Saturday, January 23, 2016

2016 ENGINEERING ENTRANCE EXAMS SCENARIO

In the past 15 years, there are major changes every 2-years or so in the Engineering Entrance Exams scenario at State and National level. There are about 3500 Engineering colleges in India having about 18 lakh seats of which about 350 Engineering colleges and 1.5 lakh seats are available in Maharashtra alone. Every year, about 8 lakh seats remain vacant in India of which about 50000 seats remain vacant in Maharashtra alone !  It must be noted that hardly 60000 seats belong to A-grade Engineering colleges across India. The constant changes in admission rules create confusion in the minds of students, parents and teachers. This article attempts to lend clarity to the admissions criteria for different Engineering colleges for the year 2016.
 
1) IITs : Admission to the IITs is on the basis of JEE ADVANCED All India Ranks only. Additionally, the student must score atleast 75% marks Aggregate of 5 subjects in XII Boards as eligibility criteria for admission to the IITs. IITs have about 10000 seats of which about 5000 are for General Category and 5000 for Reserved Category. An All India Rank of Top 6000 is usually required for admission into the IITs for an General Category student. 
 
2) BITS PILANI : Admission to BITS PILANI is on the basis of the BITSAT exam. But the student must score atleast 75% in subjects of PCM in XII Boards as eligibility criteria for admission to BITS. BITS have 3 campuses at PILANI, Goa and Hyderabad and 1800 seats. A score of 300 marks out of 450 marks is usually required to secure admission into BITS.
 
3) NITs / IIITs : Admission to NITs / IIITs for 2016 is on the basis of a complicated rule wherein 60% weightage is given to JEE MAINS marks and 40% weightage is given to XII Boards Aggregate marks. An All India Rank List is prepared on the basis of this 60-40 Rule and admissions are granted as per their Ranks. However, 3 Govt. panel experts have recommended scrapping of the 60-40 rule as it is highly flawed. Therefore, it is expected that from 2017 onwards, admission to the NITs & IIITs shall be on the basis of JEE MAINS marks only with zero weightage to XII Boards marks.
 
4) Maharashtra Engineering Colleges : Admission to almost all the 350+ Engineering colleges of Maharashtra in 2016 is on the basis of the following rule :
 
· Admission to 65% seats (State quota) is via MHT-CET exam
· Admission to 15% seats (All India quota) is via JEE MAINS exam
· Admission to remaining 20% seats is by Management quota
There is no weightage to XII Boards for 2016. The student is however expected to score 50% marks in PCM subjects as eligibility criterion. The famous college of COEP in Pune is an exception to the above rule. COEP admits 100% of its students by MHT-CET only. 
From 2017 onwards, the Union HRD Ministry has planned to again change the admissions criteria of IITs and NITs. As per media reports, there are plans of introducing an Online Aptitude Test based on Logic questions from which 4 lakh students shall be selected who shall appear in JEE after XII Boards. The JEE MAINS and JEE ADVANCED shall be merged into a Single JEE from 2017 and 40000 Ranks shall be declared who shall then be admitted into the IITs and NITs by a joint counselling process. A minimum of 2-years preparation is expected from students for all these Entrance exams in Std. 11-12. Students and Parents need to keep a tab on the changes happening in the Entrance Exams scenario and prepare for the same accordingly.

Friday, January 15, 2016

HOW TO PREPARE FOR JEE ?

The admission to the 30 NITs, 4 IIITs, DA-IICT and 15% All India quota to all the unaided and aided Engineering colleges in different States (like VJTI, MIT, VIT, ICT etc.) is on the basis of JEE MAINS exam. The JEE from 2013-16 is being conducted in 2 stages viz. JEE MAINS in April and JEE ADVANCED in May. About 13 lac students across India appear for the JEE MAINS of which 2 lac students are selected for JEE ADVANCED. The admission to the 19 IITs is based on the JEE ADVANCED. In Maharashtra, there are about 2.5 lac students who appear for various Engineering Entrance Exams like MHT-CET, JEE etc. of which only about 15000 students consciously prepare for JEE. The rest prepare only for XII Boards and MHT-CET exam. Thus, barely 6% of Engineering aspirants in Maharashtra prepare for JEE as against 75% in Andhra Pradesh and 90% in Delhi & Kota. Despite this, Maharashtra ranked No.3 in India in 2015 after Andhra Pradesh & Rajasthan in number of IIT Ranks produced State-wise. Thus, there is a clear need for building awareness of JEE in Maharashtra as the Pre-Engineering Foundation gets far better developed by studying for JEE rather than by simply studying for MHT-CET.
The JEE MAINS has 110 chapters in Maths, Physics & Chemistry whereas the JEE ADVANCED has about 100 chapters only. Both exams are Multiple-choice questions based with negative marking. The pattern of JEE MAINS is fixed with 90 questions and 360 marks to be done in 3 hours. The pattern of JEE ADVANCED is not disclosed before the exam and changes every year. The average level of difficulty of questions in JEE ADVANCED is higher as compared to JEE MAINS. The cut-off score for qualifying from JEE MAINS to JEE ADVANCED has ranged between 105-115 marks out of 360 in the past 3 years. The qualifying score for an IIT Rank in JEE ADVANCED exam is 35% marks.
When to start preparing for JEE?
The preparation for JEE can be done in 2-years period from Std.11-12. However, developing problems solving ability in 110 chapters in just 2-years is usually a stressful experience for most students. Hence, the ideal time to start JEE preparation is any given year from Std.8-10 so that there is no stress during Std.11-12. If the student invests atleast 1 year in IIT Foundation preparation either in Std.8 or 9, he would come out of the rote learning approach usually adopted in schools and shall be better oriented to understand the concepts of Math & Science. This shall help the student in Std.11-12 tremendously and would help him enjoy his studies rather than finding it as a burden. Enjoying the study process is the antidote to the stress which students nowadays suffer from!
What must be the study approach ?
In the first 16 months in Std.11-12, the student must focus on understanding basic concepts of the 110 chapters in JEE syllabi and learning to solve problems by applying these concepts in various different situations. The focus must be to solve problems of JEE ADVANCED level of difficulty which enables a student to easily solve JEE MAINS problems as well. The last 6-8 months must be invested in mastering the art of cracking the JEE exam by writing large number of Tests and analysing Test performance in detail after every Test. The student must evolve his own personal exam strategy in the course of these 6 months to crack the JEE. 
From which sources must the student study for JEE ?
There are broadly 3 sources from where a student can study for JEE.
1) Classroom coaching : This is the best avenue if the coaching institute has talented teachers as instant doubt clarifying happens, the right approach to learn is given and a vibrant peer group is readily available. However, the cost of education in coaching institutes is high and there are hardly 15 reputed coaching institutes for JEE in Maharashtra with centers in Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur & Aurangabad.
2) Postal / Study Material coaching : A student who is determined and can do self-study can prepare for JEE by purchasing good books for JEE available in the market or by enrolling for a postal program in a reputed National-Level coaching institute. JEE books published by Cengage, Arihant, GRB, Disha, JPNP, Bharti Bhuvan etc. are widely used by JEE aspirants across India.
3) Electronic coaching :  A student can enroll for e-Learning tools like video lectures, e-study material, e-Tests which again are available ONLINE or in tablet or pen drive formats.  This is an upcoming trend and is likely to become more popular within 2-3 years.
It must be noted that Self-Study for 6-8 hours daily for JEE is a must in Std.11-12 while studying by any of the above 3 methods.
Is it worth sacrificing fun in my 2 precious teenage years for JEE studies ?
Engineering studies of 4-years are based on JEE studies and not on CET studies ! Hence, ideally every Engineering aspirant must study for JEE during Std.11-12 and must cut down extra-curricular activities during this 2-years period. It is worth it as the student can enjoy his student life along with excelling in academics during the 4-years of Engineering. The choice for an Engineering aspirant is to either have fun in Std.11-12 and suffer in the 4-years of Engineering OR to study hard in Std.11-12 and enjoy in the 4-years of Engineering. The wise student will make the right choice accordingly.
JEE studies must however be perceived only by students blessed with high logical intelligence only. It is not the domain of the average student. Parents must keep this in mind before encouraging the student for JEE studies.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

2 RIVAL METHODOLOGIES TO PREPARE FOR MHT-CET

The MHT-CET for Engineering has been reintroduced from 2016 by the Govt. of Maharashtra after it was cancelled in 2014 & 2015. The MHT-CET is an Entrance exam in Maths, Physics & Chemistry for admission into the 4-years B.E. and B.Tech. Courses of all the 350+ engineering colleges in Maharashtra via the 65% State quota. The MHT-CET was first introduced hurriedly within 50 days in Maharashtra State in June 2004 following a shocking Supreme Court Ruling in April 2004. The introduction of MHT-CET replaced the importance given to XII Boards for admission to Engineering colleges from 2005-2013.  The same system is now being implemented from 2016 onwards.
 
There are about 2.4 lac Engineering aspirants in Maharashtra to about 1.5 lac Engineering seats in 350+ Engineering colleges of which about 50000 seats remain vacant each year. It must be understood that out of these 350+ Engineering colleges in Maharashtra, hardly 50 colleges may be considered as A-grade colleges wherein quality of education, peer group and job + further studies placements are respectable. So, the competition is sharp for these A-grade seats.
The MHT-CET in its present form has 57 chapters in PCM strictly of Std.12 HSC syllabus. The MHT-CET has 2 papers viz. Paper 1 of 1.5 hours comprising of Physics & Chemistry each having 50 questions totalling 100 marks. Paper 2 has Mathematics having 50 questions for 1.5 hours and totalling 100 marks. All questions are Single-Answer Multiple Choice questions based and have NO NEGATIVE MARKING. MHT-CET is perhaps the only Entrance exam in India without negative marking.
 
It has been observed that there are fundamentally 2 effective methods to prepare for the MHT-CET. Both these methods compete with each other and it will be interesting to witness which of the 2 methods emerges more successful from 2016 onwards.
The first method of preparation for MHT-CET comprises of studying from Std.11 onwards with gentle focus on Std.11 chapters which form the base for Std.12 syllabus. Then, the student studies Std.12 chapters and does practice of solving formula-based Objective questions i.e. of MHT-CET level of difficulty. Finally, a Crash course and Test Series for MHT-CET is taken by the student to improve exam strategies and exam time-management skills. Throughout the 2-years, the student focuses on college exams and mainly on the 57 chapters for MHT-CET. The student does not prepare for JEE and other National-level exams during these 2-years.
 
The second method of preparation for MHT-CET comprises of studying from Std.11 onwards for JEE and studying the 110 chapters of Std.11 & 12. The focus of such a student in the first 16-18 months from Std.11 onwards is to understand the concepts of every chapter deeply and learn to apply these concepts to diverse situations.  Thus, the student focuses on developing problems solving ability in the first 16 months. If a student can solve JEE level problems in any chapter, then he can easily solve any MHT-CET level question too in that chapter. This is the principal idea behind this method of study. However, Test practice of MHT-CET is a must to build requisite speed and exam temperament. Therefore, the student practices many Mock MHT-CET Tests 4-6 months before the MHT-CET exam.
 
From 2005-13, both methods have reported many successful stories in the MHT-CET exam. So we have a fair basis to predict that both methods will be successful and effective from 2016 onwards as well and hence they shall compete with each other. However, there is one major negative point with the first method.
 
The MHT-CET is a significantly easier exam than the JEE or any other National level exam. Questions in MHT-CET are information-based or formula-based and thus based on the paradigm,  Known Concepts – Known Problems”.  However, JEE exam is based on the paradigm, “Known Concepts – Unknown Problems” which is also the theme in all exams during the 4 years of Engineering and thereafter. Hence, a student who studies by the second method of JEE excels during the 4-years of Engineering since they have superior fundamentals. However, a student who studies by the first method of studying only for MHT-CET suffers from serious academic challenges (ATKTs etc.) during the 4-years of Engineering.
 
Hence, it must be understood that from the short-term point of view of getting admission in an Engineering college, both methods are effective. However, from a long-term perspective, students are advised to study by the second method of JEE only.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

OBSESSIVE HYPER-FEVERISH JEE COACHING CULTURE OF KOTA !

The phenomenal growth of Kota coaching institutions since the 1990s is a classic case study for Business schools. A handful of professionals who lost their jobs due to the closure of a couple of companies like JK Synthetics in Kota forced them to take tuitions of Engineering aspirants for IIT-JEE. The success of the experiment planted the seed of a coaching system which grew exponentially in a matter of few years to astronomical proportions. As of 2015-16, about 1.25 lac students from Std.8-12 & Repeaters study in more than 50 different coaching institutes in Kota for Engineering Entrance exams of which 5 institutes viz. Allen, Resonance, Vibrant, Career Point and Motion are considered large-sized each catering to over 15000 students any given year. The Kota coaching industry is estimated to be about INR 1500 cr. in terms of annual turnover.
 
For the past 10 years or so, Kota has consistently registered about 2000-3000 IIT Ranks per year. Thus, the IIT success rate of Kota is under 5%. It is worth pointing out that out of the 2000-3000 Ranks registered per year from Kota, over 50% of them are Repeaters!!
 
Kota has recently been in the news due to the wrong reasons. It has been reported that 30 suicides have been committed by students in the past one year alone in Kota apparently due to unbearable study & competitive pressures. It must be appreciated that suicide is the most extreme reaction and represents the end of the spectrum of depressive mental states. This means that there must be thousands of students who must be at various stages of depression prevalent in Kota who have no emotional support or guidance available in this hyper-competitive town.
 
Kota has a typical coaching culture which coaching institutes brand as Kota Pattern. This Kota Pattern is about the following aspects: 
  • Conducting lectures and problems cum doubts sessions in separate time slots. Lectures comprise of teaching concepts along with solved examples. Lecture halls have a capacity of 200-300 students and hence lectures are non-interactive and one-sided. However, the problems cum doubts sessions are in smaller batches of 50-75 and are interactive. The problems sessions comprise mostly of solving Daily Practice Questions (DPPs) which are prepared by the coaching institute.
  • Kota coaching institutes have a tie-up with or run their own junior college. Therefore, students enrolled in a coaching institute does not need to attend the college. This arrangement has tacit blessings of the Education Departments of State Government.
  • There are huge number of residential facilities like hostel cum messing facilities, paying guest schemes etc. in Kota due to which it attracts students from all over North, Central & Eastern India.
  • There are various hierarchical batches per year in each coaching institute which keep shuffling students amongst these batches after every Test.  The so called higher batches (designated by various names) have a higher success rate in IIT selections as compared to the lower batches. The methodology of teaching and testing however in all batches is the same. The differential between batches is in the academic capacity of students only.   
 
Now, let us examine as to what are the fundamental flaws in the Kota pattern.
  • JEE coaching must ideally be student-centric and not teacher-centric. This implies that student feedback must be given the highest weightage and due cognizance. This is not the case with Kota pattern of coaching.
  • Students must be admitted into coaching institutes via an Admissions Test which is transparent and authentic. Most coaching institutes in Kota conduct Admissions Test as an eye-wash and pass everyone to secure quick admissions. So many undeserving students fall in the trap of JEE coaching when they ought to have not even taken Science.
  • Kota coaching institutes segregate students into different batches but do not administer differential teaching methodologies. One size does not fit all and hence the method of teaching to a group of exceptionally brilliant students has to be sharply different than a group of average students. This does not happen in Kota pattern. 
  • Along with systematic teaching, students have to be provided with clear guidance of how to study, how to evaluate one’s progress and counselling facilities must be made available. Kota pattern severely lacks these aspects. Absence of one-to-one counselling facilities is perhaps a major reason for suicides in Kota.
  • There are no refunds given by coaching institutes of fees once paid in Kota.
  • The aggressive marketing in print & outdoor media and dubious claims of Toppers by coaching institutes in Kota has over-commercialised the atmosphere in Kota.
  • Due to widespread depression and frustration amongst students, a number of unsavoury avenues for entertainment, mental relaxation and stress-release like alcohol, drugs etc. are available abundantly in and around Kota.
  • The nature of coaching offered in JEE coaching institutes in Kota is inductive coaching. Make a student go through a large variety of questions in any given chapter so that he can crack the question in the JEE based on familiarity of the question rather than developing the deductive and creative impulse of the student. This type of coaching may help the student to crack the JEE but does not help the student to excel inside the IITs. This is the reason why some IIT Professors jokingly say that IIT has two types of quotas viz. Constitutional Kota and Kota quota !!!
  • Kota pattern does not help the student individually to develop their own personal exam strategies. 
  • Kota pattern does not initiate the student to appreciate the philosophical implications of many of the profound laws, equations and results in PCM which though may not have equity in improving exam marks but certainly is vital for helping the student for a deeper appreciation of the Sciences. Thus, Kota pattern fosters a mercenary attitude in students which is unhealthy for the long-term career prospects of the student.
  • Kota coaching institutes offer no help to students to decide their career and choice of branch / college after IIT Rank has been achieved by the student.
An ideal JEE coaching culture must instill deep love and interest in the student about the subjects of PCM and then systematically build the fundamentals of the subject along with problems solving ability of the student in a deductive reasoning based methodology. Thereafter, the coaching institute must focus on building the right exam temperament and helping the student develop the right exam strategy.  A mix of teaching and counselling is required at every stage of the 2-years program to make the student comfortable and focused. Many of these elements are missing in the Kota pattern altogether.
 
The Kota Pattern is thus found wanting on many counts.  The recent spate of suicides should make owners and Directors of Kota coaching institutes introspect and change their obsessive hyper-feverish ways of coaching. If they incorporate the points mentioned above, Kota shall truly become the Vigyaan Nagari which it erroneously claims to be as on date!
What is true of the Kota Pattern is to a large extent true of the Hyderabad pattern of JEE coaching as well !!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

EXAM PATTERN OF THE IIT-JEE : CHANGE IS THE ONLY CONSTANT !

The IIT-JEE (recently called the JEE ADVANCED) commenced since 1960 is considered the toughest Entrance Exam in the world and is the criterion for admission to undergraduate courses in the world-renowned tech-schools viz. the IITs. Though the syllabi of the IIT-JEE has undergone very little change since 1960, the format and exam pattern have undergone major changes every 2-3 years since the past 2 decades.

A brief history of the various formats and exam patterns of the IIT-JEE is as under :

1960 – 1989: The IIT-JEE was an exam having 3 Question Papers each one in PCM of 3 hours each. The exam pattern was Subjective.

1990 - 2003: The exam format of the IIT-JEE had two stages viz. Screening & Mains. It was mandatory to clear the Screening Exam to be eligible for the Mains exam. The Screening was an Objective Test whereas the Mains was a Subjective Test.

2004 - 2005: The IIT-JEE became a single-stage exam having 3 separate questions papers of PCM each of 2 hours each. All 3 papers were of Subjective exam pattern.

2006 - 2012: The IIT-JEE became a Single-stage Objective exam having 2 papers each having PCM of 3 hours each. The exam had mixed question patterns.

2013 - 2016: The IIT-JEE again became a two-stage exam viz. JEE MAINS and JEE ADVANCED. The JEE MAINS is an Objective exam with Single-Answer MCQs and the JEE ADVANCED is a mixed pattern Objective questions-based exam.

2017-onwards: Format and exam pattern expected to change again! There is speculation that the IIT-JEE shall remain a 2-stage exam with an Online Aptitude Test to be used as a Screening for eligibility for writing the JEE which is expected to be Subjective in exam-pattern.  This is as per the recommendations of an eminent Govt. panel headed by ex-Director of IIT Bombay, Prof. Ashok Misra.

It is the observation of IIT Professors in the past 2 decades that the students selected via a Subjective pattern of the IIT-JEE have been more suited to the level of academics taught inside the hallowed portals of the IITs as compared to students selected via a Objective pattern. This may be principally due to 2 reasons : 

1) A Subjective pattern expects a student to “create an answer” rather than “choose an answer”. It is obvious that greater talent is required to create an answer and hence the Subjective pattern is preferable to an Objective pattern for selecting students.

2) A Subjective pattern based question paper has hardly 15 questions for a 3-hours paper and hence, the student gets enough time to attempt every question. However, an Objective pattern based Q. paper has 60 questions for a 3-hours paper which implies that time-management is very important and choice of questions to attempt plays a disproportionately crucial role in the eventual performance of the student. An Objective exam thus becomes more of a Test of nerves rather than a Test of Knowledge. This is not so in the case of a Subjective pattern and hence is preferable.

Since the number of students which is expected to appear in the JEE from 2017 is expected to be between 2-4 lacs, it is unreasonable to expect IIT Professors to correct so many Q. papers. Hence, an Integer-type pattern of asking Subjective questions which was first introduced by the IITs in IIT-JEE 2006 is likely to be administered from 2017 onwards. The Online Aptitude Test is expected to comprise of basic questions in PCM along with logical-reasoning based questions along the lines of SAT exam.

We shall have to wait and watch for the precise details to be revealed in the coming months.