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Sizing up the IIT-JEE
Ajay Antony
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March 16, 2007

The IIT-JEE, a competitive exam for admission to the IITs, was held last year on April 9, 2006.

If you are planning to take the test this year on April 8, it pays to understand what the immediate senior batch of IIT aspirants experienced on D-day. 

JEE in 2006

Students came prepared for a long innings. After all, spending 10 hours in the testing arena is by no means a minor task. The JEE, which began with the physics paper at 8 am, concluded with the chemistry paper at 6 pm.

There were three exams of a two-hour duration, with intervals of two hours each. Students rarely left the exam premises during the break. Sure, you have taken a number of model papers, based on the suggested changes in the pattern. But it pays to relive the moments experienced by your seniors.

The sight at IIT-JEE 2006 -- students would come out of the exam hall after a two-hour paper. About 20 minutes to half an hour were spent on discussing the paper, which was just over. Different theories were suggested as the solution to the 'new pattern' of testing. This was followed by a little lull for some time and then trading of tips for the next examination.

JEE in 2007

This year, the time you spend in the exam hall will be the same: six hours. The only difference is that it will be conducted in a time frame of two blocks of three hours each.

Each block will test you on physics, chemistry and mathematics. Each block will have seprate sections on physics, chemistry and mathematics.

The test begins one hour later at 9 am and ends one hour earlier at 5 pm. Whether all the subjects will have an equal number of questions is a tough call. Last year, another national level examination, All India Engineering Entrance Examination, had lesser number of questions in mathematics, while retaining the equal weightage for the three subjects.

How is that possible? The only logical way is if there are more marks per question. In fact, only mathematics had questions with six marks in AIEEE 2006.

What to expect in IIT-JEE 2007

~ Understanding problems

In 2006, the focus was less on solving and more on "sizing up the problem" Once a student was able to get a fix on that, the solving part was relatively easy.

~ Questions with negative marking

When there are questions with 'negative marking', the first thought that comes to mind is SHOULD I TAKE A CHANCE?. If you are not 100 per cent sure of the answer, then you will not consider answering it at all, lest you get negative marks. But that is exactly what you need to avoid.

Though random guessing is thoroughly discouraged, it may still be prudent to eliminate options and get to probably two likely answers so that your probability of getting it correct goes up. This is possible in all questions which have Multiple Choices. However if there are no such choices given (as it was the case in two sections last year), then it is better to leave such questions alone.

~ Questions with no negative marking

There were two types of questions, which have no negative marking.

1. Students had to "calculate" down to the finest value and then indicate that value in the OMR (Optical Mark Recognition) sheet. This is where the test really lived up to its definition -- "objective". But not multiple choice.

For example, if the answer to a particular problem was 112, then the students had to arrive at the correct answer. In the answer grid that contained four columns of numbers running from 0 to 9, they had to darken 0, 1, 1 and 2. The OMR reader would read the answer as 112 and only to that answer, marks would be awarded.

2. The students were asked to match the items in the left column with those in the right column.

A seemingly simple proposition, if you were to exercise 'fix a couple' and 'eliminate one possibility' kind of techniques. However, it would not work here.

Let's say there are four options in the left column (A, B, C, D) and four options in the right column (w, x, y, z).

The final marking would look something like this: A- x,y.  B- x. C- w,z. D- w,y,z.

You would have to mark exactly like this in the specially designed grid in the OMR sheet to get any credit for this question. If you were to mark all others correct and then D-w,z, no marks would be awarded for this question.

If you were able to get out of the compartment mode of thinking and look for applicability of concepts across subject areas, you would do well. For example, when you look at an area in Mechanics, you should also realise that the same concept may be present in five other topics, viz., Motion in one dimension, Motion in two dimensions, Work Energy Power, Rotational Dynamics and  Laws of Motion. Which means you should be able to use one concept in different areas to get these type of 'Match the following' questions.

Well, that is what the JEE intends to seek in young aspirants -- can you 'size up the situation'?

-- The author is  Vice President at T.I.M.E, an organisation that prepares candidates for courses like the MBA and the MCA and competitive examinations like CAT, GRE and GMAT.

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