I was a regular school goer all my 11th and the first two months of my 12th. I was not attending any coaching. I had a enrolled in a test series (FIITJEE I think) and got volumes of material which I would occasionally flip through. A decent performance at school level academics kept me oblivious to the time I was losing. Fast forward 10 months and I was battling it out against all the engineering aspirants of the country in a gruelling 6 hour JEE Advanced test that changed my life. I want to convey through this piece of writing that it is possible to get a decent JEE rank in a short time provided that one is ready to accept the challenge and dedicate his time and efforts.
A typical JEE aspirant goes through a two year preparation in which he seeks to gain conceptual depth and the application of those concepts, enabling him to solve as many problems as possible in his JEE paper. I had a skewed start in my preparation: I was well versed with the concepts involved but severely handicapped in my ability to apply them. At the end of the day what matters is the score you get. I took the decision of joining Bansal Classes and met Mr. Mohit Ryan, a chemistry teacher who totally changed my life. He inspired me and fueled me to go for JEE. I was soon on track, upfor a big challenge, 10 months to prepare and take on JEE 2014.
My preparation was short and sharp. I did not read voluminous college level books to enhance my understanding. Instead I would just read the appropriate parts from the relevant books (mentioned amply in the blog) and then switch to problem solving. For a short term preparation (6-10 months) it is most logical to study the important portions first. Importance here being attributed to chapters on the basis of their frequency in previous years papers. So I took on mechanics, conic section, reaction mechanisms and other classic chapters of JEE during the initial days of my preparation. The idea is to that the sooner you study them, the more exposed you are to questions from these topics which results in a bigger palette of questions before taking JEE. Stand alone and smaller topics like thermodynamics(physics), solutions of a triangle, chemical kinetics, etc. were kept for last. The objective should be to be well versed enough to solve easy questions from every topic and tough questions from the important ones.
The approach towards syllabus is irrelevant without a proper routine. One must stick to a routine with proper sleep that keeps the mind and body fresh. Rather than piling up on hours, focusing on quality always worked better for me. I was always a morning person and would be at my brightest in the morning. I would love to solve tough math and physics problems pre dawn. Afternoons were solely reserved for rote learning salt analysis.
However my teachers soon advised me to change my timings so as to bring out the peak performance in exam hours. JEE in my year was 9 to 12 noon and then 2 to 5. I shifted my study hours accordingly and would now keep most of my heavy lifting in these hours. It really does help a lot. Human body is very adaptive and one should use it fully in order to succeed.
Any venture requires us to learn from mistakes in order to chisel out a good result. A rigorous test series is a must for every JEE aspirant. In my coaching we would follow the standard all India test series. Due to my lagging in syllabus, my scores would always be quite low at the national level. It is here that Mohit Sir was instrumental in keeping my spirit high. He would judge my performance based on the part I had covered in class and forget the total score. This is a very important strategy, to recognise where you stand in what you already know. Eventually as I covered more of the syllabus, the scores improved and I aimed higher: not just pass JEE but target a desirable rank.
Board exams are a fundamental part of every person’s preparation. Despite the hatred attributed to them in JEE circles, I looked at them as a century old classical means to evaluate a student. I never fought against boards, I simply synchronised with them. Studying a physics concept included a quick glance at the corresponding NCERT proof. Solving a maths problem for an objective type question involved a back of the mind descriptive line by line solution as desired in the board answer sheet. The only real challenge I faced was being able to write for three hours straight, for which I duly attended all my school pre boards and gained sufficient practice. I really wish people stop using boards as a scapegoat for their inability to manage time.
Revision is the single most important thing that makes or breaks the JEE dream. For a short term practice programme one must revise and re revise all syllabus to gain perfection. I used to follow a three tier system of syllabus revision. I had a set of very short notes/summary that enables me to go through all the syllabus in 6-8 hours. This should be strictly handwritten and only contain thoroughly customised study material. The second tier of revision was the set of important questions and examples (especially in math) that I could not solve in my first attempt. This should also encompass all the weak links, common points of error and the so called silly mistakes.
This cycle of revision would take 2-3 days for each subject and a week for the full syllabus. The last and largest cycle of revision would be selected texts from important books, sections of theory, important derivations, tricks, memory charts, etc. This should be an ongoing process irrespective of the current topic going on in class (routine study). Human brain loses information at an astonishingly sharp rate. It is essential to maintain a good revision cycle in order to retain all the previous knowledge and make the hours of study count. Because on the exam day it doesn’t matter what all you knew, what counts is what all you can show ! Half syllabus which you know like the back of your hand is superior according to me rather than a fuzzy image of the entire syllabus.
Lastly, I would conclude that any challenge is mainly mental in nature. If you have the determination and dedication then things come easy and a solution arises out of every tight corner. JEE is no doubt a gruelling and exhausting process, and it is famous only because most fail. However, one should brush aside the statistics and keep a positive mindset. If work is pleasure life is joy and if work is burden, life is slavery. I have never met a person who regrets working during his JEE days. My college mates in fact often get reminiscent of the long hours of JEE study while preparing for internships, semester exams, project reports and submissions. JEE defines life by opening up new vistas for people who could have never otherwise had them. In the end, everything is in our hands. We write our own destiny, sometimes by sailing through an intense, involved period of effort to make it happen.
Ritvik Rawat (pre final year, IITG Comp. Sc.)