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A Look at the History and Evolution of the CUET

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  11-Oct-2023 | Drishti CUET

  • The CUET, or Common University Entrance Test, is an annual national-level entrance exam or a competitive exam that is conducted to offer admission to various undergraduate, postgraduate, and research programs in the participating central universities. The NTA has been entrusted with the responsibility of conducting the Central University Entrance Test. The CUET exam has a long history and has undergone several changes and adaptations to meet the changing needs of students and universities over the years.

History and Evolution:

The concept of a common entrance exam for central universities in India was first proposed in the 1990s. The idea behind the CUET was to create a single platform for admission to multiple central universities, thus reducing the burden on students who had to appear for multiple entrance exams for different universities.

While the idea of a unified entrance test is mentioned in the National Education Policy (NEP), it's not entirely novel. The Central Universities Common Entrance Test (CUCET) was introduced in 2010 and initially adopted by seven newly established Central universities. In 2012, the government attempted to expand this initiative to encompass all Central universities under the Education Ministry. However, this proposal faced resistance from some well-established universities, concerned about its potential impact on the quality of admitted students.
As time passed, the newer Central universities have increasingly embraced the standardized entrance test, while the older institutions have chosen not to adopt it. In 2021, only 12 Central universities, including Assam University in Silchar, Central University of Gujarat, Central University of Punjab, Central University of Tamil Nadu, and Central University of Jharkhand, among others, opted for CUCET.

It's worth noting that the recent circular from the University Grants Commission (UGC) now refers to the proposed entrance test as CUET, as opposed to CUCET. The name change reflects the expansion of the exam to include more participating universities and a wider range of courses.

Over the years, the CUET exam has evolved and expanded to include more participating universities and a wider range of courses. Today, the CUET exam is conducted by central universities on a rotational basis, and it offers admission to over 150 undergraduate, postgraduate, and research programs in these universities.

Key Changes:

The CUET has undergone several changes and adaptations over the years to meet the changing needs of students and universities. Some of the key changes include:

  • Shift from a paper-based exam to a computer-based exam: The first CUET exam was a paper-based exam, but later, the exam was conducted in a computer-based format. According to the 2022 notification by the National Testing Agency (NTA) regarding the Common University Entrance Test (CUET), the examination will be administered in a Computer Based Test (CBT) format. Candidates have the option to take the test in one of 13 languages, including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Gujarati, Odiya, Bengali, Assamese, Punjabi, English, Hindi, and Urdu. The UGC Chairman believes that this language diversity will create an equitable playing field for students from both rural and urban backgrounds.
    This shift to a computer-based exam has several advantages, including faster evaluation and results, reduced chances of errors, and increased security.
  • Introduction of a common syllabus for all participating universities: Previously, each university had its own syllabus for the CUET exam, which meant that students had to prepare for multiple syllabi if they were applying to multiple universities. However, with the introduction of a common syllabus, students can now prepare for a single syllabus and apply to any participating university. This has greatly reduced the burden on students and made the process of applying to multiple universities more streamlined.
  • Introduction of measures to make the exam more accessible and inclusive: In recent years, the CUET exam has also introduced several measures like providing facilities for differently abled students, such as scribes and sign language interpreters, and introducing regional language options in the exam. These measures have greatly benefited students who may have previously faced barriers to appearing for the CUET exam.
  • Introduction of new courses and programs: In addition to these changes, the CUET exam has also adapted to the changing needs of universities by introducing new courses and programs. For example, in recent years, the CUET exam has introduced a number of new postgraduate and research programs in areas such as management, law, and engineering. This has helped universities to attract a wider pool of talented candidates and to meet the changing demand for specialised courses.
  • Transitioning to CUET for Postgraduate Admissions at Delhi University: Under the current system, half of the admissions are reserved for students who completed their bachelor's degrees at the university, and these students are selected based on their performance in their qualifying exams. The other 50% of the seats are allocated to candidates based on their rankings in the Delhi University postgraduate entrance test.
    The Academic Council (AC) has given its approval to propose that postgraduate admissions should be conducted through the Common University Entrance Test (CUET), while still retaining half of the seats for merit-based admissions for students from Delhi University.

From its inception as a paper-based exam conducted by a single university, the CUET exam has evolved into a computer-based exam conducted by central universities. It offers admission to a wide range of courses. The introduction of standard syllabus measures to make the exam more inclusive, and the introduction of new courses and programs are just some of the ways in which the CUET exam has adapted to meet the changing needs of students and universities.


The CUET exam is still under development, and the National Testing Agency (NTA) is constantly working to improve the exam and make it more accessible and equitable for all students.

The NTA is committed to making the CUET exam a fair and reliable platform for student admission to higher education institutions in India. I am confident that the CUET exam will continue to evolve and improve in the years to come.