New Delhi: Some Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are experiencing qualms about the new-format Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) for students seeking admission to the elite engineering schools.
Contrary to the hard-sell that the new, two-stage format being introduced this year will make life easier for the IITs and their aspiring students, it could prove to be a cumbersome exercise and a logistical headache, said the administrators of three of the older IITs.
The format works this way: the first part of the joint entrance examination known as JEE-Main is open to all students and their performance in the test will be key for admission to all centrally-funded technical colleges like the National Institutes of Technology, but not to the IITs.
The 150,000 top rankers in the JEE (Main), conducted between 7 April and 25 April, will qualify for appearing in the next stage, called JEE-Advanced, for admission to the IITs and the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad. These 150,000 candidates also need to finish among the top 20 percentile of students in their school board examinations.
Some IIT administrators are concerned about the possibility of students from a particular state or a few states cornering a majority of the 150,000 top spots in the JEE-Main to qualify for appearing in the JEE-Advanced. That may hinder the smooth conduct of the second stage of the exam in that state or region, given that the preparations for the exam are on an all-India basis.
“The IIT-Main exam results will come out in the first week of May and the registration for JEE-Advanced will start from May 8. Technically you will have little time for arranging new exam centres and other related logistical supports (in the event of the above scenario). This could create a problem,” said a senior administrator at an IIT.
For example, if Bihar and Tamil Nadu students form a sizeable portion of the top rankers, then IITs may have to redraw the exam plan. Right now, the IITs have arranged just two centres for Tamil Nadu and four for Bihar.
“What has happened because of the two-tier exam system is that it has become cumbersome. Earlier, we knew how many students are there from a state and prepare accordingly but the new system has taken away that advantage. You have to plan and execute everything from registration to delivery within a period of three weeks,” said a professor at IIT-Kharagpur, requesting anonymity.
The professor said that not just arranging extra exam centres, but moving staff and securing question papers at fresh test centres could prove to be a challenge.
“IITs have a tradition of offering fool-proof entrance (tests), but that needs robust preparation. Under this new system, it may prove to be a challenge this time,” he said.
IIT-Delhi, which is coordinating the conduct of JEE-Advanced, shares some of the concerns.
“It’s a challenge. Students from which state will perform better is unknown and may throw a surprise,” said R.K.Shevgaonkar, director of IIT-Delhi. “We will soon sound out to potential exam centres besides those which we have finalized so far.”
What’s more, the requirement that those appearing in JEE-Advanced must finish in the top 20 percentile of their school board exams doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence that IITs will get a better crop of students this year, one professor said.
For example, students scoring at least 58% and above in their class 12 board exam in West Bengal and 64% in Bihar fall in the top 20 percentile while in Andhra Pradesh, a student scoring a minimum of 87% belongs to the category. For Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) students, the comparative score is 78%.
The new format may not reduce the burden for students either.
“The number of entrances is still two. Students have to register twice, sit for the exam twice. So, where is the question of (it becoming) less burdensome for students? Internally we knew that this system may not be (the) best,” said a professor from IIT-Bombay, who declined to be named.
The format of the IIT-JEE, one of the toughest examinations in the country with just two of every 100 candidates qualifying for admission to the institutes, was tweaked after complaints over the falling standards of IIT students.
IIT aspirants are upset over the top 20 percentile requirements.
“I fail to understand how a student’s scoring 79% is less talented than somebody scoring 80% and getting qualified to sit for the JEE-Advanced. This is little unfair for many students who are sitting on the fence of that 20 percentile yardstick,” said Dipak K., an IIT aspirant from Delhi.