fixed beforehand.
Clicking the Correct Answer v/s Marking the Answer on an OMR sheet
In the online test, candidates just need to click the option that they consider right in order to lock their answer. Offline Test Candidates had to mark their answers perfectly on an OMR Response Sheet with a ball-point pen which was more time-consuming and was irreversible too.
Overall Ease in Answering Questions
In the online test, the system exhibits the number of the question you have answered, the number of questions marked for review, and numbers of questions left to be answered. This makes it easier on the part of the candidate to keep a track of questions to attempt. In the offline test, candidates had to mentally keep a track of questions they have answered already and the number of questions that are yet to be answered. This obviously added up to the pressure of solving the problems correctly and on time.
Review of Questions before Submission
One major advantage of online test is that you can mark questions which you are unsure of for a look-through later, before the submission. So, you can basically get back to a particular question that you think might need a different approach to reach the correct answer during the exam-timeframe. Once an answer is marked in the OMR sheet, there is practically no scope whatsoever to review or change the answer as that would render the particular question impossible to be evaluated.
Familiarity with the Computer System v/s answering with a pen on paper
One major issue that probably most candidates still have with the online mode of JEE Main is unfamiliarity with the computer system. In the Indian education system, all major examinations till the high school level are conducted in the offline mode. So it is given that students are not in the least comfortable writing a major exam in an online mode. As the students write their Board Examinations as a pen & paper- based test, so they prefer not to step out of their comfort zone. Hence the unpopularity of the online examination when both offline and online modes are prevalent. However, with NTA’s network of Test Practice Centers and ample availability of online mock tests, the discomfort regarding the online mode of examination somewhat diffusing.
Technical Errors
Examination conducted in a technical environment is bound to have some technical glitches or the other. The problem could be related to power or network connectivity or even system failure. The paper-based examination does not have the possibility of any such technical glitches at least.
Glitches in Secured Delivery of Exam
One primary reason for the total shift from the choice of offline and online modes to the only online mode of examination is to circumvent all possibilities to glitches in terms of logistics and delivery. Rampant incidences of paper leakage, use of unfair means in the examination etc. were marked in case of offline examinations. In case of offline examinations, evaluation was also time-consuming and left scope for errors. In order to make the entire delivery of examination a transparent affair with minimal logistic glitches and the evaluation process as error-free and fast as possible, the complete shift to computerized testing was necessary and is the only way forward.
An online examination will be conducted in an air-conditioned lab which is undoubtedly comfortable compared to a conventional classroom used as the offline exam hall.
Nullify Possibilities of use of Unfair Means in the Examination
In the online exam set up, each candidate will be assigned a separate computer unit barricaded from the rest of the units, thus nullifying the possibilities of any communication between the candidates. In a conventional classroom set up for offline examination, despite having multiple sets of question papers, there remained chances for students to interact and discuss questions amongst each other.
Chances of miscalculations while taking down figures on-screen to rough paper
A rough paper is given to candidates for calculations. The possibility of jotting down wrong figures from the computer screen leading to miscalculations remains, though this possibility would also have been there in case of offline examination. Students need to be extra careful while making calculations on the rough sheet. Also, in a time-bound examination, time is a constraint and picking up a pen to carefully jot down figures for calculations and then again holding the mouse to click the right answer can be time-consuming. Similarly, even darkening the correct circles in a proper manner in an OMR sheet in case of offline examination was also cumbersome and time-consuming.


Each and every system has their own sets of pros and cons. Since the decision has already been made in case of JEE Main regarding being conducted as an online test, hence there is no scope of debate any more in terms of its pros and cons. However,the result of the ultimate fire-test, whether the online mode of testing is here to stay or not, can be known only after the exams are finally conducted and JEE Main 2019 results declared.

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