How the JEE made Me

Like many good things in life – there’s a good chance that the IIT-JEE is coming to an end. That’s progress. I felt elated today morning to read that IIT-Kanpur had decided to not join in this backward forward march. And for a brief minute – I remembered how the JEE made me. This post is pure nostalgia.

I studied during my high school days in a small town called Ranipur – on the outskirts of the Hindu holy town of Hardwar. It was beautiful – but remote and parochial. The girls and the boys would sit on separate aisles in the most well known school in town (that i used to attend). When we entered high school – some of my best friends left town. Ranipur was too small a place to get into IIT from – they left to join schools in Delhi (DPS RK-Puram most prominently). The best that anyone had ever ranked in JEE from Ranipur was a few hundreds. Like many other middle class families in pre-reform India – we had little spare change. Getting into a good engineering school was a must – our future financial security pretty much depended on it.

For two years – I studied like crazy for the JEE. It was inhumane – and I wouldn’t be able to do it again. I would doze off solving problems and wake up and then go at them again. I was scrawny, rarely played and was almost constantly sick. Life rotated around solving problems from Irodov – every starred problem solved was like a mini-achievement. Amongst the more bizarre things I would keep track of was the number of notebooks and ball-pens I would run through every week solving problems. School – when I went there – was for fun (ie. gawking at girls). Visiting friends from Delhi would drive me nuts – it seemed like they were much further along in their preparation than I ever was. We went to Delhi a couple of times to attend training camps run by Brilliants and Agarwals. One time I saw this dude in a blue shirt sitting on the front bench (I was, obviously, a back bencher) – he solved problems as soon as the instructor wrote them out – and completely psyched me out. (I learnt later his name was Ashish Thusoo). Another time we saw this guy named Basu. He was Class Xth topper – had appeared on the cover of a famous Science Magazine. After one of the training exams – everyone would cluster around him – how did Basu solve it?

The JEE gave me role models – the guy in the blue shirt, Basu. The guy from my old school in Delhi where I had studied until the 8th grade – Pankaj Gupta – who came 15th in ’91 JEE. Deepankar Aron – who aced ’91 JEE as well from Ranipur – coming in an amazing 193! The pictures of JEE toppers from Agarwals and Brilliants tutorials would constantly swim across my eyes – Ashish Goel, Alok Mittal, Vineet Buch. I wanted to join them on those brochures. If they could do it – maybe so could I.

The JEE made me a better student. I was not a genius – but I practiced and became better. It was the 10,000 hour rule in action – I solved enough difficult Physics problems that I almost looked and felt (to others) like a genius. Chemistry was horrible – the only subject for which I got a private tutor . When I took the CBSE board exams (that are proposed, in part, to replace the JEE) – the difficulty level was like taking exams from a couple of grades below. I scored 99/100 in all the science/math exams. It didn’t matter, it was too easy – and I was laughing about the results. The teachers were impressed, maybe even the girls – hey – maybe the Board exams were good for something!

For a small towner like me – the JEE gave me an equal opportunity to prove myself. I had felt disadvantaged – but it turned out I was not (quite the converse actually). I was able to focus for two years, undistracted by cinemas, big town action (and prettier girls presumably) to make myself into a better student. The folks from DPS RK-Puram had no advantage on me – they were richer, better connected and had more resources – but it didn’t matter. Connections and money didn’t buy JEE ranks. Talent and hard-work did. People couldn’t put me down because I didn’t look right, or wear the right clothes and come to school in a nice car. I was the king of my study.

I ranked 18th in ’92 JEE. It was scandalous – it wasn’t supposed to happen. I remember vividly my father’s smile when I got off the phone and told him about it. I think he lifted me up. I don’t think I have ever – before or since – seen a smile like that. He’s no more – but he lives in my heart wearing that smile. In moments like this – I still grieve for him.

Like the giants before me – I became a role model for the people who followed me from Ranipur. High rankers exploded. If I could do it – so could they – and even better. While my family left Ranipur a long long time back – I know my name lived on there as a myth – egging others on. I had played my little role in the Circle of Life. And yeah – I had made my way into the Agarwals brochure.

In the years since – the JEE also reminded me constantly of who I could be at my best. At my down moments (and there were many) – there was this ultimate fallback. All I knew I had to do was throw myself, heart and soul, at something – and I would come off OK.

So goodbye JEE. You made me, in good part, who I am. And you will live on, living though you never were, in my heart and in the hearts of many others like me. My child and others in the next generation may not be able to aspire for you anymore. And for that, we will all be worse off.

Backwards march!

The Real Heroes

The responses have been overwhelming – the comments are better than the post. Here are some amazing people who have left their stories behind:

Board Exam Ridiculousness

195 thoughts on “How the JEE made Me

  1. “…Talent and hard-work did. …”

    Indeed, JEE was a great “leveler”.

  2. The article touched many a chord.

    Especially the last lines,

    In the years since – the JEE also reminded me constantly of who I could be at my best. At my down moments (and there were many) – there was this ultimate fallback. All I knew I had to do was throw myself, heart and soul, at something – and I would come off OK.

    Thanks for verbalizing what many of us feel.


  3. “My child and others in the next generation may not be able to aspire for you anymore. ” Why is that. Your children can study well, do well in the boards, appear in the CET and do well and aspire to get into any of the engineering colleges.

    1. The Boards are too easy to be an aspiration. That was part of the post – for talented folks – they are an extremely low bar. The CET will not be of the level of JEE. In fact the whole argument against the JEE is that it’s too ‘elitist’ – too hard. But it drove a couple of generations to try and excel at _something_.

      There is a saying – “If there is not the war, you don’t get the great general” (Roosevelt). Or as our own Vivekanada put it – a river gains strength from obstacles.

  4. But after all these preparation and mugging up stuffs (I am not saying you memorized), what did you do in life finally? Don’t say became a great manager in some big company.

    1. Soham – it’s a legitimate question – but one that is easily answered by doing a web search in my name. Or going to the About page and then going to my LinkedIn profile. Wanna try?

  5. Please don’t see any offense in my previous comment. I am just curious about your present status.

  6. I can personally testify about the legend part. I had grown up in Ranipur hearing your name recited like a mantra since I was a kid. More so in the Bong family of mine which revered academic excellence. I eventually did manage to get a measly rank in JEE finals and subsequently went to ITBHU. The funny thing is I dont think I have ever met you in person or even seen a picture of you (until now on the GigaOm page) but feel a unique connection to you 🙂

    Hope to meet you someday!

    1. hearing back from a Ranipur-ite feels special. thanks for commenting.

      there are so many stories each one of us has – each individually compelling. we start of with different levels of ability. that’s just how God programmed us – there’s no credit for that. but when we strive for something – we get credit for that. it’s the venture – not the result – that counts. it’s been heartening to hear back from so many people about their story of striving – never mind where they ended up.

      so there’s nothing small about your or anyone’s rank.

  7. “Life rotated around solving problems from Irodov – every starred problem solved was like a mini-achievement.” – For me too, whenever I remember my JEE prep days, the first thing that comes to my mind is how much I enjoyed solving Irodov. I asked a guy who passed the JEE this year if they solve Irodov these days, he said they don’t, that they don’t need it. It’s unfortunate that they miss it.

    1. yeah – the JEE has already been degraded. I saw an interview with Sanjeev Sanghi where he was saying that JEE needs to roll back objective only format and go to long format questions. Maybe this is an opportunity to correct past wrongs as well.

      unfortunately I also didn’t mention how much i actually enjoyed solving Irodov. made it sound too much like a compulsion.

  8. jss, found it. Thanks for your reply. You are founder and head of some company. Actually laypersons in computer science but somewhat expert in something else don’t know about qubole, though the laypersons know about google, facebook and microsofts, whose founders are from Stanford and Harvard. Interestingly those big universities admit students based on their overall performance in life, not on ‘JEE’ like exam and they also pay a lot of importance on high school results apart from SAT. More interestingly I found in Linkedin that you worked for them. Wish to reach you and qubole there someday (honestly. as Indian I will be proud for that). One may argue that in Indian education system that pattern will not work, which is partially true. But the present system is not doing something great either.

    1. no system is perfect. If you want to know how I feel about education in India overall – you only have to look to the right side of my blog and find a Quora answer on why Startups in India don’t do well. There is so much work to do to make things better. But getting rid of JEE and replacing with Boards is not progressing – it’s regressing.

      You may also have noticed that I am actually back physically in India. I want to contribute not just by being a big-shot at a big-firm – but by being here and putting my talent (whatever is there) to make things better here. If I was in US – I wouldn’t have connected so deeply to the whole JEE drama here. I wouldn’t have picked up the Saturday TOI in the morning and felt like writing this.

    2. It is sad that people make comments without knowing what they are talking about. how much do you know about the US system? Do you know that high achievers can take special classes? Kids can score more than A (there are special grades for levels of achievement beyond what’s expected normally). They can be double promoted. There are all sorts of special events (olympiad like) that kids take part in to show talent beyond basic schooling! All these are taken into account in college admissions.

      In our country – we have none of these things. A small handful can get access to Olympiads. When I was in high school – there just wasn’t anyway i could take part in Math Olympiad – it didn’t exist in Ranipur. The JEE was the ONLY way accessible to most high school students to show special talent in Math and Science. Period.

      So please do some research before drawing equivalence of CET with what happens in other countries.

  9. Brilliant article. It was lovely reading through this nostalgia. In our time, we had Screening and Mains. And it was the Mains that tested the depth & application of knowledge. In those days no one could get into IITs based on pure luck. It was an amazing experience to solve the “Mains Mystery”.

  10. I respect all your opinions..From a different perspective JEE taught me how to push yourself to extremes and fight out of your “comfort zone”..I studied like crazy like all of you for two years but never qualified…But it was the journey that made me stronger and now a succesful professional ..Through the JEE experience I also learnt that life is always not fair…Friends from different “backgrounds” (I hope you understand what I mean) aced the exam with lower marks than me but it was my first lesson that if you are competitive, life at times will be unfair and what makes you stronger is how you face them and do better.

    1. thanks for posting.

      i agree – it’s the journey that counts. I had a plan B (Roorkee) and a plan C (maybe St. Stephen’s) too. One sick day – and my journey would have been vastly different. but we were all better off for the striving and for learning more than we otherwise would have. that’s something the forces of mediocrity running this country don’t understand.

  11. Amazing article Joydeep. You voiced the memories all the small town boys preparing for JEE. Not that, metro boys don’t struggle hard. I still remember solving A, B, C problems of chemistry while travelling home on a shared tuk-tuk and I still remember trying hard not to get distracted thinking about a girl in my class, whom I had a big time crush back in my school days. The thoughts of acing JEE was above everything else. Thanks for writing such a brilliant piece.

  12. Awesome!!!! loved your post….. I know a friend who cracked JEE also from a small town. You guys are really role models…

  13. My emotions exactly. Thank you Joydeep for sharing your experience. I had to slog at cracking IITJEE over and above the last 2 years of school. Things were not easy, what with well-meaning relatives and their curiosity. Going through the process, I realized something. IITJEE exacts dizzying standards of preparedness. Till I got there, I did not get a chance to walk through those doors. In a way I thought the preparation process made me who I am too. IIT to me was not about the money later in life, it was not about better prospects at arranged marriage exchange, it was least about the bragging rights. It was all about having made a promise to myself of being able to reach IITJEE’s desired level of preparedness. Thank God I was born when I was, so I could have experienced JEE before Mr. Sibal or the other authorities had something to say about it.

  14. JEE is not too much of a special exam….it is highly overrated to judge the ability of a student as professional…..a large number of coaching classes are available that can very easily conquer the toughness level set by it and that is highly unfavorable for the students of ugly financial background….. i am waving happily to give it send off and welcoming the new format!!!!

    1. Yogendra – I cannot comment on the JEE as it stands today. In my time – the JEE could not be aced just because one went to coaching class. As I mentioned in my post – I had a private Chemistry tutor for 4-5 months – and other than that – it was all Brilliant’s and Agarwal’s coaching material and a few key books (like Irodov). It wasn’t a lot of money (we couldn’t afford much). When I went to IIT – one could see that the JEE toppers were special. By and large – those with high ranks were both immensely talented – and hard working (a lethal combination).

      But most India is so dirt poor – that any money for training is too much for them. Forget training – I can play with my daughter for hours, read her books every night, take her to a park on holiday. Many Indians cannot do any of this – they live hand to mouth. Every day of her life – my daughter gains a little advantage over the kid of a daily laborer. Is that fair? Can you ever fix these disadvantages by changing the format of an entrance exam?

      Our Govt. wants a short cut. It’s hard to invest in education, run schools properly, hire good teachers. Prevent corruption from eating up all the money. Or prevent politicians from meddling in curriculum. So what Mr. Sibal wants to do pass a bill. Lower standards – so everyone looks better. Easy.

      No system is perfect – but that cannot be an excuse to make it worse.

  15. The JEE was just a big gate to a wonderful world. Every single person who has cracked it has a story to tell. Each one truly unique. With the people I have met, I can certainly say they become immeasurably amazing having been through the system.

    But let me point out something, while the IITs offer one of a kind education, I do not believe it is the education that shapes you. That is because you study about 3-8 hours a day at best. But for the rest of the hours in the day you talk with creative minds and people who were smart enough to break one of the hardest exams ever. Is the JEE a right gauge maybe not, but its results go farther than proving it is.

    People talk about equality as if it is a free ride. But I can honestly tell you, that none of us have ever cared about ridiculous questions of inequality, each of my colleagues share the same reputation as any other. If you want to be equal crack the JEE and achieve it, that when you will truly win it. If all you do is make the JEE simpler or even let it disappear. Then all that will be left is a bunch of unequal fools !!! Who cleared a foolish and useless CET.

    Even in life, it is the lessons with people that shape you. Not the actual material content of it. Lastly, there will never be any fun being the king of fools, I’d rather be a fool in the company of smarts.

    As steve jobs said “Stay hungry, stay foolish”.

  16. Well written sir!
    I have a small-town background as well and got AIR 125 in JEE 2000 (one of the toughest Maths paper in JEE history) 🙂
    All those are memories I will cherish forever. Even after 12 years of that exam, I can still remember what exactly went by on the Mains exam day.
    Anyways, as I read in some comments earlier, clearing JEE has instilled that confidence in me and I know that I can do anything I want in life. Limits were definitely pushed 🙂

    Awesome blog post!

  17. Every day
    of her life – my daughter gains a
    little advantage over the kid of a
    daily laborer. Is that fair?

    Do some extrapolation

    Same logic applies to people getting Coaching and people not getting coaching !!

    And if this exam got really got any ability to test people’s real merit then why did The Indian who got Chemistry Noble was failed in JEE
    Venkatraman Ramakrishnan

    His statements go like “His parents did’t believed in coaching” ,1981.

    Ultimate objective should be clear the mess of coaching classes , which won’t happen because all instructors (75%) are JEE passed.
    They know how to crack the code , and help those students ONLY whose parents paid 2.5 Lakhs for two years .

    So if you say that JEE has made you and JEE rewards talents , then why do we have 3000 selections from one Coaching Class only ?
    5% only pass JEE without help of any already JEE passed instructor !

    Second thing
    Even today there are thousands of schools in India who have got talented and hard working students but those student’s don’t even hear of IE Irodov due to disadvantaged teaching which they sternly don’t deserve

    There are many talented students who still cannot afford a private chemistry tutor.

    If this exam has really inspired you then do a project to solve the problem of disadvantaged instruction .

    I know many are doing it already (avanti, teach for India) but no impact has been felt.

    1. In 2007 – the JEE was made objective. It is widely perceived that this led to deterioration in quality of JEE entrants. As someone commented here – Irodov is not relevant anymore. Ironically – this move – to convert exams to objective format – was also done to ‘destroy’ coaching industry. Instead – they became even more popular. See for example:

      Any selection test will have errors – false positive and false negatives. Even Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard – does this mean Harvard curriculum is bad? When coming up with an alternative selection test – what needs to be shown is that the error rate of the new selection test is less than the error rate of the old one. Saying a selection test is bad because it has errors is saying nothing.

      In my time – almost all entrants had taken either Brilliant’s or Agarwal’s course material – or both. Does that mean that the test was bad? If everyone studied Irodov – does that mean the test is bad because not everyone has access to Irodov? I can assure you – Brilliant’s and Agarwal’s genuinely helped us become better at PCM. They gave us lots and lots of problems to solve – and without practice on highest level problem – we could not have become better. Same for Irodov. The nation is better off for these books and tutorial classes – they trained an entire generation of people – both people who got through JEE – and those that didn’t.

      Your logic drives everything to zero. Because there are some people in India who cannot afford any textbook – therefore any test that requires a textbook is a flawed test?

      If that is the kind of India and the kind of entrance criteria you want – well – you are entitled to your opinion.

      If on the other hand – if you want an India where merit is rewarded – then we need tests that test for real merit. That may mean restoring the JEE to have long format subjective questions. And yes – we need infrastructure where any student can have material and teachers needed to prepare for that test. That is what Mr. Sibal should be thinking about. How do students who show potential get access to advanced training (like Super30)? Not how to lower the bar so everyone looks the same.

  18. Hi Joydeep,
    A very well written article, completely agree with you almost all points. Definitely JEE was a leveler for me as well and a lot of times, I draw inspiration from JEE experience.
    It would be great if I can connect with you at some point.

  19. jss, come on, you are getting angry with me. I already stated that the US system of school education is way better and their admission pattern may not work with India. But the present JEE system is also manufacturing stereotype engineers who are not doing anything great for country nor they are getting any Nobel prize, or even starting an business like Google. Then what is the point? But please don’t say I am ignorant of US education system. I am quite younger than you and respect you for your achievements. At least you have the guts to start your own business in India unlike many IIT engineers who are servants of multinationals. I also went to IIT and got the gold medal for having highest CGPA in my department and I am also in a top research university in USA (much better than University of Pittsburgh rank wise (USnews says so), though those ranks are crap I believe). So please check the background before attacking someone by saying ignorant. It is true that Kapil Sibbal is taking shortcuts rather than improving the school education. But if someone has the real caliber, he will excel irrespective of the exam pattern at some point of life. Some mediocre will definitely intrude in the IITs because of the new system but many coaching center products will also be ruled out because of new system. I accept that in your time JEE had that class but now it lost that level.

  20. Awesome post. And even more awesome are your succinct and to-the-point replies to peoples’ questions! 🙂
    I wrote JEE in 2010 and i’m a student at IIT-Kanpur.
    I will not comment on coaching institutes in general, but personally, i learnt a lot in those two years of preparation. My coaching definitely played it’s part. I loved learning about the subjects (“learning”, not “cramming”) and solving problems. So much so, that i even solved Irodov, even though it wasn’t much of a necessity for the objective type JEE-2010. And i loved that book so much! My concepts in the PCM were so clear to me because JEE demanded it! But board exams are different. THAT’S where students cram, and THAT’S were students write the answers while not having a clue about the actual concepts. How the board papers are graded is a different story altogether! Mr. Sibal should worry about the boards and not JEE if he wants to improve the education system.

  21. Nice article and your achievements are truly commendable & inspiring. But i have a counter opinion on JEE thing. Being myself an IIT aspirant once ( JEE 2004) but couldn’t qualify it and I have a different take on the whole JEE thing (and of course my opinion is not biased and has nothing to do with me failing the JEE exam back then). Looking back I can say that JEE was all about a rat race. Sadly, for the majority of the +2/high-school students (iit aspirants), it wasn’t for the love of Science & maths that they used to learn those subjects, but it was for the love & desire or compulsion (in most cases) to crack JEE that they would study so hard. Even YOU admit this fact in your post above =>(“For two years – I studied like crazy for the JEE. It was inhumane”). So the entire motivation of “engineering” & learning seems flawed to me. People used to slog their back off to get into IIT. And of course, it’s very rare that u’d find people who actually loved slogging thru’ JEE preparation. In fact, it was more like a 2 yrs “tapasya” with the hope of being an IITian eventually ‘as the only driving force’. Current scenario is even more horrible. These days people are joining coaching classes right from 9th std for the JEE preparation. The situation is different in US. People who make it through MIT, Stanford, Berkeley are more of a geeky/nerdy than a slogger. They study/learn science/maths for the love of it. Most of them are hackers right from their childhood (probably due to the better US education system, being financially well-off, conducive environment & parental guidance). They build/hack stuff from the early stage of schooling. Steve Wozniak was able to build Apple-1 all by himself only because he had the right kind of motivation since his childhood. He just loved physics,electronics & digital systems. I’m sure getting thru’ MIT/ Berkeley wasn’t his ultimate goal, though he made it to UC berkeley eventually (through his impressive SOP & past accomplishments in the form of innovative school projects like most of the university admits, instead of having to slog for 2yrs for preparation of JEE like exams). A review from his autobiography “iWoz” :–> ” I built a giant real-life electronic model representing what each of the ninety-two atoms in the periodic table looks like in terms of its electrons.” [Wozniak’s interview video ( just awesome) –> He made this project in his 5th grade. Similar is the story of Gates, Zukerberg, Larry Page etc.. They were all true geeks and loved science/engineering/hacking right from their early stage of schooling. I’m sure they never had to slog to learn/discover something or they never had to solve ‘Irodov’ for that matter (not to mention that all excelled in science & maths). They just loved what they did in schools & colleges- building stuff, coding & hacking. But here in India, majority of the school kids think more in terms of “proving their mettle” by cracking JEE, and hence earning fame in their society and earning big bucks thereafter. Situation gets worsen when most of these IITians go for the high paying Invesment Banking/Finance jobs eventually after cracking CAT (IIM). That’s the whole motivation & driving force and this flawed approach definitively has its disadvantage and I think one of the major reason that India lags behind in the field of science & technology. We did have C.V Raman who just loved what he did and hence the “Raman effect”. Similar is the case with Ramanujan, Aryabhatta and the likes. Had C.V Raman worried about JEE exams then (assuming they had JEE in those days), his ultimate love for physics could have diluted a bit. The need of an hour is to revamp the education system of India so that it inculcates the love & passion for science among the school kids instead of making it look tougher & hard nut to crack through exams like JEE. Definitely the school boards should raise their standards by emphasizing more on practical components/projects in their curriculum, standard grading based home assignments (like the ones we have in engineering colleges like IITs/NITs/BITS), including “JEE-screening exams like” problem solving component in +2 CBSE boards exams (to test the concepts). CBSE board is way too easy and bookish as of now. As of current CBSE/state boards standard, scoring 80% plus marks in PCM (in 12th exam ) doesn’t really guarantee that you have a strong grasp on the subjects, given the low-standard exam they have.

  22. Hi Joydeep,

    Great Article. And I could scarcely believe that someone like you, who has made it so big in the technical field, could write so well. I have always thought of the two being exclusive, but looking at you it does not seem the case. Which gives me hope :). Great article, and great work on the Qubole as well. :).

    Coming from the small town of Dharamsala, I could totally and completely agree to you about the part JEE played in defining me. I am from among the last batches that came out of the traditional JEE route – I took the JEE in 2000 and 2001 – and the level probably started falling the year after that. So probably you mention 2007 as the year, but probably 2003 onwards the JEE had lost its edge.

    I think coming from a small town gave me a need to prove myself, and JEE provided the perfect opportunity to do that. I still remember the first time I stepped into my wing, and there were two smart, typically Delhi boys in front of me. My confidence seemed to wane seeing them, and I thought they would make fun of me for being from a small town. The first question they asked me though, was, “which branch?” followed by “What rank” and the answers, Electrical and 228, impressed them enough, leading to instant friendship. JEE was a way to respect, if nothing else. :).

    Over time, with MBA and other factors coming on in life, we realised JEE alone was not the only way out from the small town middle class dream system. But while the dream remained, we lived it. :).

    1. from what i have seen – good technologists write really well. Paul Graham’s essays are a good example. We typically lack imagination and prose – but in simple logical exposition (like in a biographical essay like this one) – we can do well.

      in my personal experience – a lot of bright technologists don’t have good English education from start (at least in my time – not everyone coming to IIT for example had a strong English education. GRE scores from IIT were low because of verbals for example). unfortunately, in our English centered world, they get permanently handicapped on the communication part.

      that’s part of what’s bothered me about the proposal to add the state boards into the mix. Many State boards don’t teach English. But it’s very hard to succeed in technology (or business) without English education. Communication is the leverage that amplifies our innate talent and hard-work. Politicians playing language politics prevent English education. Now they want to push these handicapped students, somehow, to higher levels. What’s next? Now they will come to IIT and other institutes and say you are elitist because you only teach in English – change your language of instruction?

      Why is this not a conversation about improving the State boards? About getting rid of political meddling from them? Why are poor not getting English education and getting a decent shot at joining the top rungs of the business/technology ladder? When a person because of birth and location has no shot at a certain profession or achievement – that’s just another caste system.

  23. Its hilarious to see nation and jss obsess with IIT JEE. After my batchmates got into IIT (2005), we were shocked to find out:

    1. Machines were non-existent. Faculty were proud to showcase 100 yr old machine. Come on, it was obsolete! Also, we wrote C++ exam with pen & paper!

    2. Culture of allowing undergraduate students work in Lab on their own was considered too risky. there were a handful of teachers who trusted undergraduates.

    3. There was no sincere attempt of retaining an average IITian in either M.Tech. or Ph.D. programme.

    These are some of the concerns which are deciding the rate of decay of quality of education, research, innovation and consultancy at IITs.

    IIT system started rotting right after IITs stopped inviting faculty from better Universities (Carnegie Mellon, University of Columbia, etc.) by the end of 1970s.

    Don’t worry, IITs won’t die. they would just limp like, may be, Air-India.

    1. you are right.

      but did you hear the tale of the starfish? something like this:

      As I walked along the seashore, I saw this young boy tossing stranded starfish back to the deep blue sea. I said, “Tell me why you bother, why you waste your time this way. There’s a million stranded starfish, does it matter anyway?” And he said, “It matters to this one.”

      there are a lot of wrongs around us. in a country where so many people die of hunger – why bother discussing the JEE? but like the boy said – at least we can try and fix something. it’s better than doing nothing.

  24. Hey Joydeep, just like you JEE defined a lot of me as well. I remember the summers and Diwali vacation I spent solving S.L. Loney, Resnick-Halliday and H.C. Verma, all of whom I was introduced to only because JEE had set a high standard for high school PCM achievement in our society. Not only were those books great preparation for a career in science, they told me that my passion is science.

    But I am afraid I dont find myself in agreement with your statement about the future generations being worse off. The new system does have an advanced JEE that will motivate people to try and excel in PCM (and hopefully other subjects as well). The future generations will be better off because they will gradually start going back to schools instead of coaching, and the IITs will be pushed out of their JEE stupor and distinguish themselves based on research and teaching, not their entrance exam.

    1. the coaching guys will now coach for the boards as well. people are already predicting this will make coaching even bigger (just like the last round of changes). moreover – people will move to the weaker state boards (easier to score higher percentile there).

      this whole venture is like subsidizing diesel. ultimately all the rich people start driving diesel cars. if you want to neutralize money – you have to actually invest in people who are less fortunate. like the Super 30 program has tried to do.

      the IITs couldn’t care less. they are Govt. institutions. people inside IIT rarely talked about JEE. the feedback loop in the west – where outstanding research and great alumni lead to the colleges benefiting is not that strong in India.

  25. Interesting blog…..Outstanding results in JEE and board… the only thing that I wonder is that would I want my kids or my cousins to be like him…. probably not..

    I am rather happy with 85% in boards…but them enjoying life in school, going out to play everyday, watching movies and learning that world is much more than just solving erodov problems. Sorry Joydeep da… despite ur success… I think you are a poor role model!

    1. ha – that’s what the girls used to say as well. hey – you win some – you lose some. i am happy you are happy.

  26. I am from IIT Kgp. I could not agree more with the second last paragraph. The attitude and belief that JEE gave me has helped me through a lot of personal tragedies.
    I hope and pray the Govt will get some sense and save the JEE and IIT.

  27. @Soham Ghosh and like minded sheeps on this board: it is easy to list out your opinion on the numerous faults of JEE. What makes you think that the newly proposed selection system is going to improve things? Where is your analysis on that? If you don’t have a case for a specific alternate selection system, you are just a bunch of self demonstrated whiners with zero critical thinking skills that no amount of JEE prep can fix. Perhaps you guys are the examples of the false positives that JJS was refering to. Good luck, you need it.

  28. Hah, JEE sucks. Not that the CET is any better. I mean, how can you even think of it(JEE) as good? I am good in CS. I promise you I knew more about Web Development and IT in Class 11 than your average fucking IITian in CS in his 2nd-3rd year. And you know what? JEE doesn’t give a fuck about it. It shows a BIG mid-finger(oh well, the ring on its mid-finger, to make it more palatable) to such people.

    Where do we end up? Manipal/some other private fucking university. What do we do in life? Working our asses off at some shitty IT company from 9 to 9, without reaching our true potential, zombie coding, when we could easily have beaten SO many IITians at the same level of study in CS/IT. Do you, sir, really think you have an idea of exactly how much THAT sucks? I will answer that for you: You don’t.

    1. Dude – all you got to do is apply to our Company. Or Facebook. Or Google. Or Amazon. They don’t care where you are from. I interviewed scores of graduates from India for Facebook. Most were not from IIT. Amongst my best interviewees was a guy from Dhaka who didn’t even have a proper internet connection and privacy for taking interview from home. In my company – we are very very stringent about hiring – and I have rejected JEE toppers (i mean it) in favor of people from IIIT.

      So don’t complain. Why are you sitting in your crappy IT company? Why aren’t you able to get into top tier companies – they are all here – Goog, Amzn, LinkedIn, Flipkart?

      Programming is one field where IITians have zero advantage. If you haven’t been able to take advantage of it and are still complaining – you are just a sore loser.

  29. @Tanmay – Maybe its easier for you to say that Mr. Sharma is a poor role model because you never felt the need to excel like that in your life? I am an IITian and all the things that you said about learning about the world, I do that in my college as well, like most people do…. an IIT is as normal as a college as any in India, and offers an experience which is as memorable and enjoyable.
    Everyone knows becoming an IITian for the past 2 or 3 decades has been THE Indian middle-class dream. Small town kids or kids with parents who don’t earn big bucks saw in this the means to make it big. I think what Mr. Sharma did in Ranipur, he really was a great role model.

    @Mr. Sharma: What you wrote is great -you voiced the thoughts of all people who aspired for JEE – its irrelevant whether they cracked it or not. If we lose JEE, nothing can replace that ever again.

  30. Sir, you narrated the story of every small towner. You brought a flood of memories and tears to my eyes 🙂

    JEE indeed has shaped the life of every IIT-ian.

  31. I could connect with all your points. I belong to a small village. I did my schooling in Hindi medium. I wrote JEEE-mains in HIndi. Though, my rank was 2350, I could learn a lot from my classmates in IT-BHU because of JEE. Despite of my poor background, I pursued MBA(PGDM) from IIM-Ahmedabad. Credit for my achievements go to JEE.

    1. thanks for your comment. the obstacles i overcame are small compared to what a person like you overcame. Kudos – you guys are the real inspiration.

  32. I havent cleared JEE but i can related to the preparations here..I might not have put in as many hours as you did but i did have the same passion as you did..
    Maybe it just wasnt meant to be..
    This arrticle has brought a tear in my eye..
    Thanks for making me read this first thing in the morning..You made my day..Dont know why !!

  33. Hey jss, I guess we disagree about the impact the new entrance system can have, and thats ok.

    About research in IITs, as an aspiring faculty hoping to join Indian academia in the future, I can tell you that a lot is changing in Indian academia. Recently attended this conference in California ( which was held solely for informing grad students/postdocs in the US about opportunities in India. But thats a discussion for another time perhaps.

    1. great to hear you are headed back. I would encourage you to actually reach out to faculty in IIT directly. Two of my batchmates – Adrish Bannerjee and Amitabha Bagchi are faculty in IITK/D respectively. I learnt a lot about the challenges in IIT today by talking to them.

  34. i was living in khandwa, a small town of MP.Even qualifying for PET was very difficult in Khandwa. But I asked my sons to prepare for JEE. I simply told them that there is no shortcut for hardwok and dedication and those who are qualifying are also human being like you. There hard word paid and two of my son graduated from IIT Kgp.
    Yes JEE teach them how to fight the odds and come out as winner.
    Beside that they respect hard work and respect law. Taking shortcuts and finding easy ways can not make morally strong. Thanks to hard ways of JEE.

  35. Joydeep da! Very nice blog straight from the heart. I am not an IITian but I still remember even getting into Bgrade Engineering college made me sweat. Definetly IIIT-JEE is true test of once potential in the field of study/knowledge. No doubt You are an inspiration for youngsters of today.

  36. And to add Joydeep da! I was expecting views on IIT kanpur move to go it’s own way on entrance exam or government stand on CET on utilitarian lines. but you mentioned in beginning itself “post is pure nostalgia” so fare enough.

  37. It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

  38. Hat’s off to you Joydeep, an excellent blog on how JEE changed us. Felt nostalgic remembering the old JEE preparation days.
    Loved this “In the years since – the JEE also reminded me constantly of who I could be at my best. At my down moments (and there were many) – there was this ultimate fallback. All I knew I had to do was throw myself, heart and soul, at something – and I would come off OK.” . There is at least one thing that JEE has taught us all, which is a never dying attitude.

  39. Sir,
    I am a 3rd year (just completed 🙂 ) student of IIT Kanpur. I read above that you are a batchmate of Dr. Adrish Bannerjee, so that makes you like a Prof to me also… 🙂
    I would like to point out that though the JEE is a good and enjoyable exam (albeit less so after being made objective), the mode of evaluation of students, after they are at an IIT, is much like schools, with little room for original thinking and greater emphasis on knowledge of things taught in class, than the ability to apply techniques to new situations and problems.

  40. Your account is both touching and inspiring. However it only tells one part of the story. JEE in your words, “made” you, and maybe 2000 people more per year. But it also failed many many more. Failing in JEE is almost unacceptable to a lot of parents. An exam that makes parents send their kids away to places like Kota and miss their school life is not worth having in my opinion. Cases like you are far and few, and though yours is a great and inspiring story, there are just too many bad stories.
    And no, these are not sour grapes, I do happen to be a IITian, one from the rich Delhi category, albeit with a rank much worse than yours. ( Don’t pick on the .iitg in the email, it was made by me all those years ago in the excitement of showing my ‘achievement ‘ to the world).

    1. It depends on how you define ‘failure’. As I mentioned many comments above – I had a plan B and plan C too. If i fell sick on JEE day – or had a bad day at the exam – I wasn’t going to sit out another year (we couldn’t afford it – my Dad was retiring). That wasn’t going to make me a failure. No sir.

      So in my view – all those people who did not ‘make it’ – still benefited from the training. Because the JEE curriculum (at that time) was stellar. For example – even from those who made it into JEE – went to Pilani or other good REC – because they could enter CS or other better stream. Those people all benefited from all that rigorous practice.

      Yes there are less than perfect parents in this world. I have seen them too. They don’t need JEE to be poor parents – they will find some other excuse. Let’s not let a bad thing (poor parenting) bring down a good thing (a difficult entrance exam). I would strongly encourage you to read to understand what i mean.

  41. You missed the point

    SL loney’s coordinate geometry book is more that 100 years old

    There is a direct problem from that book in IIT JEE, the year was like 1975 or so

    Electrostatics problem in JEE 2007 was last problem of Resnick Halliday Walker chapter (Not exact copy paste )

    There are only finite combination of concepts possible to frame a meaningful question , the JEE coaching classes have hacked those decision trees .
    And people for God’s sake stop using the word “COACHING CLASSES” .

    I guess that some of your friends are in JEE instruction business , have you asked them to step down .
    It’s a circular chain set altogether

    JEE PASSED people train people to pass JEE
    I hear there is one IIT whose graduates are not allowed to give JEE preparation instruction , why not Other IIT.

    Coaching classes are made by IIT only , now they themselves complain – how ironic .

    Imagine if there were on JEE for past 50 years or so , would we have such pathetic condition of students who are not instructed by JEE PASSED?

    If that is the kind of India and the
    kind of entrance criteria you want –
    well – you are entitled to your

    What I want is normalization , 100 percent will not be possible
    I will appreciate whatever exam in which there is 30 to 70 ratio of coached to the non coached .
    Whatever exam where quality of teaching imparted plays very less role in selection , true self study should be rewarded .

    we need infrastructure where
    any student can have material and
    teachers needed to prepare for
    that test.

    I would suggest something like
    As soon as someone passes JEE make him sign an agreement. that he will NEVER COACH FOR JEE (this does has a lot de merits)

    Don’t blame coaching people

    They are results of this JEE only

    1. Dear Rahul – I don’t know a single person in the JEE coaching business. Sorry to disappoint you. I never even went to one of these new types of coaching classes myself (FiitJee, Vidyamandir). I don’t even know what they are like. Conspiracy theory FAIL.

  42. Another one from a small town down south. Wrote the JEE in 1963 after failing to get into Tamilnadu engineering colleges.
    The JEE we wrote were much different than what it is now.
    There were no coaching classes. Had private tuitions for maths. JEE tested your fundas. No mugging and reproducing stuff. That was a class apart.
    Sadly Politicians are compromising and trying to ruin one more institution.
    Let us pray for India and the future generations.

  43. I am an iitian too. If you are truly a great engineer,why dont you fix irctc , a 100 crore population will b indebted to you. I am saying this because ur company boasts they are 5 times faster than other contemporaries. Whereas irctc always hangs . You have the capability to increase the rate at which the irctc server works.

    1. Bibek – welcome to the world of business. No one will give us contract to fix irctc. or (which always gives me a ‘internal error’ error). Play the game of ‘Risk’ (or maybe just ‘Monopoly’) – and u will know what I mean.

      Please read my post on ‘Why Qubole’. That will also give some sense for why strategy is everything.

  44. If you never went to any coaching , then pay a visit to Kota

    This is not a conspiracy theory
    Sir , This is the real small town condition as of today.
    People of small towns who have money to send their kids to Kota for two years , get the reward for this investment (NOT ALL) in form of admission to an elite college.
    But what about the small town – small income guardian ??
    Sir please broaden your views , things have changed in small towns .
    I believe JEE should’t have existed in the first place

    Something should have existed which should have asked students to solve Real problems , Previously unsolved and time span should have been larger for evaluation .
    It’s not sarcasm , but as someone said above “limits were pushed” – me would love to see their limits

    Something like Computer Musings

    1. the JEE was like that. problems were unsolved and time span was larger. Evaluation was subjective because questions were often not fully solvable. every exam was a complete tossup.

      the ministers came and screwed it up in the name of destroying coaching classes. and look where we are now.

  45. While academics is a relatively important factor in deciding whether you will be successful or not in life, it is by far one of the least deciding ones.

    That is why IIT-JEE pattern should change. A large number of students currently writing the JEE exam view the JEE exam as their life-goal. Once they clear the JEE, they lose all motivation to go higher or do bigger things. This is especially true of students who come from the ‘middle-class’ or ‘upper-middle class’ section of the society.

    This is actually one of the reasons why JEE is an ineffective way to decide on admissions to a school which is probably the best place to study in India. It would be far better to get generally strong students ‘with bigger motivations than clearing the JEE’, probably via personal interviews. I think this was Kapil Sibal’s idea when he announced the scheme of board marks in order to be a metric for IIT-JEE qualifications as well. Possibly not the clearest or the best scheme but he does have the general idea.

    As an institute IIT should look at producing individuals who are extremely successful in life rather than individuals ‘with little motivation beyond clearing the JEE’ or ‘individuals looking at getting a comfortable life via campus placements’.

    Performance metrics for such a school are well described in this article:

    Also, if you want to discuss things further, drop a mail and I will be happy to reply.

    Note that the article also describes how Harvard went from a purely meritocratic institution to a strong well-developed school with extremely successful alumni.

    1. I read the Gladwell article in the last couple of days and it’s excellent.

      I would welcome efforts to diversify JEE in the directions mentioned in it. Specifically – motivation and drive are important components to success – and it would be awesome if that can somehow be factored in. No system is or was perfect. The JEE should be improved as well. One of the worst problems with JEE is that true outliers are rejected by it (true geniuses who simply do not have patience to keep up with any form of standardized test) – that is not even discussed anywhere here.

      But how do you think the new format does anything we learn from Gladwell? The Board exams don’t measure anything other than rote. Instead of making the JEE better – if anything – we are making it worse by incorporating a useless exam like that.

  46. Great Article jss . It made me relive my days of jee preparation that was really wonderful.
    @yogendra , rahul and all who are pointing out faults in jee current system. . .
    First of all i want to inform that there are a lot of men (mostly IITian) who are doing there best for the poor who cant afford coaching classes to clear jee . There is an non profit organization called Avanti Fellows ( ). It has been started by iit alumnis . In this association they select students whose parental income is very less and have a good aptitude and dedication for engineering . They coach them and each fellow has a mentor who is a student in IIT to solve all their doubts apart from regular coaching class (not specifically academic but also anything which is in the way). You must want to know how they keep a check on parental income . . they dont only take income certificate but also personally go the students house to check the financial condition, family conditions and dedication of the student for engineering. And they give 1-1.5 hr for every home visit . . I would love to tell that they are no other then IIT students. Giving so much time for this work without any motive feels really great and we are serving to the country in any way. I know many person who quit from big companies just to do this.

  47. Now I would like to come on the part that some of you pointed that only kids from good financial background clear jee nowadays. I am currently studying in IIT Kanpur and 90% of my friends are from middle class family or poor/rural background. Coaching does benefit only those who have dedication and aptitude. And there are plenty of scholarships for those who are made for it. Almost all of them who qualify jee are from coaching but you must know how much fee they gave to the coaching institute . I gave just 8000 to fiitjee. My friend got 50000 for joining fiitjee . Same applies for almost all big names of coachings. But none of the school offers scholarship for teaching the crap . Board exams is just for degradation of the mind of the student . It ceases to think beyond the formulas. And really coaching doesnt matter much . . its just for the direction and to compare ur standing in the competition at every step. The need of the hour is to improve the board education instead of degrading the jee level . And kids from small town still clear jee. You need to have the right direction apart from speed and power to reach the destination. And none of the lame excuses given in the above comments justify CET.
    Joydeep , u wrote a great article . . JEE preparation increased my confidence level to a gr8 extent!!

  48. The story is different for different people, your dad was happy for the result, it may be different a thousands of other. Just think of the people who are bound to take this up as it is a big challenge without knowing a bit about what IIT and Engineering has to offer. Small towns need better education facilities to develop themselves, not an exam just born out of sheer competition and ego battle for many.

    1. Yes – every story is different. Let me relay the story of a close friend who wrote this to me personally:

      “I didn’t know about your father. My father died when I was 10. I was so desperate to get into good engineering college to escape the little grocery shop that I would have had to manage otherwise. I think I was the first one to get into IIT some 50 miles around my small village. Your post reminded me of those intense days. To be frank, I don’t think I ever felt that urgency or purpose since then.”

      I was heartened to hear it. It wasn’t just me – this guy was much worse off (like the guy from UP who commented here earlier) – and he still made it.

      Why doesn’t Mr. Sibal go to work on providing more education facility to small towns. Making sure schools are good and have decent teachers? Oh wait – that would require real work. And making a thoroughly corrupted system work. Too hard – let’s pass a bill.

  49. Completely agree with each and every line. It’s not just about making it to the IIT…only a handful of them made it when i appeared in 2001 but the journey makes you stronger and more determined as a person. You strive for excellence and respect meritocracy. Replacing them with Board exams would be regressive steps.

    As for the part where someone mentioned that you miss out on few things in ur life..indeed you do, but then life doesn’t end with those 2 years of preperation. It’s a sacrifice which you willingly make in ur life in pursuit of success which indeed does taste sweet.

  50. couldnt agree more with the article :). JEE made me too and I looks back at thoe days every time i am in a dark phase of my life

  51. Its nice to read about your journey from a small town to a highly prestigious institute which in turn helped you in reaching great heights that you are currently at.

    JEE has definitely helped students achieve their goals in life(money,reputation,other big things in life).
    I too am an JEE qualified engineer currently working in an good organization with an handsome salary. No facts and figures. My life is also similar to yours which started from a small town. 🙂

    But I guess the reason people want to retain JEE (or what they really used to love about JEE) is the big reputation they used to get after qualifying it. IITs (which are government funded institutes) builds up highly talented engineers They have the feeling of big pride associated with them,They leave the country as soon as they get an opportunity. I have seen IITians don’t even want to compare themselves with students of any other institute.

    In comments I read somewhere (one that is easily answered by doing a web search in my name. Or going to the About page and then going to my LinkedIn profile. Wanna try), that shows how much people become egoistic regarding their reputation. It was in reply to ‘What have you done in life’. It seems as if success is in-questionable. Which is really not ethical.

    Its only hardwork that matters. Even a enginner from non-IIT can surpass all limts only if he shows determination and hard work. In the comments I also saw many students feel ashamed that they got into IT-BHU or they didn’t even qualify JEE so they had to go to some other institute. That’s definitely not the right attitute.Either do what you love or love what you do. Definitely do NOT do and crib.If they join and crib then its a insult to institute.

    1. a. I am back in India.
      b. A reader asks what the hell u have done so far. There’s a massive ‘About’ link on top of the page. If you are going to cast aspersion on my character – well – the least you can do is some research? In my world – this is not ego – this is basic due diligence. If you are going to come to me with something u don’t understand – I expect that you have at least tried your best to understand it. In this case – I am all over the web – it’s just the nature of my work. There’s no ego in that – just a new world of open source where a lot of what i do and say is documented online.

      Have you read my comments on how we have hired people from IIIT over JEE toppers? Or how some of the best people that I have interviewed for Facebook from Indian subcontinent were not IITians?

  52. Well no offense meant. I am neither interested in your character nor a research in you. Also I don’t know you and never read your posts. May be I am not aware of people all over internet 🙂

    I just saw a facebook share and started reading it.
    It was my general opinion on this particular post. Also about students reading and commenting on it, that they should not crib in going to non-IIT institutes. Like you said BEST ppl might not be from IIT. Putting in other words, I might not be the best just because I am from IIT. This statement is meant for students not joining IITs.

    Again no offense meant. 🙂

    1. u misunderstood. i know u didn’t cast aspersion on my character. but perhaps you could have tried to understand why i said ‘wanna try’ to that commenter? (which btw was the most gracious way i could tell him that he had just acted like a bozo. oh well – i said it).

      no one knows everything – least of all who the hell this guy wasting time commenting on his blog is. but a google search ain’t that hard.

  53. Man, this is nostalgic. And inspiring in a deeply personal way. I got to know about JEE after my 10+2, being from a remote place where merely finishing high school was a big deal. Luckily for me, JEE was something where nothing mattered besides merit. It didn’t matter how you looked, where you came from, how rich your family was, and which coaching classes you went to. JEE made us better. Even those of us who failed , because they pushed hard and as you say, “threw their heart and soul” at it.

    This post made me look back and think about that. I miss IIT for the same reason. The world outside has been a disappointment (*cough* IIMs / Corporates / Governance). And yet, I feel I have a responsibility to fix it. To not tolerate mediocrity, to push for excellence. If not me, then who?

    Thank you for writing this. 🙂

    1. thanks for commenting. you guys are the real heroes. my town wasn’t all that small – and i had actually schooled in delhi until 8th. and i had those guys from RKP bothering me all the time 🙂

  54. A nice article that touches upon the things that are forever etched in the memories of those who go by this process of examination. I have passed out of IIT kanpur this year only and I can relate to many things you have mentioned in this article. I particularly liked the irodov part and I myself loved solving irodov problems. The thrill you get on solving a irodov problem that you were stuck onto for some time, is inexplicable.
    It’s saddening to see people mixing politics with academics and I hope that sense prevails and other IITs too oppose this illogical and amateur ruling.

  55. i am sir sajal vahwathy. that is not my real name. I am from a small town too, but could not make it to jee this year. just because i did not work as “inhumanely” as you did. and I am NOT proud of it, cause , in life, to get anything , you have to work inhumanely hard i guess.
    maybe it was because i got too much distracted due to an irrational obsession or, in other words a HUGE crush on a pretty girl in my class( it sounds hopeless), or maybe nope, certainly I never enjoyed irodov… no, don’t get me wrong, i liked and still like physics, chemistry and maths, but this upper middle class kid, never worked hard, and I am ashamed of that…. I could not slog.
    lets see where i end up, this article was great. thank you for such a brilliant post.

  56. By the way, I am intrigued by what Qubole is doing, even though I haven’t dealt with big data all that much. Mind if I drop in for a chat next time I am in bangalore? I work for SMSGupShup and there might be more connections (there is at least a common investor – Charles River) than we realize.

  57. ‘JEE reminded me of who I could be at my best.’ I guess I do fall back on that thought every once in a while, but I never quite put it that way to myself. I think this is going to inspire me many a time in the future. Thanks for the article sir!

  58. Beautiful. Just divine message. I am a CPA. Getting into a new job and was feeling little nervous. Your blog reminded me of the hard work I had put into passing the exam. If I can do that, yes I can do so many more challenging things. I can also rise up to the occasion.

    I loved your post. It has came straight from your heart and it has made its way straight into our heart. Putting your heart and soul into something and seeing the result. I have got
    an answer for my hitch.

    I also read a beautiful quote ” Feel the fear but do it any way”.

  59. I am sure JEE has it’s haters, but just like you said, it’s the exam that made me who I am today. I grew up in Jaipur. My parents were extremely easy going in life, which had it’s positives and it’s negatives. Positive was that I was never a stressed out kid who enjoyed life whenever he could but also that I was never pushed in my life ever. I was too talented for school for it to ever challenge me.

    As a result till I encountered JEE, I had never ever been pushed. For the first time when I started JEE coaching, it humbled me. I still remember first day at coaching where we were the best students of the city put together in a common environment. The first mathematics assignment was on logarithms and I went back home with it, cried in front of my dad and told him that I can’t do this JEE thing, it’s too tough and that the others kids are much smarter than I am.

    Slowly I started loving the challenge. It was first time I was challenged. It required discipline, creativity and a large amount of focus. It pushed me. My parents frequently commented that they never saw me this focused ever in my life. When the results came out, I was 13th. This was JEE 2005.

    That exam is certainly not what defines me, but it sure as hell is a very important part of me. And like you said, it’s something which has always given me that subconscious confidence that if I dedicate myself to things, I can do wonders. Since then I have gone on to do a lot of other things as well which make me very happy with myself, but no matter what happens, I will always hold my JEE close to my heart. It was the first time I ever did something awesome.

  60. Ref to your earlier post on why Indian snever become tech geniuses:

    The Indian method of learning is “copy patterns and learn” – i.e rote model. Geniuses,Orignality,Creativity cannot be copied, only hard work,slavishness can be copied. This is why Indians rely on rank holders as role models. Getting a rank is hardly a sign of a genius. Infact geniuses never get ranks. Indians however mistake a rank holder to be a genius. JEE requires the highest degree of slavishness therefore a rank holder in JEE is regarded as an Indian genius of the highest order.
    Education in India is just a tool that carves the path to make money. It is hardly seen as a ladder that helps you climb the heights of knowledge. So IITs are regarded as centers of academic excellence because an IIT degree paves the path for getting big jobs i.e big money.
    It is high time IITs came up with something better than JEE for selection. It is high time they look for kids who pursue knowledge and value it. Otherwise it is a shame to all them centers of academic excellence.

    1. I would encourage you to read the Outliers. There you would find that even the most widely perceived geniuses – Gates, Jobs, Beatles – practiced like crazy. It’s called the 10,000 hour rule – and it’s true. I saw a few true geniuses in IIT (much smarter than me) – they also had to work hard to truly achieve something. Even the biggest engine in the world cannot travel an inch without wheels. (We also saw genius caliber people just wither away because they never really put effort in anything).

      So it’s a mistake to criticize someone for practicing. Practice makes man perfect – yes our parents said it many times – and yes its true.

      You are also over-interpreting my comments on Quora – the JEE needs to be augmented – not torn down. Yes the JEE misses a class of applicants – geniuses who cannot bear traditional education – leave alone go through a rigorous standardized test. I would be greatly in favor of finding ways to discover them. How many students in India, for example, get a shot at Math Olympiad? If they do well – can it be factored into JEE score/rank? These would be great ways of improving JEE. How can we fast track geniuses through our school system? How can a math genius go easy on History and memorizing ‘Jhansi Ki Rani’?

      But the new format doesn’t do any of this. It tries to augment JEE with Board Exams – which are completely rote, often fraud and frequently inaccurate in scoring. Is this progress?

      Stop hating and try proposing better solutions.

  61. This is exactly what I was thinking. You have pen down the thoughts of thousands. But I also share a different line of thought. Just like some of the people who commented, I was a lost soul too and only came to know about JEE in my 10+2. Cracking JEE was just a rebound of people laughing at me when I told them “I also want to give JEE”.
    For me its the society and people around me which made me take up the challenge and prepare. JEE was just a medium to show the world that I CAN DO IT.
    (Here is the Ultimate Truth – JEE is indeed an amazingly authentic Parameter that test the agility and determination, hardwork and zeal, patience and endurance, and above all THE MENTAL STRENGTH ).
    I went through the same routine, sometimes it was difficult to figure out that I was solving questions in my Dream or in Real. Well I can go on and on on this ..but the last thing I want to say “I would always want Mediums like JEE all through my life because that is what will make me tougher and Set a new Standard in life”

  62. The saddest part is, for years we have been making fun of how some of the dumbest students in America cannot tell major capitals of the world or aren’t even aware about the existence of certain countries… and we have been proud of ourselves that even if we are at an economic disadvantage as compared to the US, the one thing our students have on their side is will power, the willingness to work hard and become truly and brilliantly brainy. We always prided ourselves over that. And now we’re all set to go down the same lane deliberately dumbing down our students? You bring in the grading system, your remove the JEE…. you’re basically doing away with any necessity on the students’ part to actually learn the value of hard work and aspiring to achieve something!! I do not deny that pressure of studies and psychological trauma associated with it that sometimes leads to disastrous ends for some students – I don’t deny they are a problem. But they need to be tackled by a shift in attitude – in the attitude of parents and teachers that they need to handle underperforming students with tact and sensitivity, encourage them to do their best and then pursue a vocation better suited to them! Doing away with the high standards to be achieved is NOT the solution for that!

    1. well said. the US has it’s strong points and as a country – we are far behind them. But I think they would have been proud to have a system like JEE. Look at how eagerly grad schools there lap up IITians (mostly just for being IITian).

  63. Really nice article Joy, also appreciate the fact that you are willing to believe that JEE can be improved and I am with you in this that the current proposals don’t improve the JEE. This is more of a “levelling” exercise and saddens me. They have done the same with CAT (though CAT is far easier compared to JEE) and have lowered standards considerably. The thing with our competitive exams was that they mirrored life in some ways. Work hard, get a few shots at proving yourself and then show not just the knowledge but also the mental fortitude to grab the chances that come your way.

  64. I am not an IIT graduate but can surely feel what you are attempting to tell in this amazing piece of work. I always felt like we middle class people are always at the receiving end and only we are the ones that work hard. But the fact is the sweet success which we receive after putting in our best of efforts is simply amazing, the love which we get from our parents. Your lines that if toppers can do it, why can’t i is like a fuel to the fire which keeps the hopes of any hard worker floating on top. My college DCE also required a lot of hard work to get though and now that it has been converted into DTU scrapping its own entrance exam, i feel like i have lost something. Great story of yours. Hats off to you.

    1. I had two close friends go through DCE (one incidentally – was one of the Ranipur deserters who went to RKP – the bugger!). They did very well for themselves. Both of them prepared hard for JEE – and I think, were they to read this post, would give me a big internet hug. Thanks for leaving ur thoughts.

  65. Similar experience I had with my parents when my JEE ’09 results were out. First of all the net was jammed and me myself had no facility to check my results at my home ( NO INTERNET ). I went to my uncle’s place and constantly fought to get my result. 3 hrs of desperate try, nothing seemed to work. Then my father calls and says you are selected and your rank is 1257. I was disappointed with myself hearing the rank. I could have done much better but things did not happen good with me during those 3 + 3 hrs of the paper. Well I was unhappy but my parents were really happy. Seeing their happiness i realized that even if I have personally not done good but my parents were happy.. which made me happy eventually.

  66. I have seen many posts and replies but one bothered me the most. Sorry, but the US school system is NOT better than the Indian one. It is different. Not necessarily better. I have taught American students in college, stuff that we learnt in 6th or 7th chemistry. And they still found it hard.

    If the Nobel Laureate did not get into IIT, it could mean several things – he was having an off day; he was not good at Physics and/or Maths or even perhaps Chemistry at the time; false negative because of the fierce competition. At the time at least, getting into IIT meant that one was very good or worked very hard or both. Lesser chance of lucking out. But it didn’t mean that the ones who didn’t get in weren’t good and I have empirical evidence for it. One problem gone wrong could make all the difference.

    Brilliants and Apex (it came after Agrawal, I don’t know if it is still around) were much more than “coaching” classes. They sent study materials and problems. And almost everyone at my time took the materials (I inherited mine from my brother, for the most part). They were the accessible coaching “classes” for people from small towns. They were the geographical equalizers. And back in jss’s day, coaching classes were nowhere near as pervasive as they became even by the late 90’s.

    JEE was much more than getting into IIT. It was setting a big goal and achieving it. Even if I hadn’t achieved it, the journey made me a stronger person. It was sheer will power that carried me through all the hard work. Not physical stamina.

    As always, the government attacks the problems at the wrong level. Create a level playing field by giving access to good primary, secondary, higher secondary education for all. Punish teachers who don’t show up and pull the weak up. Pulling the strong down will level the field, sure, but by making mediocrity the new best.

  67. Read you post, thought about it a bit and decided to share my thoughts.

    I am not an IITian, although I know several brilliant ones and have met my share of idiots as well.

    I grew up in a middle class family albeit from Bombay but came from a family with an accounting heritage. Much to my father’s disdain, I graduated with a BA Economics Honours from a decent college in Bombay, and I have been an entrepreneur, sales guy, marketing guy, film maker and so on in my life. But mostly dabbled in the internet world. I like to think of myself as an dreamer, and I do this because I like what I do, a lot of it is engineering but I never wanted to go to an IIT. The problem with our education system in India is this very over emphasis on engineering and medicine as an escape mechanism to succeeding in life. I do understand the advantage that I had over some of the inspiring commentors in this post in being from Bombay. But funnily, scores of the most successful people in life today never went to an IIT or an IIM or even a Xavier’s like I did.

    However, consider this:

    a) Academically, over the last few decades the quality of curriculum for kids in school has been moving more and more forward, the things that you and I perhaps studied in school 20 years ago at class 10 are being covered in 7th today and there are more subjects and issues to deal with in the world as we live in today.

    b) What is ironic is perhaps the thought, that barring a few exceptions like you and a few others I know (my co-founder is an IITian and a rock solid software engineer who faces his own challenges, long story will share in a personal note someday!), most IITians don’t ever do anything remotely close to what they were trained to do, i.e. stay engineers (pursuing a CS career with a civil engineering degree also being considered!).

    c) This is compounded by the staggering number of IITians who end up in IIMs every year and end up becoming anything but engineers, at 23 with a pay packet working for some bank. Now imagine if with the CET, if people who wanted to become engineers did and those who didn’t just wrote CAT and moved on with life 🙂 Sure, there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that students who hold degrees from the IITs and IIMs are a league apart and yes there will be scores of others who didn’t cut the grade who might be equally talented and intelligent, but the whole point is missed in our over emphasis of getting these credentials as a way to progressing in life.

    So why exactly are we lamenting the entrance exam? If one is talented and has the capability of becoming an engineer, one would. I don’t see the merit in either having an elitist examination process that is driven by the need to go to an IIT or an IIM because no other option in life exists to having a common test that will simply nullify this apathy in our country.

    The point has been raging as well on the number of IITs and IIMs we are seeing scale today, you might have come across alumni who simply don’t get IIM Ranchi and IIT Ropar? The question that remains to be answered and only time will tell, that with the increase in the number of institutes and the changes in the entrance processes, will we see a different pattern to how this talent is recognised and is eventually absorbed in the real world. And will this over emphasis of being a Btech who probably ends up doing Futures & Options or selling Citibank Cards (pre & post IIM respectively) go away or wane over time.

    Perhaps that is why we do not have the necessary dreamers, entrepreneurs, athletes and artists that we are capable of producing. There are many ways to want to progress and make a mark in this world and I would feel that becoming one of the 2000 engineers a year from over 200,000 who write these tests is not going to solve our socio-economic issues. For those 200 who do get there the hard way, its inspiring.. but they would get there nevertheless in life eventually because it is not the IIT or the IIM that makes you, it is you who make these institutions.

    At the end of the day, we mostly thus end up working for the Facebooks and Amazons of the world, we seldom build them. Perhaps this is because one ends up wasting perfectly good years prepping for some exam without understanding the consequences or the desire to be an engineer or a doctor, while the genius in you moves into hibernation only to surface 4 years later and never the same, working for someone else rather than having built an enterprise that could make a difference. Yes, I know I am clubbing another rather sensitive area and it might not be completely in line with this post.

    But sir, your post was wonderful, your comments eloquently put and your thoughts sincerely shared, keep up the awesome posts!

    1. thanks for your thoughtful comments. raises excellent points. it is difficult to address these points in a comment.

      if i had to say one thing – i would say that this is not zero-sum game. one can have the JEE – and have other avenues for excellence. in fact – people from an older generation like me are so happy that there are now so many opportunities. one doesn’t have to be just doctor/engineer.

      the second thing i would say is that many people (on this board as well) – look at what is typically called ‘Precision‘ in computer science. If I sent 100 kids to IIT – how many became scientists (or at least productive engineers like me). But another (and i would argue more) relevant metric is ‘Recall‘. If I had 100 really smart people who wanted to sudy science/engineering – how many of those was i able to send to my best schools (without worrying about what they did later in life).

      Why is Recall more important than Precision? Because – it is impossible to predict what a person will do 20 years from now. What is far more important is that if there is one raw diamond in this 100 student mix – that diamond is given a chance to become Kohinoor. (This is why I am so worried about the geniuses that JEE and traditional schooling rejects).

      So don’t think of the guys who leave to study for IIM or take jobs in Finance as a waste. They are the price we pay to discover the Kohinoor. This is how it works in Nature and in Free Market. Why are there 20 startups building E-commerce products? Why can’t we just choose ONE – we will save lot of cost – no? Wrong – the overhead of the 19 losers is more than made up by discovering the one true winner.

      the third thing i would say is that network effects acquired in school are very important (although less important than before). if you go to Facebook – you would find that early employees were mostly from Harvard – Zuck’s alma mater. they didn’t have to be – they could have been from any of the top 20/30 schools in US. imagine, that Zuck went to Ohio State. How would this have affected FB? The guy would have been the same, the concept the same – but the social network different.

      In Economics – there’s a term for this – Social Capital. A Zuck from Ohio state would have same IQ and EQ (Intellectual/Emotional Capital) and could even access same venture investors (Capital) – but would have low Social Capital. While I don’t have references handy – Social Capital is enormously important. A single guy – no matter how smart – cannot build a company like FB. He needs amazing people to (literally) raise it.

      so the thing you would lose – if you stop concentration of talent – is the accumlation of Social Capital in Society. This is a hard argument to accept. How can elitism be good? Wouldn’t we all be better off if the toppers were more fragmented (so that everyone could learn from them)? Again – this is not a either/or situation – we need a balance. Note that with reservations and with mechanisms like RTE – we are already balancing elitism with socialism. Secondly – if elitism is meritocratic – then it’s not a bad form of elitism – is it? (much better than the Doon School type of elitism!)

      Note also that concentration of good people (so called elitism) – will happen in any case. Facebook and Google are full of amazing caliber people. They are able to use the accumlated Social Capital to launch new companies. My company is benefiting from this. The word ‘eBay Mafia’ is now everyday parlance in Silicon Valley.

      Finally – we need winners to simply give the right signals to the society. why do we give Param Vir Chakra to the soldier who fights valiantly in battle? Why give Bharat Ratna to Sachin? When these signals are correct – the behaviors awarded increase the wealth and well being of society – then the society is better off. If you think about this – the JEE is a very good signal. By highlighting people who do well in Science/Math – we incentivize a whole population to excel in Science/Math. (By comparison – the US is in deep shit. No one there wants to study Science/Math – everyone wants to become lawyer/Warren Buffet or Michael Jordan).

      In my experience in industry – where organizations need similar incentives to excel – this is one of the things that differentiates great organizations from ok ones. Who’s awarded is very very important. The value of the award is nothing. The leverage it gives on behavior of everyone else is everything.

      I realize this is another post in itself. Thanks again for raising points that raise the discussion to the next level.

  68. Hey
    Your story touched me, I felt like I wrote this story. Coming from a small village “Salarpur” in District Ghaziabad, passing 12th exam from Hindi medium UP board and preparing for JEE for 2 years ..cracking JEE98 exam….Its my life story.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

  69. A great story, Sir. I attempted JEE 07 half-heartedly and didnt put in enough hard work. I just managed to make it into Engineering (Mumbai University, Chemical Engineering). Post getting into Engineering I realised I had pretty much thrown a perfectly good chance-so much so that the thought of redeeming myself was paramount. I literally burned the midnight oil for four years, finishing quality assignments, doing extra lab work just to become a better Engineer, hopefully at par with my classmates who went to IIT’s. I’m happy to say it paid off in the end, and I have a really good job in a Chemical Engineering Consultancy. The only tinge of sadness I feel is that students at IIT should at least give staying in this country and working in Engineering Companies a shot before they pursue lucrative offers abroad. Also, Olympiad Qualifiers and Sportspersons excelling at their fields should also be given a large weightage towards admissions. A truly diverse pool of achievers will prevent Engineers from being very one-tracked. This is just my two cents.

  70. Thx for a sensitive post…..I could understand how you feel as this feeling of losing is mine too!!

  71. As much as the change in the current pattern would hurt the quality of these institutes, I think the government has done enough damage by creating eight new institutes thereby diluting a brand which had so well established itself in the technical world.

  72. Loved your post… Made my memories of JEE afresh and many of your lines resemble so closely with my preparation…the small town schooling, the celebrations and happiness of my parents and most importantly, remembering how hard work, perseverance can do wonders… was part of JEE 99, AIR 189… already JEE is no longer of the same level, and in future may not be there.. but I hope, like IITK, other IITs also stand up for all of us, our memories and most importantly, for the future generation…

  73. 1. Gates,Jobs,Beatles certainly worked hard but not at copying patterns. “Think Different” has been their mantra for success.In case of Jobs he waited for someone to come up with a base model and then sought to make his different.
    2.Geniuses cannot be copied because one cannot seek to be original by copying.Oxymoron.
    3.Many of the so called geniuses you cite have been school/college dropouts even in USA where there is so much differentiation in education based on ability.Even Einstein was no rank holder.Simply because geniuses cannot conform to prescribed patterns of learning.
    4.A genius will achieve what he has to achieve regardless of whether he goes through schooling by obtaining first rank or last rank.
    5.So designing a school system to cater to geniuses or produce geniuses is rather meaningless.
    6. No doubt the board exams in school are one of the worst scales of measuring a students capabilities and should definitely not be a significant criteria for IIT admissions.Yet students must not be so focussed on IIT that they overlook the school exams.
    7.JEE has mostly become a predictable pattern this is why it is time to break the pattern.
    8.As for suggestions establishing criteria for IIT entrance:
    a. First IIT faculty themselves should focus more on academic research and training their students for thinking along those lines.
    b. A large component of the entrance test should be IQ based.More on the lines of Stanford IQ and cognitive tests.
    c. Subject matter questions should also be more critical thinking and application based.
    d. There is no need to give percentage weightage to State Board exams as a factor for IIT admission but there can be clause like if one did not score in the 90 th percentile in their school district then one is not eligible for IIT admission.This way rural school districts need not worry that they will be undermined.
    e. All students seeking IIT admision must have some rural community service/internship experience.

    The rest about “hating” ridiculing hardwork and practice etc are solely your own interpretations of my comment.

    1. unfortunately – your points show little understanding of the process of innovation. I would encourage you to again read the Outlier. It documents many geniuses that go waste. Paul McCartney and BillG themselves acknowledged the 10k hour rule. You can also read ‘Zen and the Art of MotorCycle maintenance’. It will tell you the difference between being genius (a Romantic) and making a difference (a Classicist) – and how making difference requires a genius and a romantic applying themselves. We are on two different knowledge planes. There can’t be a debate in different languages.

  74. @Soham case you dont mind, I am curious about your credentials and which year you cleared JEE as well…although I cleared JEE in 2005 I believe that the quality of JEE was destroyed 2004 onwards when they abolished the “essay” format of questions if I might say

  75. Great post! Made me highly nostalgic. Remembered my 2 years of JEE preparations, the stack of books (Resnick & Halliday, IE Irodov, HC Verma, RD Sharma and the like)…and material from Brilliant (12 Masilamani Street, T Nagar, Chennai!)…

    Though I did not score a high rank in the mains, the experience did play a major role shaping me, as it has done year after year for many like me. JEE will be sorely missed!

    And for those who feel otherwise about JEE – If you haven’t fought the battle, you’ll never know what it is. JEE has given millions a dream worthy-of-a-chase.


  76. Hey jss, sorry to nitpick, but have been following the (very good) comments on this blog, and came across your statement regarding American grad schools lapping up IIT grads. The picture is not as rosy as that I am afraid,

    Of course, this data is only for UT Austin but still presents a very different picture from what a lot of people believe.

  77. Vikram- Just to address your point regarding Us universities lapping up IIT grads, go thru the link

    This has the feed colleges to Chicago GBS. The site is reputed and no reason to doubt the accuracy.
    Note that IIT has better rating in terms of feed than University of Chicago itself (Parent university of the B school).

    The same site offers Feeds for B schools of Stanford, Upenn and Northwestern and you can observe a similar trend. Please note that the only non American university to figure in top 20 Feed colleges to any of the top US universities is IIT.

    Not to offend, but just a point.

  78. Brilliant article JSS. If I may add, the incentive to study for the JEE is much more than just to receive a good education or access to great opportunities – it is also equally about the student life at the IITs, where you interact with like-minded and creative people and form some of your best friends. Having heard about the experiences of my friends from outside the IITs, I can assert that the IIT experience is unparallelled.

  79. Awesome post. I totally agree with what you said .
    I come from a muzaffarnagar and don’t think that I would have been able to compete in the format that is being proposed.i never had money or resources to compete and go to the great schools in Delhi but I had the confidence that if I learn my subjects in detail I can compete on equal footing with other people who were privileged .
    In fact I I had been to Delhi 2 times only before I went for JEE counseling and Delhi is like 100 km from muzaffarnagar .

    I am sure sense will prevail and Kapil sibal will back out from implementing ” the stupid ” !!!

  80. Did some guy say that he didn’t solve Irodov problems to get into JEE. I seriously feel that’s sacrilege. Such is the state of affairs now, really feel sad about it. I can never forget that great Russian physicist who lived in my day to day activities for a couple of years.

  81. Point taken sir. Just from my experience at IIT, I could divide the students there into three groups, the few geniuses who would have cleared it no matter what the format and how tough it was, the few people from a humble background with inspiring stories like you and the many like me who were good decent hardworking type with the added leverage of being able to attend coaching classes. I have a friend who came to IIT from a small place called Gaya, and if it wasn’t for JEE, his father would have made him sit in a “sarkari naukri”. This guy is a genius in the true sense of the word, which would have been wasted if it was not for JEE. But don’t know if its the format or not, but the majority that I have seen are those who have attended coaching classes and happened to have real good six hours.

    Did not read it earlier, but read your profile on LinkedIn. You sir are an inspiration! Maybe one day I too could quit dilly dallying around and achieve something significant.

  82. if we really want to make jee better…we should bring back 90’s pattern with a change in
    weightage of math :phy:chem as 40:40:20 .coaching institute thrives because of chemistry….
    anyone excelling in math & physics have very little to do with coaching assistance or cramming…

    what makes IIT so special ?
    believe me….
    it is this sense of security that makes IITs heaven…the sense of security brings out the
    best of creativity in any of us…today i aspire to be a
    film maker ..and i don’t think i could have even thought of persuing
    film making as a career if i had joined a second tier institute…
    “yaar agar filmmaking nahi bhi kar paaya to koi achchi si job to fir se mil hi jaaegi ”
    -this is the confidence that JEE gave me … it made me to dream unlimited !

    One of the best things , i feel , about being in IIT is this large intellectual
    pool that you become a part of.There’s a lot to observe, admire and learn from.
    There’s a set of people with whom I’ve discussions with on issues relating to ethics,
    philosophy, politics, history and so on… There’s one with whom I talk about technology and
    other geeky stuff. There’s another with which I talk about other creative
    pursuits—arts, music and literature . be it any field,you will always find someone to
    learn from .

    the best part of iit is not its professors ,not its infrastructure but it’s the students…
    and the quality of students should not be comprimised with…come what may !

  83. Hi Jss – It was really a pleasure to read your blog, especially after having gone through a similar ride enroute clearing the JEE. The pen counting, Irodov solving and sleepless yet motivated nights, cannot be recreated and the experience cannot be forgotten.

    Congratulations on all your achievements and wish you all the best ahead!

    PS: I couldn’t help but check out what the start-up you co-founded, Qubole, does and was pleasantly surprised to see that the company I work for, MicroStrategy, is quite similar in it’s primarily goal.

    Best of luck with your venture!

  84. Its a great write-up: both in terms of both language and substance/inspiration. Excellent reading for our kids.

  85. I am probably one of the last batches of students to appear for IIT JEE , having cleared it this year . I feel very bad that the JEE is being replaced , it has always been a special event for anyone to clear the examination . My own rank is not so good (AIR 1869) but I have to admit that I received a lot of help from Coaching centers . Many of you are against them but the fact is that teaching at schools is so shamelessly third class , and so “Boards” oriented that Coaching Centers become the only viable option .

  86. I too belong to same small town.. BHEL Haridwar. Though I couldn’t get the rank you had, but did share the same experience. For me too, JEE preparations taught me how to compete in an environment where every body is good.. how to race for solving the problem first.. how to be mad about solving every irodov puzzle.. how to wake up at 4 in the morning and sleep at 12 ..and still not nag about it.. it was fun and taught me to compete

  87. Great Post..I agree JEE in its earlier format Pre and Mains was far better than its Objective format. As we all see that problems are with education system and infrastructure, so I believe that abolishing JEE is not the solution. I don’t see bringing CET is anyhow going to solve the problem of coaching classes or the mentality of students/parents/teachers/politicians or any other person in question. Lowering the standard of exam doesn’t make students brilliant, what makes them brilliant are intelligence and hard work they go through and JEE give them reason to do so, its like “sone ko jitna tapaoge sona utna hi khara hoga”.
    Even few of our friends in their comment axing JEE, coz JEE didn’t give any credit of programming or for that matter any other skills… I believe JEE is not the solution to every sort of skill. Well then improvisation may be a solution not the abolition.
    Your thoughts and words are well appreciated and have reminded me of my days of JEE preparation.

  88. A touching article. This story motivated me to write about my story about JEE.

    I cleared JEE 2002 with JEE Rank 1758 and got admitted in Industrial Engineering, IIT KGP. I got 39% 12th board from a school where I was 5th rank in the class of 60 people inspite of such poor result. Passing 10th class is milestone at my home town. After getting such result in 12th exams due to poor financial condition of my family and school situation, I was not even aware of IIT JEE. I was rejected for getting admission in BSc, state engineering colleges and even coaching institutes who provides coaching for state engineering colleges about I use to dream about. Afterward, I was told one of the bookseller that IIT JEE is the only exam that does not have any restrictions other than its merit. Without knowing the standard of the exam, I started my studies from scratch clearing concepts apart from changing medium from Hindi to English. A few years of hard work and motivation towards clearing the toughest exam was become a dream goal for me.

    I had no career option left other than clearing JEE. Struggling and facing harsh comments from relatives and friends towards my madness about self study, I have achieved the goal. Realized the happiness, family support was rewarded. But story is not ended yet, as I was had to proof that JEE can not be cleared just by mugging inspite the fear of not getting job in Infosys, TCS types of companies because of not fulfilling the first screening, I decided to do something exceptional which can nullify the effect of 12th board results in future and I did it by getting award in best project in my master thesis of dual degree program. JEE preparation had made me a person of achieving exceptional in life. I got the a job during job in campus placement, but I wanted to do something better, got admission for PhD in Reliability Engineering in Sweden. Here I had to keep the reputation high and finished in 3.5 years.

    Now, I am writing this short article in my office in Maersk Drilling at Copenhagen with nostalgic feeling.

    All I want to say, the standard of JEE made me from nowhere to this place.

  89. Hi JSS,

    I also would like to appreciate you for motivating us share our experience.

    Rajiv Dandotiya

  90. thanks joy for referring me to inspiring comments and discussions. i have been following the comments and discussions on this post. indeed, rajiv’s story is quite inspirational.

  91. touching indeed, sir. However, there are many more out there who have failed JEE, not once, but repeatedly, in spite of their genuine efforts, and it might have dented their confidence permanently to aspire for anything even remotely as big and prestigious. I feel if there is any justification behind replacing JEE with a dolly of an exam, it is only that. but then again, history is written by winners, not by losers.

    1. You are right Prabhat. But realize – that this is not problem of JEE. The problem is that there are not enough high quality engineering institutes to admit all the people who want to study in them. (And perhaps if there were, there wouldn’t be enough jobs for all of them).

      It is scarcity that creates this sense of desperation, of failure. Whether JEE is there or not – as long as there is scarcity – a lot of people will lose out (some repeatedly). Would you rather (given that we cannot fix the scarcity) determine the winners by a toss of coin?

  92. You write so well (e.g., google “It was scandalous – it wasn’t supposed to happen” ). Not only that, with insight as well. Wish you well in your venture and keep writing.

    1. thanks. In my Class XII board exam – i got 50/100 in English (and 99 in everything else). Lowest in entire school (maybe district!). I was one of the best in English in my class (not saying much other than comparing with my score).

      (I also got 99 in Biology – impossible given i pretty much studied a few days from only NCERT books and got better than my classmates studying for medicals (who aced tough exams like CMC Vellore). I had also counted errors in my Physics test that made 99 impossible – I should have lost at least a few points).

      So goddamned lucky that I could laugh those scores away.

  93. Why does Mr. Sibbal not understand that it is JEE that makes IIT an IIT. By this change he is denigrating the sanctity of JEE – in effect he is saying the evaluation process of board exam is as holy as it is in JEE. Before suggesting this change, could he not analyse the correlation of JEE rank and (even normalised) +2 scores?
    He is systemically destructing one of very few good things Nehru built – first by “naming” every other engineering college in this country as IIT so and so, then by increasing seats out of proportion at the name of reservation without building adequate infrastructure, and now change in entrance exams. I feel disgusted. RIP IIT.

  94. I think I should narrate a relevant story. I did my +2 from UP Board – world’s largest examining body. In one of my board exam paper, which went extremely well and I expected very good marks, I got 18/30. I was shocked. I asked some of my friends what have they got and very soon a pattern emerged. Everybody’s score was 15+ (RollNumber%3). I later learnt that the entire bundle of exam copies got lost and the board used this formula for evaluation.

    And this is how Mr. Sibbal expects poor students to compete for JEE… Amazing, isn’t it?

  95. – If bulk of notable Alumni of IITs made their mark outside excellence in Engg and Technology then why rate IITs so high.
    – If bulk of BTech students of IITs don’t want to pursue Engg/Technology as career then why rate IITs so high.
    – Almost all current and former top Indian scientists and Technologists (e.g. best ones in CSIR, AEC, BARC, TIFR, ISRO, DRDO etc) are from non IIT background, true even for those holding BTech degree, then why rate IITs so high.
    – Without the coaching a significant % of IITians would not have made it to IITs so where is the merit. Over the years it has become more and more exclusivist/elitist. Its not a level playing field at all.
    – Currently if above 90% of BTech students of IITs need crutches of coaching then why rate IITs so highly. I guess even in 1990s the % of Coached vs non-coached students in IIT would have been a 60-40, May be 80s and earlier were better off. Ideally IITs should have taken steps to at least keep % of coached students to 30%. So if they miserably failed then why rate the IITs so high.

    Bulk of problem stems from the fact that most of class 12th students and their Parents wants to have early certainty of decent career ahead (i.e. yeh dar ki BA/BSc/BCom etc karte hue Bachcha bigad gaya to) thus this mad race of JEE, AIEEE etc even if the student if hardly interested in career in Science/Engg/Technology.
    – Another major problem area is that the Faculty (besides environment as well) in IITs is more BTech centric than the idealistically research centric.

    Possible solution:
    – IITs and possibly NITs primarily should only impart Masters degree as part of 5 or 6 year integrated course. Only those students who pursue career in Engg/Tech should be allowed to go for integrated MTech degree, others should be allowed after 3’rd year to go for other integrated degrees offered by IITs e.g. MBA, MA Economics, MA Humanities, MCom etc (for this they can even tie up with top MBA colleges, good universities like JNU, DU etc).

    From this year onwards AICTE the regulator for technical education in India has allowed technical institutes to impart dual degree courses (e.g. Engg-MBA, Engg-HotelManagement). See this url for new guidelines from AICTE.

    Newly opened IISERs (having similar budget outlay as that of IITs) which also take students after class 12’th for integrated masters degree in Science are a notch(es) above IITs, its time for IIT faculty to retrospect and come out of sarkari Teacher mindset and work towards excellence in Engg/Technology. Currently they are so uninspiring despite having inspiring qualifications.

  96. @sushil:

    Coaching is extremely important. The best performers in various disciplines have coaches, bet it in sports or music. Academics get their drafts reviewed and so do the best writers. If coaching improves preparedness on a valid examination, I cannot see why it is a bad thing. Perhaps the conversion to the current objective format in the JEE was a bad thing. This is fixable. The current argument is about including plausibly invalid indicators like the board examination. There is a misconception that IITians have not contributed to technology and industry, in India and elsewhere and your post seems to reflect this misunderstanding. It suggests that the IITs should do a better job of publicizing the contributions of the alumni to various fields.

    Here’s an article on the importance of coaching by Atul Gawande.

    There is an interesting thread on the JEE selection issue over at

  97. Thanks Joydeep for this wonderful reminiscence.
    I cannot agree more with one of the above posts – its the JEE that makes an IITian. Such was the level of JEE of the yore that the pride and the confidence that came along with the success stays on throughout one’s life.

  98. Our generation people got famous by their IIT Rank. I think these rank holders would have been more satisfied with themselves if they would have got famous by their fruitful work towards development. The next generation people doesn’t have to carry the no. They can be famous by their work.

    1. one thing is that the JEE rank is useless the day you enter IIT. You start with clean slate. And from then on – no one cares. Not your prospective employer or grad school (who care about how you did at IIT – not JEE), not the conferences you submit paper to, not the customers of your business. the only people who care and are inspired are the people who are preparing for JEE.

      so the people from IIT (or other colleges) who become famous are only so because of their accomplishments later in life. Does anyone know the JEE rank of Vinod Khosla? Does anyone care? When you want to be like Vinod Khosla – do you want to be like his accomplishments – or like his unknown JEE rank?

      For the rest of it – I would refer to:

      The one kernel of truth in your comment I agree with completely is that our entrance systems don’t credit real life accomplishments. Say you built a robot in high school. Or built a cool web site. How is that factored in? Because these things did not carry credit – many people like me never bothered to get our hands dirty building real things early in life. Even worse – people who did, suffered – because they were not preparing for JEE or Medicals. We are individually and collectively worse off for that.

      But how does the new JEE format address this issue? Where is the credit in a Board Exam for building a cool robot? Can building a cool robot compensate for not mugging up vertebrate anatomy or organic chemistry reactions?

  99. Perhaps unintentionally you hide the great advantages you (and almost all other successful JEE aspirants from Ranipur)had over others.It was living in spacious houses with luxury of private study room and parental emotional security and guidance of qualified engineer fathers at senior position in BHEL whose children are given SPECIAL VIP treatment by DPS,Ranipur. Surprisingly you did not consider your own Brilliant Tutorials and Agarwal classes stuff as coaching material.Students who had to go to Vidya mandir/Fitdjee etc were those who did not have such blessed environment and status as you had.So their determined parent(having lesser financial means) send them to DPS,RK Puram/such classes after paying through nose .Such aspirants are at great risk of getting spoiled in Delhi beside having no emotional security which one has at his own home.

    Surprisingly you consider that your daughter has ONLY a little advantage over a labourer/tribal child.In India ANIMAL FARM all sections of pig ruler elite has such views in spite of great chasm between them and abused exploited 3rd grade poor powerless Indians who are treated sub human. and are deeply hated.

    Deeply corrupt government move to modified JEE test is to ensure some sort of via media for benefiting their near and dear by getting them good marks in exams through govt influence.

    1. Yes – I had a lot of advantages – and I am super-privileged compared to most Indians! I did highlight some of them – and thanks for mentioning the others. The only special treatment I wanted from my school was to bunk school (which they didn’t like at all). As for the VidyaMandir/FiitJee and DPS RKP – I disagree. Studying in a group has tremendous advantage. In a prior comment – i have talked about network effects and social capital. The reason I didn’t go to RKP was not because it’s worse – but because we couldn’t afford it. The odds of someone making it to top-100 in JEE from RKP (in my day) were almost infinitely higher than someone from Ranipur doing so. RKP had good teachers. I had none (except for my Chemistry tutor Mr. Sehgal – who was amazing). I did highlight how I was spared the Delhi environment during my high school days (which has adv. and disadv. – i did miss the girls!)

      You have mis-read (or half-read) my comment on the adv. of my daughter. Read carefully. It says ‘every-day’. ie. a little advantage is built up every day. By the time she is college going age – the differences are overwhelming. There is no chance that (talent being otherwise equal), the day laborer’s kid has anywhere close to the opportunity to do good things in their life that my kid has. That makes me profoundly sad. There are day laborers living in a make-shift colony across my apt. I am reminded of this every single day. And that’s why the super 30 program (and the Avanti fellows program that has been mentioned here) are some of the most heartening things i have heard since coming back.

      In another comment – I have remarked that I see the current system as nothing short of a new caste system. Anytime, someone because of their birth, does not have shot at some opportunities – that is just a caste system – no different from our old Hindu one.

      But being privileged is not a crime. I didn’t choose it. And , God willing, I will try do something useful with what I have. That’s the only thing I can choose and do.

  100. now i see joy, ki teri chemistry meri chemistry se acchee kaise. tere paas tutor jo tha!

    just kidding. we had an amazing chemistry teacher in our school and that made my boat float. for physics, i had a physics genius sitting next to me in class eleventh and twelfth. the rest was just fun and play. btw, this guy was truly an outlier. unfortunately world only knows about those outliers whose talent got a chance despite all the hurdles. this guy unfortunately is not even on radar. who knows what the world might have lost in that guy’s potential.

    1. yeah right. i remember Chemistry 101 in IIT. First exam – i got 2/20. Undi and Thapi got like 17 and 19. I had never felt so helpless in my entire life – didn’t get any of that stuff.

  101. when you compare day scholars(locals) of DPS,RKP with DPS,Ranipur than RKP students have definitely advantage over Ranipur but minus the time spent in long distances travelled from home to school.But hostellers of DPS,RKP had nightmarish life as 4-5 students were crammed in one room with a single deadly slow running fan and the inmates of the room having different pursuits /objectives of life.Not all hostellers of a room were preparing for JEE.It used to be terribly hot during summer and students had to cool their matresses by pouring lot of tap water which in a short time used to get very hot causing big blisters all over one’s body specially back,neck.Signs of these blisters have not gone even after having left the hostel about 12 years back.One cant imagine the horrible mess food with the comfort of home cooked delicious food or luxuries of having snacks/drinks of your choice and at all the time whenever you want these.
    People sending their wards from Ranipur were not richer than you man!
    It is good to know that like other IITIANS you also feel sad about the poor,weakest Indians who cant afford expenses for JEE.Just thank your stars that because of unjust Indian social system almost 2/3 of Indian students could not compete thus giving us great advantage.

    Biggest problem in RKP hostel was attending to Vidyamandir/Fitjee classes as students were strictly not permitted officially so they have to climb 10 feet high hostel periphery wall to move out of hostel and in the process many got their legs,back fractured.
    You should thank your stars for having not faced these ordeals and preparing JEE with utmost comfort and emotional security of your home/parents.

    1. fair enough. WOW about the Vidyamandir stuff. i think during our time these weren’t popular yet – so never heard these stories.

      It would be ironical if people from RKP now would go to Ranipur after reading all this. That would be bittersweet. (But I am sure they will not). Boarding cost away from home and tuition at school like RKP are very high compared to staying at home and studying at small school like Ranipur. Everyone’s finances and obligations are different – the term ‘rich’ is relative.

      Maybe to summarize – the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence – for everyone 🙂

  102. Dandu bhaai.,….Kudos to you!!!!

    You Rockk…..n I along with all other juniors are Proud of You!!!!!
    n Totally Agree JEE is the Thing which has been a huge Mile Stone for all of us…..even to many who couldnt clear it!!!!

  103. @Raka, .best wishes to all my beloved juniours….Can I know, who is my dear one:)

  104. A very nice read.

    While I wouldn’t say that the JEE was the best possible system, it should certainly not be reduced by a randomized one. There were two great things about the JEE.

    One – it was conducted in a far more honest manner than most other Indian examinations, specially the Board Examinations. I gave my Class 12 examinations from a school affiliated to the ICSE-ISC board. The question papers were leaked, it was a known fact – the matter was quickly suppressed despite some questions being published in the news papers before the examination. I was one of the only people in the class who did not buy the question papers ( though I could have ) . The consequence of this – with a score in the late eighties I was in the bottom 25% of my class.
    If they factor in school education in some form, it should be done in a light way, and not one which creates a high-precision dependency on the results of an exam which is known to be extremely prone to all sorts of problems.
    I am not entirely against the idea of including school education though – perhaps, they could use some reasonable cut-off. Perhaps a candidate might need to be in the top 1/4 or 1/3 of whichever board he comes from.
    That way, the examination doesn’t become a lottery – but it still does give some kind of incentive to people to take their schooling with reasonable seriousness.

    Secondly – Even apart from those who got into the IIT system, I believe the remaining students who even put in some amount of effort into preparing for the JEE did benefit from that preparation even if they failed to make the cut on the D-Day. Why ? Because for the most part it was one of the very few components in the Indian education system which forced people to think for their own with no ready made answers – though this might be just my personal impression, I felt that even the quality of instruction within the IITs did not make me all that enthusiastic. So, if 50k students were studying for this examination, a lot of them did get some long term benefit from this even if just 2k managed to study in an IIT. I do not have statistics for this so my statement is anecdotal. However, I do see the careers of some such cases in my own circle and my observation is their career tracks are not very different from those who went to IIT.

    I also have some issues with some assumptions which are being made in the normalization for Class – 12 scores.

    Given that you work in the data-related space, in case you are interested, check out some of the discussions where I’ve thrown in some data sets on the blog of an IIT professor ( where the director of IIT Guwahati is also actively participating in the discussion ). Specially, some assumptions about the “Laws of large numbers”.

    My own reason why I even bothered to participate in that discussion was my personal experience with my Class – 12 exam ( which didn’t matter to me at that time ) which I described above – and the casual manner in which genuine concerns related to it have been dismissed by the directors.

    In fact, partly for the fun of it, I also wrote a crawler to pull out all the data for one board for this year … and the trends are interesting. I sent that data to the IIT-K Professor ( Dr. Sanghi ) so that before they start using such “data” they should have an idea of the problems they are going to run into.

  105. To be honest, an inspiring article, something I would like to pass on to my kids, despite their dad not being an IITian, they can perceive the feeling of it.
    Coming down to academy and aura, I did never dream of IIT much because I thought myself to be a dramatist, but when life took a diversion after the 12th, I tried to excel in my engineering. I do work for a world leader in semiconductors and there is an IITian as my colleague. Since he joined the team, I ‘ve been constantly reminded of the fact that I am not an IITian, and its necessary to be an IITian to perform well. I grab the awards, and there is absolutely no appreciation from an IITian. Which brings me to a point to think, “Is that arrogance also a part of being an IITian?” or is it that extreme hard work has frenzied some people that they can’t behave politely with us. I am sure he was a hard worker, but perhaps I also did some hard work after I came out of my college, to be standing next to him today.

    Perhaps you have an answer for me, and I can redirect him to your blog here.
    Great Post !

    1. Dear Amar – there are less-than-perfect arrogant people everywhere. Are only people from IIT arrogant? Or is it the case that when a guy/gal from IIT is arrogant – then it pops out more (now suddenly there’s a reason for it – gotcha!). Wouldn’t these people have been arrogant if there were no IITs? They would have figured out some other reason to be arrogant!

      (Just like it’s not JEE that makes bad parents, bad parents will find out excuse to be bad parents).

      At the risk of becoming an ‘agony aunt’ on this thread i will say a few things:
      1. don’t let him get to you.
      2. your colleague is a fool. if he cannot appreciate his co-workers and inspire them to do even better – he will never get anywhere in life. gift him the ‘Seven Habits of Effective People’ book.
      3. or don’t gift him that book. let him ruin himself. appreciate and inspire people, achieve things in a group and succeed in the organization as a result. nothing speaks like results.
      4. if your organization does not appreciate results – and only appreciates IIT/IIM degree – QUIT IT. don’t waste your time on a useless place like that.

      For me IIT was a humbling experience. I would have been more arrogant and ignorant of the capabilities of others had I not gone to IIT. I think I can safely say this is the experience of majority of IITians – as we are humbled by the capabilities of the far more smart people who come to those institutes.

  106. Oh yes … and in my Class 10 ICSE xam, I scored exactly 90 in four subjects out of six. In the crawled data which I mentioned in my last comment, in the entire data set for the entire country ( 60k students ) – no one has scored 81 or 82 or 84 or 85 in any subject – people have scored 83 and 86. I wonder what awesome hierarchial clustering formula is used behind the scenes to bunch up all the marks.

  107. If someone can’t afford to fly, does that mean you should bring the Planes(IITs) down to the roads. Won’t it defeat the purpose of making Planes(IITs).

    If someone wants to fly, you have to earn the ticket(JEE) to Plane. Otherwise, please board the trains, buses to meet your destinations or ask Govt to make many Planes(IITs) to let everyone fly.

    Dear Rahul, everyone makes/uses their efforts/resources to earn the ticket for Plane. As you are concerned about fare chances for everyone to board the Plane, does everyone has the fare standard to even board the buses(Local colleges) or trains(other state/central govt colleges)? then, why this fight to board the planes directly. Govt should do more to level these standards first and then Planes. Do you really want to see these planes(limited ones, use to be glory of India) crashed in nonsense fight.

    Purpose should not be to bring down the planes to everyone’s current standard, it should be to let the Planes be there always to serve their purpose and lift everyone to Plane’s standard for a fair chance to board it.

  108. The fact an entrance exam is being so overvalued that people are letting a rank in an exam or the exam itself define them or the IITs should be a clear indicator that something needs to change here if one is to shape the IITs as centers of academic excellence. Mr. Sibal thinks by rooting out the tumor itself can help make a necessary change,perhaps he does not realize that it is malignant.
    Since the US is being so referenced here in this blog – no University admissions process here overvalues a Math/Science/robotics olympiad(leave alone think of them as indicators of
    “innovation”) or a perfect SAT score or a >4.0 GPA or the number of Ap/College courses you finished or how early you finished them. If your resume indicates you achieved all that and more by overlooking school acitivities that is a sound reason to reject that resume. So one has to be well rounded and has to be able to do justice to whatever opportunities(most of all school) that came in one’s way. This is why though many come from very small farming town schools where there are not as many opportunities as say a magnet school in a city – they still stand a fair chance of making it to the best Universities if they are able to demonstrate how they excelled in using whatever opportunities taht came their way. It is a different matter that many from those kind of schools may not want to seek higher education but that again is a choice they make.

    If there is anything to be learned from the US model it is the higher ethical standards when pursuing or defining academic excellence. People do not usually adopt shortcuts here like “coaching” “tutoring” to get better grades because those are meant for kids who are not able to keep up so are taken as indicators that a kid needs help just to keep up.
    As for repeatedly citing “Outliers” as evidence – hardly anyone in good academic standing gives that book so much importance. People know those kind of books (which examine factors of success/failure superficially ) are meant for nothing more, than to generate talkshow material.(“Tiger mom” is another example).
    Everyone knows the value and importance of hardwork/discipline but there are many more important factors like maintaining high ethical standards in not cutting corners or looking for shortcuts and bypasses and respecting the choice of the individual in determining how to shape his life. It is not every genius who thinks that getting published or cited repeatedly or getting recognition/money is an indicator of success. Many would rather let their work be accepted by the world when it is ready for accepting it but have full faith in the success of their pursuit of knowledge. Does not mean they are failures if they choose to stay out of the limelight and refuse to run in a rat race.

    1. Dear Jyoti: everyone’s entitled to their own opinion – but not their own facts:

      – Outliers 10k hour rule is not junk popular science. It’s derived from scholarly research:

      – academic reference:
      – google scholar citations of above:,5&hl=en

      please search inside the amazon book – and you will find the 10000 hour rule. the number of citations shows how important this work is. finally – not just Gladwell – other well known popular authors have also reported on the work of Anders Ericsson:

      it took me a few minutes of Googling to find all this out. We used to learn in Civics that with rights come duties. You have the right (to the extent that I can protect) to comment here. But you also have a duty to do some basic research before making unwarranted claims.

      And I have seen multiple super-humans directly to vouch for this rule. My two examples – Dave Hitz – founder of Netapp and a Adam D’angelo and Zuckerberg at Facebook. These guys were programming serious stuff very very early on in their lives. The level of practice they had in their early twenties is just unimaginable.

      – so utterly wrong about US school system. 1 min. google search:

      hey hey hey – advanced placement courses! courses in nearby community colleges. advanced independent projects.

      ever heard such concepts in India? And you mistake normalization (compensating for lack of such opportunities in rural/poor high schools) with the general expectation from top US schools that people go ‘above and beyond’.

      And I have seen this directly – high school kids prepping to get into Ivy League schools do what not. School is just starting point. Not doing coaching? What world do you live in? In the Bay Area – almost all kids start taking advanced Math classes at Kumon at very early age. Anybody who’s anybody sends their kids to private schools with a school curriculum that’s way more advanced than regular public schools (coaching by another name imo).

      Your comment degenerates into nothingness in the end. What are you advocating? You talk about ethics – what’s non-ethical about the JEE? The fact that it’s merit based? Would we rather use Board exams where scores can be manipulated by politicians?

      This comment reminded me about the definition of a cynic – one who knows the price of everything – and the value of nothing.

  109. @noyb (Post #46)
    Probably, you need to look up as to what CS is all about. Web development is a small (though commercially significant) field, so restrictive that it is NOT even a part of CS curriculum (at-least as far as IITs are concerned). The best measure (not perfect; but with no better alternatives) of your “I am good in CS” would be analytic skills, which JEE measures; the same JEE you failed to qualify.

    I am not against people who haven’t qualified JEE. I don’t say that they can’t succeed (they have and their are numerous examples). But blind belief “I am better than blah blah” is ridiculous. If you were really talented, you would be successful by now; and not crying like a loser. I guess that this is a fit reply to your unacceptable overbearing attitude.

    @jns – Did you ever figure out (at-least question) as to how relevant chemistry was to skills JEE wishes to test?

  110. @JSS, Jeez, I just got out of HS, and have not even decided my college.


    “If you were really talented, you would be successful by now;”

    Seriously? Way to go. The grand yoda all of us pray to everyday, and we didn’t even know he was present on Earth. In human incarnation.

    There’s one BIG thing I learnt after passing out of HS-the fact that there’s so much contributing to success other than talent and prayers to God. You just destroyed the major part of almost 18 years of lessons.

    As to the other part of your assumptions, which are claimed to be inferences, please, I have got enough…….proof(for lack of a better term) of whether I am talented or not.

    Your comment, at its best, is the reaction of a hurt IIT alumni who just got angry because he thinks that the students of his alma-matter were the best, the all-powerful, always winning. How dare somebody who failed at JEE diss the system? I guess it never occurred to you in all that superiority bullshit that was being forced down your throat that there are people actually more talented than the ones at the place you gained your awesome and cool BTech degree. Well, Best of Luck on conquering the world. I’m out.

    1. if you just got out of HS – what the hell are you complaining about? the world is your oyster. in programming – no one gives two cents whether you went to IIT or not. But you gotta have it.

      the IITs are singularly useless in getting a top quality CS education. All material is available online. Avenues like TopCoder allow practice, grading and proof of achievement. Exposure to non trivial projects is available via open-source. IITs are a waste of time (have to random courses like Material Science and Technical Drawing – complete utter waste of time). You can network with the brightest minds in your generation via collaboration on projects online. No need to go to IIT for that.

      So thank your stars you are not attending IIT. I just don’t get why you are so bitter about it? (Things were very different in my day – none of the things i cited applied – except the thing about wasting time in useless courses)

  111. Excellent article… as someone who ranked in the four-hundreds in 1996 from Nagpur city which at the time had zero infrastructure for JEE coaching, I am in complete resonance with your comments!

  112. I stumbled upon your post and i really liked it but some where i do not understand this obession of elitist culture among IIT alumni on having IIT being confined to real geniouses and catering to only a few. (May be because i am not one of them and has an outsider view). But in all understanding i think institutions like IIT’s should be in more numbers and intake should be more since there are much more good people out there in India who study in not those good colleges as what facility’s IIT provide and will really be beneficial to them. If there could be only single exam for masters for most of engg colleges (GATE and i wonder why no one complains for that exam being not tough to crack and so not a leveller) why not same for Bachelors. The US education system does not have something like JEE and in all understanding i think universities here are better than in India so why we think something similar won’t work there. why do we think that only hard to crack/low in numbers will only produce quality but in essence what i think we should we focusing on is providing quality education to more people and we should be more open towards achieving that goal and if it means doing away with JEE so be it (I am not saying that is right thing to do as i do not know). would be happy to know your views 🙂

  113. I wished to know one thing. If anyone is not able to clear IIT, does his life or labor stands nowhere in front of those who manage to do so? Does it becomes a certainty that he’ll not or never do better than an IIT graduate?
    I’m asking this although I cleared IIT, but couldn’t manage a good rank as yours.

  114. Try looking at the larger picture. Trying to destroy coaching classes cause they improve your chances in jee is like trying to stop students getting into iit, iim as they improve their chances to excel in life- get good jobs etc. What Mr sibal should improve is the outreach of better education–not only engg. But arts, fashion, media, medical,agro….and so on. Jee is not the only way to excel in life. Not everyone who cracked her was meant to be an engineer. For a bigger lot nothing as prestigious and sureshot way to excel in life was available locally. Else not even geeks want to do 7-8years of tapasya away from, family and good food. What we need is good education for all followed by oppurtunities for all.

  115. May I say that the JEE broke the confidence of more kids than it gave confidence to?
    You are one of the few from the latter and hats off to you sir.
    It takes a very strong kid to resist the peer pressure to try the JEE to begin with and even stronger one to take the blow when s/he doesn’t make it.

    1. that is true.

      how do you think we can make the situation better? no matter what culture one goes to – there are things that only some people get. in US – getting into Harvard/Stanford/etc. or not is quite similar. just today someone had posted this picture on FB – top things to tell ur kids – #1 – “Life is not Fair”.

      i think parenting plays a huge role in this. my parents (thankfully) never told me JEE was make or break. (but i know other parents from my own friends who told their kids just that). also – i suspect many more people are heartbroken from unfulfilled crushes than from JEE :-). (in all seriousness – why is one form of rejection a killer and the other not worth discussing as intensely?) (is it because we can fix one of these but not the other :-)?)

      when i look at my working life – failing at something is par for course. it’s the dual of success – how can there only be success? the only issue is – are we prepared to deal with both with equanimity (something the Gita tries so hard to tell us). part of the issue with teenagers (in my time) was the lack of diverse life experiences (like we get in working life) that helped people become more emotionally mature. instead of one make or break exam – would we be better off with a series of evaluations from much earlier in life?:
      – will help students find their strengths
      – will give them experience at handling rejection/failure (not everyone can win the math olympiad – just deal with it).

  116. Very nice and touchy article and comments.

    IIT and JEE are synonymous only seemingly. The two are entirely different things. Lets analyse:
    Firstly What is IIT – it is just a college similar to myriad other colleges in the country. Whats the difference? There are facilities even better than IITs in many other colleges. Can anyone list facilities what IITs provide which are not available elsewhere and that maximum student at IITs use?? How many IITians are there who have REALLY USED those so called facilities (which I personally dont even know) in the IITs and students in other colleges have not and hence less privileged??? So just IIT is nothing great in itself.
    JEE: what makes IIT a brand what people see is due to the JEE. IITs are about their flagship product which is there “students” through JEE. It is students who make IIT the place it is. Remove JEE and IIT will not be IIT anymore.

    I can challenge Govt with some experiment: Let the JEE be there without IIT. Let the students qualified by JEE not go to IITs but let them go to some underprivileged college in some remote area with minimum facility required for an engineering college (only JEE qualified students should be admitted there) and compare then the IITian produced and JEEian produced.

    You will SEE.

    It is really important what product you want from a system. System should be designed according to the desired output not the input ….!! Inputs are to be screened according to the System requirement.

    Let there be lakh of seats at IIT if you can and if that satisfies you but why do YOU want JEE to be replaced??
    If you want a TON more of cereal to be strained you DONT make the hole of strainer bigger but you need to make more strainers of same sort OR strain for more time. How can you meddle with Straining Mechanism if you want same quality of strained cereal?? As simple as that.

  117. Happy!! after reading this article.I could manage only a measly rank of 36xx in 2006 after being bedridden for 4 months. I still remember the torrid time I had because my peers were learning while I was sleeping on my hospital bed. I am not that successful today but I have the belief to make it big in the future. This belief comes from the hardships I faced.

    I too hail from a small town in U.P. One person cracked the JEE in 2003 in my town and that led to a chain reaction. Most of these people are well placed will be successful eventually due to a leveller named JEE.

    Even today my heart races when I see a JEE paper. Alas!there won’t be anymore of it. “Garibi mat hatao, Garibo ko hatao” is a funny quote I remember being told by my chemistry teacher with reference to a corrupt govt. Govt strategy-Cut down the trees(JEE) so that all the land is barren.Then you won’t know the diff b/w a desert and a forest.

  118. Just introduce another 25% quota for people with less than average IQ (Sibal included), and all the grouses with JEE will be solved!

    India has become a republic of whining incompetents, pampered by their populist leaders, who want every possible standard to be lowered to the bottom.

    Further, JEE preparation is what sticks with the students for the rest of their lives, as inside IIT teaching and research exposure is pathetic compared to even some Tier-III US Universities. Consider JEE just like another Civil Services exam which distributes ill-managed and meager resources among the millions of talented Indians, while the corrupt and largely uneducated politicians steal lacs of crores.
    Advice to any IITian/Engineer, who loves his field and want to actually do something useful in Engineering and not waste away his life in mind-numbing IT consultancy and getting drunk to subdue his frustration— get out of India and pursue your interests (sad but true).

  119. Hi Joydeep… Firstly hats off for phrasing out what many others are feeling. More than an exam, JEE is a brand that Indian Education system has created over decades. I am sure most of the IITians have felt the aura of the brand some or the other time in their life journey, the name that opened doors to much greater heights and unlocked the opportunity to create more than what would have been done otherwise. In short, JEE was a fortune for many poor and middle class who were able to change their destiny as well as standing as an inspiration for many others. It was unfortunate that we are killing our own brand that took decades of hard work and excellence by many IITians to build, which has become a red carpet for present IITians to walk to much greater heights.

    -one of those who discovered the best ‘Me’ through JEE

  120. It’s been a few months since I read this blog. It gave me goosebumps the first time I read it and it gives me goosebumps today.(I had bookmarked this link the first time I read it cause I knew I wanted to come back to read this again). I have to admit one thing-Whenever I felt low, I decided to give this blog a read. You’ve captured a slice of life that all of us went through at some point in time in our lives and came out richer in every aspect. A BIG Thank You for penning your thoughts down so wonderfully.

  121. Absolutely Brilliant article!! Had similar experiences during 11th and 12th myself. Those 2 years preparing for JEE were the foundation of my personal and professional life 🙂

  122. I think i’m much younger than you people, and it would be a silly thing if i have to say about this education system in India. But, yeah! i do believe that this certainly has big potholes, which are a matter of concern. And for this Coaching thing, i must say it is a result of this present system of education in indai. Thanks to you Joydeep sir, for posting such an inspiring post. I feel charged up for my preparation as an IIT aspirant…!!! 🙂

  123. I think i’m much younger than you people, and it would be a silly thing if i have to say about this education system in India. But, yeah! i do believe that this certainly has big potholes, which are a matter of concern. And for this Coaching thing, i must say it is a result of this present system of education in india . Thanks to you Joydeep sir, for posting such an inspiring post. I feel charged up for my preparation as an IIT aspirant…!!! 🙂

  124. This is a good expo to jee….as a person. I love the way you felt about Jee.I have exactly 1 year more for my prepration.I too will now treat jee as a person. Thanks for the inspiration.

  125. i know jee is one of the toughest exams but not so tough that i can’t.
    i am preparing for jee and iam very sure that i WILL GET INTO IIT’S.

  126. Many people have commented about the iit-jee and their purpose/value etc. I’ll like to add my 2 cents. First thing I’ll like to say is that most (middle-class) families (in my time at least – mid-late 80s) tried for iit-jee because it was most prestigious and a ticket for a safe/brilliant future/job. No complaints there. The real problem is the subsequent handling of the kids who managed to get through. What a waste of resources, India!! Who is to blame; whose responsibility it is? I would say, the IIT adminstrators, even faculty, and of course the nation leaders (politicians). I guess just like everyone else, no one basically cares about our great country.

  127. Hi,jss sir..i am also an iit aspirant.i am from a middle class family and lives in a small village.there is no coaching facility any where teachers compell me to blindly memorize and pass board exam..i dont want to do that..i want to get knowledge..i want to use my brain to good extent..i study on my own.i do not mug.but i am not able to solve jee level problems.what does it mean to understand basic concepts and solve problems from first principles?please help me.i have no body to support me.please.god bless you.

  128. JSS,
    You have got your follower, man !!
    Get me that rank, u got years back !!
    I am ready to do whatever it takes !!
    But help me out bhai !!
    I want that same smile, even bigger at my father’s face !!

  129. Hey joydeep.Superb article.You and me have some things in common.You didnt became servants of other companies.At last you are the originator of a company in India.I want to open a social networking site completely Indian.The problem in India is this that people always want to get placements,not knowledge.They just think-I will crack IIT and go to USA and work there.Very less thinks of knowledge.These people abuse India because it is not a superpower.These stupids should understand that they are making India just an education hub,not a researching hub.If they stay in India and work,India will be the best country in the world.I want to do the same.I have already started preparation for IIT(I’m still in class 9th).Really jee was a lot better before.This normalisation in AIEEE(jee mains)is completely abnormal.A person who scores 95% in boards and just 60%in jee mains gets a rank under 20000.They think excelling in boards means excelling in jee.I just think if you(bhaiya)can crack the subjective jee,why cant we crack the objective ones.I also see IITians say you dont need to solve Irodov.They dont know the difference between knowledge and exams.At last what matters is the knowledge you gained.You are my adrenaline rush bhaiya.Thanks for being such a role model.

  130. Hey! Really inspired by your post. 🙂
    Btw, Did you opt for a non – attending school in Plus Two?
    Even I am an aspirant for IIt-JEE. But I am confused whether I should attend schools in my plus two or not since now even the 12th board exam holds importance in JEE. People say that non attending classes really hamper your 12th result AND It’s really hectic to attend school as well as coaching. Can you please advice me what would be better in this case?

  131. Very nice and inspiring…

    I really liked the “smile” on your father’s face part of the story. I know the value of that as much as you do. It took 25 years for me to get that on my father’s face :-), and I was not lucky to see that for long from then…

  132. Okay, I need to admit it. This is BY FAR one of the BEST pieces of writing I have read. Period. Its been more than 2 years since this blog was published and it still makes so much sense. Scrapping IIT-JEE or continuing with it is besides the point (atleast now because its not a recent phenomenon anymore) . The way you describe your hardwork and passion whilst you prepared for IIT-JEE is inspiring at so many levels and remains evergreen. I keep coming to read this blog again and again whenever I feel a little down in life. Today I bumped into few Quoble employees at Calvin’s in HSR Layout and I made it a point to let them know that how big a fan I am of this article and your blog in general. Hats off to you Sir !

  133. IIT system is no longer valid for India. IIT was established in collaboration with Public LAW 480, and the expertise of USA,UK,Germany, Russia was sought after to establish it. Later on, when the functioning was handed over to Indian GOI, the Indian GOI has destroyed it.

    Thanks to the ALMIGHTY, I have been given an offer to study from University of Edinburgh. None of the IIT are even match to Edinburgh, and hence, I will be able to shed my Indian mindset and Indianness.

    As for IITians, they will be working for me in the future, and they will always work as servants for the west.

    LORDS remain LORDS, slave remains slave.

  134. i screwed my board examinations this year,and i will be giving my examinations again next year,this story gave me motivation to prepare for IIT-JEE.Most of the people around me told that JEE is not my cup of tea but i never gave up and never will.

  135. Hi Joydeep

    Randomly came across this post. Could relate to it so perfectly. Though I didn’t study in an IIT (ISM instead), but those two years of preparation were exactly as you described. I don’t think I have ever worked harder than that till now. But it was an amazing experience. I get nostalgic thinking about those years. It is really sad they are ruining not just the JEE exam but also the reputation and brand IIT by mindlessly proliferating the institutes.

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