JEE Mains for the next academic year admissions have many new things. First of all, it will be conducted by National Testing Agency (NTA) and not CBSE. NTA is a new organization created by Government of India exclusively to conduct large public tests. This, by itself, shouldn't matter to applicants. But NTA is bringing in a few crucial changes.
There are two important changes. One, you can give JEE mains twice in a year (January, and April) and as per NTA website, it will be treated as single attempt. JEE Mains can continue to be attempted for three consecutive years - the year of giving 12th class exam and the next two years. The difference is that in each year, you can attempt it twice and the better of the two scores will be counted. The second change is that the exam is online. No option for a paper version.
In each month (January and April), the exam will be conducted on three weekends. On each weekend, it will be held in four sessions. Of course, students in each session will get a different question paper. So the most important issue here is that of normalization. What if some paper is easy and some other paper is tougher. This is an important issue since CBSE did not do normalization across multiple papers and people were left with the feeling of unfairness. But NTA has announced a process of normalization.
They will look at your score relative to score of other students in your session alone and assign you a percentile score. This is the score that would determine your rank. If you give JEE both in January and April, the higher of the two percentile scores will be counted as your performance.
Let us examine if percentile is a good way to normalize. The basic assumption here is that if the distribution of academic preparedness among students is same in two exams, then the relative rank of an individual student is likely to be similar. So even though marks obtained by students could be different and would depend on whether the questions were easier or tougher, but the ranks won't be very different.
This assumption is a reasonable one when it comes to considering different sessions within the same month. It is so because NTA would randomly divide the applicants into all sessions. Random allocation of sessions to large number of applicants is the best way to ensure that academic preparedness is similarly distributed in all sessions. However, can we assume that academic preparedness in January will be same as academic preparedness in April. I don't know, but it seems unlikely. And that is a question mark on the normalization scheme.
The other question mark is that while it distributes students randomly, an individual student can still get a vastly different rank depending on which session the student has been assigned to. For example, if I am extremely good at Mathematics and relatively poor in Chemistry then I will have a very different rank in a test with tough Mathematics and easy Chemistry versus a test with easy Mathematics and tough Chemistry. So, one will still have to make sure that different question papers are not vastly different in their difficulty levels. The normalization procedure they have chosen will be good for taking care of some variations in the questions but not a drastically different type of paper. And, whether one can normalize across two months is very questionable.
I hope they could have allowed students to choose the weekend at least, if not the specific session. If they had too many applicants for some weekend, they could have stopped taking applications for that weekend, and if there were too few applications for a particular weekend, they could have reduced the number of sessions in that weekend from 4 to 3 or even 2. This would have been a huge relief to students. I am sure that those taking 12th class board exams would prefer earlier dates so that they have more time to concentrate on their board exams.
The next question that I am getting asked often is should one take JEE Mains twice.
Well, the only negative I can think of in taking JEE twice is that if you were to perform poorly in January, you may be so disappointed that you spoil your board exams. If you are confident that you will not be deterred by one poor performance, go ahead and take it twice. If you are not adequately prepared for JEE Mains in January, 2019, treat this as a practice test in real testing environment. (You can't get more real than this!) On the other hand, if you are reasonably well prepared, my prediction is that it will be easier to get a high percentile score in January than in April because a large number of students will be taking the January test as a practice test. The repeaters must take JEE Mains in January, since they must already be well prepared and they can take advantage of many students taking it as a practice test.
Should you take the April test even if you get a good score in January. Well, if you get a 99 percentile kind of score, which will mean that you would be in about top 10,000 ranks, may be you can avoid April test. (I am assuming that about 10 lakh students will take the exam either in Jan or in April or both. Hence 99 percentile would be around 10,000. But exact numbers may vary.) But unless you have a very high score (which guarantees eligibility for JEE Advanced, and which guarantees admission to one of the top non-IIT choices if you don't perform well in JEE Advanced), there is no harm in trying for an improvement.
At the end, please note that I am writing this based on what I have read on NTA website. You should visit their site often, just in case there are changes in the rules and processes, or just in case, I have misread or misunderstood them.
Best wishes to all potential students of IIT Kanpur.
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