Competition can breed jealousy: All-India JEE topper
While Arpit Aggarwal never attended a social gathering for two years and is grateful to his parents for helping him study with no distractions, he says it is equally important to take short breaks while preparing for a competitive exam.
Arpit Aggarwal, 18 has achieved what is the dream of every IIT aspirant.
He holds the all-India Rank One in IIT-JEE 2012.
A resident of Faridabad and a student of Modern Vidya Niketan Senior Secondary School, Arpit belongs to the state of Jharkhand. He says he loves reading books on organic chemistry and has, in fact, read them like fiction novels for the past two years.
Arpit confesses he is really not into sports or gaming, but strongly recommends that one should pursue whatever one is interested in outside the school curriculum.
In conversation with rediff.com, Arpit talks about how his CBSE background helped him crack the exam, his views on IIT education and career plans for the future.
When did you start preparing for the IIT entrance examination?
The first time I formally prepared for a competitive exam was for National Talent Search Examination in Class VIII. It really taught me how to go about preparing for an exam. However, I started preparing specifically for IIT-JEE when I was in Class XI.
How did you prepare? Did you rely on self-study or joined coaching classes alongside?
My preparation for IIT-JEE started right in school. The lessons taught were very helpful because the curriculum and the teaching pattern combined the requirements of both CBSE and JEE. But I had also joined a South Delhi-based coaching institute. The classes for these were held two to three times a week.
What were your favourite subjects?
My favourite was and has always been chemistry. I developed a love for the subject very spontaneously, around the time I was nearing the completion of Class XI. In fact, I loved reading chemistry books so much that I have read them like fiction novels. And I haven't felt the need to read any work of fiction since then. I find organic chemistry particularly interesting.
How did you prepare for the other two subjects?
I wasn't very comfortable with mathematics initially, but I picked it up later on. I undertook practice tests from my coaching institute and it really helped.
What was the most difficult part of the exam?
Well, I think it was very easy. I made only four mistakes and all of them were silly mistakes. In fact, I had figured out three of the four mistakes I made during the exam itself. But I couldn't correct them because I had already marked my answers with pen.
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Image: Arpit Aggarwal being congratulated by HRD minister Kapil Sibal
Photographs: Courtesy MVN School
'Not just the best are making their way to the IITs nowadays'
What do you plan to do after you finish studying at IIT?
Well, I am not going to opt for hardcore science. There is no final plan yet, but I think I would be interested in pursuing MBA after my graduation in IIT, mainly because I feel it will give me a very well-rounded education.
How do you think engineering is faring as a career option nowadays? Do you think its popularity is on the decline?
Not at all. I cannot speak for the entire country, but in my own school, I've seen that the number of students opting for medicine has gone down terribly, primarily because there are such few seats in degree colleges and even fewer seats for post-graduate courses in medical colleges. Hence, there are very limited options for students who opt for medicine.
But it is not so for engineering. I feel the number of engineering students is surplus. There are so many engineering colleges; it's considered somewhat easy to become an engineer.
The number of IITs too has gone up. Do you think this increase is interfering with the quality of education?
Somewhere, I do believe that it has affected the quality of education at IIT. Even in the premiere IITs of Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, the number of students has increased five times. The number of science (engineering) students in school has not increased five times.
The total number of students admitted to IITs used to be 2000 earlier, which has gone up to 10,000 now. In hostels, a room which was earlier shared by two students is now being shared by three. Hence, there is a shortage in providing amenities.
Similarly, it could be expected that there is a shortage of laboratories and teaching faculty and maybe, the quality of education has been diluted too.
I feel getting into the IITs has become easy now. Also, not just the best are making their way to the IITs nowadays.
Image: Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay
Photographs: Rediff Archives
'There were no parties at home for two years while I was preparing'
Do you think two years is sufficient to prepare? What has been your strategy for preparation?
Oh yes, two years is absolutely sufficient. The strategy is very simple, and you need to take care of two things -- time management and proper planning.
While you are studying and preparing for multiple exams, you also need to find time to plan your career in these two years. For instance, you have to study for the board exams, the IIT-JEE and many also appear for the AIEEE. Hence, there is lot to be managed, and it is also not possible to study all the time. You need to learn how to manage time and plan your schedule.
Here, I would like to add that whatever your interests are outside of the school curriculum, whether literature or drama, one should pursue those too. Don't just ignore everything else; it is not possible to just study for two years. You must manage your time and set aside some time for things that interest you. It really helps.
Are you considering migrating to a country abroad?
I don't know. I don't think I will be able to adapt to the culture of a country abroad. I am not saying that people abroad do not respect elders, but I just feel it's a different life.
If I get an opportunity to study or work abroad, I will think about it.
Besides academics, what are your interests?
Well, I am not really into sports or gaming. I do yoga to relax and often accompany my father for evening walks to stay motivated. But I love reading organic chemistry textbooks, though I haven't since the exams ended.
So what are you reading nowadays? Who are your favourite authors?
I started with Chetan Bhagat, and I am now following Dan Brown and Jeffrey Archer.
Do you think family support is very important during these years of intense preparation?
Yes. My family provided me with all the moral support I needed. I joined the coaching classes I needed. There were no social functions or gatherings held in the house for two years. I was also exempted from visiting any social gathering in the family. I was allowed to prepare for the exam without any distraction, which was very important.
How would you like to contribute towards the education system in our country? Would you be interested in teaching students?
That would be the second step. My first step would be spotting students, who really deserve it but haven't had the opportunity to study. I would really like to help such students in whatever way I can.
When studying is your priority, have you managed to strike a balance with your personal/love life?
No. Actually, there is no time. These two years are so cramped, and there is so much to do. I feel it's the same for both boys and girls. They have to think about their careers (laughs).
What is the best way to handle stress and all that's going on in these two years?
I feel the best way is to confide in somebody. I have been very close to two of my friends and two teachers at school, and I could freely discuss anything with them.
As one prepares for entrance tests and board exams, life at school becomes very hectic. And you are riddled with a whole lot of emotions -- jealousy, envy etc. I was lucky because I could talk and communicate freely. My teachers would often tell me that it's okay, and everybody goes through the same emotions.
Have you decided what stream you will be taking up at IIT?
I am still thinking about it, but most probably I will be opting for computer science at IIT Delhi.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh