As many as 5.6 lakh aspirants across the country will appear for the IIT Joint Entrance Exam on Sunday, as compared to 4.6 lakh who took the exam last year. From Tamil Nadu, 8,583 students are expected to take the JEE. The exam will be held at various centres in Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Salem, Tiruchy and Tirunelveli.

The largest pool of applications this year has come from Kanpur, followed by Andhra Pradesh from the Madras zone (that comprises the four southern states and Puducherry). The exam will be held at 1,067 centres across the country for admission to nearly 9,618 undergraduate seats in the 15 IITs. Many other reputed educational institutes also consider JEE scores for admitting students.

The preparation levels might be the same but there is an evident anticipation in the minds of the teachers, parents and students if this exam, as is expected, turns out to be the last to be conducted under the existing JEE pattern.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development has proposed to introduce a common examination for admission to all Central-level engineering institutes from 2013. While the test would also have questions on aptitude and reasoning, apart from science subjects, it will also give 40 per cent weightage to school board exam results. This has evoked protests from many students, parents, teachers and college managements. Officials from the Higher Education Department of Tamil Nadu have asked for time to analyse the pattern of the test.

Dhanya Ramakrishanan, a class XII student, who has been preparing for this exam for the last three years, has taken the recommended 35 full-length mock exams in the last few months. “For people like us, this might be the only chance, because next year, things will get tougher,” she added.

Over 16 entrance tests have been scheduled in the next two months which also adds to the stress levels of the candidates. Sukumar Krishnan, whose entrance race started last Sunday with the AIPMT said, “The paper was unusually tough. The cut-offs are sure to fall but I am hoping that JEE turns into a pleasant surprise.” However experts such as K. Ravi think this to be highly unlikely. Mr. Ravi, who has been training students for JEE for the past ten years, is of the opinion that even if the difficulty levels come down, the competition levels will only be tougher.

There has also been a change in the eligibility criteria this year. Candidates must score at least 10 per cent marks in each of the three subjects and a minimum aggregate of 35 per cent to figure on the rank list. Till last year, the minimum qualifying marks in JEE depended on the average scored by all the candidates. “Nearly 33 per cent of the applicants are females as opposed to the 22 per cent last year. Online applications for female candidates were free this year. The exam will be held in two parts with three papers in both - chemistry, mathematics and physics. The candidates will be able to take home a copy of their answer scripts after the exam. Of the 4, 68,240 candidates who appeared for the test from across the country last year, only 13,602 had qualified for admission. From the Madras zone alone, 62,884 students appeared for the test out of whom 2,195 made it to the common merit list. The results are scheduled to be declared on May 18.

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