Well begun is half done. Start your preparation in class XI.

The Joint Entrance Examination JEE (Main) is conducted by the CBSE for admission to undergraduate engineering programmes in the NITs, IITs and other centrally and State-funded technical institutions. This test is also an eligibility test for JEE (Advanced), which is to be taken by the candidates aspiring to take admission in the undergraduate programmes offered by IIT.

The syllabi level expected at the JEE (Main) is that of the Class XII stage.

How is JEE (Main) different from the CBSE Board Exam?

The CBSE board exam is an achievement-oriented exam. It attempts to find out how much the student has learnt in a specific subject from a prescribed textbook. The question set in the board exam follows a definite pattern, which is made available to the students well in advance through sample papers. Moreover, the student is declared to have passed the exams if he/she secures 33 per cent or more marks in the exam.

Unlike Class XII exam, JEE (Main) is a competitive exam. A candidate is given a rank on the basis of his/her performance in the exam.

The questions set in the JEE (Main) are generally of a higher level and involve more than one branch of the subject.

The students are expected not only to have a thorough theoretical knowledge of all the topics included in the syllabus, but also be well versed in applying them to specific problems.

Since time is a limiting factor in the JEE (Main) examination, it is the speed of understanding the problem and eliminating the incorrect choices quickly that helps in closing in on the correct option.

When to begin

The best time to begin your preparation for JEE (Main) is when you have covered almost 50 percent of your class XI syllabus. For instance, for the JEE Main 2015 exam, October or November 2013 is the best time to begin your preparation!

With such advanced planning, the most valuable resource you have is your time. Write down the amount of time you wish to devote to JEE (Main), allocating separate time slots for Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. As you study, you will develop a list of your problem areas, which will direct you further. It may require you to rearrange your priorities. Do not overestimate the time you have. Extra preparation always helps. Set a workable timetable and stick to it. Regular study in small sessions is much better than one occasional study of long duration.

Effective preparation

Keep the larger aim (of getting a high score) in mind always. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t understand something when you first read it or you are unable to solve the problem at the very first attempt. Grappling with a difficult problem helps you to explore alternative approaches to tackle the problem, which is quite useful on the day of exam.

Some students panic when they are introduced to new techniques for solving a problem. They invariably ask, “How do I solve this problem, if am not aware of such techniques or approaches?” Remember, while preparing for the exam you must also be on the lookout for short-cut methods for solving problems.

Note-taking is a meaningful exercise for shortcut techniques. Jot down the important formulae, tips, tricks and techniques in a separate notebook. It will be of great help before the exam when you are hard-pressed for time.

Rapidly review the section you have just studied and recall all the major ideas of the section. If you have difficulties in recalling things, go back to your notes.

Keep a note of the questions you could not solve at the first attempt. Rework all the questions you had solved incorrectly.

Do not make any problem a prestige issue. If you fail to do a problem in a reasonable amount of time, consult your teacher. May be the problem requires a technique you are not aware of.

How a simple substitution, use of an algebraic identity or geometric visualisation of a problem can be used to solve a daunting problem in mathematics for example, is a craft that can be imparted only by your teacher. So don’t hesitate to take the help of your teacher whenever the need arises.

Last but not least, remember that the key skill here is not merely to understand the explanation of why a particular answer was correct but the ability to see exactly what clues in the problem lead you to the right answer. For multiple choice questions develop the ability to quickly rule out the choice that cannot be correct.

All said and done, the preparation for the JEE Main is essentially a preparation to solve problems with speed that can only come through sufficient practice.

The writer is one of the co-authors of Complete Mathematics for JEE Main 2014 and Comprehensive Mathematics for JEE Advanced 2014.