With a fortnight left for the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) that determines admissions to Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), a sense of anxiety is prevalent among the hundreds of IIT aspirants in the city, who may be the last batch to take the the test in its current pattern.

As per current JEE rules, a student can attempt the examination twice, once when he is in class XII and again, a year later. But with the recent proposal of the Ministry of Human Resource Development to have a common entrance examination for all IITs, National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and Indian Institute of Science, this might change. The IIT council has proposed that a weightage of 40 per cent be given to class XII marks, and has recommended that students be evaluated with questions on aptitude, comprehension and critical thinking and advanced examination, besides testing them on physics, mathematics and chemistry.

With talks of several such changes doing the rounds, students, understandably, have their share of anxieties. A class XII student of Vidya Mandir, who aspires to get into IIT- Madras, is worried about what will happen if he does not get a good rank this year and the new pattern is implemented. “My school marks will not be that great because my entire focus is on JEE. If I have to take the exam again next year, I stand to lose, with inadequate school grades,” he said. “This year, to get into IIT- Madras, I have to get into the first 100 ranks, but getting in is made even more difficult because most students from Andhra Pradesh, especially all the high-scoring ones usually opt for it . I would ideally want to wait and take the exam again, but considering the confusion over the proposed changes, I will take any IIT admission that comes my way,” he said.

Nearly five lakh students are expected to take the exam on April 8, as compared to the 4.86 lakh in 2011, of which nearly 8,583 students are in Tamil Nadu. 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 Pondicherry.

Even as the buzz around a likely change in the JEE pattern is growing by the day, it looks like the proposed common test will not be free of hiccups. .

Some states are worried that the new pattern will exclude students from rural areas. Officials from the Higher Education Department of Tamil Nadu have asked for time to analyse the pattern of the test and decide if it will suit students of the State. Even the IITs in Kanpur and Delhi have disapproved of the way the Ministry has been pushing for the changes. Recently, the All-India IIT Faculty Federation that has teachers from all IITs as members strongly opposed the proposed changes on grounds that the reforms would prevent students with high aptitudes and knowledge from getting in.

Shobana Mohan, a physics teacher at a city school said since there was very little clarity on the rules, aspirants were in the dark as to what should they focus on if they were not able to get a good rank this year. Similarly, others who are starting their preparations now are also unsure. “Will their marks in both class XI and class XII be considered and how difficult will the technical questions get, or should they start focusing on aptitude and comprehension now?” she asked.

Over the years, the JEE pattern has become simpler so that it can be more accessible to students, say trainers, especially with negative marking being removed from sections such as reasoning and matrices as seen last year. But the unpredictability still remains, particularly on how many of the topics come from class XI and class XII.

“I would ask them to focus on this year's test alone. Expect surprises, think logically and don't try to conquer the question paper like you do in the board exam. If the paper is easy, it will become more difficult to qualify,” says K. Ravi, a trainer. “The attempt should be to get into the best 10,000s, because next year, the pattern might change, and the ones wanting to attempt the examination again, might have to prepare for a new pattern all over again,” he added.

Keywords: IIT-JEE