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Thursday, November 20, 2008

JEE exam

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Living a significant part of my life in Kota, the epicenter of JEE in India, makes it difficult for me to be immune to vagaries of juggernaut that is IIT-JEE. Whole economy of city is shaped by coaching institutes and allied services mushrooming to cater to large number of students. Internet cafes and game parlours, sweet shops and snacks corners, alcohol and drug peddling, late night restaurants, student food catering services and student hostels and guest houses are some of the new industries that have flooded the city in last 15 years. City’s layout, events, culture, crime scene and environment is shaped by crowds of teenage boys and girls. Combine this with the fall of traditional cement and power industries in Kota, and everyone is itching to get a pie of the money flow which these students bring. Hard earned money of parents, spent without reservation, many times by taking loans, in hope of better future for their wards, but spent mostly carelessly by students, revitalized and fuelled many of these industries.

JEE season was season not to be missed. Everyone and their uncle had someone in family taking JEE or planning to take one. Middle or upper class neighbourhoods boasted multiple aspirants in each street. And before JEE ruled out multiple attempts, competition was even fiercer. Days before examination, air would be tense and final results brought both jubilations and sorrow. Lucky few who managed to crack JEE became superstar overnight. They were actively sought by aspirants for tricks and tips to bell the cat, and often found themselves at loss at what to say, which was, of course, not an acceptable answer. The Kota phenomenon, and the fact that I and both of my brothers undertook JEE within span of five years, kept me in loop about JEE for long. That JEE was also my life’s biggest success did help in keeping sweet memories about whole experience. Every JEE pattern change, treatment of Kota by JEE administration, dynamics and politics in coaching institutions, JEE cut-offs and hits and misses, tragic stories of people who cleared JEE but failed 12th, etc. were animatedly debated and discussed in the home. These reasons accounts why I still have fascination, anxiety, goose bumps and whatnot about reading or hearing about someone taking or clearing JEE. Never before though, had I known what goes on inside JEE results.

Recent years have seen some interesting information about JEE ranking procedure thanks to Right to Information Act. One fact that lead to this post is 2007 decision by JEE administration to keep subject cut-off to 20%ile marks in each subject. Due to negative marking and tough nature of examination, cut-offs were often in single digits. Final ranking was based on aggregate total marks in all three subjects. So some scoring 5% in one subject but aggregating 90%ile will have better shot at clearing than someone with respectable 50%ile in each subject but poor overall percentile. Some say, it’s wrong, others, don’t. While I don’t really feel like analyzing it much (for which you can go here, here, here, here, and here) I think that a more respectable cut-off but not as high as 80%ile suggested by some would do better. In lieu of this, cut-off for 2009 is made average at 50%ile. But it seems more like knee-jerk reaction rather than consistent and fair evaluation. On the other hand, we’ve to understand that JEE is not 10th class and 5% is JEE cannot be compared with fail marks in 10th. Another thing is that JEE would be better by taking people who are genius in some subjects and stupid in others rather than who are average in all. That is the difference between good engineering and good school education. Assuming, of course, that JEE differentiates between smart and dumb, than merely between lucky and unlucky.

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