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

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