TODAY -

Failing in a competitive exam is not the end of the world

Vijay GarG *



Life does not adhere to a rigid template or offer a one-size-fits-all formula that could potentially offer a sure-shot route to success for everyone. Living a life free of templates is not an easy choice because we are living in an age of meritocracy. While meritocracy itself is not a flawed concept, it is essential to subject it to a more thorough examination.

A recent tweet by a social media-savvy industrialist sparked a debate about the most challenging entrance exams in the academic world. It also brought to light the fact that three of the 10 most difficult exams to crack in the world are held annually in India.

According to the World Ranking Website, the IIT-JEE (Joint Entrance Exam), the UPSC Civil Services Exam, and the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) are ranked the second, third, and eighth toughest exams in the world respectively. In this article, let us focus on IIT-JEE given its popularity among students and parents and its role in creating a perennial pipeline of highly skilled manpower.

Test composition

Each year, nearly 1-1.2 million young Indians take a crack at this exam, knowing fully well that around only 7-12% have a realistic chance of gaining admission into one of the 23 IITs. Such low odds of success make it seem more like winning a lottery than a reasonable chance to build a strong academic foundation on which future careers can be built.

Further, it is not just the slim odds that should bother us, but the composition of the exams itself. While most aspirants want to become engineers of varying kinds, the test continues to check aptitude for subjects unrelated to these fields. The exams don’t seem like an accurate assessment, let alone a fair gauge of a student’s intelligence or potential.

Extremely competitive entrance exams like the IIT-JEE also ensure that everyone has a similar kind of coaching routine, as they shuttle between schools and institutes. Many even forgo regular schooling and dedicate three to four years of their lives to cracking the IIT-JEE. However, this is not a sustainable approach to building careers or shaping one’s life.

Even if one is willing to look beyond the inherent flaws in IIT-JEE as a selection filter for future engineers, other pertinent issues remain. There is no room for debate over the academic excellence IITs deliver or the rigour required to finish the four-year programme. However, it is equally important to consider alternatives.

The world, and India in particular, currently offers a multitude of alternative learning platforms and programmes across diverse streams, including Robotics, AI, Semiconductors, hardware, and so on, apart from typical programmes from IITs and NITs. These often have equally strong, if not better, and more focused admission processes and can lead to equally rewarding career outcomes.

Holistic approach

Therefore, instead of holding on to unreasonable notions like “It is either IIT or nothing”, students and those who guide them in their educational pursuits may want to consider the following suggestions to help them take a more holistic and realistic approach to higher education, careers, and life in general.

Identify potential interest areas/career opportunities;

Research alternative educational platforms and edtech players that offer programmes suiting your career plans.

Take up projects and internships in your desired fields;

Network with seniors from school/coaching institutes, to understand what skills one needs to continue the learning journey;

Use the Internet to learn about trending technologies and learn from free resources/courses

Most importantly, take some time off. Failing to clear IIT-JEE or skipping it is not the end of the world. There are many ways in today’s world to build successful careers. Focus on finding your individual strengths and accordingly figure out the steps to succeed using them.


* Vijay GarG wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The Writer is a retired Principal, educational columnist from Malout, Punjab
This article was webcasted on June 11 2024.



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