With slightly lengthy questions and a moderately difficult Mathematics paper, the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) 2012 ended up tougher than last year's test, said most students who took the exam here on Sunday.

The exam, held at 1,067 centres across the country, decides admission to nearly 9,618 undergraduate seats at the 15 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). As many as 5.6 lakh aspirants across the country took the test, of which 8,583 were from Tamil Nadu. The exam was held at various centres in Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Salem, Tiruchy and Tirunelveli.

There were quite a few surprises in the test. Questions on rotational mechanics that were not in previous years' papers and fewer organic chemistry questions were some of the features of this year's test, said Abhishek Narayan, a student of P.S. Higher Secondary School.

While the first paper that lasted from 9 a.m. to noon had relatively easy questions, especially in the chemistry section, the second paper in the afternoon, students said, was much more difficult.

P. Sanjay, a student of NIT Trichy, who attempted the exam for the second time, said he wanted to get a branch of his choice in a top IIT. “Also, the paper was for 408 marks this time, not the usual 480. I have to get a good rank otherwise I can't think about wasting a year. The paper, though difficult when compared to last year's, was easier than many previous years',” he said.

Students have always looked forward to sections of the JEE which are exempt from negative marking. “This time we had two such sections in paper 1 and one in paper 2, but one of them was a multiple choice offering more than one right option so we had to fit in and view all the options. That took time,” said Kavya, of DAV Girls Higher Secondary School.

Outside centres, stood anxious parents, for whom this could be just the start of the entrance race. For CBSE students, the IITs and NITs are important because they don't stand much of a chance in counselling, said S. Balasubramanium, a parent.

“JEE is the main exam because IIT is everyone's dream. For many, the other tests are mostly back-up options,” said J. Anthra, who wants to get into IIT- Madras.

This time, the candidates were also given a carbon copy of their answer sheets to compare the assessments. Many parents feel the standard test proposed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development from next year might solve issues that crop up during entrance tests. “My son is taking 12 entrance tests in the next month. I wish these centres would allot a room for waiting parents, or at least let us use the bathrooms,” said Joseph Thiagarajan, a parent from Dindigul.

Last year, from the Madras zone alone, 62,884 students appeared for the test out of which, 2,195 made it to the common merit list. Results are scheduled to be declared on May 18.