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IIT-JEE: What you must not do on D-Day
Ajay Antony
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April 02, 2007

Many students make the same, avoidable mistakes on the day of the Joint Entrance Examination. 

As April 8 draws near, we discuss some of the strategies you can adopt during the crucial window of two to three hours on D-Day.

We will start with some elementary instructions. Though these look very elementary, I have seen, year after year, students falling prey to these situations.

So, here is what you need to be careful about:

Don't trade last-minute tips

You need to arrive at least half an hour earlier than the appointed time at the examination venue.

After you reach the venue, please resist the temptation of 'trading last-minute tips' with your old or newfound friends. What you need is peace with yourself to perform at your best.

It is likely you might meet some of your old friends after a long time at the examination venue. These friends and you might have taken training from different sources for the JEE. Just before the examination is not the right time to discuss the 'best practices' followed by different coaching classes.

Let bygones be bygones

During the last stage of your preparation, you may have decided to leave out some chapter/chapters because you did not have time to prepare the fundamentals properly. Do not try to go through the basics of a chapter you have decided to leave, at the exam venue, just to make sure you cover these too.

Size up the paper

You have three hours in the first segment -- to be spread across physics, chemistry and mathematics. After you get the question paper, do spend a minimum of five minutes to understand the structure of the paper.

What we mean is -- DO NOT start solving the paper from Question Number 1 onwards when the opening bell goes off.

Spend time in checking whether the structure is the same for all the three papers.

Try to 'size up the paper' in terms of its presentation -- are there questions without negative marking?

~ Are there questions that will require you to actually find the numerical value to the last digit?

~ What is the nature of the questions that carry the maximum marks per question?

Spending time on an exercise like this is NOT a waste of time.

Time allocation

Although the three areas carry equal marks, you will have your ranking of your favourite subjects. Allocate time so that you give more than the average time for the subject you are weak in.

Even if you feel you can score more marks in the subject area of your liking by spending more time, take a conscious decision to deny yourself the opportunity.

Why are we suggesting this? Please remember that there are subject cut-offs. The JEE brochure implicitly tells the candidates the examination clearly seeks to find students with a minimum performance level in all the three subjects.

Assessment of the cut-offs

Here's a tip that has stood the test of time -- by the rule of thumb, the subject cut-off is always likely to be less than what a student has calculated after the examination.

I can stand testimony to this, as I have physically collected the cut-off expectations collected from the students after they immediately leave the exam hall in the earlier versions of the JEE.

And after we analyse the paper and reconstruct the actual performance of the entire test-taking population, the subject-wise cut-off was found to be less in the case of all subjects.

This should give you some confidence.

Between the examinations

Between the morning and the afternoon examinations, there is a gap of two hours. How you manage your two hours will also have a critical impact on your overall performance in the JEE.

Do not try to analyse the morning paper for long during the lunch break -- either in solo or in a group of friends. Any time spent on the morning paper should be with the objective of finding out your relative performance among the three subjects. Please check the stress on your.

When you discuss in a group, there is an additional danger of upping your cut-off based on the inputs from the group. Again, these are perspectives gained directly by being present at the examination venue on several occasions. When you get into a direct comparing game with the performance of your friends, the entire focus gets into 'your least performance versus the best suggested performance in the group.'

The second exam

When you get into the second exam in the afternoon, you should be prepared to spend an extra 10 minutes on the subject you feel has been your weak area in the morning test. Particularly so if you find that you have performed way below than the average of the other two subjects.

Since the total time is three hours, this additional time can come at the expense of the other subjects, which is perfectly okay.

At the end of the JEE, the subject cut-off will be decided by the combined performance of subjects in both papers.

-- Ajay Antony is vice president, T.I.M.E, an organisation that prepares candidates for courses like the MBA and the MCA and competitive examinations like CAT, the GRE and GMAT.

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