Interview – Divyanshu Jha, IIT Kanpur

How did you prepare for the exams?

The preparation started way back in Class 8 when i started freelancing in Maths that wasn’t a part of school curriculum, partly to prepare for the Math Olympiad and partly just out of curiosity. Using the summer vacations for the studies of the forthcoming year, I used the rest of the time to good effect, as a result of which I was introduced, to some depth, to the JEE syllabus in Maths by the time I entered class 11. I planned in advance, concentrating on each subject one by one, starting with Physics, moving on to Mathematics and Organic Chemistry by December and finishing off with the rest by March. After that, i prepared mostly for the Physics and chemistry Olympiads over the next 6 months at the conclusion of which I mostly just sat for test series and gave a huge number of MCQ tests, wherever i could lay hands on. I concentrated on theoretical understanding of the subject and practising “mains” type problems rather than MCQs except in the last 3 months before JEE.
What was your motivation was it just brand IIT or something else?

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Fascination for a worthy challenge had something to do with it, pitting myself against the very best in the stringiest of all exams. The brand is superficial. What is not, is the infrastructure and faculties that top any other in the world. I do not believe that there could have been another engineering college which promised even vaguely commensurate standards of teaching in India. Having said that, the brand is recognized because of the good work done by the alumni of this institute, a tradition that weighs heavy on the shoulders of those who enter the hallowed portals. Getting into IIT wasn’t just proving that I belonged, that was just the permission to go ahead and prove that I did ,over the next 4 years.Even though I didn’t perceive this as clearly 3 years back, I see now that IIT is just a training program for the rest of your life. Simply a means to an end. In itself it doesn’t mean anything, applied rigorously in Scientific Research, Technology, Administration, Business; its true import stands out.

What according to you are the best ingredient to crack the JEE?

[sociallocker-bulk-1 id='2430']-If you don’t enjoy preparing for JEE, you are missing something.

-You should be crazy about learning new things

-Pester your teachers with questions .Trust me, they enjoy that (with some exceptions, of course ).

-Pace yourself over the two years.

-Do not watch movies/TV. Instead play games, learn to play an instrument, read novels in your spare time to chill out.
And what of these do you think you lacked/ possessed?

-I watched more than 200 movies during my incarceration in class 11 and 12, most with my Mom sitting with me(she was the strict one). Also read a lot in those 2 years outside of the purview of JEE syllabus.

Was it all books, tutorials and formulas or you took out time for recreation?

It was all paced. I utilised my summer vacations after 10th to the hilt(my mom allowed me One day holiday after my 10th boards finished) so that I was coarsely ready for Physics by December, Organic Chemistry(1st version) by February and Maths by March. After that it was all fine-tuning and preparing for the Olympiads (Physics and Chemistry) . This was the time when I relaxed .The good thing about this was, every body was just playing catching-up while I could take my time

Thing you would like to change wrt your preparation strategy etc. (obviously not wrt the question you didn’t/ did attempt & couldn’t complete on the exam day :))

I do not regret a single day of my preparation. I wish I had played more though instead of gorging on food and listening to music while solving Math problems.

What helped you in your moments of stress?

My family was my pillar of support. Enough cakes and cold-drinks in the house made sure that I didn’t break down at any point. On the contrary , I will always think of the two years as the best 2 years of my life, more than my college days.

If you wouldn’t have cracked JEE, how would you have felt and would you have considered dropping a year to ace the exam?

I think giving test series organised by different coaching institutes help a lot in reckoning your position on a national level. By the time you sit for the exam you have a fair idea of whether you will get in or not. What is crucial is the rank. And that is unpredictable. After giving my paper , i thought 500-1000 would be a good bet. And it wasn’t good considering hopes and aspirations of people around , from me were quite high. Thankfully my parents never let it out that it mattered a whit to them even though they were ever so proud on seeing my rank. What more do I need?

Any advice you would like to prescribe for the aspirants wrt preparation? (please be specific with your response if you dropped/ had reservation/ self study/ high rank/ border-line rank/ too much of extra cur activities before joining etc.)

Enjoy the two years. Bring in your parents to help you out. Let them know how crucial their job is. Involve them in invigilating your home tests , checking your scripts. I am partial to self study but i understand that if you aren’t confident of your ability to maintain a strict discipline in terms of time and target setting, a coaching class will go a long way in regularising your work hours. My only request is study the topic being dealt in the class beforehand so that you are in a position to ask question instantly on the spot rather than wait for the next class. This helps burn a permanent image of the topic in your consciousness. If you wish to study on your own,designate teachers beforehand to whom you will be going to get your doubts cleared. Try to keep off of the internet. It never helps as much as it destroys. Never fear giving a test, at home or elsewhere. Relish the challenge and steel yourself for going beyond what is being taught in classes. Keep good quality books with you. 1000 page trash books will never help you with their highlights and points and what not.

Any advice you would like to prescribe for the aspirants as an IITian about life in IIT? (your change in perspective for eg we all know after entering rank doesn’t matter much, high pressure, suicides, IIT is not the end etc)

It never helps giving somebody an insider’s view. The other simply wants to see it for himself. In any case i can try. Rank matters only in getting you a branch of your choice. I have seen people who had a more authentic interest in CSE than me who have been forced to study in branches they are not interested in. Decide if IIT is the place for you.Decide if you are made for branch X. Other wise its a waste of time, of 4 years studying something you do not relish at all. There is pressure and most people do cave in after coming here,living a life of leisure and apathy to studies. Teachers will be more demanding, atmosphere more competitive(in CSE and EE mainly, the others follow a Live and Let Live policy). Suicides are aberrations committed by people who could’t fit in. Though the academic load does have a bit to do with it, it is mostly the internalised infrastructure and social network that is to blame.And IITs are definitely not the end. My colleagues are now gearing up for the Placement Season, CAT, IAS ,GRE each of them a fresh beginning, a clean slate. Life as an IITian can only be characterised by one word “Freedom”. It is upto you to decide how to exercise it. 

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