"Practice makes a man perfect." . This is the one golden rule that I have followed throughout my preparations for IIT-JEE as well as all other competitive exams like AIEEE. So, my dear readers, here I am to share some of my experiences and to give you some advice on how to prepare for these deadly entrance exams.
One dilemma that I face when I write an article on such a topic is where to start from. So, let me start from the beginning. Born on 29th November, 1991, I was declared by doctors as a child who could possibly be mentally retarded in the future (seems weird, ain't it? Read on…). I believe it has only been the strength of mind and the determination of my parents and one of my teachers that has brought me up to this level, sort of reversing the doctors' prophecy. I still remember when I was in primary school, I was quite shy, but then I started participating in a lot of competitions, often emerging on top. Those things gave me a lot of confidence and I slowly started rising up and opening myself to this world. People believe that these high ranks are meant for 'born-geniuses'. But that is far from the truth. In my case at least, I was born an anti-genius. So, it's mostly about practice, starting early, using your time to the utmost. Edison rightly said "Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration."
It was only in class VI that I got my first go at a national level science competition (the NSO) and obtained anAIR 13. Then, in class VII, I finished East Zone runner-up in the India's Child Genius quiz conducted by Siddhartha Basu, missing an opportunity to meet Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam by just 0.2 seconds in the buzzer round. I have never looked back since then, always learning from my mistakes and practicing endlessly in order to attain that ever-elusive state of perfection.
Now, having built up a sort of prologue let me come to the major issue: IIT- JEE. These three letters seem to weigh so heavily on the minds of so many youngsters. Here, I will be basically discussing how to plan out your preparations so that this exam looks a bit easier. Having interacted with lots of students from all over India through live seminars, Gmail, Facebook, etc. and most importantly, having been through that crucial stage myself, I am well aware of the questions that JEE aspirants have in mind. So, I will be going through the rest of this article in a sort of your question-my reply format.
First and foremost, the first question that always turns up is "What is your success mantra?" I would say it's utilizing even that tiny moment for self-study which you are giving to pondering over this question. According to me, it is time-management along with some self-belief. Every single moment that you are wasting in some not-so-important activity, thousands of other competitors are striving hard to get ahead of you. So, you simply cannot afford to waste time. A bit of relaxation here and there after some continuous study is a must, but you should be able to contain that "I have had enough" feeling.
People also ask me when exactly did I start my JEE preparations. Now, I am not very clear about the question itself. I started studying the JEE syllabus topics in the middle of class X, but I had started concentrating on science-maths and strengthening my basics from class VI itself. I had joined a JEE-directed correspondence course for the first time in class IX while I had my first major confidence booster at the India's Child Genius in class VII. So, it's been quite a long journey with a beginning which I myself am unable to figure out.
Then, why did I join FIITJEE and not any other coaching institute. Every student has his own capabilities and requirements. I knew that given sufficient time for self-study, I could understand concepts well on my own, but I needed some good teachers who could clear my doubts. That's where FIITJEE came into the picture and they filled the void extremely well, better than I had ever imagined. Enrolled into the PINNACLE program, I used to get the entire evenings free as all classes would be over by 2:30 pm in the school campus itself. So, I had lots of time with me and I would sit down, think, solve, practice, get my doubts cleared the next day, etc.
This last point I just mentioned: Doubt Clearance is one thing I have seen missing in most aspirants' priority lists. As a student, you ought to have faith in your teachers and approach them with your doubts. I have seen colleagues who never even asked their school teachers any doubts. You need to try them out first, if they are unable to satisfy your query, only then should you go to external tuitions. They are the teachers because they know things better than you do. Many students feel that a good teacher is the one who explains things well and solves questions on the board. I would say a good teacher is one who clears your doubts well. That's because you can do the understanding and solving part yourself too but those inevitable doubts here and there require a strong tutor.
Coming to my next point: Time Management, students keep fretting about this simple concept. I have seen students in my city who spend evenings performing stunts on bikes, eating out with friends (mostly girlfriends), watching movies, etc. and then let out a cry on the JEE day, "Why do these guys such unsolvable papers?" As you can very well see, they haven't been true to themselves and hence can't expect to get into IITs, NITs, etc. in place of those who have burnt the midnight oil. I myself have given everything to it during the past 2 years and am definitely reaping rich rewards. It's better to utilize pre-JEE time and then enjoy life in IITs (I must tell you it's a beautiful place to be in) rather than wasting it and regretting later.
I will give you an example. All of us get this 1.5 to 2 month gap after the class X exams. Instead of visiting places and enjoying yourself, you can give a week or so to refreshing yourself and then get back to studies in order to get a good headstart. This will enable you to understand concepts better when they are taught in class. Then, you can also utilize those small intervals during change of classes to solve some questions. People around you will laugh at you, try to derail you from that right track but you need to ignore them.
In the end, it doesn't even matter. I tried so hard, I got so far. They tried to derail me but inflicted losses upon themselves only.
It's not that I gave up everything for my preparations. I used to solve sudoku everyday, read the newspaper, played (although rarely), did a bit of social networking in the last few months but I wasn't obsessed with these things. I knew my goal and its importance in my life. You just need to prioritise your time-table.
Returning to academics, if you prepare well for JEE, you are almost done with your board exam PCM syllabus as well. And as I said earlier, if you choose your tuitions wisely, you will also be able to find ample time for English and the 5th subject. Many students go to particular tuitions just because their friends have joined it or because they have heard lots of people praising that teacher. This isn't the right way to do so. You need to understand your own requirements and choose accordingly. There might be a teacher who is very good at mechanics but doesn't teach electromagnetism well. You don't need to continue going to him just because you feel a sense of loyalty and gratitude towards him. It's your life, your career, you have to decide keeping in mind your own good. Then try to give more time to practicing questions of different varieties and from different books. I wouldn't recommend reading the same concept again and again from different sources/teachers as it would simply be a waste of your precious time. Instead grasp that concept from 1 or 2 books and then move on to practice.
Now I feel I should address the question on how to study in general? It's better to finish topics one by one. Doing 3 or 4 topics all at one time will make it quite difficult for you to handle everything. Two topics from different subjects is quite ok because if you feel bored after studying one of them for 5-6 hrs., you can switch to the other one and then return. Try to prepare compendiums for each topic as it will be helpful in the later stages of preparation. If you notice some trick in some book, note it down and revise it later so that you get an idea of where it works and how to apply it. Such tricks and option elimination prove very useful in saving time for the tougher questions.
Coming to books, here's a list of books that I covered during my JEE preparations:
Physics: Irodov (mechanics only), H C Verma, Arihant (all topics) Chemistry: R C Mukerjea, O P Tandon, Paula Bruice. Mathematics: Arihant (all topics except algebra), TMH (class XIth syllabus)
In addition, I completed all NCERT books, packages of FIITJEE as well as BRILLIANT and solved FIITJEE's GrandMasterPackage and RankersTestPaperFile. The latter two are very good for practice and revision in the last few months.
In class IX and X, I used to read books by Dinesh Publications (PCMB), H C Verma (physics), R D Sharma (maths) and correspondence courses from Brilliant Tutorials and BMA. I found these books by BMA to be very good and interesting.
The next pressing issue is how to prepare for all other exams that occur round the clock in these 2 years. I personally feel that NSO, IMO, NSTSE, etc., although considered easy by many, are very good exams to get an estimate of where you stand and of your strengths and weaknesses. Any national level exam, tough or easy, is competitive and as easy for you as for someone sitting in any other part of India. Then come the physics, chemistry, maths and astronomy olympiads. The maths olympiad requires a bit of extra preparation on topics like number theory, combinatorics, etc. The other three olympiads can be cracked if you have been thorough with the JEE syllabus. If you clear the first two levels, then you go to the camp at HBCSE, Mumbai where you need some experimental skills too. It's here that your presence (both mental and physical) in school labs plays an important role. Then you have KVPY in class XI which has no pre-defined syllabus. The paper basically tests your mental ability and clarity of concept. You need to have knowledge of topics that will be covered in class XIth and a bit of the formulae and laws from the early days of class XIIth. The interview is meant to test your confidence and clarity of aim in life.
I would be writing an incomplete article if I didn't talk about what to do during the last few months before JEE. So, I suggest you should complete all your syllabus at least by mid-December and then begin with revision of your class-notes and of the chapter-wise summaries you must have created in the two years. Then, move on to practicing question-papers of 6 hours duration. Solving questions from individual chapters is quite different from solving them when they are all thrown together at you. It might happen that you are able to solve mechanics alone very well but in exam time, the pressure created by being unable to solve optics may take you down in mechanics too. So, you need to have good practice of sitting own for 6 hours and handling that pressure. Utilise the board exams preparatory leave very well. I had given 15 days to JEE preparation and the rest to my Board exams. Then, I had an 11-day gap before my maths board exam. So, I didn't study CBSE level maths in February and also devoted 5 days out of 11 to JEE. You need to find time and plan very well. The 14 day gap between last board exam and JEE should go into revision and practice only. Do not try to read/learn something new in that period, it will just add to the pressure.
Another extremely important question that arises is: How to cope with the pressure? I would say: Just keep practicing, sit down for lots of national level tests, when you see that you are able to solve questions and getting some good ranks, you will gain confidence and it's this much required self-confidence that will help you sail through the JEE day. If you are unable to get those ranks, look at the mistakes you committed, discuss them with your teacher, try to correct them in the next paper, get your fundamentals cleared, and dedicate more time to that topic where you are prone to mistakes. It might take some time for that change to show up, but it will certainly happen over a period of time. You know, thousands of people (and almost everyone in Kota) wish to achieve a top 100 JEE rank but only those few who have stuck to their basics, who have been regular, who have practiced a lot and hence built up their speed and accuracy who achieve it. There's always this competition. You can't afford to give up or lose time.
I hope I have already said a lot now, so its time for me to take leave and allow you to ponder deeply over what you have read above and to see if you can gain something out of it. Thanks reader
for having been so patient to have gone through my article. And finally, keeping in mind my own advice, I would suggest you not to read this article over and over again as that would be a waste of precious JEE-preparation time. Thanks again,
(AIR 5, IIT-JEE 2010; AIR 1, AIEEE 2010; Silver medallist at IPhO 2010; KVPY scholar and CBSE topper of Chhattisgarh )