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Thursday, June 26, 2014

JEE Advanced 2014

So, finally, I have stopped receiving emails about JEE Counseling and I can write a blog about JEE Advanced.

I just don't understand one thing. Why are IITs as a system so opposed to any change. In 2012, we had told the government that we would bring about changes on our own and the changes should not be imposed on us. While I still subscribe to the view that changes should not be imposed on us and lack of change in the IIT system is better than a forced change from the top, it is highly disappointing that IIT system has not been able to bring forth any change in two years other than what was negotiated with the Government in 2012.

For example, for 2013 admission, it was decided that 1.5 lakh students would be shortlisted for JEE advanced. It was decided on the basis that NITs and IITs would admit students on the basis of JEE Advanced, and since there are about 30,000 seats, we should shortlist 5 times as many. But during those negotiations in 2012, it became clear that NITs would not admit students through JEE advanced, but the number remained 1.5 lakh. By the logic of the number, we should have reduced the number of shortlisted candidates to 50,000, but we did not. Remember that in 2012, we were all arguing that if there were only 50,000 odd students giving the exam, we would be able to throw in a few questions in which the students had to write a long answer, and a popular view in the IITs was that a purely MCQ (Multiple Choice Question) test is not a good admission test. But the number did not change for admission 2014 also. The test format remained objective and there was really no change between 2013 and 2014.

In 2012, it was suggested that even if NITs don't take admission through JEE Advanced, we could have a joint counseling. The idea was pursued by some people, but it could be neither implemented in 2013 nor in 2014. (And, yes, I am aware of different timelines for the result of JEE Mains and JEE Advanced, but I am also aware that several proposals were made to have coordination between the two admissions.)

Amongst the things that remained the same between 2013 and 2014 were the errors in the question paper. Why can we not have a system where we can produce an error free question paper. Why do we have to have ambiguities. Can't we have two teams - one to prepare a question paper and the other to check it. Can't the second team include a couple of teachers at the 12th class level. Is there no one in this country who could be trusted to maintain secrecy of the exam.

There was a suggestion in 2012 that there should be a committee consisting of a representative from each IIT who would not be involved with JEE operations, but would look at future JEEs and what changes can be brought in over a period of time. To expect that someone involved with JEE operation would simultaneously think of changes in that year is simply poor thinking and we know from the history of JEE that such changes are brought in mostly through court orders or Ministry orders. No such committee has yet been formed.

I am aware of instances where a bright student has filled in the choices on the ORS, later realized that the responses were shifted by one. Now, JEE insists that you must use a pen to fill bubbles. Why can't they use pencil. May be the copy will not be proper but so what. And if a student has genuinely messed up an ORS, why can't the ORS be substituted. I have myself been an IIT representative many times during JEE. I know we are carrying only a few extra ORS sheets, and therefore, we make this announcement in the beginning that ORS sheet will not be replaced under any circumstances because we don't want a large number of students asking for a duplicate ORS. But I have always given a new ORS to a student if there is a request and I have one left with me. And when I talked to my colleagues before writing this blog, I was told that they have done the same. But then there should be a clear understanding with all IIT representatives that this can be allowed. In fact, what is wrong if IIT representatives were to carry 100s of ORS extra, and actually give two to each student.

Interestingly, I had written about the need to allow students to use pen in the ORS a few years back on this blog. At that time, the local JEE Chairperson had told me that there will be a problem with pen which is what I have mentioned above, that the student may make a mistake and have no recourse to change. I had suggested to him that the right model would be to give the option to students between pen and pencil, and allow a change of ORS. I had also suggested an alternative. This was to give every student a sheet where s/he can only write an answer - A, B, C, D, or a number, as the case may be. And then after the 3 hours are over, the students are asked to put the question paper and any rough sheets away. They are given an ORS at this time, and they are given 10 minutes to transfer the answers to ORS. I believe that if IITs were interested in becoming student friendly, they can find ways to help students.

I also find it interesting that a student could find his/her marks long before 18th. However, IITs did not tell you your rank before 18th. Further, they have asked you to fill in your choices by 24th (later extended to 25th), but the result or seat allocation information will be made public only on 1st July. From computing all marks to a rank should normally take one second. For this task, IITs are taking more than a week. From getting all the choices of students to deciding their seats should take a few minutes, but once again they are taking a week for that. On the other hand, the student needs a lot of time to think about the options, to learn about different IITs and their programs, may be the student want to visit a couple of IITs and talk to faculty, and for all this, they are given 6 days. So note that from marks to rank, IITs need one week. From all choices to seat allocation, IITs need one week. But all students are required to fill in choices in 6 days. How fair is this. Of course, a couple of days of margins are good. Unexpected things happen. But then they should also think of poor students and their parents. And it is in IITs' interest that students take an informed decision on the order of their choices. We should prefer happier students on our campuses.

A student sent me an email which showed that the JEE counseling software had wrongly stated the name of the science programs in IIT Kanpur as "BTech". I immediately forwarded that to Chairman, JEE at IIT Kanpur, who forwarded it to the Chairman, JEE of the organizing IIT (Kharagpur in this case). I never received any reply. Of course, that was as expected from JEE. But I was at least expecting some action. It is obvious to me that someone who receives admission to Maths and Computing program at IIT Kanpur can later claim that I was told by JEE that it was a BTech program, and now I am told that it is a BS program. If I was told that it was a BS program, I would not have filled this in at a high enough choice, and hence give me my next option. It would be very difficult for IIT system to accommodate such a request because the next in order of choices could be in another IIT. But such a student going to court will certainly win the case. Considering all this, JEE should have issued a clarification, put it in red blinking on its website, and sent email to all those who have already locked their choices. Since I did not receive any reply, I don't know if it was done, but I have been given a hint that nothing of sorts has happened.

If organizing an admission test is a very difficult task for the IIT system, they should get out of this business. Or they should do it professionally.


Prashb said...

There are some other things as well, which you mentioned in 2012 (about the board exam side of the JEE Criteria, which I have tracked, and have some interesting observations about).

1. I think, you were concerned, that year to year averages will increase; and make people chase a moving target (add to tension). I checked out ISC data, and the PCM averages have jumped by 4% in 2 years (2012-2014) and the 20th percentile mark has jumpled from 81.something to 85%! Similar jumps in CBSE.

2. One might say - okay, scoring has become liberal for everyone - but I differ. When you begin squashing large number of students into a very narrow band, the exam has basically lost its ability to discriminate, and some arbitrariness might occur in relative positioning, and so a deserving student misses out on being in the 20-percentile mark.

3. Huge jump in the number of Physical Education takers, where half the score is internally assessed! PED has an average of around 85-90, something like ECON has an average of 50-55 in both the boards. Basically, people are being dissuaded from taking the tougher subjects in Class 12.

4. Non-board exam related: surely, there can be some component related to general visual design, general aptitude, logic or programming - and perhaps, even language - in the JEE by now, as an identifier of essential skills in good and creative engineers. Apart from the operational aspects you mentioned, I think these academic aspects will also fetch you a better student population given that just the standard PCM model has been gamed too much now.

Side note: I will be updating this article with 2014 data for CBSE and ISCE, showing how both boards did not care one bit about their scoring anomalies even after they came out in TOI/HT. I think the biggest blunder will once again repeat itself when these dubious distributions are clubbed with entrance test scores for the non-IIT institutes.

Yash Pratap Singh said...

Dear Sir,

I agree completely on the issue of swift release of rankings and college allotment. Also ORS issue is a big one: I know many students who have shown me their duplicate ORS sheets in which they filled around 4 - 5 wrong choices. The accuracy with which one needs to fill ORS does divert attention from solving the problem.

I am not fully convinced that if we replace the mcq based objective questions with long answer based subjective questions would help improve the JEE systems. I believe it would add to the ambiguity of the system. I sincerely feel that the students who clear JEE advance now almost 80 - 90 % of them will clear the subjective exam without much shift in their ranks. I am confused because everyone suggests that long answers based questions is the trick to improvise the systems. Instead, personal interviews of 20,000 qualified candidates should be done to determine the ranking but even that would not create much of a difference.

Regards Yash

sunil said...

I wish to be enlightened about how the bias in checking the answers the subjective question paper can be eliminated in totality?
Almost every numerical and analytical problem can be reduced to a numeric 4 digit answer which student needs to work out by solving the problem . I agree that the marks cannot be given for intermediate steps, in this case but that unfairness is same for everyone,The advantage in this case is that the checking with machine, removes any bias and makes the system more transparent.
I don't think that IITs would ever like to give a paper that asks student to draw , derive and define , so in my humble opinion present pattern should be improved rather than introducing any form of written descriptive answers .
As usual an Excellent and informative read , sir .