Anxious students who have just finished their class XII exams are lining up at coaching centres for the fifteen-day dash, before they attempt various engineering entrance exams.

This is the first time a combined entrance exam is being held for all centrally-run engineering institutions, including the IITs and NITs. While the paper-pen test was held on April 7, the online test will be held on various dates till April 25.

It is a hectic month for engineering aspirants as most of them are set to take various entrance tests in the coming weeks. While most deemed universities let students choose between online and offline modes, IIT – JEE (mains) was online for students in cities.

Students said those who were really prepared took the offline test so that they could be done with it and focus on the advanced test, which will determine their entry to IITs. Only the top 150,000 candidates (including all categories) from the JEE (Main) will qualify for the JEE (Advanced) examination. The students also have to be among the top 20 percent in their respective boards.

Ankur Jain, director, FIITJEE, said half of his students went to Puducherry and Madurai to take the test.

The centre has nearly 700 aspirants this year. However, he also said that the online format is a welcome step and students should be preparing for it. “Last year, students who took the online test got better scores. Even this year, they are getting more time to prepare as the dates are later,” he said.

But students, parents and teachers continue to raise concerns regarding the test. There is of course the digital divide, which works to the detriment of students from rural areas as well as those from other districts who have come to the city for coaching.

“It is difficult for these students to get used to the system as most coaching institutes don’t have such facilities, said Jaya Sridhar, a physics teacher in a school.

Parents also said that it would have been helpful if the CBSE had more mock tests or online practice sets.

The absence of these, said Raghavan Chandrasekharan, a parent, meant that they have had to shell out more money.

“My son insisted on buying two online packages for testing. We have an app too. I have spent at least Rs. 20,000 on them, besides Rs. 3 Lakh on coaching.”

Students are also facing a wide variety of anxieties about the test. K. Suresh, who is taking the test on April 22 said, “Last year, the online test was easy and the offline test difficult. This time, since the offline test was easy, we just hope the online test is not tough,” he said.

And the first batch under the new pattern wonders about the vagaries of the system. “First, the new challenge of facing the JEE mains and advanced tests. Then, making sure I get the board marks. After that, it is a battle between branches and specific IITs. Since we are the first batch to face all this, the anxiety is even more,” said R. Abhishek, an aspirant.

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