The Ultimate Test

The two years of preparation for IIT-JEE are very challenging for the students. One of the main contributors to making the situation difficult is the large variety of opinions available in society. If you are currently a student preparing for IIT-JEE, you have at least three things to handle at once: your school, your coaching institution and your own preparation. You might have even joined a postal coaching institute and perhaps a test series of some sort. All these places definitely have some advice to offer and most probably, the advice you receive from different places are not the same, perhaps even contradictory.

May be your chemistry teacher says that chemistry is the most important subject for IIT-JEE and you don’t find yourself comfortable with chemistry. Is your chemistry teacher right? What should you do then? Should you ignore all other subjects and focus on chemistry for the next few months?

Perhaps the coaching institute you have joined had a mock test and you did not perform very well in it. How do you cope with the fact that you are not getting the first rank in all the mock tests organized by your coaching institute? Surely, the coaching institute consists of a very small percentage of people who are going to be competing with you in IIT-JEE. If you can’t consistently be the best even among the small set of people, how can you even hope to be one of the best in the entire country?

How about your school exams? School exams are definitely much easier than IIT-JEE. So if you hope to be among the top 5,000 in the country in IIT-JEE, shouldn’t you be at least the topper in your class in all school exams?

So what advice should you listen to and what should you ignore? What test results should make you worried and which ones should be overlooked? There should exist one ultimate test that truly tells you if you are going in the correct direction or not.

Fortunately, there exists such a test: a question bank that contains questions asked in IIT-JEE in the past 10-15 years. If you are able to comfortably solve 60-70% of the questions from the question bank, you are going to get an All India Rank in the top 500 in IIT-JEE (well, provided you perform in the actual exam as well as you perform in the comfort of your own study room, but that’s a different issue). It doesn’t matter what your teachers say or how well you perform in various mock tests. Your performance on the questions asked in IIT-JEE in the past is your ultimate test.

You can also use actual IIT-JEE question papers for creating a mock test. Sit at your study table with a question paper, a notebook and a timer and time yourself while you solve the questions. Tell your parents to not disturb you for the next few hours. Give yourself exactly the amount of time that is specified in the question paper.

You might wonder if it is really possible to have an average performance in mock tests conducted by your coaching institutes but get a good rank in IIT-JEE. The answer is yes, in the same way as it is possible to perform poorly in a horse-riding competition but get an excellent rank in IIT-JEE. The two test different set of skills. Of course, a mock test is not as different from the real IIT-JEE as a horse-riding competition. But there could be small and subtle differences and that could bring your performance down. For example, may be the mock test gives an advantage to students who are good at remembering and applying several formulas but IIT-JEE does not.

There is plenty of evidence for this found in real life. It is not at all the case that only the toppers from various schools and coaching institutions get into IIT. There is quite a bit of difference even in the ranks that people get in two different national level competitive exams. For example, I got a rank in the top 500 in IIT-JEE, but a rank in the 5,000’s in AIEEE. My rank in the 12th boards was probably very disappointing.

Thus here is all of it summarised in the form of one important lesson:
Test yourself by solving questions from an IIT-JEE question bank. If you can solve around 60% of the questions, ignore every other advice.

Monday, December 31st, 2012. Written by Vinayak Pathak. No comments.

Dynamics of low scoring exams

Given the limited amount of time you get to prepare for an exam, what exact skills should you work on to achieve the best performance? The answer to this question depends on your own personality as well as the nature of the exam.

Exams such as IIT-JEE (or whatever form it takes in the future) have two properties that distinguish them from other exams that students face during their school education:

  1. It’s surprisingly low-scoring. For qualifying, you usually only need an aggregate of 40% and people who score more than 80% get All India Ranks in the top 10.
  2. Most of the questions test how deeply you have understood a topic, instead of how well you have memorized certain facts or can perform some simple calculations.

So how do these two properties affect your preparation? Well, there’s a good news and a bad news. The bad news is that if you don’t develop a deep understanding for any of the topics, then you will not qualify.


Here’s what makes IIT-JEE one of the best exams you have ever prepared for in your life. It might even make you want to change your career path if you were not thinking of going into engineering.

Since you only need a score of around 40% to get in, you can completely ignore 15-20% of the syllabus that you dislike the most and you will still be fine! Imagine sitting in an exam where you go in knowing that you won’t be able to answer 20% of the questions, then you attempt 80% of the questions after seeing them, you correctly solve only 50% of them and are still called the cream of the nation! Is that fascinating or what?

Of course, you will have to make sure that for the 80% of the topics you do study, you understand them thoroughly. But fortunately, most of these topics will be the ones you handpicked from the syllabus yourself, based on your own likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses and so understanding them well will be enjoyable!

Of course, the same strategy will not work for other exams. So don’t do this with your 12th board exams! A 40% score in the 12th board is a horrible score! It will not only kick you out of the nation’s cream, but will probably put you into the nation’s undisolved sugar.

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012. Written by admin. No comments.

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