Coronavirus | Opeds and editorials

A case to use JEE-Main instead of JEE-Advanced this year

It would not only reduce stress for applicants, but also enable college admissions to the IITs to take place earlier

The pandemic has thrown the world, including academic institutions, into turmoil. College admissions, a stressful process even in normal circumstances, will be affected everywhere. Unfortunately, the virus struck India before many Class 12 board examinations were completed. National entrance examinations like the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE)-Main, JEE-Advanced and National Eligibility cum Entrance Test have not yet been held. While all college admissions are affected, I focus on admissions to engineering institutions. The JEE-Advanced exam is the sole prerequisite for admission into the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). Students spend two years or more being coached for entrance examinations.

Two advantages

My suggestion to the IITs for admitting B.Tech students this year is that they use the JEE-Main to admit students and cancel the JEE-Advanced in the light of the pandemic. This would not only reduce stress for a large number of applicants as they would not be required to write one more high-pressure exam, but would also enable college admissions to the IITs and other institutions to take place 6-7 weeks earlier. Since the IITs are among the most sought-after institutions in the country, admissions to the next level of institutions — the National Institutes of Technology (NITs), Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) and others — effectively happen only after the IIT list is published. The chain of dependency extends to other institutions, naturally.

Coronavirus | JEE-Advanced test postponed

Let us look at the history of admissions to the national-level engineering institutions, starting with the IITs. The IITs admitted undergraduate students through the IIT-JEE for decades. From 2002, other national institutions selected students based on their performance in the All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE). The JEE and AIEEE were conducted in parallel, independent of each other. In 2013, the AIEEE was effectively renamed as the JEE-Main. All national-level institutions, except the IITs, and some State institutions, admit students to the B. Tech course based on their rank in the JEE-Main. Another new examination called JEE-Advanced, a modified version of the old IIT-JEE, was created for the IITs and a few other institutions. However, a high rank in the JEE-Main became the criterion to even register for the JEE-Advanced. Thus, under the current scheme, a student has to perform well in the JEE-Main and the JEE-Advanced to secure a seat in an IIT.

Impacting schedules

What was most inconvenient was that this scheme impacted the schedules of admissions into all the engineering institutions. In 2012, the IIT-JEE was held early in April and the AIEEE was held towards the end of April, independent of each other. The rank lists of both were available by mid-May. Seat allotments began in early June and were completed by end-June. But in the present scheme, which started in 2013, the JEE-Main is held in early April and the JEE-Advanced, now available to those with high JEE-Main ranks, in late May. The JEE-Advanced results are published in the third week of June and seat allocations start only in early July. By design, the JEE-Advanced can be held only 6-7 weeks after the JEE-Main. Consequently, classes in the IITs and other institutions can start only 14-16 weeks after the JEE-Main is held.

Also read | CBSE to give 10 days notice for rescheduled board exams

Everything has turned topsy-turvy this year. Some of the Class 12 board exams are yet to be completed. The JEE-Main has been delayed at least till early June. Classes cannot start earlier than end-September. Further delays are possible based on the spread of the virus. We can’t conduct national entrance exams until all regions of the country are reasonably safe.

Let us come back to my proposal of using JEE-Main ranks instead of JEE-Advanced ranks to admit students this year. The JEE-Advanced need not be held. Imagine facing the uncertainties imposed by the pandemic, then writing the remaining board exams, then the JEE-Main and then the JEE-Advanced! Without the JEE-Advanced, classes in all institutions can also start 6-7 weeks earlier than usual, as seat allocations can start 4-5 weeks after the JEE-Main.

The JEE-Main and JEE-Advanced test different skills, we are told. I contend that the performance of students in JEE-M and JEE-A are very similar statistically. The IITs have the data from at least 2013 to analyse this. For instance, one can study the difference in the ranks of individual students in the JEE-Main and JEE-Advanced. Some will get better JEE-Main ranks and others, better JEE-Advanced ranks. Statistics on the fraction of students with a big rank difference will help us understand the impact of writing the JEE-Main in the place of the JEE-Advanced. My estimate is that over 90% of the students have a rank difference of less than 100 places.

If we annouce now that JEE-Main ranks will be used for IIT admissions, students awaiting the JEE-Main and JEE-Advanced will get 6-7 weeks to prepare for it. We would also be able to answer their doubts and questions better.

Coronavirus | NEET postponed till last week of May

I request those in charge of the JEE-Advanced and IIT admissions to consider this proposal. To be clear, IIIT-Hyderabad admits about 50% of its undergraduates through the JEE-Main and the rest through other means. Our admissions calendar is very closely aligned to the IITs/The Joint Seat Allocation Authority by necessity. The proposed change will enable an early start of classes in the IITs, NITs, IIITs, etc. Let us reduce the pain of those aspiring to go to these colleges by reducing one entrance exam they have to write and by enabling admissions much earlier.

P.J. Narayanan is Director, IIIT Hyderabad

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Printable version | Jul 14, 2020 11:35:04 AM |

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