Experts and students share their perspectives on approaches that will help you succeed in this examination.
A world of billion-dollar possibilities, near misses, parental sacrifices, and conceptual learning, not to forget the hard work, dedication and assumptions of luck that go with it. Come this April 10, nearly 5 lakh students would attempt the much talked-about IIT Joint Entrance Examination. The fabled world of the IITs is a tale told and retold every year, as a land of limitless aspirations.
“The competition, the peer pressure, and the way you think, everything changes when you start preparing,” says Nagaraju Chellapa, a Class XII student from Chennai, who has been attending entrance coaching for four years now. “I was not serious initially, but the fever grips you eventually,” he says. The reasons for the IIT dream vary. “It opens unimaginable doors of opportunities, be it admissions in globally reputed B-schools and research organisations, or attractive company offers,” says Aarthi Selvakumar, a student.
A peep into the grind that lands the students in favourable positions reveals the work needed. “I used to get up at 3 a.m., rush to the coaching institute, get back and finish the tonnes of homework, then back to the institute for four more hours,” says Anshuman Saxena from IIT-Mumbai. IIT is not only about numbers and common sense, it is also about not getting distracted, he adds.
“Many of us are quite good at certain subjects. Coaching classes generalise and repeat a lot of portions. To optimise time, we discuss and share our doubts,” says A. Nithya, citing how she taught traverse equations to a friend.
“The preparation makes you aware of your strengths, and many times of your limitations,” she adds, talking about how at last 50 per cent of the people who start preparing for the much coveted exam give up midway.
“Most of the students are exceptional, so it requires a different methodology of teaching and encouraging them to reason out,” says A.R. Venkatesawaran, Mathematics tutor. While children who learn by rote would stand no chance, those who grasp ideas quickly and use them would have a headstart, he adds.
The IIT-JEE 2011 consists of two question papers with objective type questions, both of three hours' duration. Both the question papers will consist of three separate sections on Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics. The paper over the years has undoubtedly become simpler, say experts. While coaching classes work on different strategies to refine their results, the committee too comes up with its share of twists and turns to ensure only the best get into the most reputed 20 institutes.
“It's after all a competitive exam. The student is not expected to conquer the question paper, but rather show his competence in a stipulated time,” says K. Ravi, general manager (classroom teaching), Brilliant Tutorials.
Answering questions in the test involves a set of logical steps in sequence, but getting the students tuned to such a regime is difficult, says Balaji Sampath, a trainer. A lot, however, depends on the training and testing patterns of institutes. “Students have to stop looking for patterns, and instead should concentrate on approaching the problem by applying logic,” he adds.
The paper now lays stress on statement assertion questions and matrix matching questions which expect a student to approach the questions cautiously. “The student is supposed to very cleverly eliminate the impossible options in the first flutter of seconds, and then work on the remaining two options,” adds Mr. Ravi.
While three years back, the subjective questions consumed at least 8-10 minutes, they have been removed and questions now are expected to be solved in two-three minutes each. “The key is to abandon the question if it is taking more,” says Prof. Venkateswaran. The problem many students face is in the case of probability or permutation where there are a set of possibilities to be devised, and even losing out on one gives you a wrong answer, he adds.
The paragraph questions, fairly recent addition to IIT-JEE entrance, say experts, is an excellent way to test the conceptual grasp of the students. Another concern is the fact that many schools and coaching institutes fail to give impetus to Class XI portions. “Almost 30 per cent comprises questions on chemical equilibrium, atomic structure and psychometry that are supposed to be taught in Plus One,” says R. Gurumurthy, chairman (retd.), Annamalai University, who trains IIT aspirants in chemistry now. It is about identifying the ‘knot' in every IIT-JEE question, once you do it, it becomes a simple problem, he adds.
National mock tests help students decide the extent of competition, says Mr. Ravi. “States such as Andhra Pradesh and Bihar produce students with better chances of clearing the exam, while Rajasthan and many parts of north India have students drilled in problem-solving methodology who might not often clear the exam,” he adds. Tamil Nadu, however, is very unforgiving to candidates who fail to make it to the IITs at the first attempt, say experts. “Other States have regular repeater batches, but few parents in Tamil Nadu let their children ‘waste' a year. This puts all the more pressure on the students,” says Mr. Ravi. The last few days, he says, should be spent in refreshing the basics and optimising solving methods.
“The assumption now is since you know all the methods to solve a problem, you strategise and decide which should take the least time, and give you all the values required,” he says.
The exam, say experts, is evidently meant only for those who have put in months of preparation. “It's true that a student with a clarity of concepts can for sure attempt the questions rightly, but would he do that in the stipulated time,” asks Prof. Venkatesan. Approximately two percentile of the people who take the exam get into approximately 5,000 seats in the coveted institutes. While many have their back-ups ready — from exams of deemed universities to nationwide engineering entrances — for a committed few, there is just one concern.
“It's four years at stake. Three hours decide everything. I really hope my hard work pays off,” says Kishore Balaji R., a Class XII student from D.A.V. Matriculation School. Making a choice, for many of them, is not really an option.